I’ve been thinking a lot about perception lately, and so I decided to create this image to show how our vision can sometimes be skewed. We desperately want to believe in our fantasy of a perfect relationship, so much so that we are willing (willing!) to distort our view and overlook some pretty major flaws. And while this image is a little extreme and based on physical looks alone, the bigger picture is, as love addicts, we sometimes refuse to see serious, internal red flags like abuse, neglect, infidelity, manipulation, narcissism and worse. So…my advice for the day? Be honest with yourself. Keep your eyes wide open and don’t be afraid to see things as they are, not as you wish them to be. Remember, when you love yourself, you do everything in your power to protect yourself. And most of the time that means staying grounded in reality.
If last night’s segment on Huffpost live was any indication, I am far more at ease (and happier) as a writer behind the screen, as opposed to on it. And yet, I would do it again if it meant that I had the opportunity to help someone realize the key most important points to love addiction:
- That it’s NOT about love
- That it’s an avoidance of the self
- And that you CAN change and have a healthier life IF you not only have the will, but the right tools.
Overall, I feel the segment failed to do anything but offer a bit of light entertainment. Everyone had their own agenda. I would have liked to talk about the solution, not just the “disease.” The therapist, obviously, want to talk (and talk, and talk, and talk) about things like “comorbidity” and the science behind what he had learned in his textbooks. And the writer of the article, Kelly Bourdet, wanted to talk more about the culture of addiction, not so much the individual, personal plight of someone suffering with addiction. She pegged addiction as “an interesting topic” to write about. I grant her that. But hasn’t America talked enough about the culture of dis-ease? Isn’t it time to start offering solutions?
What Kelly did do was bring up the point of addiction as a lack of agency. I think if you buy into the 12-Step philosophy of “Powerlessness,” or if you buy into the science that addiction is a “disease of the brain” more so than just a harmless behavior, then you’re right. It leaves you free to say, “Oh well, this is just who I am. I can’t do anything about it.” But, you do yourself a huge disservice believing that. When it comes time to get healthier–when that very behavior really starts to wreak havoc on every aspect of your life–then what? Take drugs? Treat the symptoms? That’s so typical of American medicine and why there is an underlying belief that addiction cannot be cured.
Comment if you have a different POV. But that’s what I believe should have been discussed in those 20 minutes.
I will be on HuffPost LIVE this Friday, October 19, at 6 pm PST with Pernille, the director of Love Addict, to talk about, what else, love addiction. I am a little NERVOUS. Thousands will be watching. My goal is to try to steer the producer of the segment to talk about the SOLUTION rather than to sensationalize the actual addiction.
Oooh, juicy love addiction. Stalking, crimes of passion, crazy obsessed women chasing after some hapless chap.
One of the biggest impediments to getting healthier is this kind of mentality. American culture places down and dirty behavior on a pedestal, if only for the sake of perverse enjoyment, of being entertained by it. Think Hoarders, Intervention, Snapped, Cold Case Files. Think any American movie. Think the nightly news. Think, dare I say it, The Huffington Post.
Confessional blogs, in fact, tend to get far more readership than recovery blogs. And it’s much more mainstream to talk about disease, as opposed to treatment.
It’s no wonder the American propensity for labeling people with disease and disorder is so pervasive. And why we can take “slightly abnormal,” put a label on it, and have it suddenly be something that needs treatment, a drug, therapy.
The percentage of men and women love addicts who participate in more extreme behaviors like physical stalking, crimes of passion, attempted suicide is very low. What’s far more pervasive is the woman who remains in an abusive relationship because she can’t bear to leave. She’s addicted to the repeat pattern of drama, pain, suffering, and the highs and lows of love. Or the woman who doesn’t recognizing neglect, verbal abuse or physical abuse as a reason to leave. Or the woman who thinks (foolishly) that love is a reason to stay, no matter what kind of unhealthy behavior is occurring. Or, the woman who becomes obsessed with fantasy in her own mind over the love she believes she feels for someone who doesn’t pay her any attention, or who just keeps her hanging on for sex, or doesn’t actually exist.
