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LOVE ADDICTION ~ Loving Yourself Enough To Stop The Pain
Relationships as a "Drug of Choice"
It is fairly easy to understand and visibly see a person who is addicted to alcohol, food, drugs, money, or nicotine as these are all concrete substances. But an addiction to love is not easily visible.
Love addiction is something that affects many people. It is not easily recognized or understood as an addiction. Yet it is disabling to those of us who use love relationships as our “drug of choice.”
Many years ago I came upon a book called “Woman Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood. As I read and read, my entire body was stiff but weak. Pieces of my own soul kept oozing from every page.
What is Love Addiction?
Love addiction is defined as “loving too much, when being in love means being in pain, when our relationship jeopardizes our emotional well-being and perhaps our physical health and safety, when we become so obsessed with our partner and our relationship that we are unable to function.”
My Drug of Choice
When I first read the list of characteristics describing someone who loves too much, I was shocked because I related to each and every one of them. I couldn’t believe how addicted I was ~ to love.
For example, “terrified of abandonment, we will do anything to keep relationships from dissolving.” And “by being drawn to people with problems that need fixing, or by being enmeshed in situations that are chaotic, uncertain, and emotionally painful, we avoid focusing on our responsibility to ourselves.”
I found my life entangled throughout the pages of this book. The characteristics really made me take a look at myself. They validated that I was in a lot of pain and that I wasn’t alone.
LOVE ADDICTION comes in many forms: Click HERE to view 40 questions to help determine if you are a Love Addict.
You Could Count on Me
I’ve always been a very nice, kindhearted person. I was a person you could count on. I don’t really have any enemies. Most people like people like me. I was the person who was always there for everyone, yet I was never really there for myself. I thought I could “fix” everyone that came into my life.
The few significant long-term relationships I’ve been in all had the same patterns. My partners were alcoholics and/or drug addicts, emotionally unavailable to me. I worked very hard on a relationship and my partner wasn’t mentally there. I lived in a fantasy of how it could be. I had critically low self esteem and did not know how to set boundaries with others. I thrived on chaos. The more crazy the relationship got, the more energized I was.
When I Was a Little Girl
I watched my mother tolerate my father’s drinking, verbal abuse and emotional abuse. No matter how bad it got, Mom stayed with him “for better or for worse.”
Being the oldest of three girls, I was the daughter who always tried to keep peace. But whatever I tried never worked. One minute we would be having fun and the next we were afraid because we were being too loud. One minute my parents were screaming “I want a divorce” and my mother was kicking my father out of the house. One half hour later, mom was fixing dad dinner. Total confusion. Nothing was ever stable. Nothing was easy to understand.
IS LOVE ADDICTION and SEX ADDICTION THE SAME THING?
Although it is possible to be both, sex addicts are addicted to the sexual experience and typically, emotional intimacy is not important.
The many forms that love addiction can take are all different from sex addiction. Some love addicts carry a torch for unavailable people. Others become obsessed when they fall in love. Some love addicts are addicted to the euphoric effects of romance. Others cannot let go of a toxic relationship even if they are lonely, neglected, unhappy, depressed or in physical danger. Unlike sex addicts, love addicts crave an emotional connection and will avoid separation anxiety and loneliness at any cost.
As An Adult
Once I had what I thought was a relationship, that was all I cared about. I would do anything to make it last. I thought that if I did enough and loved enough, then my partner would change. But the craziness just got worse. What started out as small conflicts turned into verbally and physically abusive rages. My self esteem was so low that I took the abuse as if I somehow deserved it.
I hung in there for better or worse because that is what I learned growing up. The farther my partners went away emotionally and mentally, the faster I ran after them. Every time I was lied to, cheated on and manipulated, the harder I worked on the relationship. I would fantasize that this could change into the perfect fairy tale romance.
In the midst of all this chaotic uncertainty in my relationships, I forgot about my family and all my friends. Nothing else mattered. I made my partner my higher power. I literally thought I would die if the relationship would end. But I was really dying while I was in it.
