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ALL THIS IN THE NAME OF LOVE
In the early 90’s, Mariah Carey released a remake of a song called, “I Can’t Live Without You.” It is a fitting title and description for those who are a part of a misunderstood phenomenon known as “love addiction.” The song says, “I can’t live if living is without you, I can’t give, I can’t give anymore...” That feeling of total dependency on a relationship and the misguided devotion to it is all too well known to those who have suffered with this emotional addiction.
Love addiction, to the outside world, is seen as a romantic, honorable, totally dedicated commitment of one person to another. The reality is that love addiction is an emotional disease that has affected much of society in a manipulative and totally distorted view of what love really is. I should know - I used to exemplify this addiction. I have learned how I became susceptible to its power, what “traps” lured me, and where I am today in regards to this area of my life.
It is a fact that all addicts no matter what they are addicted to, come from dysfunctional families. I came from a large, dysfunctional family in which my emotional needs were not met. My Mom was there for me emotionally, sometimes, but it was very rarely. She was too busy working and trying to raise five children. Mom didn’t always work but I was still left in charge many times to help her. I was the oldest, so I became “Mama’s Little Helper” at the age of seven, when my brother was born. My Dad was not there for me because he and Mom divorced when I was five. My stepdad was also emotionally unavailable for me. I became proficient as a caregiver to my brothers, sisters and even my Mom. I comforted her when she was crying and became more of a Mom to her than she was to me. I was always terrified of rejection or abandonment because dad left us. I would do anything to get approval. I would cook, clean, feed the babies, change them, rock them and even then, I didn’t get the approval I longed for. I would be criticized or yelled at for the things I didn’t do, rather than receiving praise for the things I did correctly.
From the time I was about five-years-old, I had a great desire to help all people. I decided it was my duty to take on the sins of the world and be responsible for everyone and everything except myself. I had to change people’s lives and make their emotional pain go away. If that could be done, maybe then I would be loved. It didn’t matter to me how much I suffered. After all, I was supposed to suffer if I was going to fulfill my purpose and make a difference, or so I thought. My mind was often confused, not knowing what to do to get acceptance. I was a good student but too shy to get involved in any extra-curricular activities like the school plays. I only had two friends at a time the whole time I was growing up. Most kids made fun of me, not only for being shy but for also being unpopular. I was also made fun of for the way I looked. I had a woman’s body when I was only eleven-years-old! I felt rejected by most of the world as well as my own family. I believed in my heart that I was unlovable and that no matter how hard I tried, I would never be good enough to get praise. I saw all people as better than myself, no matter who they were or what they did. I believed the ground they walked on was worth more than I.
When I was eleven, I started dating boys. I was quite mature for my age, not only physically but mentally as well. I babysat children at that age, so I guess my Mom figured I was old enough to have a boyfriend. She never realized what went on when she wasn’t around. I was taught how to play “strip poker” and I was taught about the intimate parts of the human body and what they were used for. I lost my virginity before I turned twelve. My boyfriend was only thirteen and was smoking pot and drinking alcohol on a regular basis before I even met him. I knew I wanted nothing to do with that.
I wanted love and appreciation so desperately for whom I was on the inside that I would do anything he wanted. This was the beginning of my love addiction. We would do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. I was never allowed to express my opinions or to stand up for my rights at home, so I never did that with my boyfriend. I was too afraid of abandonment. I believed if I told him “No”, that he would leave me and find someone else.
This attitude pervaded all my relationships with men. I would do anything to keep my “love” relationships from dissolving. I became trapped in relationships that were chaotic and uncertain. I was drawn to men that had problems that needed “fixing,” such as those who were addicted to alcohol or sex. I had a subconscious desire to control men because of my lack of security as a child and my low self-esteem. I masked all this emotional “sickness” behind the guise of appearing “helpful.” I never realized that I wanted to control them; I always believed they controlled me.
Men and emotional pain became my addiction. I was always more in touch with my dream of how relationships could be than I was with the reality of my situation. I also never thought I deserved to be happy. I thought I had to earn the “right” to be happy. My lack of self-esteem was the catalyst that began this belief. This way of thinking was so distorted!
I always had a hard time saying “No” to people, so in my learning to overcome “love addiction,” it was hard for me to turn my back on those men who had hurt me and caused me so much pain. I always saw the “good” in people and tolerated too much of the negative aspects of those I loved. I caused much of my own misery in doing this.
Discovering What Real Love IS....
Finding the Love for Myself
In 1986, I attended Al-Anon meetings because I was learning to deal with my ex-husband’s drinking. I also attended Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings. I decided that he was not the only one that had made mistakes. I learned from those meetings that I was NOT the “cause” of his drinking. I knew that my self-esteem needed improvement and I knew that I didn’t want to be a caretaker, rescuer or negative enabler the rest of my life. CoDa was a great help to me. It encouraged me to seek further ways of becoming more self-empowered. I knew that it was my purpose to make a difference in people but I had to make it in an emotionally healthy way.
In CoDa, I met a girl who told me about a seminar that would encourage my personal greatness and would help me to learn to deal better with my personal and business relationships. One of the seminars was even based on spirituality. They were a tremendous gift to me. They have been the cause of some major transitions in my life. I am very grateful for all the miracles I have experienced since becoming associated with Omega Vector.
It wasn’t until about 1993 that I became aware of my “love addiction” and what it means. I had been seeing a counselor and she told me what it was that I had been doing to myself all my life. She explained that it was an emotional disease. I became involved in a support group for women based on the twelve-step program used by Alcoholics Anonymous. This group was a tremendous tool in my growth and spiritual awareness. I facilitated the meeting for about a year. It taught me to accept myself totally, even while understanding that there are still parts of me that need improvement. I can validate myself and I don’t need to seek outside relationships to give me a sense of self-worth. I now truly understand that the term “self-worth” means that my value comes from myself, not from other people. The drama of chaotic and destructive relationships has totally lost its appeal.
My healing over the last several years has been in regards mostly to my self-esteem. I am no longer afraid of what others think of me, nor do I take anything personally. That in itself is my biggest miracle. I now understand that I can accept others exactly as they are without trying to change them to fit my image of what I think they should be. (A little footnote here: I learned that we need not "should" all over anybody!!!) This process has taken several years, which I knew it would in the beginning. After all, this addiction didn’t happen overnight. I have chosen healthier and more supportive people than I have ever had in my life. I have written a book, Reality in Disguise, which chronicles many of my life struggles. I still desire to fulfill my life’s purpose by speaking out and telling others what I have learned. I want to give them hope and a different perspective to consider in dealing with their own life. I have lived through miracles and I want people to know they can overcome their problems. I want them also to know that they have their own innate greatness and a purpose for being here.