That obsession, of course, can bring a person to do irrational, inappropriate things, based on their personal value system. But more than committing actual crimes, most addicts tend to simply expend all their valuable time and resources focusing on their obsession to the point of not living their lives to the fullest. They check a person’s Facebook page repeatedly, call or text too much to check up on their “person of addiction,” scream, cry, throw a tantrum, feign pregnancy, date married or unavailable people, sink deeper into depression, dive deeper into fantasy, have an affair, try to fix a broken partner, threaten to leave, and so on.
Hopefully, you get my point. We’re not all Fatal Attraction woman chasing after our object of desire with a butcher’s knife.
I do implore any new readers of The Lovely Addict to read as many pages on my blog as you can. It’s not timely. Go back through older posts. Most entries are advice on how to become healthier. The most popular posts can be found on the right side bar under “Top Rated.” Start there. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment or email me at email@example.com
UPDATE: The program times and screenings are now available online here or below. Please note that the first entry on the schedule is theater, second is date, third is time.
|Munt 10||Mon 21-11||19:45||tickets|
|Munt 11||Tue 22-11||12:45||tickets|
|Munt 12||Wed 23-11||14:00|
|Tuschinski 5||Fri 25-11||16:30||tickets|
|Brakke Grond Rode Zaal||Sun 27-11||12:15||tickets|
NEWSWIRE: Danish documentarist Pernille Rose Grønkjær‘s Love Addict documentary was selected for the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA), one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world for documentaries. The festival, which will be held from November 16 to November 27, will feature over 250 of this year’s hottest documentaries. The festival is open to anyone and guest passes and tickets can be purchased here. The IDFA site also has hotel recommendations in the area for visitors. There will be at least two screenings of Love Addict, both of which will be followed by a Q&A sessions, not only for the producer and director, but the stars of the film, as well. Eliza, Christian and Tracy, three individuals whose stories all unfold in Love Addict, will be in Amsterdam from November 21 to November 23.
Love Addict is a film that follows the lives of several individuals who are addicted to their relationships. For more information, please read a review here.
So, Thursday, out of the blue, I get a visit from G, my ol’ PoA (the one who sits beside me in “Love Addict.” I’m always so caught off guard and surprised when he calls or shows up. Not entirely in a bad way. Pleasantly neutral, I guess you could say.
We say hello, we hug, we catch up. OK, so it’s good to see him. I show him around the house, to see all the new changes that D and I have made. And I think that’s it. That’s usually always it. He’s still the same, I think. He’s always the same. Same house. Still working at the diner. No one in his life. Still miserable about his health and his lonely lot in life. But never doing anything about it. He never changes. He will be the one constant in my life that is truly rocklike and unchanging. And then he tells me, after about 40 minutes into all his usual unchanging sameness…”I’m living with a 28 year old exotic dancer.”
I’m blown away. I cannot even fathom such a non-sequitor, let alone this man living with another human being, let alone a woman, let alone a woman who takes his money, changes all his furniture around, drives his car and insists on having the internet (something he’s never wanted in his house and adamantly swore off along with cell phones, cable TV and a microwave). But above all else, I can’t believe he’s with a woman who’s dependent upon him to take care of her. G could always take care of himself very well, but was resentful and angry if, God forbid, he had to take care of anyone else. I learned that lesson well. If I depended on him for anything, he’d disappear for days. He wouldn’t even consider a pet. And now he’s got a woman AND a cat.
My first thought at hearing all this: What nerve! In the three years we dated it was like pulling teeth trying to convince him that we should live together. I couldn’t touch his stuff or move his furniture around. His way or the highway. And I ended up on the highway. I was a little angry, a little hurt. I always let him be him. I respected his nature. I thought that was the right thing to do. I never barreled my way into his life like this woman seems to have done. If he didn’t want cable, so what. If he didn’t have money, it didn’t effect me. And if he wanted to keep his house a mess, go right ahead. Emotionally, I felt betrayed. Maybe I should have been more forceful and needy?
But those feelings didn’t last long. They evaporated along with the anger, hurt or jealousy I might have felt the moment I looked into his eyes and recognized two solid truths that recovery gifted me long ago:
I always have and always will deserve better than what this particular guy was offering.
People are different with different people. It’s nothing personal.
So, I smiled. I was happy for him. And I wholeheartedly wanted to hear more about his new girl, S. I wanted to find out who she was and secretly, what she possessed that I didn’t.
