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.

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 :)

 

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.

 

 

 

Addicted to Paris

ParisAt 10pm tonight I am hopping on a plane with my two sons and flying off to Paris amid airline strikes and rail strikes and increased taxation on tourists and god knows what else. Red flags galore. But, oh, my heart! And all I can think of is, get me there as fast as you can before I explode.

I lived in Paris in 1989, when I was 21-years-old and a full-fledged love addict. Nothing meant anything to me back then if I didn’t have a man, except the city of lights. I stayed there about 5 months studying French at the Alliance Francaise and working as an au pair,  and while I did fall in love, it was more with the city and the Parisian culture than with any one man. After I ran out of money though, and my mother forced me on a plane back home, I carried a torch for France for many, many, many years, and was never able to go back until 2011 when I was flown out to Amsterdam for the IDFA Film festival for my role in the Love Addict documentary. That I am able to go back again so soon is a miracle. Or rather, more likely, my addiction kicking in, which leads me to confess that I may have been wrong all these years– we are never fully “cured” of our love addiction.

I remember a woman on the forums a while ago who was addicted to a famous dead poet or writer. She couldn’t stop fantacizing about this “imaginary” man, and as odd at it seemed to me at the time, I realized I had had the same fascination with a city. I mourned the loss of Paris just like any other PoA. I felt abandoned, lost, miserable. I felt it was an unrequited love. But I couldn’t really put my finger on who gave up on who. Did Paris give up on me, or did I give up on Paris? I went into a very deep depression for a couple years after this and never fully recovered. Nor did I muster the strength or courage to get back. I allowed other dreams to get in the way.

And yet I didn’t. I remember back in 1993 I was poised to marry an American who was deeply in love with me. I was more in love with the idea that he loved me. And so, when I posed the question, “would you be OK if we tried to move to Paris for a while?” and his response was a resounding No, I tweaked the course of our lives forever and left him. Only after  I had bought the white dress and put a down payment on the catering hall, of course. A small price to pay in order to get my “dream” back.

But as the years went by, my dream soon faded. And Paris became more of a memory, then a recollection, and lastly, a regret. I could have gone back. I should have gone back. Why didn’t I go back?

When I touched down on French soil in 2011, D was with me. I could barely catch my breath. He had to hold my hand tightly. We exited the Gare du Nord, caught the Metro and came up and out of the ground under a starry sky. The amber glow of night-time Paris is indeed why it is known as the City of Lights. And as I stood, basking in the frenetic blaze  between the rue de Rivoli and the Tuileries garden, I burst into tears. It was all too much. It was too good to be true. And it is what every love addict dreams of. The moment they are not only reunited with their love, but that that love is reciprocated. Paris hadn’t forgotten me. She welcomed me back as if no time had passed between us and she was every bit the lover I had waited for all those years.

And yet, she was gone in an instant. Once again out of reach when I flew back home and back to reality. A new but  familiar ache to take her place. Being in Paris after all those years was glorious. And yet, what was it? Eating cake fulfills momentarily. It takes the edge off, temporarily. Until you can find that next big hit.

 

In less than 24 hours, I will get it. Another whopping hit. And possibly another. Just last night in fact, we met our new neighbors, one of whom is an artist who travels to Paris twice a year for trade shows. We clicked over wine and good conversation and she’s already put out the invitation to join her on one of her trips. But will it be enough? Is love ever enough? As a recovering addict who has learned a thing or two, I know it’s not.  I know that love, all by itself, is a rickety chair with wobbly legs–whether it be love for a man, woman, bottle, country, city or a dead poet. Love needs substance. It needs the fortification of rationality and purpose. And it needs to come from both ends. I can’t keep taking from Paris like a love sick succubus. Perhaps, I need to give back to make this romance work.

For now, I plan to teeter on that chair and see what I can see without toppling over. When I get back, however, I need to reassess if I can turn this achy addiction for Paris into something a little more meatier, healthier. Perhaps I could return to school and take french lessons. Perhaps I could try to see if my company wants to market our product there. Perhaps I could write about my travels for a travel blog or magazine. Whatever the case, my addiction for Paris is another hurdle I need to learn how to deal with or overcome or succumb to. Sure, I could be content to travel there on vacation from time to time. Like a normal human being. Take my stroll around the Eiffel Tower, have my cafe au lait and be done with it. Or can I? Addicts can’t really be content with just one little drag off the cigarette, one hit from their PoA. We sometimes just can’t be normal. We need to burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, as Jack Kerouac wrote in On the Road.  And for that, addiction is tricky. It can make life seem, at once, intoxicating and tragic.

