The Lovely Addict

Chemistry or chemical reaction?

Now that I have been in a stable relationship for six years (longest passionate, loving relationship EVER. Thank you very much.) that feeling of initial urgency, deep passion and lust has naturally faded– the longing and feeling of “I can’t wait to devour you” is no longer there. This, by no means, means I’ve lost love for my husband. In fact, I love him more now than ever before. But the teenage puppy-love feeling has definitely…poof!…disappeared. Reality has set in. Fantasy over. And I am quite content with that. Life is good. And yet, every once in a while–randomly– the sensation of urgency and lust creeps back in, and I feel so overwhelming “in love” with my husband that it almost seems like we’ve been thrown back into some time machine and it’s January 2009 again. Did he do something especially different? Did we bond over something important? Did something in me change and realize some deep meaningful truth?

Nope. I probably ate spicy food.

Really. No joke. This fleeting sensation of heightened passion is a clear window into brain chemistry and how food, beverages, drugs and hormones can alter your emotions. It is also a clear window into your own emotions and what you believe about that. We humans, not just love addicts, can so easily be misled to believe we “feel” love, when in fact we merely feel the effects of the drinks we had the night before, or the coffee we are ingesting or a change in hormones during our menstrual cycle. These random chemicals can transform an average Joe into the love of your life in a split second, if you happen to have eaten too much sugar at the right time,  thus, making you “believe” there’s chemistry between you and good ‘ol Joe. This is kind of a sad reality for those of us who would love to believe we are making rational or even spiritual choices about people, but, at first sight, we’re kinda not. At least not all the time. My point is, we need to be aware of this phenomenon. If we are not aware of it, we can easily be fooled into thinking that we are on the right track with “Joe”, only to, days later, feel strangely ambiguous about him and wonder what the heck we were thinking.

Think about it. How often have you met someone out at a club or a party when you were drinking, hooked up, only to wake up the next morning (with or without him beside you) and thought, “What have I done?!?” The alcohol instance is an obvious example of brain chemicals influencing our behavior and, importantly, what we believe to be true. But it happens with much subtler, unexpected chemicals too–sugar, caffeine, aspirin, chocolate, high fat foods, low-fat foods, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. Instances of these chemicals at work are when you wake up in the morning on the “wrong side of the bed.” Or suddenly just feel sad. Or laugh for no apparent reason. These are all examples of the chemicals at work in our body. And one of the most important things to realize, is that what we ingest has a huge effect. During our menstrual cycle our brain chemicals change too. Without us even knowing.

And, what is love but a chemical reaction in the brain. Endorphins; neurotransmitters firing neurons. Sure, we can have what’s called “chemistry” with people. And sure, we can rest our eyes on a person we find beautiful thus causing a physical, mental and emotional response. But is this because this person has done something to cause us to feel this way? Or is it merely a force within us that has created meaning and significance from a visual cue?

Lesson to be learned: be wary of emotions that seem fleeting, quick to come and quick to go. Look instead to the foods you recently ingested, even a few days prior. Know the difference between fleeting emotions and “feelings” about something or someone that linger for a very long time (even when they too seem to come and go). These latter types of emotions are much stronger indicators of something going on, on a deeper level. MOST IMPORTANT, try not obsess or assign any deep meaning to emotions that seem to hit you out of no where. More than cupid’s arrow, they could be indigestion. ;) I always think of a newborn baby when it smiles. We so often want to believe that they are smiling at us, but the truth is, it’s probably just gas.

 

Call for stories: childhood

childhoodIf you haven’t already heard, I am attempting to write a book on love addiction. And so, I am currently reaching out to fellow love addicts (in recovery or not) and asking for their “childhood story.” It doesn’t have to be very long, in fact, the shorter the better (under 1000 words, please), and I am not looking for worst case scenarios either. I am looking for TRUE tales of childhood. So, whether you were abused and ignored as a child, or loved and well cared for, I would like to hear from you. I will be selecting about three of these stories for my book and you would have to agree to having your story published, of course. But I will only publish first name, last initial, and you are free to give me an alias in order to remain anonymous.

A few more tips:

  • 1000 words or less
  • Please do not include any full names, locations, addresses, or information. If you do, I will most likely omit them.
  • Don’t be afraid to describe your caretakers, as well as your siblings, their jobs, behaviors, care-taking abilities, addictions, positives and negatives, etc.
  •  Tell me how you “felt” most of the time as a child. For example, were you afraid, happy, confused, spoiled, alone?
  • Be as descriptive as possible, but know that I am not looking for in depth details of actual abuse.
  • Finally, be as honest as possible. Your story, dramatic or mundane, might help someone someday.

You can post your story right here in a comment if you’d like to share with others (recommended),  or you can send it to thelovelyaddict@gmail.com

The deadline is April 1, 2015. THANKS SO MUCH!!!

Who do you love?

Who do you love?Who do you love? Take a good look at your partner. He or she is a reflection of what you think of yourself and what you feel you deserve in life. If it hurts to read this, maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe it’s time to love yourself a little more.

Essential laws of love addiction recovery

So, on a previous post, I threw out there that I was breaking “two” of the essential laws of healthy recovery by not taking care of myself and not having a life of my own. And while that wasn’t entirely true, it was partly true (enough for me to notice it). But more importantly, there is no law book or list of rules for love addiction recovery, except my own very vague notion of what recovery laws actually are, created as I go along.

That being said, I thought I would create these laws, and post them so that others can share in the knowledge of what they should strive for. So, here they are…

Law #1: Thou shalt strive to be a mature, responsible adult: love addiction is all about stunted growth; recovery is all about growing up.  To successfully recover you really need to give up childhood survival mechanisms like addictive behavior, acting out, manipulating to get your way, chasing after unhealthy fantasies, and burying your head in the sand by focusing on your PoA instead of your adult responsibilities. In other words, learn healthier ways to manage your life.

Law #2. Thou shalt not avoid thy personal responsibilities: love addiction is not about loving your PoA, it’s really about using your PoA as an emotional distraction so that you can avoid yourself and that which you fear the most. Find out what you fear, and face it.

Law #3: Thou shalt take care of thyself: you are your best investment, so treat yourself as such. Eat well, exercise, challenge your brain, be an integral part of your community and block harmful people from your life. Your body and mind are temples. They are sacred places. Do not pollute them with bad food, negative people and defeatist thinking. If you can care for and love others, why not you too?!

Law #4: Thou shalt exercise thy logical brain more than thy emotional heart–at least until you “get” how to use your logical brain. But, love addicts tend to reside in their heart and emotions. They allow their emotions to make decisions for them, and do not enlist the help of their logical brain (which can detect red flags and recognize safety). Let the pendulum swing in the opposite direction for a time. Give up “thinking” with your heart and try to think with your brain. Can you see the difference?

Law #5: Thou shalt have a life of thy own: It’s time to quit depending on others for your happiness. Why is it everyone else’s responsibility to make you happy? What role do you play in your own happiness? Search for activities and emotionally and spiritually stimulating pursuits that you can do on your own in times of solitaire. This is how you begin to like yourself

Law #6: Thou shalt learn to accept and if necessary, forgive thyself: Look in the mirror; what do you see? Do you wish you saw someone far more perfect? Flawless? Wealthy? Famous? Get over it. You’re not perfect nor will you ever be. But that does not mean you are not loveable. Even the most handicapped, disadvantaged, challenged people in the world are still worthy of love. And so are you. But  if you think you can just waltz out into the world and expect to be validated and loved by others, you’re in for a bit of disappointment. When you do that, it’s hit or miss. You never know who will like you and who won’t. But guess what, when the love and validation comes from within YOU, you always know what you’re gonna get. Make peace with the mistakes you made in the past, and move on to being your best source of love and strength.

Law #7: Thou shalt not participate in harmful or hurtful behavior, to thyself and others: no affairs, no sleeping with or becoming emotionally bonded to a married or otherwise unavailable person, no cheating, no stalking, no physically, mentally or emotionally harming others for your own personal benefit, no acting out in ways that may harm or hurt yourself or others.