“So, what’s she like,” I asked. “How did you meet?”
In his usual, deeply descriptive way he tells me this: “Well, we went out for a date on Valentine’s day, and that night, she moved in. The next night, I moved her out. And the night after that, she moved back in and she’s been at my place ever since. She’s got ADD, BPD, and she’s Manic Depressive, . She’s addicted to coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, bad food, amphetamines, and God only knows what else. She was working at the diner but, as soon as her dosage of lithium kicks in, she’s off to get a job as an exotic dancer. She’s moody, has extreme highs and lows, imbalanced, chaotic, drawn to drama and bossy. Aside from her creativity, which reminds me of you, she’s singularly unique.”
(You can say that again.)
And then he adds: “But she’s a train wreck. And I’m crazy in love with her.”
Nice that he’s so aware. There I sat, in my office chair, him sitting on the floor leaning up against the wall. It was the therapist and patient relationship playing itself out. I was flabbergasted. Disappointed, actually (Unlike a therapist, I was emotionally invested in his less than healthy choice of a mate, not because I loved him or have any feelings for him, but because I wish the best for someone I loved once who hurt me the least of all my PoAs).
Really? This is your dream girl? This is all you’ve ever wanted for yourself? I was awash with subtle shades of confusion. The narcissist in me thought: I could never compete with someone like that. The whole idea of her brought me back to SS, the guy I was in love with and with whom I secretly knew would never be able to love me deeply because I was not his type. His type was that dreamy, laid back, apathetic, pot-smoking, hippy chick type that I so desperately wanted to be but couldn’t ( I was not laid back, I was anything but apathetic, I hated drugs and I thought following the Dead around at age 38 was ridiculous and escapist). For the life of me I couldn’t be anything but me. Lord knows I tried. And yet, part of me wondered, “If only I was a little seedier…” So here I was in the same situation. Wondering what I didn’t possess and thinking maybe I should have follow that career path as a stripper that I never had the guts to do.
The altruistic side of me thought: What the hell is G compromising himself for? He’s a smart, stable guy. OK, he’s a little beat up, and maybe he’s a pot smoker at heart, but he’s not broken. He’s not crazy. Surely he deserves better? Or does he? I don’t know. I think that’s what stumps me the most.
I always believed that water seeks its own level. And yet, it was only a few short years ago that I was in her shoes and I was with him. Was I that girl? Or was G more confident than he is now. Two years of celibacy can force a man to be a lot less discriminating.
And yet, (I can’t believe I’m saying this) if you peel away all the layers of hurt and addiction and defense mechanism and damage and frailty, there is still the spirit of this girl. And I guess that’s what he’s attracted to. He was always able to look beyond the broken facade. And I was so broken back then.
So, this new girl in his life shines a new light on the man he is. Heck, back then he was just G: dirty, disheveled, pot-smoking drummer who worked days as a fry cook and nights as a musician playing small gigs down in Atlantic City. He was Greek, hairy, a great communicator, knew the most exotic names for every color known to man and was the greenest guy I knew. He had no TV, no cell phone, washed his clothes by hand, collected rainwater in barrels, drove a Geo Metro that got nearly 50 miles to the gallon and had a monthly electric bill of $34 dollars. He rarely wanted sex. But he called me as often as twenty times a day just to laugh about old Mrs. Hemsley and her animal hoarding.
D on the other hand is a business suit wearing attorney, who plays golf with judges and mayors and other bigwigs in town, goes to cocktail parties, President of the Bar Association, is a fabulous dad and an altruistic member of his community and church. His nails are always manicured, he plays guitar and he loves me deeply. Our life is balanced, respectful, loving and stable.
When you look at it like that, the two men are worlds apart. And I feel a little guilty even comparing them. It’s obviously not apples to apples anymore. Maybe I even feel guilty for believing that D and I have a much healthier, stronger, better relationship than G and S. This sounds so judgmental of me. But the truth is, I recognize G’s good qualities. And I recognize that S might be a really beautiful person on the inside. But when a person causes damage to herself and others to the point of creating a highly unstable, chaotic life, then is the beauty worth it? For some, I guess it is. But there’s a pretty high price attached to it. And I’m glad I’m no longer willing to pay it.
