Fathers and teachers, I ponder the question, ‘what is hell?’ I maintain it is the suffering of being unable to love.
-Fyodor Dostoevsky

At its core, addiction is the pursuit of fulfillment. Beneath the attachment to that to which we are addicted usually lies a deep hunger, one that our addictions can only seem to almost feed. Often, recovery puts such an emphasis on the substance or behavior itself that this bigger picture is forgotten. As we begin to recover from our addictions, we should rightfully focus much of our energy on breaking this bond. Once this attachment has been broken, however, it becomes important that we learn to explore the bigger picture—the underlying layers of emotional discomfort that propelled us into our addictions in the first place. One of the most basic areas that may need to be explored is our ability to take place in the process of healthy loving. Often it is the pain derived from the inability to participate in this basic and lifegiving process that creates the void so easily filled by our addictions. And our addictions often represent a protective layer caused by past experiences of being hurt by love in the past. It does feel like “hell” when we are unable to connect to life through the grounding and healing experience of love. So our recovery must not be limited to our abstinence goals, but must also teach us to tether ourselves to life through the power of love.

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