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.

 

3 Tough lessons we all need to learn

It occurred to me after five years of a rather successful, peaceful recovery, that recovery and change were not going to be the pieces of cake I thought they would be. When I started to slip back into a bit of a mess that I will now call My Life, I noticed that all I had learned five years prior, seemed to have, poof! disappeared and become unlearned. For those five years, as I went around, resting on my laurels,  insisting that love addiction can, in fact, be cured (and don’t get me wrong, I definitely do still believe that new, healthier behaviors and thinking patterns can replace unhealthy ones, permanently), I forgot three maddening facts:

1. Time, and therefore life, is not linear. You don’t just move in a straight line up or down or left or right. You don’t just choose to recover and when you do, you move in a straight line upward, and just keep getting more and more perfect. It’s not that easy. Sometimes life is circular. Sometimes you make the same mistakes over and over again. Sometimes you take two steps forward and five steps back. You fall. You get up. You standstill. You roll over. You play dead. There is no simple movement forward or special force that acts as a lubricant to ease you up and out of the mess you’re in. Sure, there are shoots and ladders available, that propel you in one direction or another with speed and effortlessness. But, the reality is that Life, and being human is complicated, disorganized and sometimes you get sidetracked. And that fact alone, should tell you that in order to be successful at it, you might have to let go of your preconceived notions of what success is. Because it’s certainly not linear.

2. If I am to be realistic, I have limitations. All that made me the person I am today, all the pain, suffering, goodness and beauty that flowed through me and taught me how to “be” is all still there–good and bad. And many of those traits and behaviors and shortcomings and strengths that now make me who I am, much like my eyeball or my elbow, are here to stay. Sure, I can tweak my behavior here and there. And I can work damn hard to force my brain to think more positive thoughts. But,  I cannot ignore the fact that my brain is prone to anxiety and worry, that I have a tendency to be a control freak, that I have trouble retaining new vocabulary words, that I just don’t like being away from my family for too long, and that I am totally OCD when it comes to food, house-cleaning and my coffee intake. I can’t  just ignore these things that, like it or not, can often get in the way of progress, just as I cannot ignore the head on my shoulders or the caps on my knees. They are there. For better or worse. The question is, how to work around them.

3. Life is a surprise. Expect the unexpected. The moment you think you have it all figured out and everything is under your control, you get bitten by a rabbid dog. Or you lose your job. Or your 16-year-old son gets his girlfriend pregnant.  Or your parent dies.  Or you come down with the bubonic plague (suggestion: get on antibiotics quick for this one). The list goes on and on. The world is unpredictable and filled with good surprises and not so good surprises and whole lot of chaos. And while, sure, you can stop adding to the chaos by not creating drama yourself. But you can never fully protect yourself against the ebb and flow of the unknown. You only have a finite amount of control. Thinking you’re in total control is an illusion you have when everything just happens to be going right. And so the trick, at this point in my life, is not only to figure out how to live my life (that was my very first lesson as a love addict, by the way, –to figure out what kind of life I wanted because I never really knew), but to also figure out how to maneuver my way through The Fun House without being too surprised when something jumps out at me from behind a corner. There’s only so much I can be prepared for without driving myself crazy.

Perhaps all that I have learned has not disappeared, but rather, perhaps, new lessons and challenges are now upon me. These three are toughies. They are not lessons I ever really wanted to learn. I don’t really like change as much as I thought I did! But, the responsibility of recovery, and ultimately growing up,  is to face life, not run away from it. And to never give up. And while I may have taken a few steps back this past winter, this post is proof that I am working hard at leaping forward. In the past, I would have believed that leaping forward meant “Make no mistakes.” Now, I think it means, “Embrace what you’ve got (unless you’ve got a really bad situation that YOU can actively get out of), expect the unexpected, and let go of hanging on so tightly.” Easier said than done. But I’m going to give it my best.

Problem management

steps-to-problem-solveHow do love addicts deal with their problems? Easy. We avoid them. We bury our head in the sand or, better yet, we bury ourselves in whatever relationship we happen to be in, good or bad. The worse the relationship the better. Why? Because the more we are forced to focus on some problem or issue outside ourselves, the more we can avoid facing our own personal problems, which are actually far scarier than any other facet of life. Our problems, and our lack of ability to manage our problems, is what drives our addiction. Love addiction is a problem solver. Or rather, a problem eraser. It removes the pain of life and it removes the idea that something big and scary needs to be managed.  Ah, love!

Well, guess what… this method only works temporarily. And as soon as the relationship is over (God forbid!) the pain and suffering we think we feel for the loss of our PoA, is actually the pain and suffering of being exposed to Our Problems, which are staring us in the mirror, laughing maniacally, saying, We’re back!