So, I guess with G coming back and describing this new woman in his life the shock to my system was not so much that G is settling for such a “trainwreck” but shocked at my own ability to climb up and out of that place where “love” and “passion” and “drama” are outweighed by commonsense, personal dignity and self-preserverence.
In January, Pernille Rose Grønkjær called me up and invited me to New York City. I had taken part in a documentary on love addiction two years ago with G, my “person of addiction” and it was finally finished. Grønkjær, the director, wanted me to come up and be one of the first to see it. I was thrilled, but scared as hell that exposing my “story” would be a loss of personal dignity. If there was one thing I wanted to avoid it was being presented as a “junkie” or some reality TV nightmare– hard lighting, stark camera angles, disproportionate, ugly presentation, compromising bodily or facial expressions- face down in the gutter type stuff. That wasn’t me.
So when I sat up in her tiny hotel room (in a chair at the foot of the bed) at the Paramount on Times Square, her laptop in front of me and the earbuds on, I have to admit, I squirmed in my seat with anticipation. What was her vision for this film? Would she do justice to defining a personality disorder that could be as simple as dating men to avoid individual responsibility or as complex and pathological as fatal attraction? Or would she try to make the documentary as hideous and bizarre as possible for the sake of ratings and reviews, only capturing the extreme end of the subject? If you haven’t noticed, American TV does that—makes mountains out of molehills, turns a rather benign, quirky topic into an outlandish, extraordinary tale of bizarre proportions to the point where whatever is being presented looks bleak and disturbing. I was hoping to avoid that too.
Of course, in my segment, all I really do is sit on a bench with G, Princeton University behind us, and describe what it was like (ahem, note the past tense) to stay in a relationship where I was underappreciated and putting up with less than ideal treatment from a guy who did, in fact, love me. Is that really “love addiction” or just being a sucker? I’m still not sure. And yet, there I was, at the beginning of the documentary—my face plastered on the big screen, discussing love and addiction. Dignity seemingly intact.
Or was it?
The six other character, whose lives were being lived concurrently with the filming of the documentary, seemed as though they’d sacrificed their dignity (it’s so easy to recognize faults in others; nearly impossible to recognize it in yourself). Christian, for example, is a long-haired musician, living with his mother, dating a woman online whom he only met twice, and who ends up breaking up with him over the phone. Tracy is an overweight, tattooed mother of 38 who’s in a relationship with a 23-year-old, unemployed guy. At one point she finds out she’s pregnant and despite her boyfriend’s obvious horror and rejection, she says she hopes to keep the baby anyway. Adelaide is a rather attractive, well-spoken, petite actress from New York, a torchbearer, who had refused to let go of the man she’d fallen in love with and had previously been suicidal. And Jennifer, the most haunting of them all, is a morbidly obese love and sex addict who, when lonely enough, goes into town and offers herself up to any man (or group of men) who will have her for the night.
This brought me to question whether or not I really could maintain my dignity if I am presented with such a raw, exposed line-up of folks who just can’t seem to get their acts together. I mean, let’s face it, I am exposing the same desperation, the same vulnerability, and the same despicable weakness. I am, after all, one of them. Am I not?
As the documentary progresses—80 minutes worth of up close, personal stories unfolding, each one seemingly more tragic than the last, Grønkjær sits on the bed half working, half watching my reactions. When Tracy says, “I know this guy’s not good for me, and that’s why I break up with him time after time, but I can only do it for a little while before I have to go back,” my eyes well up. It brings back painful memories, the embarrassment of who I used to be. At another part of the documentary I’m mortified at Christian’s denial. He really thinks this woman loves him and yet, it’s so obvious she doesn’t. Again, another reminder of my own past transgressions. But it’s when Jennifer, sitting on a faded, worn sofa in a dark, empty room says that her love addiction “is an attempt to fill the void we all have inside us,” that I lose it. The dignity I thought I’d be able to hold onto goes out the window. The reality is, there’s nothing dignified about this story.
The documentary, aptly named Love Addict – Stories of dreams, obsession and longing, presents an idea—love addiction—for debate and discussion. But it walks too fine a line between depicting actual addiction and poor management of one’s own life. What we call addiction, does not appear to be the case in the lives of these individuals. Instead, you have my segment, which comes in the beginning, and which “describes” what love addiction is—almost psychoanalytically. I describe the pain and loneliness of waiting for G’s call, of putting up with his drug use, of having no sex or even touching for over a year and of not being able to end the relationship despite obvious signs that it was over. It’s a story of frustrated love most people can identify with–at least to a point.