Law #8: Thou shalt abandon obsessive fantasy in exchange for reality, and stay in the now: obsessing over every Tom, Dick and Harry you meet, falling in love hard and fast (in your imagination), and becoming hopeless to addicted to someone is all fantasy-based. About one percent of what’s going on might be driven by reality. Let all that go and stay in the NOW. What does that mean? It means every time you catch yourself “wondering” or “day-dreaming” or fantasizing about someone new (or even your current PoA) STOP, and bring yourself back to what you are physically doing. If you’re doing nothing, find something to do. But stay present in only that which is happening now. Love addicts create their addicts, and FANTASY is how they do it. (More on this at “Tips On Dating“)

Law #9: Thou shalt be true to thyself and thy values: most love addicts do not know what a value is, let alone what theirs might be. If there’s one thing you learn in recovery, learn your values. They are your map. They help define who you are, what you need, and who to look for and connect with in the world (when you’re ready).

Law #10: Thou shalt no longer be a victim: chances are that many of your dysfunctional behaviors were learned from dysfunctional caretakers. They may have even physically abused you, mentally abused you, or even neglected you. But, as an adult, you not only have the responsibility to care for yourself, you have the FREEDOM to care for yourself in much healthier ways than ever before. So, quit blaming your parents, and the world for what you don’t have and be grateful for what you do have: the opportunity to learn healthier behaviors. Right now. No need to forgive your parents for their faults (although it helps), but do recognize that you’re the captain of the ship now, and YOU are in charge of your own destiny.

Law #11: Thou shalt live and let live: stop trying to control everything and everyone. It’s too much of a task to take on. It is said that people who have had traumatic or chaotic pasts tend to be very controlling in their adult life. As adults, even though we may have the power to control our own lives and our immediate environment, we cannot control everyone and everything. Every person we are in a relationship with is beyond our control. That’s why it’s essential to surround yourself with people who address your inner most needs. If you don’t like chaos, don’t fall for a guy who is impulsive and unpredictable. If you like excitement and spontanaity in your life, don’t fall for a girl who prefers to be at home watching back to back episodes of Downton Abbey. Accept what you cannot change; but ONLY if you can handle it in your life. If you can’t, don’t accept it. Move on and reconfigure the players in your life.

Tips on Dating, for the love addict


It’s Spring! And many of my dear friends on the LAA boards have started to date again (or want to date), after a long winter of introspection and recovery work. But are they ready? Are you ready? If this wasn’t a love addiction blog I would definitely say, Carpe Diem! Seize the day! Go for it! But a recovering love addict is a totally different, unique individual who has to approach dating with far more precaution than the average guy or girl. Just as a recovering alcoholic has to reconfigure the people, places and things in his sober life, so too does a recovering love addict. And when you know this, the safer and more successful you will be. So, without further ado…

1. Know when you are (really!) ready to date. You may think you’re ready. You may even fantasize about the hot guy or girl at the office who gave you a “look.” But when it really comes down to it, and the question gets popped (How about Saturday night?), some of us are simply not ready, emotionally, mentally or physcially. How do you know? You know when the idea of dating doesn’t scare the hell out of you to the point where you simply cannot make the date, when it sounds “scary” but exciting too, when you don’t curl up into a ball and start crying hysterically after a first date because all you can think about is your ex, when you start to feel comfortable around strangers (not 100% but enough to have the courage to do so), and when being alone is not a bad thing, but you’re ready for something new…

Many love addicts who still have a person of addiction (PoA) on their brain long after the relationship has ended (this is a torchbearer, by the way) do so not because they still love them or think they will get back together, but as a form of protection. If you are still emotionally attached to a person, it keeps you safe from having to date someone new, and thus, experience the possibility of new pain and rejection. Some love addicts become emotionally or sexually “anorexic,” which is a form of sex and/or love addiction also. Lastly, there is the issue of replacing one PoA with another, diving from one relationship into another, thus being “ready” for the wrong reasons. In this latter case, the person is not ready to date. He or she is simply looking for their next “fix.” How do you know the difference between being ready and looking for your next fix? See Tip #4. Otherwise, these areas of emotional  and behavioral unrest need to be resolved first, before you’re ready.

2. A date is JUST a date. Learn to put dates into perspective. A date is not romantic, it is not your future, it is not love, it is not a dreamy Hollywood story of passion and ardor. And while a date may have elements of all those things IF there’s chemistry and attraction, don’t get too hung up on the chemistry and attraction. A date is a meeting. Someone finds you physically attractive (or you find them physically attractive, or both), and they want to get to know you a bit more. They want to talk to you, maybe they even want to kiss you at the end of the night. Who knows! Whatever the case, treat it like a meeting. It might be fun but it might be awkward; it might make you happy, but it might make him never want to call back. Who knows! Your first date will most likely not look like the fantasy you’ve created in your head. WHen you meet up with someone for the purpose of getting to know you, and vice versus, you have to try and remove the romantic element, otherwise, you leave yourself open to fantasy and high expectations, which brings me to tip #3…

3. Lose the expectations. If you go into a date looking for your soulmate, you will probably be sorely disappointed. Why is that? Because you’re expectations are far too high for an unsuspecting stranger who doesn’t know what you want or need and basically owes you nothing but a little common courtesy–that’s about as much as can be expected on a first date. Any more than that and you’re barking up the wrong tree. You see, understanding the concept of expectations is probably a love addict’s biggest hurdle. We have high expecations too soon, or of the wrong people, and then, once we see that our expectations are not getting met, we whine about it, but settle anyway. But there’s a simple formula for expectations: we can only have high expectations of people who are healthy enough, interested enough and capable of meeting our expectations. And we also have to be willing to expect the same from ourselves. You can’t go on a first date and expect to be treated with basic human kindness and respect from someone who is not a kind and respectful person. You can’t go on a first date and expect that a person will call you back for a second date, if that person is not interested. And you can’t go on a first date (or a second or third) and start expecting that the two of you are automatically a couple. These are all unrealistic expectations and you are setting yourself up for a huge let down. Expect NOTHING. And be happy. Don’t expect a call back! Don’t expect a text! Don’t expect a second date! You are owed nothing. You didn’t go on this date “expecting” for a second or third date. You went on this date to simply ENJOY this person now. That’s all you get. (P.S. Having high expectations like, “I will be respected,” comes under “Values” in #10)

4. Know the difference between dating and desperation. Are you ok with just you? Or are you looking for someone to save you? Can you handle being alone? Or do you hate your life because it’s missing a soulmate? Is it a combination of both of these things? Knowing what is driving your desire to date can have a huge impact on WHO YOU CHOOSE to date. If you are OK within yourself then you can be far more discerning with whom you choose to date. Why? Because you have nothing to lose. You’re not dating out of need or desperation to fill a void. You are simply dating because you would like to meet someone that you can enjoy.  Period. A love addict has to be on constant alert of his or her personal motives. If you feel a void within you, you may pick and choose prospective dates for the wrong reasons. You may be willing to overlook red flags, put up with abuse or neglect, or date “down,” all for the purpose of stuffing that void within you. Remember, when we date, we are not looking for our second half. We are not looking to be “completed.” We must begin to understand that we are complete, as is. And if we don’t feel complete on our own, we need to bring ourselves there first. Healthy dating is about meeting other people who are also complete.

5. Let things happen organically. Letting things happen organically means removing the fantasy…100%. That means that when the date is over, it’s over. You can think about the wonderful feeling of his touch, but do not try on his name and imagine the two of you on an Alaskan Cruise as Honeymooners. You can certain enjoy the thoughts of her that pop into your head the next day, but don’t imagine what your children will look like. Letting things happen organically means living in the now. If he  hasn’t called, he hasn’t called. Gently push those wanting, needing and fantasy thoughts from your head and replace them with thoughts on your work, or what you are presently doing. Remove the ruminating! If he doesn’t call in two weeks, let it go. The more you fantasize, or obsess the more you remove the organic nature of what is meant to happen versus what is not meant to happen. This is hard work, but in the end, it’s EASIER this way!!!! Trust me.

6. Step away from the computer. One of the most important steps a recovering love addict can take is to abandon any idea of online dating. DOn’t do it. Say goodbye to it. Online dating sites are a petrie dish of toxicity for the love addict. Why is that? Because they are filled with three things: the hope of instant gratification (finding someone with one click), the promotion of fantasy-based exchanges (when you don’t have a clear picture of someone you are free to “fill in the blanks” and create what you want that person to be), and the almost complete removal of  the crucial human necessity to judge someone realistically, in person, FIRST, before getting emotionally attached to them. Because love addicts need to learn to defer gratification,  control their susceptibility to fantasy, and  be able to judge people realistically, online dating is a bad idea. It’s like an alcoholic hanging out in a bar after he has given up drinking. It’s only a matter of time before he will slip. Online dating may be great for healthy people, but not for love addicts.