But let’s not go there. Tomorrow morning,  I reunite with an old love. Let me bask in the euphoria of my temporary insanity. Just for a moment. 

A bientôt!

Socially acceptable addictions

So, I made my re-entry back into the world of coffee without much of a glitch, save a bit of shame for being such a hypocrite, telling the world I would never drink “the crap” again. I had originally quit because of headaches and a near-complete dependence on the stuff, a la a pure substance abuse. I couldn’t wake up without it. I couldn’t get through my day without a second hit. And I didn’t feel a part of American culture if, like everyone else, I couldn’t have a tall soy latte in my hand while coursing my way through an intersection.

But hey, I made it an entire month without it, and felt pretty good, despite some migraines the first week, for which I needed to see a doctor.  I substituted with green Kombucha tea, Yerba Mate and red rooibos–all of which did weird things to me. But, soon enough, I felt cleansed, unpolluted, alert, and mostly, free from the shackles or addiction and of course, the ritual of having to hunt down a Starbuck’s at 3:30pm, no matter where I was, so as to recharge and make me feel part of the human race again. But my digestive tract had become so dependent on the caffeine (from roughly 300 mgs per day down to about 25 mgs or less) that for the entire month, horribly unmentionable things were happening to me. OK, I’ll mention them: burping, belching, farting, constipation, IBS and so on.

But here’s the hitch. Without my daily caffeine fix, I craved bad foods.  Usually my diet is very healthy: slow-cooked oats for breakfast, salad for lunch, chicken, veggies and a starch for dinner. Every once in a while  I’d have a sweet. But when I stopped drinking coffee, there was that nagging toxic sensation of needing to “fill the void” well known to love addicts, and so…as if I had this Get Out of Jail Free card I started eating mountains of burgers, fries, potato chips (something I NEVER eat), cookies, and other junk. It’s as if there was this yin and yang within me…pulling at me to do something bad to counteract all the good I was accomplishing. I mean, let’s be honest. There’s only so much green tea and Andrew Weil a girl can take, you know. I was too cleansed, too pure, too unpolluted. Not to mention all my friends were on my case, insisting that I needed at least one vice. “Live a little,” they said. As if drinking coffee, and vices in general are the mark of a satisfying life.

Sheesh.

But, in a way, they’re right. Unless we are holed up in a monastery at the top of a mountain in Nepal with virtually no human contact, we need to experience the world in all its divine and no so divine glory. And we’re talking coffee. Occasional sweets. A shopping spree here and there. The lighter side of addiction that doesn’t rob you completely of your soul. As addicting as it is, a cup of coffee in the morning is something I can live with. Coffee, I suppose,  keeps the bad girl in me alive. It keeps me a little sullied, a little uninhibited, a little wild, without stripping me of my dignity and my values.

My sis-in-law was over last night and we were discussing the documentary “Babies.” She was saying that too much care can cause an individual to weaken. Too much hand sanitizer, for example, can keep us over-protected from being able to build up an immunity to viruses and bacteria. In that sense, I’d like to think that my coffee addiction keeps me dirty enough that I can actually exist among society.

But the truth is, I’ve decided to try quitting again, after the summer, when I can spend a month or two alone, isolated and insulated from the rest of the world. Detoxing is a slow, meticulous process, which needs time and patience (a metaphor for love addiction recovery perhaps?). And the fact of the matter is, that despite my addiction to it, I feel better without it, physically and mentally. And though I’m sure to substitute my bad girl coffee habit with something equally bad (shoplifting?  loitering in front of the “No Loitering” signs around town?), at least I will no longer be a slave to the ritual or dependent upon a substance that has a little too much control over my life.

But for now, the coffee maker is brewing my usual french roast and my Starbuck’s card is fully loaded and ready to be swiped.

 

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