And then you have the others’ segments, which “show” each individual’s mis-management of his or her life. People who attempt to hold on to love, but go about it in a very dysfunctional way. On the one hand you have characters that are deeply aware of their behavior and on the other you have characters who are clueless. There is some disparity, and yet there’s not. Realistically, whether I like to admit it or not, we’re all the same. We are all trapped in addictive behaviors, unable to get out.
What I initially thought the documentary failed to do is present a more black and white, cookie cutter version of the addiction. And yet, I think that’s crux of the problem—defining love addiction is a near impossibility. There is no one black and white manifestation of the dysfunction and thus, why so many terms exist to define it: love addict, romance addict, ambivalent love addict, torchbearer, avoidant, and so on.
Unlike drug addiction or alcohol addiction, love addiction is not black and white. An alcoholic is addicted to alcohol and so he drinks and cannot stop. A drug addict is addicted to drugs and so he shoots heroin or pops a pill and cannot stop. Well, a love addicted is addicted to love, but there’s a myriad of ways this manifests itself. The addiction is uniquely personal like a fingerprint; it is an amalgam of distorted behavioral traits that comes out in the realm of a person’s dating life and/or relationships. It’s vague, mercurial and evolving. Susan Peabody writes in her book, Addiction to Love:
“Love addiction comes in many forms. Some love addicts carry a torch for unavailable people. Some love addicts obsess when they fall in love. Some love addicts get addicted to the euphoric effects of romance. Others cannot let go of a toxic relationship even if they are unhappy, depressed, lonely, neglected or in danger. Some love addicts are codependent and others are narcissistic. Some love addicts use sex to manage feelings; others are sexually anorexic. What we all have in common is that we are powerless over our distorted thoughts, feelings and behavior when it comes to love, fantasies and relationships.” – Susan Peabody, Addiction to Love
Like any addiction, love addiction is nearly impossible to control. You may recognize you’ve got a problem, you may even be so self-aware as to psychoanalyze yourself. But you keep repeating unhealthy patterns of behavior without the ability to control them. I’m not so sure the American public gets this, when it concerns love, or anything else addictive. I often hear, “if something’s ruining your life, then just stop doing it.” Then again, this is the country that has bought millions of copies of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” ominously indicitive of a possibly greater probem of love addiction in a younger generation. And yet, it’s difficult for most to understand why someone who “gets it” and recognizes the problem cannot change their behavior. I’m not so sure the documentary makes this point clear. But what the documentary does do is offer a glimpse of a rather undignified way of existing. For love addicts out there who can relate to this, that just might be the catalyst that helps incite a desire to change, and to recognize that it’s not OK to stay with someone if they no longer love you, if they beat you, neglect you, avoid you or hurt you.
What the documentary fails to do is present the less glamorous, more mundane side of the issue: recovery. Recovery rates for addictive behaviors, like alcoholism, are disappointingly low (according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, only one-third (35.9 percent) of U.S. adults with alcohol dependence that began more than one year ago are now in full recovery). In that sense, recovery is a rare bird, an anomaly and therefore, you’d think, worthy of a documentary in and of itself. And yet, recovery is, for lack of a better term, boring. It’s making peace with daily life, living without drama, sticking to values and believing in your own self-worth. It’s dignified. And who wants to pay money to see that on the big screen when instead, you can watch some poor sucker licking Jack Daniels off the kitchen floor? And yet, it may be more important to tell one side of the story (addiction) so as to inspire the other (recovery).
Who can tell? At the moment, the film is creative, aesthetic, and intense, with a fairy-tale-like, evanescence threaded throughout. At certain points, there’s a little girl in a delicate white dress who walks through an enchanted forest looking for her “Prince.” A young boy meanders through the rooms of an old house, looking for his “Princess.” The fairytale scenes are a reminder that we all grew up believing that one day we would find our Prince Charming or Princess. In that sense, are love addicts that much different from anyone else when it comes to wanting true love? But the main gist of the documentary is our tales of perverse, twisted reality– what we think we have versus what we actually have. And yet, the characters are likeable. I found myself rooting for them, feeling sorry for them, relating to them, and cringing at their shameless confessions. I even wanted to give a gentle pat on the back to the old me, the girl up on the screen I used to know long ago, and tell her, “You’ll be OK. You just have to believe in yourself.” I should never have had my doubts that Grønkjær would fail to create an alluring work. The fact that she’s from Denmark is proof. European filmmakers can shoot someone sitting on the toilet and make it look like pure art.