7. Don’t have sex on the first date. Cosmopolitan magazine recently wrote that not having sex on the first date is “outdated.” In other words, go ahead, girls, that rule is “antiquated and harmful” and produces “unnecessary anxiety and shame about something normal and natural: dating and sex.” Unfortunately, they were NOT talking to a love addict. Like it or not, you need to play by the antiquated, SAFE rules from days of yore. I say this not just to the women, but the men as well. Sex to a love addict is never taken lightly. It means something. It usually means a full blown commitment and an excuse to obsess over someone. That’s why it needs to be put on the back burner for a significant amount of time (3 months? 6 months?). A love addict’s job is to learn to defer gratification. To sniff out a person for red flags FIRST, before making any heavy duty commitments, physical or otherwise. And here’s something Cosmo won’t tell you, what’s the hurry? If you’re into someone, and they’re into you, and you plan to spend your lives together, why not wait? You’ve got all the time in the world. Why not make it about other stuff first? Sex on the first, second, third, etc. date is Russian Roulette to a love addict. Put it off. It can wait. He/she’s not going anywhere. And if he/she does leave, they weren’t worth it anyway and you were able to hold on to your dignity. More than that, it might save you from obsessing more than you would if you did have sex.

8. Do keep a journal. The perspective and instincts we have before we get to know someone intimately are amazingly sharp. I am convinced that every red flag a person might have pops up on the first or second date, if we really pay attention. Trouble is, when we something bad enough, we are willing to ignore the red flags, and ignore our gut instincts. Keeping a journal helps us to stay on track and remember how we felt and what we sensed in those first hours. Be sure to write down your first impression, how you felt, if you noticed or felt anything funny, if something didn’t add up. What was your logical brain picking up on, versus your heart (emotions)? While this may seem like overkill, it will help you in your process and your ability to “learn” to date healthily. Looking back we always see with perfect vision.

9. Don’t trust your emotions. I know. It sounds counterintuitive when talking about dating. But it’s not. A love addict can’t trust his or her emotions. Not yet, anyway. Why? Because we tend to be ruled by our emotions and our logic goes right out the window. We are imbalanced in this way. Our logical brain will pick up on abuse, red flags, neglect, shame and general danger. Our logical brains are screaming at us to leave a bad relationship. But our emotions are screaming back, “Never! I love him!!!!” This is an extremely unhealthy way to make life decision. You cannot be ruled by emotions only. You need a balance of both your head and your heart. Trouble is, because we have been off balance for so many years, we need the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction. We need to depend more on our logical brain so that we begin to trust it again. Only then are we able to allow our emotions to “speak up.” Once our logical brain has first determined that we  are safe and secure. So, all those emotions howling at you, telling you that they are convinced 100% that it’s love,  after the first or second date. IGNORE THEM. Focus on the brain. On the logic. Turn back to your journal. Check for red flags. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to seek out the possibility of red flags. And don’t be afraid to walk away if you unearth something that you know in your head and your heart you probably cannot or should not live with if it doesn’t agree with your set of values.

10. Know Your Values. Attraction, chemistry, passion, flirtiness–those things are fine and good and all. But they can’t shake a stick at something called values. Knowing your values is critical to dating. If you don’t know your values, how can you know if someone else’s values are right for you? How can you tell if someone has the same belief in loyalty, respect or kindness as you do? Does he or she share the same work ethic, family values, or relgious beliefs? Where does he or she stand on marriage, affairs, children, parenting, age, eating, working out, drugs, sex, and so on. Most of these things seem world’s away from a first-time meeting. And I do not suggest you try to find out what your date thinks about child rearing on date #1. But I do suggest that you know what YOUR values are on all these things so that you know what to look out for and how to assess the other person.  Case in point, I went on a date many years ago with a good looking guy who, on our very first date, asked if I wanted to get high. I said, no thanks, and despite it bothering me enormously  (because it’s something I can’t handle) I kept dating him. I kept dating him because I didn’t know my values. I knew I didn’t like drugs and I knew I didn’t like being around people who did drugs. But I didn’t know it was SO IMPORTANT to me that the relationship would not work. And it didn’t. I eventually couldn’t take his smoking. Had I known my values, I would have saved myself a lot of time and emotional angst.

You need to hold people up to the light and really look at them and not be afraid of what you might see. Your happiness depends upon you being honest with yourself. And while I do not suggest scrutinizing people too early on in the dating process, I do suggest being open to communicating, and being patient in cultivating a relationship. You will not get to know someone over night. It takes months, years. You cannot rush things. People who fall in love fast are red flags. That goes for you, and for your date. It is a sign of instability. Healthy people are cautious, curious, protective with their emotions.  They don’t call every two seconds, they don’t profess love right away. They don’t drink like a fish or do drugs or try to sweet talk you into bed after a 2.5 hour date. Know the signs of healthy partner, and be one too.

Good luck!

You are entitled to something better than scraps

  • When I was a teenager, I let a very unattractive kid, with brown broken teeth kiss me because I thought I could do no better.
  • When I was in my twenties, I went to a community college, not because I couldn’t afford better, but because I believed I couldn’t academically do better.
  • When I went out in the world to get a job, I worked as a waitress because I didn’t believe I was smart enough to work anywhere else.
  • When I was a woman, I married a man I’d only known for six month. I married him on the side of a highway, no white dress, no wedding reception, no gifts because I didn’t believe I was worth a big, beautiful wedding or a man who would love me after six months.
  • And when I was divorced and newly dating, I fell in love with a diner cook who never showered or brushed his teeth, who smoked pot, wore dirty clothes and never wanted to have sex with me because I though he was the best I could find at my age.

When you believe you have value, when you believe you are worth not just a little but A LOT, you do not accept dirty, broken teeth, waiting tables in a beer and shots joint, or people who never shower or want to make love. You do not put up with neglect, disrespect, abuse, mind games, cruelty or anything else from someone who is dishing it out.

When you believe in yourself, you teach people how to treat you with respect. When you do not believe in yourself, you teach people that they can treat you anyway they want.

Curing love addiction is as simple as this: having a sense of entitlement. When you believe you are entitled to better treatment, you get it. Something in you changes and you no longer accept less. A perfect example of this is food. Even at my lowest, I would never eat food from a trash can because firstly, I can afford fresh food. Secondly, eating food from the trash doesn’t even make sense unless I were homeless, and might possibly die if I didn’t eat it. But lastly, and most importantly, I feel entitled to healthy, fresh, good tasting food that not only keeps me alive, but keeps me healthy and happy too.

So, if I can feel entitled about food, why not the people I allowed into my life? Why not feel entitled about work, education, income, friends, and so on?

Here’s one reason why: “entitlement” has had such a bad connotation to it. The rich have a sense of entitlement. Famous people have a sense of entitlement. Proud people have a sense of entitlement. We imagine individuals with their hands out, expecting more, more, more. And quite frankly, that is an ugly picture. Even in Christian and other western religions, it’s frowned upon. According to some religious teachings, we’re supposed to be humble and grateful for whatever we’re given. We’re supposed to be happy with scraps.

But I think that’s a detrimental belief, especially when it concerns close, intimate relationships. When we lack a sense of entitlement to who we should meet and fall in love with, when we have no clear sense of what we deserve, we accept darn near anything! We end up with scraps.

And let’s face it, scraps don’t taste good. And eating them is embarrassing. And being seen eating them is even more of an embarrassment. And so, you suddenly have this huge disconnect. At first you were grateful to have scraps. But then, when the scraps left a really bad taste in your mouth and left you feeling ashamed and worthless, you suddenly started to suffer and feel pain. You were torn between your belief in being humble, and this instinctual need in you to have better for yourself.

Love addiction is when we are at this point, we recognize we are eating scraps, it makes us sick to our stomaches, but we stay anyway.

Or, conversely, love addiction is when we do not realize we could be eating something better than scraps, (because we’ve eaten them all our lives) and so we keep eating them, thinking they’re great sustenance , but every time we take a bite, we want to vomit. We have no recognition that eating is not meant to be like this.