They actually never went away. They are still there and we have still not figured out how to manage or cope with those problems, because instead, we’ve been focused and busy and working hard at our addiction. And here’s the thing… when you learn how to manage your problems a certain way (like avoiding them, or covering them up with love, or sex or food or alcohol or whatever), you get really good at! In Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, he says it takes about 10,000 hours of practice in your field to become a master. By the time I hit 40, I had logged so many hours of love addiction and avoidance, I was a professional. And I can’t help but wonder, if there was an actual service-oriented company specializing in Avoidance, would I have been their CEO? Of course, I probably would have never showed up for the job…

So, my question, is this (which I hope to answer): if in your state of addiction and acting out, you’ve spent a gazillion hours devoted to avoiding your problems and you’ve become really good at it, how do you switch “fields” and suddenly start to manage your problems in healthier ways?

Well, for starters, you face whatever life throws at you. And that’s probably the biggest hurdle to jump over. But how about this: when you realize why you don’t want to face any given problem, then it makes it a little easier to face because you now know what you need to work on first, before your problem solving skills improve on their own. In my case, I had four things going against me that created in me a need to avoid:

  • I was never taught what healthy problem-solving looked like from parents and caretakers– many members of my family were alcoholics and co-dependents who also avoided
  • I had zero faith in myself or in my ability to handle problems–a direct result of super low self-esteem and zero confidence
  • I was not a risk taker. If I made a mistake or I failed at something, I never tried again. I gave up. And when you do that, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to figure out how to do it the right way, and so, you never become good at problem solving
  • I probably also relied too heavily on others to resolve problems for me, and when no one would help me (Oh Rhett! What’ll I do? Where will I go?!) I would avoid

So, taking those three issues and working on improving them independently, has personally helped me become a better problem solver. And yet…I still have very far to go. Here are a few other tips to help you manage and cope with more strength and courage…

  • You don’t need to dive in and deal with some issue as soon as it crops up. Taking a step back, waiting a few days, assessing the problem once your emotions have cooled might put you at a better advantage of knowing what to do or how to do it.
  • Problems seem to be managed most effectively with logic and reason. Not impulsively with emotions. Again, wait until you regain a sense of logical thinking to determine how to handle an issue.
  • Know your place: Is this my problem? Is this someone else’s problem? What role should I play in the resolution of this problem, if any? Sometimes we take on certain problems that are not even ours to take on.
  • Ask for help or advice, but know what part of the problem you need to solve on your own, and what others can “help” you with. Are you being too needy? Or do you really need someone else to carry you through.
  • Don’t take problems personally and don’t think God or the world is out to get you. A healthier perspective is that EVERY LAST STINKIN’ ONE OF US HAS PROBLEMS, not just you.
  • Lose the worry: Worry complicates things. It NEVER solves anything. Worry is an emotion, not a functional tactic to resolve a problem. If need be, take a course on anxiety and panic management. Because until you get rid of your anxiety you will not be able to deal with problems logically.
  • Know the stages of problem solving. Many businesses rely heavily on people with good problem solving skills. I have also included them above in the diagram.
  • Ask God for three things: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Lastly, if you feel you are once again avoiding some issue or problem that you need to face (or that you’ve never faced before), write it out. Get to know it. Face it in ways you’ve never done. Talk to God about it. Confess to a friend. Write in a journal. Try to talk about it and work it into your life so that it doesn’t disappear into the background. And then, when you are ready, you will be more able to face it and deal with it. Easier said than done, I know. I have had a nagging problem for YEARS that I cannot seem to find an answer to, despite the fact that I face it all the time. Perhaps what’s holding me back is not so much a decision or action I must take, but rather, a change in perspective. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

 

Warriors unite

Since my visit to the ER a few weeks ago, I have kind of (kind of) snapped back. I signed up for a few online anxiety and panic attack coping strategies sessions, read all about the six human needs, found a buddhist therapist who is teaching me mindfulness, got back into cycling every other day–ah exercise– and got my portion of the insurance bill for the ER visit. If anything makes you feel instantly healthy, it’s an insurance bill.

I also started reading Carry On, Warrior, the New York Times bestseller written by the woman who writes the Momastery blog. This book came to me by way of a mother’s day gift (along with a card) from my husband’s ex wife. She has never given me anything before, with the exception of a portable round cake carrier that I felt was one of those things every mother needs, but something I never actually wanted to pay for. I still have it, and every time I break it out, I think of her.