And honestly, that’s what Grønkjær did. Sort of. She may have removed some of my dignity (or did I do that?), and forced me to recognize the ugly side of my addiction through the lives of all of us. But it’s worth it if she has the ability to collectively present us to an audience willing to listen. And whether said audience will judge us as love addicts or a bunch of fools who can’t management our lives, so be it. Recovery– because that’s the only solution to any addiction– teaches us this: that dignity is achieved despite a sense of failure. It is the one constant that leads us out of the trenches and keeps us from ever going back.
There’s a hole in a donut. There’s a hole in a car tire. There’s NOT a hole in you.
I need to come out and say that right from the start, because I believe it’s one of the most important lessons any addict needs to learn in order to fully recover. It’s a Hollywood fallacy. It’s misinformation. Somewhere along the line, maybe in some self-help book, we were taught to believe that we have a void inside us, and that notion is, simply, wrong.
Part of my recovery, part of many traditional recovery plans, was learning how to “fill the void,” that aching, empty, bottomless pit inside your soul, the “hungry heart,” as Susan Peabody calls it, that feeling of needing SOMETHING that if you don’t find it or get it or stuff yourself with it, it keeps you from feeling whole and complete. So, being the insecure, unhealthy people we are, we tend to fill that void with garbage—we latch onto destructive people, get involved in inappropriate relationships, take drugs, have sex, smoke pot, spend money, overeat, drink. All the while believing that if we found the right stuff to fill ourselves with, that empty feeling would go away.
But it doesn’t.
And the truth is, anyone who has ever suffered, anyone who has ever lost a loved one, there is a real, physical feeling of emptiness. If I pay close attention when I am sad, I can actually FEEL a void in my heart. And yet, I ask you to believe that there isn’t one.
What if that empty feeling was not an actual empty space inside you that needed to be filled? What if there was no void? What if that empty feeling is just part of you?
What if you sat in a room with it and experienced it instead of trying to stuff something in it, hide it or cover it up with love, sex, drugs, or food? What if you just accepted it like a flaw, like a dimple or a slight indentation in your skin? Something you cannot get rid of; something you must make peace with and accept?
I suggested this idea to someone on the boards, and the response I got was, “Thanks. That would be nice. But there really is a void there. I know it, I feel it and it’s the driving force behind all my actions.” And yet, individuals who have lost limbs still believe and feel their limb exists. Individuals who believe in God have seen and felt him, even though he cannot physically be seen or felt.
My point? If you can imagine that God exists, you can imagine that a void doesn’t.
So this is what I did. I locked myself in my room for four days straight one week and I sat with it. For the first time ever, instead of curling up and rocking, trying to avoid the emptiness, I let it in. I told myself, “This is a part of me, so I will experience it, know it and accept it.” And I did. And every time it crept up on me, that feeling of being hungry for something, anything, (and there were lots of times, even after the four days in lockdown), I said, “This is a trick.” And it was. It was and is a psychological trick. And eventually, just like making peace with a missing limb, I started to be OK with the idea that, even if it felt like there was nothing there, there really was. I started to understand that nothing, after all, was missing. There was no void. I am whole. And once I got that, I stopped trying to fill myself with garbage. Suddenly, there was no point.
”There are only two types of people in the world: those who try to stuff their inner emptiness, and those very rare precious beings who try to see the inner emptiness. Those who try to stuff it remain empty, frustrated. They go on collecting garbage, their whole life is futile and fruitless. Only the other kind, the very precious people who try to look into their inner emptiness without any desire to stuff it, become meditators.” –Osho
Today’s obvious advice: sit with the empty feeling as long as you can. Experience it. You’re not going to like it at first. But you’ll adapt. You’ll acclimate yourself. Human beings are resilient. Love addicts are especially resilient.