So, how do you create a sense of healthy entitlement? Well, you start by creating a set of values for yourself. Start to define what hurts you and what makes you happy. Make a list. And place boundaries around yourself. Let the good in; keep the bad out. The more you know yourself, the more you stick to your values, the more you begin to demand better for yourself. It’s a natural progression that comes from within and changes your whole life.

Someone on the forums recently posted this amazing quote: How empty of me, to be so full of you. So, my advice today is to fill yourself with a new sense of entitlement. Focus on your worth. Grab a copy of The Self-Esteem Workbook and start working!

Failing at recovery is easy. Here’s how…

failing-at-cro

Success versus failure is not always black and white. There’s no distinct “finish line” to success, that, once crossed, leads to bliss, perfection and the absence of failure. But, there are bad choices that if you continue to make will hold you back from progressing in recovery and feeling better emotionally and mentally. So, if it’s failure at recovery you’re looking for…do these top 10 things. I gaurantee you will continue to feel crappy, unfulfilled, frustrated and miserable!

1. Continue to talk about/analyze your PoA: Like it or not you’re obsessed. And talking about or analyzing, or stalking the PoA is confirmation of your obsession and your addiction. If you really want to wreck your chances of getting healthier, this is the top best way to do it. Also, when other people tell you to focus on yourself and institute no contact (NC) with your person of addiction, ignore them and continue to pine away and ask, “but why doesn’t he love me.” You’ll be able to spend a lifetime trying to figure out the answer to questions like that because, guess what…there is no answer! At least one you’ll never be fully satisfied with.

2. Vent (about how miserable your life currently is): I’m convinced that venting is an art. The longer you do it, the better at it you become. And the irony of venting, is that, as you become better at it, the worse you feel. Yay! Why is that? Because venting, although helpful for blowing off temporary steam, accomplishes absolutely nothing. It’s just another way to obsess over someone or something that is completely unhealthy for you. It’s just another way to stay anchored to your addiction.

3. Blame the PoA (and everyone else) for your problems: Of course we all know that none of your problems relates to you but rather to all the jerks who messed up your life, took advantage of you, held you back, never loved you, lied, cheated and broke your heart. You didn’t ask for any of this, right? Heck no. So…when it comes to really assessing the situation at hand, and your ultimate happiness, don’t take any responsibility. Blame others! And depend on others for your happiness. Happiness, afterall, is something that comes from outside sources, not within. And you have no control over your own attitude, your own behavior or the fact that you have to deal with this situation in the first place. Right??? Oh, and one more bit of advice: blaming others is so much easier too and will never challenge you to think that maybe, just maybe you do, afterall, have responsibility for your actions. So, if you really want to just take it easy and continue depending on others for happiness, blame them for not being what you need and want them to be.

4. Trust your fantasies: When you were a kid, you dreamed up big dreams of love and happiness and castles and unicorns. None of it was real, but it was a necessary process that either helped you begin to identitify dreams that would eventually shape your reality, or it was a defense mechanism that protected you from a reality that you could not manage well, or that scared you. Chances are, if you’re a love addict, those “fantasies” you still carry with you are defense mechanism that served (past tense) to protect you, but now, only stunt your growth and wreak havoc on your ability to face life and deal with what’s really in front of you, as opposed to what you wish were in front of you. The more you spend in la la land, the less time, knowledge and experience you will gain in the real world, learning real world skills to help you actually achieve your goals. So, if you plan to get a big fat F in recovery class, trust those fantasies in your brain and keep telling yourself that they speak the truth. Of course, they’ve never steered you wrong before, right?

5. Remove all boundaries, let everyone in and say or do anything you please: Yay! Freedom! Who needs or wants boundaries?! They have such an unappealing reputation, especially if you’re a child of the 60s or 70s. And while good, healthy boundaries serve to protect you and those around you (they keep bad, unhealthy people out of your life and likewise, keep YOU from saying or doing things you really shouldn’t), let’s face it, they hold you back, make you responsible, and deny you that childhood fantasy that believes that everyone will love us and be good to us if we just give them a chance.

6. Cause lots of drama: When you were a teenager in high school…oh, the drama! Remember? Well, don’t give it up. Continue to gossip, manipulate, and act totally histrionic at the smallest sign of strife. Because, guess what, who needs to grow up and act rational? Not you. Acting like a teen, making mountains out of molehills and getting involved in other people’s problems, which then in turn, affect you beyond all comprehenion is exciting! Or dangerous! Or riveting! Heck, it’s your own little slice of Hollywood. It gives you the perfect excuse not to face your actual problems, or work on them, let alone interact with grace and dignity.

7. Don’t change anything: Don’t change your behavior (notice I used the word “behavior,” I didn’t say change YOU). Keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing (notice I used the word “doing” not “being”).  Continue to hang around toxic people, and of course, keep pursuing your PoA (how’s that working for ya?). Keep frequenting places that compromise your desire to be healthy and safe (bars, online dating sites, your PoAs street). Really, why bother changing? Change is hard! It’s actual work! It requires the meaningful attempt to alter or modify one type of behavior for another, for the sake of improving one’s situation. And you have no interest in improving your situation. You like things as they are (that’s an educated guess, or you would be on this website), so…simply ignore this entry and keep doing what you’ve been doing. The definition of insanity, afterall,  is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. But then again, you don’t want different results, do you? You want exactly what you’ve got, er, except you want HIM to change. But not you.

8. Don’t reach out for any help or take any advice: There absolutely IS a light at the end of the tunnel, but you need to know how to navigate that tunnel. It’s not a straight line. It’s more like a maze. And whether you turn to reading books, chatting on a Love Addiction forum with others, or attend LAA meetings, one or all of those things will help guide you. Why? Well, for starters, you never learned how to love in a healthy way ( love can be learned!), you most likely have low self-esteem (self-esteem can be improved with more knowledge), and what you’ve been doing up to this point obviously isn’t working (people with more experience, with years of recovery make great guides!). But, you’re an adult and probably know it all. You probably resent advice, and hate to be told what to do. Well, take my advice, doing it on your own, without the coursework or without help from teachers will most likely get you a D or F. Try doing brain surgery without any prior learning. Coming out of love addiction is equally as challenging!

9. Replace your current PoA with a new PoA: This one always works so well. When you can’t have a successful relationship with your PoA (for whatever reason), at least you can go out and replace him or her with an equally bad choice. And you can continue to do this until hell freezes over because there’s an infinite amount of bad choices out there to be made. If you want an “F” for recovery, this is the way to do it. Repeat the same mistakes of the past without ever changing and without ever recognzing that real change doesn’t mean just changing the players around and expecting different results, it means redefining what you find attractive, acceptable and meaningful. We so often tend to thing that we will get different results from different people, and we’re always so flabbergasted when different people treat us exactly the same as those who have come before. Does that tell you something about human nature? That while there are subtle differences between us, we still react to people one way: the way we teach them to treat us. When you teach people to treat you differently (healthier) than you did in the past, you tend to attract a different (healthier) caliber person (those who can step up to the plate and provide the kind of relationship that you expect), AND those, like your PoA, who start to notice that you expect more of them usually cannot step up to the plate. Change must come from within YOU, not the player. Unless you want an F.

10. Never find out what your values are/Continue to believe you’re worthless: Why are you in this situation to begin with? Well, 99.9 percent of it is because you have low self-esteem. How do I know? Because the very second (well, maybe a little longer) a healthy person with healthy self-esteem recognizes they are not being treated decently, kindly and lovingly in a relationship, they don’t stick around. Period. Love addicts do. Why? Because love addicts don’t have the same level of intolerance for things  like neglect, avoidance, physical, mental or emotional abuse, manipulation, and so on. And whether it be because they were never taught self-esteem from their parents, or simply don’t have a healthy perspective on their own lives it doesn’t matter. What matters is that there are certain components to self-esteem that you need to possess in order to change and be healthier. The most important component of self-esteem is to have VALUES. A value is a thing we regard as super important that we believe we deserve in our lives for no other reason but that it is something that will make us feel alive, comfortable and happy. Being treated with kindness is a value. Believing that you should never be physically beaten is a value. The trouble is, either we don’t know what our values are, OR, more importantly, we have a vague idea of our values, but  don’t stick to them. We walk around and puff out our chest and say “No man will ever hurt me again!” and then we hop into bed with the first hot guy we pick up at a bar and only later find out he’s a player. Having self-esteem means having values, and sticking to them! We don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. If you know in your heart that every time you date someone who drinks heavily or does drugs it makes you feel uncomfortable then that means you have a value that says: I do not want drugs or alcohol in my life. It also means you don’t listen to that value. Success is recovery means you put your values ABOVE your need for a man. Self-esteem means you put your health and safety ABOVE your desire to get laid, above your desire to connect to someone as quick as possible and above your desire to feed your hunger for anything so that the pain goes away. Don’t write down your values or stick to them if you want to fail at recovery. Believing you are worthless, or going through life without a “Values” road map is a surefire way to guarantee a unhealthy, unhappy life.

