Recovery from addiction is hard work that can bring up a lot of hard feelings. You have felt battered and enslaved by your addiction, failing to live a thriving life or take care of yourself in the name of satisfying your craving.
At the same time, your internalized illness was too powerful to allow space for caring about others. So learning how to love, caring for both yourself and others, is a vitally important part of the recovery process. This also means opening up, exercising tolerance and learning to listen to and accept other people.
Love and tolerance defined
In our popular culture, the word "love" is perhaps an overused and often misunderstood concept. Framed often exclusively in terms romantic relationships or else used flippantly to refer to something your eating, love can get confused with an infatuation, or a sense of "liking" someone or something because it gives you good feelings.
Yet, true love goes much deeper then a fleeting emotion, but is rooted in a deep commitment to value, appreciate, and seek the good of what you love. In recovery, this means really taking your relationships (with others and with yourself) seriously, and doing the hard work to move beyond selfish impulse, and truly empathize, support, and respond to needs.
Tolerance means an appreciation and openness to others. It is rooted in humility and wisdom, a self-awareness that you don't have all the answers yourself and need input from others.
Tolerance teaches you to value the perspectives of others, and to receive what they have to offer as a gift that can help you in your own journey. Recovery from addiction is too hard a journey for you to face on your own, but fortunately, you have the support and the borrowed wisdom of a lot of people who have made and are making that same journey along with you.
Tolerance, or the willingness to listen to them, is the virtue that will allow you to receive that priceless gift.
How to gain love and tolerance
The best way to build up your love and tolerance is through careful and honest inventory of what is really inside you. You must be working to grow in self-understanding, learning how to be unafraid at your darkest thoughts and fears, looking to directly face things that keep you from loving yourself and others, including selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.
This transformation is not going to happen overnight, but requires a lifetime of removing the harmful parts of our heart, replacing them with nurture and empathy.
In 1969, AA Grapevine, an official Alcoholics Anonymous magazine, published a checklist specifically for support group members, 10 questions that can offer a helpful guide to evaluating your behavior in recovery to see how it lines up with the important values of love and tolerance:
1) When I engage with members of the group, am I healing and mending, or dividing.
2) Do I act as a peacemaker, or do I start arguments?
3) Am I gentle when people rub me the wrong way?
4) Do I make competitive remarks, comparing myself to someone else, or this group to a different one?
5) Do I put down some recovery activities as though I was "too good" for them?
6) Am I informed about the program as a whole? Do I participate in everything I can, or do I just pick and choose what makes sense in the moment?
7) Am I as considerate of people as I want them to be of me?
8) Do I hypocritically spout platitudes of love while inwardly having thoughts of hostility that come out in passive aggressive behavior?
9) Do I stay connected with people who are supporting and understanding my recovery journey?
10) With my support group, do I truly share both good and bad things about myself, both giving and receiving help?
Going through this checklist honestly may cause you to feel like a deeply imperfect person. However, it helps to recognize that, like any other aspect of healing and sobriety, it's not going to be totally fixed over night, but is a long, hard process of evaluating your behavior and being open to growth.