So…what the holy-Dr-Drew (Celebrity Rehab – C’mon I haven’t lost you already have I?!) is love addiction? It sounds seedy AF. Is it even a real thing? I mean, everyone loves love right?! Love is the best! Sure, love in its purest, unconditional form is immeasurably beautiful. But that is not the experience of a love addict. As always, all I can talk about is my experience but what I’ve learned from uncovering my severe co-dependence in rehab, to attending the charmingly named SLAA (sex and love addicts anonymous) meetings since, is that I am not unique and I am certainly not alone. Which was oddly comforting, even for someone as self-absorbed as me!
How does one become addicted to “love”? I use the word love throughout but understand that it is not real love you are addicted to. It is the chemical response in your brain of how another person makes you feel needed, safe and seen. You are addicted to an experience drawn from another human being and the problem with that is that humans are inconsistent, changeable and flawed. And even if by some miracle they weren’t, your response to the same actions would change over time. It’s an addiction, right? So just like taking a drug to get you high, you need more and more each time to achieve the same euphoric high you got the first time. It’s the same with love addiction and there in-lies its ultimate pain and destruction. Because how the fuck-sticks can one solitary human being continuously pour ALL of their love and devotion, attention, time and energy into another who constantly wants and needs more or they will fall apart? They can’t. It’s impossible. Even if your husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/lover, quit their job to stay home, give you pats and tell you, “You’re a beautiful, special, princess, unicorn, Goddess!” every single day, eventually you would be bored and disheartened again. You’re not an asshole, but your addiction is. Your addict brain would start to question, “Wait…he didn’t say I was talented, or charming, or smart or funny!? He thinks I’m boring and plain and stupid! OMG, he’s going to find someone else! Is she prettier than me? HE HATES MEEEE?!” It’s extreme paranoia and anxiety for the addict, and it’s suffocating and completely draining for the carer. Notice I say carer, because this person is no longer your partner. It is impossible to be equals in a relationship with an addict (any type of addict) in full addiction. IM-POSS-I-BLE.
Anywhosels, as you can see, the relationship is simply fucking doomed! So, when the person you need to fulfil your every emotional and physical need inevitably fails, you will be susceptible to fulfilment from any other source. That slimy man that winked at you on the train is the now your soul mate (until you follow him off the train and he subsequently locks you in a room until you start to scream…true story. I probably don’t need to tell you this but…DON’T FOLLOW STRANGE MEN OFF TRAINS)! The gorgeous psychiatrist you were assigned in rehab? Yeah, he’s paid to be kind to you! But the ones that are truly dangerous are the ones that actually like you back. They are the ones you end up falling in “love” with and now not only are you about to break your partners heart but anyone else who comes in contact with your addict-style “love”. Basically, you’ll inevitably fuck up royally due to your (current) inability to practice loyal, unconditional love.
It sounds like some evil master plan but I promise you it’s not. The goal has always been pure. The goal is love. It’s just been a very misguided, deranged, obsessive, societally-manipulated, male-focussed, damsel-in-distress version of love that you’re about to soul-crushingly learn never even existed. Let’s stop on that for a second… The only thing you have been trained as a little girl to desire and fight for your entire life, is a sham. I’m not saying love is a sham. Der, love is da bomb! Obsessive, addictive, needy, clingy, jealous, I’ll-never-be-happy-without-you, love-at-first-sight, knight-in-shining armour “love,” is a sham. Thanks Walt Disney…ya dick!
I tried really hard to collect men that would love me just enough. God that sounds horrible…! I deeply hoped that if I had the right people that I might just be filled with enough love to survive the pain of existing. I didn’t stop to ask myself why I was in so much pain, I just decided that love was the answer. Pure love would have been, addict “love” was not. So, I did what any addict would do… I binged and overdosed. I squeezed every last ounce of love out of any heart that was available to me. Like a vampire sucking blood, I drained them of their generous, honest, human love until it shrivelled into resentment, fear, exhaustion and heartbreak. When I was finally all alone after using up every last “hit” I could get of the most powerful drug I’ve ever sampled (and trust me…there have been a few), I realised I was more empty, more hollow, more alone, more invisible, and more nothing, than I had ever been in my life. It was hell. It was as though when the hearts I had destroyed left me, I no longer existed. I don’t know how to explain the agony of that. I didn’t exist.