What are Values?

As we work to transition from unhealthy to healthy, one of the most important lessons, if not THE most important lesson we need to learn is that creating personal values and sticking to them is the basis of all other learning experiences going forward. Your values, or lack thereof, can and will set the stage for your success or failure. And so, if you want to change from unhealthy thinking and behaviors to healthy, you must have a set of values, and they must be more important to you than anything else.

To a love addict, the term “values” can be hugely confusing, because we either don’t know we have any values, or if we do, we do not consider them to be something very important. Case in point: have you ever stayed in a relationship with someone who degraded you? Who did drugs and made you feel uncomfortable? Who lied all the time and it hurt you?  These are all examples of entering into relationships (or remaining in relationships) with limited personal values. But…I am getting too far ahead. Let’s start here:

“How do I figure out what my values are?” That’s a very good question! And like I said, not many people even know what values are. I didn’t really have an idea about my values until age 40. I thought I’d explain here…

First of all, a value is a thing (a principle, a belief, a standard of behavior) that we regard as essential to our being, so essential, in fact, that without it, we feel lacking or wrong or worthless. It’s a MUST HAVE, not a want or a wish. A value ( a MUST HAVE) is something we cannot live without and it’s different for all people, save a few biggies. Being treated with kindness is a value. Believing that you should never be physically beaten is a value. Respecting others is a value. The trouble is, either we don’t know what our values are, OR, more importantly, we have a vague idea of our values, but  don’t stick to them, and other things become more important.

In order to figure out what your personal values are, I would suggest you start with a list of your own personal likes and dislikes, as well as what you like or don’t like in other people. Think of the people currently in your life and those from your past. Did they have any qualities that really disturbed or upset you to the point where you said, “I cannot deal with this person at all!” For example, say your ex PoA always “neglected” you. When you wanted to talk to him he wouldn’t pick up his phone even though you knew he was home. The feeling of this “crushed” you. That being said, one of your values might be “I cannot remain in a committed relationship with someone who ignores or neglects me.” Remember, a value is a MUST HAVE. It’s essential to who you are. Once you put this on your list, YOU STICK TO IT. You don’t bend. And the reason you don’t bend is because this VALUE is about maintaining your honor and self-worth. This value is your way of protecting yourself.

What’s not a value? Say you dated a guy (or girl) and he or she picked their teeth with a toothpick at the dinner table (funny, perhaps. But this type of behavior bothers some people). Every time this person did this particular behavior it drove you nuts and you didn’t like it. Is trying to avoid this kind of behavior a VALUE? Probably not. It’s more of a preference. But the bigger VALUE might be “I need to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t embarrass me in public.”

So you see, VALUES are things, concepts, ideas that you recognize as being EXTREMELY important to you (must haves) and once you know what they are, you stay true to them. By staying true to them, you only let in people that are good for your well-being. Your values will not be the same as mine. Everyone has different values. What is really important to you, might not be to me. But when you find someone who SHARES your same values, it makes the relationship feel good to you and it makes the relationship work well.

VALUES are personal.  But they rarely change throughout the years, unlike “preferences” (i.e. the guy picking his teeth at the table). More importantly, some values are very difficult to recognize. For the longest time, I thought I could handle a man who smoked pot occasionally. So, I kept dating men that did drugs socially. I thought I was wrong for being so critical of “socially laid back” behavior. I used to hear all the time, “C’mon, T, lighten up! You’re too rigid.” And so, for many years, I thought the goal was to learn to lighten up. I WAS SO WRONG! The goal should have been to find people who thought like me,  who also could not handle social drugs in their world. What a difference it made!

Here’s a list of my VALUES, and below, is a list of my “preferences” in dating. See if you can see the difference.

MY VALUES:
1. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who drinks heavily or does drugs. Absolutely no way.
2. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who lies.
3. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who cheats.
4. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who cannot take care of himself
5. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who does not treat my children or his with decency and respect
6. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who hurts or abuses me mentally or physically.
7. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who does not enjoy physical affection and sex.
8. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who doesn’t allow me my space
9. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who is an avoidant
10. I will not remain in a committed relationship with someone who is not mutually committed to me.

My preferences:
1. I would really like the person I am committed to to be intelligent and teach me things.
2. I would really like the person I am committed to to be musical and play guitar.
3. I would really like the person I am committed to to have a great sense of humor
4. I would really like the person I am committed to to be a good listener
5. I would really like the person I am committed to to be great in bed
6. I would really like the person I am committed to to enjoy travel
7. I would really like the person I am committed to to be financially stable (this might be a VALUE for someone else)
8. I would really like the person I am committed to to be open-minded about religious views and tolerant of all religions
9. I would really like the person I am committed to to like spending lots of time indoors
10. I would really like the person I am committed to to enjoy my family and friends.

Do you see the difference???? Remember your VALUES need to be written in stone, whereas your preferences can change. So, how do you know if something should just be a preference or it should be a value? Say for example you met a guy who you found to be cute, friendly, kind-hearted, but he wasn’t well-educated. Because of his lack of knowledge of the world or college education, you start to feel a rift. Maybe you even start to feel slightly embarrassed when you bring him around your college alum friends and he can’t keep up with the conversation. How does that make you feel? Is it a situation that you can overlook and live with and accept because his kindness outweighs everything else? Or do you feel as though it is making you lose respect for him? If it’s something you can live with (and be tolerant and ultimately happy about) then this is a mere preference. If it’s something that begins to agitate you and you find yourself constantly handing him a catalog of college courses, then “Intelligence in my partner” is more of a VALUE. In fact, intelligence should be moved to my VALUES list as it is more important that I initially thought.

Lastly, a more easier approach to understanding values is the act of having things in common. I’m not talking about the same color hair, or the same birthdate or you both went to the same high school twenty years ago and now you’re the perfect match. I am talking about shared beliefs. When two people share the same beliefs about religion, money, sex, intimacy, family, it tends to be easier for those two people to co-exist and have a healthier relationship. In my case, I thought if we both liked the same music, or we were both dumped by our exs that was a sign that we had stuff in common. I was so wrong! When you don’t know your values, you do not know how to discriminate. When you don’t discriminate (put up boundaries and keep out the weirdos) you are not taking care of yourself. And that is the ultimate goal of values.

Why don’t you share your list here, for others to see. :)

Here’s a comprehensive list of personal values.

Managing life without hiding behind love…

Once you have made a commitment to start to depend more on yourself versus the guy or girl you were once heavily depending on,  you go through four main phases.

At first the world seems too big, life seems too overwhelming, and your problems seem insurmountable. Because you have turned a blind eye for so long and hid behind your love addiction, finally opening your eyes you often see a mess. And that can be scary as heck.

But the longer you remain recovered, grow and progress in your ability to take care of yourself,  the stronger and more adept you become. The mess of your life, when you begin to address it, starts to look more and more manageable. So, in phase two your new found strength gives you a high, a state of feeling empowered and free from the chains of whatever obsession held you in its grip. There might even be feelings of grandeur, or a sense that you’re perfect now and “cured” of love addiction. Perhaps your circumstances can you lead you to believe that you are done with love addiction, especially if you are in a new healthier relationship. That inner strength and belief in yourself is healthy and necessary to propel you forward in recovery. But then there’s a third phase.

