As I have traversed this highway called life for 51 years, I have done so with an SMI and dual addictions. Before I got into sustainable one-day-at-a-stability and sobriety, it was like driving a car that was only running on three of six cylinders. Or running a marathon with one leg. Or boxing with one arm.

Bipolar Disorder and my addictions were both crippling and, at times paralyzing and incapacitating. They imposed formidable limits on my capacity to function in society. They also drove me to live so self-destructively that I nearly eradicated myself in myriad ways at many points along the way.

There are many components to my new way of living that keep me stable and sober, by God’s grace and one-day-at-a-time. Yet perhaps the most essential component is Love.

The Dalai Lama explained it this way:

“Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring us the greatest happiness is simply that our nature cherishes them above all else. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone he or she will not survive. However vigorous and independent one may feel during the most prosperous periods of life, when one is sick or very young or very old, one must depend on the support of others.”

Growing up in a Love-deficient family of origin, in a Love-deficient society, I learned that Love was frivolous and unnecessary in our dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest paradigm.

The truth was that Love-deprivation (which became self-inflicted as I grew older -based on the false indoctrination) exacerbated my illnesses by feeding my demons of self-hatred, hatred of others, refusal to ask for help, and toxic shame. Without experiencing Love from God, others, or self, I continued to spiral more deeply into the depths of a personal Hell so immiserating and perpetual that I nearly cashed it in a few times.

My soul was severely malnourished and perhaps starving to death.

On spiritual life support, I limped into an AA hall in 2010. It was there that I found a Love that fed my spirit:

Fellow sufferers seeking a common solution who loved me until I could love myself. An amazingly supportive wife. Surrendering to a loving Higher Power of my understanding. Peer support with no hidden, exploitative motives.. No group profit motive. 100% democracy. No judgement. No dogma or ritual. Unconditional Love for all fellow sufferers. And a way of life premised (in a generic spiritual way) on the Sermon on the Mount, the book of James, and I Corinthians 13.

The past eight years have been a fantastic period of healing and growth that has resulted in a miraculous spiritual transformation for me. The key ingredient that has nourished my emaciated soul and fueled that shift? LOVE.

Perhaps John Lennon was on to something when he wrote, “All you need is love.”

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