When My Love Addicted Relationships Would End
I would be totally disabled. Everything became so quiet. I missed the intensity. I would cry all the time. I lived in a fog. I drove myself crazy. Every thought in my head was about the relationship and what went wrong. I couldn’t believe it was over . . . I worked SO hard.
I’d do obsessive things like calling my ex, driving by, making sure I still had that connection. I’d play games to try to re-kindle the fire. What I didn’t realize was that I was playing with dynamite. Every time the line was thrown to me, I’d get hooked and reeled in. One little glimpse of caring about me gave me hope and the whole viscous cycle would start again.
When the Intensity Finally Lessened
As time would pass and the intensity of obsessing about a past relationship would lessen, my addiction would change to “workaholism.” I’d work my butt off on the job trying to be the perfect employee in place of the perfect lover.
I always had something going to keep my life intense. Nothing I did was in moderation. I didn’t know how to get off this crazy ride.
I was mentally, physically and emotionally drained. I couldn’t take the pain much longer. My body was giving me all kinds of signs that I was hitting bottom with two choices; sink or swim.
I Decided to Swim
Recovering from loving too much has been a continuous journey. I’ve had to reach out for help which isn’t easy. Many people didn’t even know I was in so much pain because I hid it so well.
I remember when I first read the characteristics of RECOVERING from loving too much in Robin Norwood's book. I thought to myself, I never feel that way . . . what do I have to do to feel that way?
For example "When a relationship is destructive, we are able to let go of it without experiencing disabling depression."
And this was a tough one "We value our own serenity above all else. All the struggles, drama, and chaos of the past have lost their appeal. We are protective of ourselves, our health and well-being."
LOVE ADDICTS ANONYMOUS
A fellowship of men and woman whose common purpose is to recover from unhealthy dependency on love.
Click HERE to view the LAA website.
Recovery and a Happier Life
When I first began learning about love addiction, I was thrilled to be able to put a name on what I was feeling. Initially, I was hoping for a quick fix ~ yet that never happened.
Recovering from love addiction is a lifelong process. I’ve had to let go of things in my life that weren’t healthy for me. I worked hard on changing my addictive behavior. I found things in my life that would build my self esteem. I reached out and asked for help. I've read many books on the subject and also used my creative writing as a healthy outlet. I attended group meetings and individual therapy. And I've found closure with many painful things from my past.
I realize that my parents did the best they could in raising their children. I don’t blame them for my troubles. I share with my family what I have learned in hopes that the cycle has been broken.
Love addiction is a difficult subject to write about for me. It's quite personal. Yet I am doing so in hopes that I may help others understand and get the help they so deserve.
One of my favorite sayings is Love Yourself Enough To Stop The Pain. I have that choice. You do too.
This is Sharyn's Slant
All four books are available on Amazon below.
Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships
by Susan Peabody
Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself The Power To Change The Way You Love
by Pia Melody
Is It LOVE or Is It Addiction?
by Brenda Schaeffer
Woman Who Love Too Much
by Robin Norwood
Here's a poem I wrote while driving on the freeway: expressing my feelings of wanting to connect with my "addiction," staying strong and knowing that it would be a mistake
Thoughts are spinning
Which way should I go
I may take the exit
If I go too slow.
Maybe stop or drive by
For what, don’t know why
Would I scream, would I cry?
Whatever would be said
It would all be a lie
We may end up in bed . . . then again
. . . I could end up dead.
Sweaty palms, clenching the wheel
Keep going forward
Just follow the bright moon
Close my eyes for a moment
It will all be over soon.
The intensity rose
Forcing the peddle to the floor
I kept going past the ramp
Won’t take the pain any more.
Fu _ _ ing jerk ~ I hate you
Do you see what you’ve done
If I keep going
I’ll know that I’ve won.
The desire, the connection
Oh, so strong
Regain my power, just keep driving
It won’t be long.
Passing sights, memories
That force me to recall
Pain, evil, deception
Now I can see
My eyes open again
And I remember when
I promised myself
I’d make it through
As long as I stay away from you.
The exit will remain
No choice in the matter
But it’s my decision
I choose not to be battered.