Once the high of recovery, or feeling “reborn” is gone, life may overwhelm again, or seem mundane. Reality settles back in and stress increases. It is in this third phase that many love addicts relapse, slip, or even recognize, perhaps, that the previous two phases were not genuine, and what they thought might be real recovery, was instead more avoidance in dealing with life’s issues. It is at this phase that you really need to work hard to manage your life and in particular, stress. And, more importantly, your ability to get through this phase and manage stress is your true determining factor as to whether or not you are successfully healed and on your way to a deeper recovery.

The trouble with phase three is that we have spent so many years managing our stress by essentially running away from it. Love addiction, after all, has always helped us manage stress. That was and is its purpose. And it is a rather immediate and efficient defense mechanism for dealing with stress, despite it being hugely unhealthy. When the bills are piling up, or the husband is ignoring you, or the kids are uncontrollable, or you don’t seem to want to grow up and deal with grown up issues, something in your brain has determined that if you create either a fantasy or a real life situation based on love it takes the edge off  and immediately de-stresses you. Love addiction is like Calgon. Remember that old commercial? Calgon take me away!

But, while fantasy and other similar techniques (like massages, zoning out, eating comfort food, exercise and even bubble baths!) are absolutely necessary to de-stress, there is a fine line between using these techniques from time to time to take the edge off, or, in the case of love addiction, to completely avoid and submerse yourself in that avoidance. It, thus, becomes your job in recovery to know three things:

  1.  that your nature (or what you’ve been taught) is most likely to avoid problems,
  2. that in order to be a successful adult, you have to fight against that nature and face problems,
  3. but, that you still need to learn acceptable forms of managing stress, because facing all kinds of stress coming at you without having a healthy buffer can also be unhealthy.

What are acceptable forms of managing stress?

Managing stress without the “protection” of love addiction can be daunting. You feel exposed, naked, vulnerable. For many, it will be the first time as an adult that they will face stress in a healthy way, after many years of avoiding it.  And so,  it’s important to face things at your own pace and not to pile too much on your plate too soon. Just like a runner needs time to heal a serious injury before hitting the road again, so too do you need time and patience with yourself. In my case, I decided, in my “empowered” state (phase two), to pile huge amounts of responsibility on my plate. Too much! I became very ill and rundown. I falsely thought that it was my responsibility to take on every opportunity that came my way (I used love addiction to avoid finding and having a career; what do you use love addiction to avoid?). I had no ability to know what I could and could not handle. And so, buried under the weight of too much pressure and stress, I ended up collapsing and turning inward–once again avoiding life’s stress and avoiding the very thing that love addiction always helped me avoid. Not good. I felt like I was back to square one.

That being said in order to make it to phase four, which is defined by your ability to manage stress in your life consistently, over long periods of time, here are a few acceptable ways of managing stress:

  1. Figure out what your love addiction was protecting you from. What was the secret purpose of your love addiction? To figure that out, answer the question, What am I trying to avoid? Is it facing an unhappy marriage? Being alone? Finding a career and taking care of yourself financially? Making friends? Learning to be intimate with others? Growing up and taking on responsibility? Once you figure that out, move toward what you were trying to avoid.
  2. Educate yourself. If you are trying to avoid facing an unhappy marriage, start by going to therapy, or reading books on marriage therapy or talking with your spouse about the choices you both need to make moving forward or end it. If divorce is something you fear, but remaining in the marriage is painful, then start to learn what you might need to do IF you were working toward a divorce. You don’t have to make any decisions, but you might want to seek out info on important issues like how much it costs to live on your own, or what you need to do to find child support if you go back to work. The more strength you build up through educating yourself, the easier it will be if and when you do face the issue.
  3. Set goals for yourself.  List five small decisions you can make over the course of one year (if you have the luxury of a year to deal with your life’s issues) to face your stress. In my case, I was avoiding taking care of myself financially and thus, finding  a career, so, my goals, despite my fears, were to finish college, find an internship to gain experience, apply for a job in my field, and go to work. As I worked my way through each of these goals my addict brain thought up very clever ways that I should bail out. My kids need me, so I should not be away from them. Or, This job doesn’t satisfy me, I should quit. And my all time favorite: OK, I proved that I can get a job, so, now I can go home and never have to work again. Remember, you’ve been taught or it’s your nature to AVOID, so watch out for ways in which you try to run away.
  4. Monitor and track your behavior. If you are setting goals, and facing your stress but it starts to become unmanageable do you automatically want to call your PoA? Do you find yourself going online to chat with single men every time your tired? Lonely? Stressed? Or do you now use other ways to avoid stress? When you’re overwhelmed do you crawl into a ball and cry? Or do you go to the gym, exercise, work through the stress and then go back to the problem. Your behavior is a clear window that allows you to determine whether you’re facing stress or avoiding it.
  5. Read about and practice “Coping Strategies.” Learn little (but hugely beneficial) tricks like breathing, meditating, self-soothing, positive self-talk and exercising when under too much stress. Learn to add as many of these strategies to your daily routine until the stressors have quieted down or been addressed.
  6. Eat well and avoid high stress foods. Did you know that foods can soothe and relax and they can also cause exorbitant amounts of stress, anxiety and physical pain? Foods high in saturated fat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and even gluten can and do increase stress in the body for multiple reasons (caffeine, for example, is a stimulant that is a known trigger for anxiety and panic attacks; alcohol is a depressants and can increase depression and your brain’s ability to manage stress; saturated fats can leave you sluggish and tired, etc.)
  7. One thing at a time. Codependant individual especially have to be wary of doing too much too soon, especially for others. In recovery, we need to know what we can handle and the only way to find that out is to start adding responsibility to your plate, and dealing with your stressors as they come. If, for example, you are currently dealing with a divorce and it’s not finalized yet, don’t add any huge projects to your calendar just yet. Wait. Diving into one thing when another isn’t wrapped up doesn’t signals that you might be avoiding facing one thing and trying to cover it up with another. Recognize this and try to deal with one big issue at a time.
  8. Take time to avoid your problems. Yes, I said it. Avoid your problems. Not 100 percent. Not half the time. Just a fraction of the time. Just for a little while each day, perhaps. One of the worst things we can do in between setting goals,  taking action toward managing our stress and tackling problems is worry and ruminate.  So, release yourself from the obsession of worrying about your problems by positive self-talk, or, dare I say it, slipping into fantasy for a little while until you can face stress again.  Despite wanting to take on the world, we still need to protect ourselves from too much stress. And avoidance is, after all a safe way to do it–if only for a little while and in a very controlled setting. Set a timer for 20 minutes and allow your brain to go anywhere it wants. This freedom to wander and ignore life’s troubles can actually have a healing affect and renew you. When the timer goes off though, it’s time to refocus on life’s more unpleasant issues.

50 Shades of Love Addiction…

http://magazine.good.is/slideshows/abuse-is-not-romanceI hope you don’t go see this movie. There, I said it. And I know I’m probably too late. You’ve already read the book (as did I). But here’s the thing: IF you do see the movie, I would like you to be very aware that this is a film about a narcissist and a love addict. And the reason it’s so darn popular–even among the healthy crowd– is because, while many of us may have a fantasy about being devoured by a hot, wealthy narcissist, who, in the end, falls madly in love with us and finally becomes normal, we recognize that it is NOT REAL, or for that matter, SAFE.

And I am certainly all for the *fun* aspect of this film. All for the parody. All for the lighthearted play that it elicits. Heck, the book has already proven to be quite an aphrodisiac for many women who were on the brink of sexual starvation. But I am only for all these things so long as the person (woman) reading or watching or participating in this phenomena is healthy minded and can easily see the difference between safe and sorry.

GOOD Magazine has a fabulous slideshow depicting “movie posters” for 50 Shades, but they’ve added abusive lines from the book to really drive home the idea that “abuse is not romance.” I couldn’t agree more. Moreover, they are promoting a campaign called, 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades, where you donate $50 to battered women’s clinics and opt OUT of seeing the film.

In the end it’s up to you whether you view it or not. Love addicts need to be especially careful not to get sucked into the emotional bondage being offered, and the FALSE promise of love. This movie is not about love. It’s about control. And as we all know, control’s a cheap imitation for a real, meaningful, respectful relationship, and, what poor, misguided Anastasia could have had instead, if she held out for someone less self-absorbed.  Anyway, have fun with it if you can; and, if you can’t, watch any of these non-romantic movies instead.

The Love Addict’s List of New Year’s Resolutions…

Are you writing out your New Year’s Resolution with your Love Addict brain or your recovery brain? Here’s the difference!

