Some biologists believe it’s human nature, the desire to help. Scientists believe we're biologically programmed to empathize. I think it's one of the reasons our species has lasted this long. We have an innate instinct to support each other. You can only take care of yourself for so long, because let's face it, some problems are way too big to carry on our own. In addiction, I was only concerned about helping myself. If I was doing something for you, it probably wasn’t out of selflessness or kindness – it was tied into some form of manipulation or deception that would help me in the end. Before addiction, I cared deeply about others. When I was younger, I’d cry watching Dumbo. My parents could hardly take me commercial fishing because I’d throw the fish back in the water. If anything, I was too sensitive – it may have contributed to my addiction. But drugs numbed empathy and my desire to help. And unless it was related to drugs, I didn’t want your help either.
My boyfriend was in recovery. We would get in these blowout fights whenever he asked me to stop using. He’d try to tell me to slow down. Or that my behavior was ridiculous. Or that he loved me and wanted me to be healthy. But it seemed like he was trying to interfere with my life. Your own selfishness becomes completely invisible when you’re addicted. And the more a person cares – the more they become an obstacle. It’s horrible because you start hating them for loving you and trying to help. It would be so much easier to escape if no one cared. But somehow he stayed. It’s hard to imagine why because he had every reason to go. Even in recovery, addicts are like a bad cold – nasty, but persistent. Addicts: Nasty, aggressive, unstoppable. And we are just the kind of people you want on your side when you’re really screwed.
The most selfless form of love is expressed through altruistic acts. It’s doing something for someone else with no benefit to yourself in return. Some philosophers argue true altruism doesn’t exist and we’re all driven by the need for praise, adoration, or social status. But I disagree – true altruism is driven by empathy and love, and it’s actually all around us. Without it, it’s hard to imagine why the passengers and crew members of United Flight 93 would sacrifice their lives to foil a terrorist plot on September 11th. Without it, volunteers wouldn’t risk their lives to help victims of a natural disaster. In today’s political climate, and with death and pain everywhere it’s easy to get discouraged. But whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at an airport. General opinions starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see it. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion love actually is all around.