When I got the book and card, I really quickly wrote a thank you card back.  I was deeply touched by the gesture, and so I wrote: “I am so deeply touched by the gesture.” And then I wrote, without having read one page of the book, “This book looks hilarious.” Or something to that effect.

In retrospect, I should have read the book first, and then commented on it. Because, much to my shock, while the book does have its moments of hilarity, the essence of it is not hilarious at all. In fact, it is written by a recovering alcoholic and bulimic who got pregnant then married, then wanted a divorce, etc.  and through it all, has written about her “messy” life in the hopes of inspiring other women to not be afraid to admit to an imperfect life.

The first couple days I read it, I wondered if D’s ex thought I was a recovering alcoholic.

The second few days I wondered if she thought I thought my life was miserable. Then I wondered if she wanted me to know that her life is miserable.

And when I got to the chapter “Easter” where the author writes about her intimacy issues with her husband, I was thoroughly confused. Was she sharing with me her past with D? Did she still miss him? Or did she think we were having intimacy issues right about now, at the five-year-mark and she thought I needed to read all about it.

Of course, I’m over-thinking this. Her gesture was probably not as deep as I am making it out to be. It was an act of kindness and I need to take it as such.

But, I can’t help but wonder if she knows about this blog, if she reads it, or if she even cares. Chances are that she doesn’t. But if she does…

Here’s a direct message:

You’re a lifesaver. I have been going out of mind dealing with my teenage son with whom I caught smoking twice, and learned that he’s been getting drunk with friends as well. My position at work was phased out, and while I still have the luxury of receiving a paycheck, I have no “career,” and that kills me. Finding a new life for myself is scary as hell. ANd I don’t want to do it. On top of that, I feel physically run down. Thankfully, the one thing that is going right in my life is D. And while he can get on my nerves from time to time, and I can surely get on his (chapter: Easter), I feel as though I’ve found the promised land with him. He’s not the problem. I am. But this book has given me courage, and I thank you for “pouring the first glass of wine” and reaching out of your comfort zone to give it to me. Not only did you offer me a gift I can really use, you exposed yourself and let me in. That says a lot about your character.  And I thank you again.

Six human needs

So, as you may or may not know, I have been dealing with a lot of depression and anxiety lately. Winters are generally tough on me, but this winter kinda knocked me down and out. My anxiety and depression used to come out in the form of anger–whatever relationship I was in I would lash out. That huge release of emotions would tied me over for a while and I’d be calm, until the next flair up. But now, I am not in a relationship with someone who triggers anger in me. SO, who do I lash out at? Well, me. I get sick. I have health problems. I end up in the ER with chest pain. I cause so much drama with my colds, flus, aches, and pains that it ends up getting the job done just as anger did. Only, I’m only hurting myself, not others.

And I suppose that’s a pretty big accomplishment. But, it’s not good enough.I am still addressing aspects of my life in unhealthy ways.

So, I threw myself back into therapy and once again started reading, reading, and reading to try and resolve this issue. And while I have a long way to go, I do want to share with you some info that has given me a small *lightbulb* moment.

I came across Tony Robbins’ video on the Six Human Needs. If this link evaporates, do a Google search for “six human needs” and “Tony Robbins.” The info will pop up. In a nutshell, these six human needs are the driving force behind all our behavior, as we try to meet most if not all of these needs. Here they are…

According to Tony Robbins, there are the following six needs we all have:

1. Certainty – the need to be safe and comfortable
2. Variety – the need for physical and mental stimulation
3. Significance – the need to feel special and worthy of attention
4. Love & Connection – the need to be loved and connected to others
5. Growth – the need to develop and expand
6. Contribution – the need to contribute beyond yourself

The first four needs are essential (we all need them!) and the last two are optional, but as Robbins puts it, they are the driving force behind having a complete life.

The trouble with these needs is not that we need them (that’s normal and healthy!); it’s how we go about meeting these needs. We have a choice. We can either meet these needs in a healthy way, an unhealthy way or a neutral way. And depending on our upbringing or our nature, or even our frame of mind, that’s how we determine how these needs are met. For love addicts, the need for “Love and Connection” is met in unhealthy ways. We take anyone who will have us, we put up with abusive or neglectful treatment, we manipulate, we cry, we stalk, we beg, we suffer…we do unhealthy things all in pursuit of our need for love and connection. Whereas a healthy person might fulfill this need in healthy ways, we fill it in unhealthy ways.