Love Addict’s Resolutions:

  • Teach him to pay more attention to me.
  • Show him how to be a better listener and friend
  • Convince him to stay
  • Help him love me and remain present in my life
  • Change his “bad” qualities so that he loves me more
  • Demand more affection
  • Set an ultimatum on all his affairs
  • Obsess more. The more I obsess, the stronger our relationship grows…

Recovering Love Addict’s Resolutions:

  • Write out a list of my Values and learn what it means to stick to them
  • Get better at putting up boundaries, and/or respecting those that are already in place
  • Read a page of theLovelyAddict.com’s blog every day OR any reading material on love addiction
  • Look in the mirror every day and find something beautiful. No matter what.
  • Spend 10 minutes every day doing a soul searching activity–ask, “What am I trying to avoid by putting all my focus and energy into thinking of this relationship or this person?”
  • Figure out what I love to do, without any special person in my life. Just me. Do not allow myself to say, “nothing.”
  • Every time I get the urge to call, text, visit, stalk, or see the PoA, I will go to the LAA message boards and post and wait for someone to respond with a VALID reason I should make contact. If that doesn’t happen, I remain in NC.

Why am I just not “getting” it?!?!?

I write about this a lot, but it’s so important, so, here it is again.

You know this relationship is no good for you, and you know you shouldn’t keep calling him. Your brain gets it. By why don’t you stop? Why can you understand something on an intellectual level but not follow through and make intellectual decisions about it?

Well, here’s my take.

You have two brains (actually three, but we’re only going to focus on two): your logical (adult) brain and your emotional (child within) brain. The part of you that does not operate on an  intellectual level is your emotional brain. It is the animal in you, or more euphemistically, the child within you. Your emotions think and feel with no rhyme or reason, and when you’re healthy, your emotions tend to be balanced and not too demanding. The child is satisfied. And so you begin to trust them, listen to them, ignore them when necessary, or allow them to guide SOME (not all) of the decisions you make in your life, all the while using your head as well.

When you’re a love addict, however, you are guided by your emotional brain. And that wouldn’t exactly be a problem, except that  your emotions are pure chaos. Untrained emotions, running rampant, demanding immediate gratification are not the best guide when it comes to managing your life. They can’t be trusted. They tend to lead you down paths that are fine if you’re a toddler (insert hand in dog’s mouth; cry, kick and scream for attention; spit food out if you don’t like it, etc.), but, as an adult, they lead you down a rather frustrating,  inappropriate path. Why? Because your emotions, though once designed to help you survive in the wild and become human have really become obsolete except when used for purposes of instinct. Psychology Today, in fact, writes that, “The old fight-or-flight system is inadequate to the modern threats. You can fight a tiger; but you have to work hard, for a long time, to fight a financial crisis or the threat of terrorism.” How does that apply to you incessantly calling a man who doesn’t treat you well or love you back the way you’d like to be loved? Well,  your emotional brain perceived your situation as a threat and so, you try to deal with that threat on a rather animalistic level. To obsess over it. To chase. To hunt.  Your emotional brain forces you to kick and scream and demand IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION (I’m hungry; I need food), but, your logical brain pulls you back, or at least allows you to be aware that this doesn’t make sense, or that it’s wrong. Rationally you know your PoA is no good, and rationally, you know your behavior (obsessing over someone) is futile, but your emotions don’t care. They are greedy, hungry and want to be fed.

My suggestion: begin to listen to the two “dictators” inside you. Allow your logical brain (the adult in you) the opportunity to take the lead every once in a while. That means following a logical path and listening to reason from time to time (today, I’m choosing to not call him because, let’s be honest, he doesn’t call me). Also, pay close attention to when your emotional brain (the child in you) takes over, or makes decisions for you (reaching out to a PoA when you “know” it’s not a good idea.) When you are able to see and feel the distinctly different decision-makers inside you, you have a better chance at allocating which one gets to make the decisions and which one doesn’t. And here’s the deal: the more you exercise your logical brain, the stronger it gets! That being said, in early recovery you want to bring yourself to a point where your logical brain is making more than 70% of the decisions. Why not 50/50? Well, if you’re anything like me, when you are in love addict mode you are completely off balance, ruled by emotions. In order to bring the balance back you have to tip the scales in the opposite direction for a while. Your logical brain will guide you to safety. Eventually, when you are in a healthy place, you can give your emotional brain a little of her power back. But by then, hopefully she will have calmed down :)

 

Conquering anxiety & depression

As some of my readers know, I was fighting through some pretty serious amounts of anxiety and depression back in the spring.  When your need to fill your life worrying over someone else  goes away (you’ve recovered from love addiction) there’s only so long you can rest high on the hog before that need creeps back in to worry about something. It almost seems like it’s part of our nature. And who do you start to worry about when you have no man, woman or relationship to worry about? Yourself.Or worse, made up stuff!

And guess what, the amount of worrying you do (over anything, really) is in direct proportion to how much time you have on your hands! And so, in the spring, when I had loads of free time and wasn’t doing much of anything, there was only one thing left to do…sink deep into anxiety and depression. And I did. And it was miserable.

And so I would like to share with you what I did to “get out.”

  • Got a check up.  Or, if you’re like me, a true hypochondriac, I went to every medical specialist I knew and I got every test done imaginable to rule out cancer, heart disease, and other possible signs of impending death. Test results came back: all good.
  • Threw myself back into therapy. This was a hard one for me. I was supposed to be happily married and perfectly cured from love addiction, and here I was suffering mentally and emotionally. The truth was; er, the truth is we all have moments of weakness, sadness, pain, etc. Recovering from love addiction does NOT guarantee a life without suffering. It does guarantee that you better know how to manage your life so as to avoid self-made suffering. At any rate, not only was I dealing with personal issues of not having a “purpose,” I was also dealing with a teenage son who was extremely difficult at the time and business/job related issues that were ripping any shred of happiness from me. I had every right to crawl into a hole and seek help from a therapist. And while she didn’t entirely blow me away or impart any magical knowledge, she did help me to realize that my biggest problem was that I needed to find a life and a career of my own.
  • Left my job. Well, not entirely. Because it’s a family business, I am in it whether I like it or not. But I redefined my role and cut out having to deal with the toxic people who were bringing me down. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Sometimes running away from your problems is the best choice. Ever!
  • Went to Europe. While I do understand that not everyone has the luxury of having their own personal Eat, Pray, Love soul-searching experience in Italy, India and Bali (or, in my case, Paris, the French Alps & Barcelona, with kids in tow), I cannot stress enough the need to escape your life for a while to a calm, stress-free environment and take time off to just think, heal from your wounds and regroup. This could mean taking a mini-vacation to the mountains, the seaside, the next town over! Whatever you can afford (financially and time-wise), do it. Your state of mind depends on it. While in Paris I did a lot of soul searching. And, I made a lot of firm promises to myself while there that would change the course of my life and point me in a new direction.
  • Found a solution. If you are filled with anxiety, depressed, in pain, suffering, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. And what do you do when you have a problem? You find a solution. The solution could be anything: leave a relationship, find a new job, lose weight, etc. Whatever the case, you need to figure out what that solution is. Chances are the solution is not “take anti-depressants” or “just tolerate the pain…” Chances are it’s something that includes change and taking action.My solution was to find meaningful work.
  • Kept the promises I made to myself/followed through. This is the hardest part. We so often have these healing, soul-searching retreats somewhere, come back to our old life renewed and strengthened, and then just go right back to doing what we always did without making the necessary changes that inspired strength to begin with. And let’s face it, sometimes you just need a break and you CAN go back to your life because nothing really needs to be changed. But in my case, action needed to occur and I needed to follow through on the promises I made to myself while in Paris. If, while you’re soul searching, you decide you need to get out of a toxic relationship, then when you come back to reality, start planning and plotting to get out. If you decide you need a new job, start searching. In my case, I needed to find work I love, and a purpose for doing that work.
  • Took action. Nothing is more powerful than action. Once you make a decision, don’t stop there. Follow through and then act. In my case, I ultimately realized that I needed to be busy so as to keep my mind from getting into trouble with “worry” thoughts. My job had changed to the point where I lost my position and my power (which was a good thing, because we became successful enough to hire a pro, instead of me!), so all my energy was spent worrying about my teenage son and then, worrying about my health.  My solution to this: start my own business. This act alone has been curative. Not only am I busy as heck, I feel good about what I am now doing with my life and it leaves little time to worry. This action step however, was a very, very, VERY long time in coming because fear held me back. My last bit of advice, therefore, is do not let fear hold you back from taking rational action.