It may sound dramatic (that’s kind of a theme with me), but my experience with co-dependency and love addiction was the most excruciating experience I have ever had. I have had my spine chopped up and put back together due to cancer (that sucked a bag of dicks), I have watched way too many incredibly important people in my life die horrible deaths, I’ve had anxiety since I shot out of the womb; so bad that you could easily mistake me for a shivering Chihuahua on speed. I’ve tried to save myself from the pain of existing in a world that has trained me to hate myself (topic for another day perhaps!) through substance abuse and anorexia that almost killed me…but the pain of losing myself into another person and giving them complete power over my emotions (unwittingly and unwantingly to them) was the most painful thing I have ever had to drag my sorry-ass through. Without comparison.
That’s why I want to talk about love addiction and explore it more, because until I completely fell apart and had to be sent to the loony-bin for it, I had no idea this was even a thing! Yet now I can see I have suffered from this my entire life at varying degrees. As women, most of what we are shown as children, programs us to grow up desiring a co-dependent relationship. Subconsciously we want that big strong Neanderthal-like man to give our power over to (*rolls eyes and hates self for being so cliché and malleable)! We crave that white knight in the Disney films to scoop us up and take care of us. We expect it. We think it’s our destiny and our purpose and if we don’t find that “perfect” prince-fucking-charming then we are nothing! By the way…sure Prince Chiselled-Jaw is gorgeous and swave but have you noticed how he’s always the most boring person on the planet! I mean, personally I thought I was better than that. I am a feminist, I am an intelligent, strong, brave, “nasty” woman and yet, I still got sucked into this bull-shit fantasy! Da fuk!?
Okay, so… “why me?” Oh, you know, the usual! Abandonment/daddy/life-issues, blah blah blah. Who cares why, what now!? Welcome to step one! I told you I wasn’t going to heal your life, and I’m not. Call my sexy psychiatrist if you want that. But if you do identify with anything I’ve said here I highly recommend going to a SLAA* or co-dependency meeting in your city. They are so supportive and you learn so much about yourself just from hearing other peoples’ stories and sharing your own. It’s truly a beautiful, inclusive experience. Don’t worry, it’s not as seedy and creepy as it sounds. Oh for sure you’ve got your creeps! But it’s not the majority and hey, keeps it interesting! If you have related to me here, you will relate to most people in the meetings. I guarantee you that.
Additionally, just having the awareness that if I feel like I love someone ‘at first sight’ then I am 1000% in my addiction. If I am obsessing over someone I hardly know, I am in addiction. If I am feeling invisible or lost if I don’t hear from whats-his-name…addiction. If I am feeling manic or euphoric if I do hear from them…yup, addiction! It’s a pain in the tit but I am constantly checking in with myself. I fail all the bloody time. I fail spectacularly, because as an addict I never do anything by halves! But, I’m learning and I’m interested and I want relationships that contain mutual, true, unconditional love, so I’m willing to do the work. As they say in the meetings, one day at a (sometimes-horribly-painfully-slow…) time!
PS. This poem is one of the most life-changing things I have ever read. It’s so brutally direct that it smacked some sense into foggy, love-sick, tired brain. It’s now my phone background…coz I’m super cool.
*SLAA: My advice, don’t go to a mixed gender meeting. They exist, but at least for me, it was a really beautiful experience being able to get together and talk and bond with a group of women. That is something as a co-dependent I rarely ever did. I tend to gravitate to the imagined safety and protection of men. Forcing myself out of that comfort zone rewarded me in some really beautiful friendships. Just practically too, as a straight woman…it’s less distracting!
Netflix Series: The only time I have ever seen sex/love addiction represented in media or entertainment is in the new, brilliant Judd Apatow series ‘Love’. Second season they cover it more but I highly recommend it.