But here’s my lightbulb moment: because my need for love and connection was so all-consuming in the past, it took over my other needs too. I (falsely) (and subconsiously) believed that my need for love and connection also filled my need for significance, for growth, for variety and for certainty (remember the love addict mind? It thinks: A loving relationship will save me and protect me and be everything for me!) But love and connection, while it can to a lesser degree fill other needs temporarily, those other needs and the need to fill them still exist separate of any relationship you might have, healthy or otherwise.

What’s happening NOW, however, is that I have finally fulfilled my need for love and connection in a healthy way (and I believe you will too!), but I seem to have forgotten that my relationship cannot exactly fulfill all those other needs. And, duh! What relationship can? There is no relationship that can do that. Remember, when you meet someone in a healthy state, you have to be complete. You have to have most or all of your needs met from within! ANd so, my anxiety and depression is coming on so strong now because I am at the point of deep realization that  I can not fulfill all my needs through my relationship. I still must address them on my own.

Shockingly, I still have the same problems I had before ever meeting D. But you see, while D offers me love and connection and that need is met, I have five more needs that I am still avoiding. Where once love addiction stood in the way of me meeting my needs or rather, seemed to be the answer to meeting all my needs), now health, depression and anxiety do. I am still avoiding insteading of facing.  A little discouraging, but a challenge! So…what’s a healthier way to meet my needs that are still screaming to be met? Well, hard work ahead… I need to take the risk I continue to avoid by finding a satisfying career. Or, I can create a life for myself separate of my relationship with D or my kids. Anyway I look at it, my relationship ain’t gonna meet all my needs or solve all my problems. I thought I learned that lesson, and perhaps I did for a while. But, I suppose I need to relearn and better apply this lesson so it really sticks this time. :)

Bottom line: if you think finding someone will solve all your problems, think again. While a loving relationship can and will meet your need for love and connection, it cannot meet those other needs that YOU and ONLY YOU must work to fill.

Back to the drawing board for me!

Black & White Thinking

Addicted, obsessive thinking is black and white thinking. Here’s what it looks like to a love addict:

  • A relationship is the key to happiness.
  • It may not be perfect, but having a relationship will make my entire life worth living
  • Love conquers all
  • Love will save the day
  • People in a relationship are so lucky.
  • People in a relationship are never lonely
  • As bad as it might be, a relationship is better than being alone
  • Being alone is the opposite of being in love and with someone
  • Once a person is in a relationship their life becomes easier

These, of course, are all overblown generalizations, most of them not even true, or which do not represent reality fully. And yet, whether we come out and state them or not, as love addicts, we still feel them and secretly believe them to be true. If we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t be love addicts!

But black and white thinking leads to having a hugely unrealistic understanding of the world we live in, and skews our perspective on the experiences we have. I also call this kind of thinking superlative thinking. For example, a superlative in the English language is a word like “always” or “never” or “best” or “worst.” In other words, superlatives are an exaggerated mode of expression in one direction or another, usually good or bad. All or nothing thinking.

Again, this kind of thinking can deter a more positive, well-rounded, balanced perspective on things and keep you from moving forward. So, this week’s advice: try to get rid of the black and white thinking and try to remove superlatives from your language.

Instead of: “I was only happy with him” try to be more realistic and replace it with, “I was often happy with him, but not always.”

Instead of “Love conquers all” try “Love is one part of a whole picture. I also need food, shelter,  money, peace of mind and security.”

Instead of, “I am always going to be alone” think instead, “I may be alone now, but I do not know where I might be a year from now.”

Challenge yourself to be more realistic. Express yourself with your logical/rational mind instead of your emotional mind (that always wants to think in extremes!).

I am challenged with this daily. I will sometimes say to D, “you never do laundry; I always do it.” But this isn’t true and it’s not fair to him that I am falsely accusing him. And more than anything, when I remove the superlative thinking, I gain a little more clarity on my situation and it suddenly seems manageable.

Try it! Change some of these false beliefs into more realistic beliefs and watch how the “gray” areas of life raise your mood!

Timeline of ups and downs

 

We so often think of recovery as an upward motion. A staircase that is climbed, bringing you higher and higher to a state of personal self-love, awareness and success. And yet,  as I approach the 10-year anniversary of my dad’s death, I can’t help but look back over these years and see the ups and downs that have been my life. For better of for worse, this has been been ME for the last 10 years:

April 2004

  • Father died
  • Received small inheritance
  • Filed for divorce
  • Got my undergrad degree in Journalism & English Lit (after 16 years)

May

  • Had nervous breakdown
  • Did not take job I had applied for, but rather, started to work for my father’s company, after a few months on Paxil!