Easy way out of love addiction?

Someone on the boards this morning wrote:

I wish there was an easy way “out” of the sadness/longing/”needing” but there isn’t.

But, there is.

There is an easy way out. In fact, letting go of all the pain and sadness is far easier than you think. It’s as simple as one tiny *belief.* Trouble is, we complicate things. We think to get from point A to point B takes years of struggle, chaos, long rambling journeys and mountain climbing. When in actuality, it usually takes us humans that long to arrive at something that was right in front of us all along. And what is it? What is this one tiny belief? It is this: it is the belief that YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN WHAT THIS SITUATION OFFERS. 

Poof. There it is. And it takes nothing more than a blink to arrive at that belief. It is the same belief you have within you that allows you to choose a nice car over a clunker; a pretty dress over a mediocre one, and a better piece of fruit in the produce aisle as opposed to one that is dented and bruised. And if you think there’s anything more to it, or years or learning, or a secret path known only by the illuminati, you’re wrong. It is accessible to each and every one of us. It’s right in front of our faces for the taking. 

And here’s the best part: when you deeply believe you are worth more than a particular situation, and your actions back up that belief, things start to look a whole lot different. If you believe you are the type of person that should not be shopping at Wal-Mart, but rather at Macy’s, then you most likely don’t shop at Wal-Mart. If you believe you are worth more than eating at a McDonald’s and that your body deserves better than that type of food, then chances are you eat at better restaurants with cleaner, healthier ingredients or you cook for yourself. If you believe you should have a better job than cleaning out bathrooms at a rest stop, then surely, you seek out a better job.

If this example sounds elitist, it’s because it is. It is the kind of mentality that separates the privildged from everyone else. They grew up believing they deserved better.Do they technically deserve better than anyone else? No. But they BELIEVE they do. And that belief is the driving force of all their actions. It drives them to choose better restaurants, better colleges, better jobs, better lovers, and better friends. Do they always “win” or never suffer? In the big scheme of things are they worth more than anyone else? No. They suffer like the rest of us. They lose like the rest of us. And they are no better or worse than the rest of us. But their belief in themselves is the one determining factor that sets them on a different path than someone who lacks belief in themselves. 

And while the Wal-Mart/Macy’s example of priviledge clearly requires money, our personal struggle with love addiction does not. We do not need a dime to BELIEVE we deserve more than the miserable place we put ourselves in. We do not need a penny to BELIEVE we have value. We can create that value from within. We can create value out of nothing more than a passing thought that we choose to hold on to and embrace.

So…when you look back at your relationships, or feel that this is all you’ve ever wanted or the only thing you’re capable of getting, the “easy way “out” of all that is to BELIEVE in yourself. To stop in your tracks and say, I AM BETTER THAN THIS SITUATION. The PoA is McDonald’s and I don’t eat there anymore. Why? Because I now BELIEVE that if I feed myself with better food, I will be healthier and stronger. Saying goodbye to McD’s, therefore, becomes an act of self love. Saying goodbye to the PoA becomes an act of self love.

And you, my friend, are a rare and beautiful gem. Not to be bet on during a hand of poker among a group of gambling fools. You belong in the hands of someone who recognizes your value. But, in order to place yourself in these caring hands, you must first recognize your value yourself. When you do, the longing for crumbs disappears. The sadness of that loss is replaced with a feeling of joy and accomplishment for choosing a healthier way. And the needing is met from within and from your interactions with real, substantial, healthy people that feed you, not just stuff you with empty calories. Not the junk you’ve been living off of for so long.

So, whenever you lose your way, remember WHY you are blocking this person from your life or trying to move on: Because you BELIEVE you deserve better. Because you BELIEVE you are worth more. This belief is your beacon. Let it guide you. It’s that easy.

 

Dream home or love shack? What does your “house” look like?

This is the man all tattered and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

-Mother Goose

The House that Jack Built is a cute little child’s nursery rhyme. But to me, it is a fabulous allegory for a rather chaotic house. Not to mention a great way to bring to light the idea that our houses are actually WHO WE ARE. And what we place in our houses, what we build our houses upon and who we invite into our houses are all representative of who we are and what we have control over. So… I want you to do this little exercise in visualization today. It has helped me immensely, to remove negative, anxious thoughts from my brain and remember that my head and my heart are my house and I am in control of what I let it. I hope it helps you too, to remove obsessive thoughts of the PoA or to realise who you might be letting in and who might want to keep out.

Let’s start…

Imagine your perfect home (and let’s face it, love addicts are GREAT at imagining things that don’t exist!). It can be your all-year-round home, or your vacation property. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you decorate it in the fashion you love best.

Pay attention to every detail.  What paintings or objects will you hang on the wall? WHat will the floors look like? The kitchen? The living room? What style makes you happiest? Is your sofa a plush, comfy leather sofa that you can curl up on?  Or is it a soft, pillowy sofa that you can sink into? What does your backyard look like? Is there a pool? A lawn?  A garden?

Is your home in the mountains? By the sea? In Paris? Overlooking a lake? On the beach? Where in the world is your house?

Remember, you are working on your house all by yourself. No one is able to add any input here. It’s all you. YOU have complete control. And, since YOU ALONE have created this house, it is a SACRED PLACE,  a reflection of who you are and what you desire the most. So, it should be totally acceptable and comfortable to you and filled with things that not only make you happy, but make you feel alive. Is there a yoga studio in your home? A sauna or a spa? Can you ride horses? Lounge by a pool? Is there an element of spirituality in your home? What is it? A special room to meditate?  What books do you have on your shelves? What music is playing throughout the house?

Once you have created your home, imagine how long it might have taken you do so. Did you find this home through a realtor? Or did you build it from scratch? How much time did it take you to find the right fabric, the right furniture? The right location? The right building materials? The right plumbing? Remember…YOU and only you are in charge of every detail. And while this may seem overwhelming, the end result is that you get everything your way. And you have a place that amazes you and brings you great joy.

Now, imagine your house is finally just as you like it, and you are enjoying your house, doing what you love, and a knock comes at the door. It’s your PoA. And while you are happy to see him, he (or she) comes in and starts doing what he does best…avoiding you, cheating on you, calling you ugly and fat, telling you he doesn’t love you, or conversely, telling you he loves you but then not following through with loving actions, thus, confusing you, and generally DISTURBING THE PEACE THAT YOU HAVE BUILT AROUND YOU.

He also walks around your house with muddy shoes, tells you you made a mistake by spending so much money, tells you he doesn’t like the style of your house and then leaves, slamming the door and trampling over the flowers in your garden.

End of fantasy.

Now, the reality…

The house you built all your life is the YOU you’ve built all your life.  It  is your heart. It is your brain. It is your spirit. It is essentially YOU. In reality, how did you build your “house”? Does it match up to the fantasy version you just created? Who do you let into your house ( into your heart?) WHo do you allow to occupy your time (in  your brain?)? Do you allow anybody into your house? Do you allow people to walk through your house with muddy shoes? Do you allow people in who do not appreciate or at least respect the work and the beauty you built into your house?

Is it a shack or a dream house?

Start to assess who you are as if YOU were a house. Do you need to tear down the old house and rebuild with better materials? Do you even have the materials to build a solid house? If not, where can you get those materials? That might mean educating yourself, learning what dignity means, learning self-control, letting go of fear, learning to love yourself or learning how to be nice to others. Knowledge about healthy living is one of many tools and building materials you need to build well.

What was the foundation built upon? Maybe it’s time to repour the concrete and make a more solid foundation. Are you renting your house out to others? Who’s in there? Why aren’t YOU in possession of your own home? How do others perceive your “house”? Do they think it looks run down? ramshackle? Built with straw? Maybe even built with iron gates and no windows? Do others feel comfortable enough to visit your house? How could you make it more comfortable? What does that entail? The more questions you ask yourself, the more this exercise brings to light a truth about who you are and what you could become if you just take the time to build it.

 

 

 

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