By Holly Smith
“Just because something is addictive doesn’t mean that you will get addicted to it. But . . . if your stomach ties up in knots while you count the seconds waiting for a phone call from that special someone . . . if you hear a loud buzzing in your ears when you see a certain person’s car (or one just like it) . . . if your eyes burn when you hear a random love song or see a couple holding hands . . . if you suffer the twin agonies of craving for and withdrawing from a series of unrequited crushes or toxic relationships . . . if you always feel like you’re clutching at someone’s ankle and dragged across the floor as they try to leave the room . . . welcome to the club.”
― Ethlie Ann Vare
She lies on the floor sobbing in a fetal position. She has aborted her pregnancy, and the father has left. Deep inside her belly and soul what once grew is no more. She reels from physical and emotional pain. Her breasts no longer swollen, her waist has immediately shrunk. All of her dreams died with her fetus. She believed she loved him, and that he loved her. He wanted her to mother his child for his own selfish gain. He never wanted her or was prepared to be a father to their child- she knew this deep down inside of herself the day she decided to terminate the pregnancy. For the first time in three years, she honored her truth. Her abortion was the beginning of her bottom – from LOVE ADDICTION.
She had met him and became instantly attracted. He was young, handsome, and seductive. His thick blonde hair, freckles, and full lips were a magnet. He had game and was very patient. He had nothing to offer but he paid attention to her when she so desperately needed it. He stroked her ego and fed her esteem. Their conversations were erotic and began to occur more and more often. They could sit in a room with thirty other people and have sex like no one was watching. All he had to do was look in her direction and she was aroused. There was an energy that existed between them. He felt like her soul mate, her knight in shining armor except he was no knight and only came with armor. Like a castle which sits far off in a thousand-year-old field, he was a six-foot-thick wall made of stone with a fancy drawbridge. She was the tent pitched outside his castle walls – loving, transparent, and needy. She needed something to cling to so that she could feel lovable, valuable, and worthy. She would wait in her tent and every now and again he would show up. The drawbridge would come down, and there he would be.
Their connection ( attachment) was powerful, familiar. He was walled off, and she was insecure. He could take care of her emotionally, physically, and sexually and she would arouse him. He was searching for something to attach himself to, and he picked up the right signal in her. They were like two bugs mating, stuck awkwardly together. She had the upper hand and possessed all the power. There was an imbalance between them, age, experience, career, awareness, and sobriety. He was like a puppy that she could summon back and forth. It was easy.
She tried to put him down so many times. She would see him and immediately she wanted to drink. It was like sitting at the bar, taking in all the noise and excitement, and watching other patrons get soused. He was her drink. She knew he wasn’t an appropriate partner. She ignored every piece of her insides warning her of danger. He wasn’t trustworthy, but she kept going to bed with him. They were reckless. She never knew when she would resume with him; it was spontaneous and impetuous. She just couldn’t resist him. Each time they would reunite their connection would grow more passionate. It lied to her. She believed this to be love. Instead, this was love’s ugly cousin, addiction.
Her abandonment and intimacy fears chose him. Her trauma stored deep within her bones unleashed with her ecstasy. He wasn’t available to love her or offer her anything, but he gladly pulled his pants down. He was happy to enter her and accidentally plant his seed, but he wasn’t about to stay and become committed or experience anything intimate. He too suffered from the same affliction. He stayed with her because she wasn’t offering any commitment. He was happy to sign up to be her “pool boy” he didn’t have any sense of self either.
Although she was deep in her sex addiction with him, she simultaneously was still in an emotional entanglement with her Ex. She was substantially entertaining two relationships at once. Neither was committed. One man wouldn’t relinquish her and waited for her to change her mind and come back, the other settled for her sex crumbs. She loved her Ex but was sexually drawn to the other. He aroused her like no one had and she wasn’t willing to let that go. It made her feel alive. It gave her the energy and zest she had been seeking her whole life. Like a drink, they filled her up. She was greedy. She took from them both and fed the hole left wide open by her father. Her guilt and dependence kept her entangled with her Ex. He was like a father figure to her, and she longed for that too. Both men possessed traits together that would make one perfect man. They did something for her that she would not do for herself. She wasn’t alone; she didn’t feel her pain, and she certainly didn’t have to be intimate with anyone including herself. Why does a woman have two men? So she doesn’t have to choose.
The universe or higher power came crashing through the rocks like water that day, breaking her trust wide open. She becomes pregnant; her Ex learns the truth and his fantasy of her shatters. Love addicts live in delusion and fantasy. There is no reality within the attachment. It is all based on an image we make up and a distortion of the truth. There is no intimacy present in love addiction. No one really ever gets close to the other, it’s a dance like moths circling a flame. A chase occurs emotionally, physically and each time the real person emerges the fantasy is broken, and the love addict moves into withdrawal. We believe this withdrawal is us missing our loved one, pining over lost love. To the contrary, withdrawal is our brains chemistry being altered because we are no longer in contact with our drug. A person addiction is real and is the same as withdrawing from opiates or heroin. Getting high by connecting with our partners who mimic familiar parental influences rewards the same part of the brain as chemicals or substances do. Not only did I face the current trauma of my relationship loss and abortion, but all of my past childhood trauma surfaced with these events. It was the most debilitating time in my life, and I was in crisis. I even contemplated suicide.
My crisis became “the opportunity.” I discovered I was a love addict. I had been all my life. The first person to leave me was my father, and I had been chasing alcohol and men like him for years to fill the original void. I was living outside of myself and operating in a very unhealthy way. There was no joy, fulfillment, or love in my relationships. There was fighting, dysfunction, chaos, and loss. I had to first get sober to experience myself and my problems before I could begin to deal with trauma that surrounds love addiction. It is a grueling, painful process one has to face in order to recovery and reframe an old distorted belief system. I had to form a sense of self and abstain from men for a long time. I had to embrace my own neediness and shame and work through it with a professional without taking a “hostage.” I learned I had been using men as much as they were using me. I got in touch with my family of origin and its history and found forgiveness for my parents who are human and made grave mistakes. I had to find and hold my little girl and love and protect her as I had never before. I had to give myself what I had been trying to get from men for so long. My decision to terminate my pregnancy was the hardest and biggest sacrifice ever made in my life. It took courage and will to do what was best for an unborn child versus what my dreams consisted of. I knew that child would suffer under the circumstances I helped create, and I didn’t have any other choice but to move into God’s will.
I would say to any human being who suffers from these relationship dynamics to seek help and know there is hope. I couldn’t go back and change my past, but I could rewrite my future. I love myself today. I am unmarried, childless, and content. I am building self-esteem through my own being and through a romantic relationship. I support myself, and I am independent. My inner voice spoke to me that day, and I thank God I listened.
Holly Smith is an experienced healthcare drug and alcohol professional. With eight years career experience admitting clients from all over the US into inpatient residential treatment centers she is becoming a pioneer in her field. A Certified family interventionist and in recovery herself, 11 plus years, she helps many families to find solutions and come up from the abyss. She is a published writer (love addiction) and posts daily on her new recovery blog: Holly Smith: Coaching Addictive Behaviors, designed to inspire and impact those who are still suffering.