July

  • Took my 4 and 6-year-old sons cross-country to Utah, a dream come true.
  • Bought my own house
  • Officially divorced

January 2005

  • Started dating G

September 2005

  • Broke up with G
  • Got back together with G

August- October 2007

  • Broke up with G for good
  • Dated M, very briefly
  • Went to psychics and mediums several times
  • Quit smoking, and started to “live clean” and think differently about what I put into my body and “who” I hung out with

March 2008

  • Began this blog
  • Dating S
  • Realized I was a love addict and read voraciously on the subject
  • Placed some very important boundaries around myself for the first time in my life
  • Created values for myself, for the first time in my life

October 2008

  • Went on Prozac because once a month I would yell at S and not trust him (in the end, I had good reason)
  • S broke up with me and chose pot over me
  • Went off Prozac
  • Went into hibernation for 4 days, crying
  • My uncle died
  • D sent me a Facebook friend request

November-December 2008

  • Began to make peace with my single life for the first time ever, instead of looking forward or “waiting” for another guy
  • Pangs of loneliness

January 2009

  • Hugely creative time for me
  • Began dating D with the “let’s keep this organic” mantra (no waiting for the phone to ring, no trying to push this relationship to work if it wasn’t working, etc., no fantasy, no day-dreaming)

January 2009-May 2013

  • Moved in with D, got engaged, bought a house, sold my house
  • Lived for the most part in pre-wedded bliss, with a bump here and there, but no real health issues, no real emotional issues, no period-related hormonal issues, and no doubts

December 2012

  • Was sick for 2 months after working very strenuously for a non-profit

May 2013

  • Got a dog; incurred a SEVERELY negative emotional reaction to the dog and my attempt to get rid of the dog (which D would not let me do for a couple of months, but then finally came around). This seemed to be a turning point for me, as I felt as though my freedom was in jeopardy and D cared more about the dog than my happiness. But we overcame it.

August 2013

  • Had a bad bout of vertigo 2 weeks before my wedding, in ER
  • Got married
  • Had tiny episodes of vertigo throughout my honeymoon

September 2013-March 2014

  • Was sick nearly every month for the entire year
  • Because of changes made internally at work, my “job” was pretty much phased out
  • My two-year commitment to running the non-profit ended

April 2014

  • Began dealing with depression– a first! And anxiety (the usual).
  • Rushed to ER for chest pain and strange pain around left breast (chest pain may have been panic, but pain within left breast is real but unidentifiable).
  • Teenage son caught hanging around friends who smoke pot
  • Finally selling a vacation house that has caused me and my family a lot of disruption; my one brother still won’t talk to me
  • Still unable to figure out pain in chest area that won’t go away
  • Tried to apply for an MBA but my company won’t pay for it. I’d have to pay for it myself ($$$)
  • Started gardening and meditating to calm my nerves
  • Looking into grad school or starting my own business–need to do something to keep myself busy and active

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off to Arizona

Up at 3:15 am to leave the house by 5am with my kids, to pick up mom and step dad and head to the airport. We’re heading out to Arizona for 4 heat-soaked desert days, and I can’t wait! I really don’t like early morning flights like this, but I do like arriving in Arizona at 10:30 in the morning with the whole day ahead of me.

I’ve had a terrible two days, most of which were spent in the ER suffering with chest tightness and stomach pain. Luckily last night, I was able to sleep a decent 5-6 hours uninterrupted. I’m not sure that’s enough. Yet, it’ll have to do. I felt very weak yesterday, but happy to go home. And I wasn’t so weak that I couldn’t get what I needed to get done—finish packing a few items, making rice for dinner, picking up meds, etc. By 7pm, I felt almost normal. While in the shower, feeling every little ping and click and ache and weird sensation I told myself I will drive myself crazy if I continue to listen to the clatter that is coming from my body. My body is trying to HEAL. It’s not perfect. It’s going to makes somewhat of a racket as it works to get me back to feeling better. My goal is to STOP paying attention to all these sensations (unless of course there’s something serious) and just recognize that my body is doing its job. And that I WILL get better. Period. Enough with the doomsday thinking. Enough with the heart attack thinking. I am HEALTHY. I eat well. I exercise.  I simply fall prey to stress. But, when I get back from Arizona, I think I am going to look into therapy again. It’s been a long time that I’ve needed that, but I need to work on this issue of how to deal with stress and anxiety. It’s causing me a lot of suffering. I also need to find a life of my own.

What does any of this have to do with recovery? Not much! But I thought I’d post a dear diary entry today to share. And when I get back I would like share my insight as to why I think I have been so stressed and physically ill when by all appearances my life is seemingly perfect!

Until then, wish me luck and lots of stressless fun and peace on this vacation! I need it :)

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.