The Lovely Addict

Feeling hopeless?


On the LAA boards today, someone posted the following cry for help: HOW exactly do I change, get well? HOW?

I responded:

I have answers and solutions, but you probably won’t like them. They are more difficult to do than choosing to remain a love addict. You see, being a love addict is EASY. The pain and suffering comes second nature to people like us, so, because that’s familiar, we just settle for it. The alternative–facing ourselves, facing our fears, actually taking actions and GROWING UP is far scarier and far more a risk–at least from our perspective, we think it is. But essentially that’s what you must do.

1. Face yourself and accept yourself, as is. Not who you’d like to be, or who you envision yourself to be. Or even who your parents envisioned you to be. Or who the last or next PoA wishes you’d be! Just you, as you are now. Possibly broken, still alive, scrappy, but human, and beautiful in your own right. And perfectly able to grow and change.

2. Face your fears. Love addiction or alcohol addiction (as you well know with your great insight) is not about addiction to the substance or the person, it’s about AVOIDANCE OF THE SELF. We avoid ourselves because there’s something scary there that we don’t want to see, or there’s a really scary task we desperately want to avoid–scary tasks we want to avoid can be anything from living alone, growing up and taking care of yourself, becoming financially secure, giving up a long held fantasy or belief, feeling uncomfortable or doing something you’re not good at, etc. Find out what you are most afraid of. It’s usually something right in front of your face, and most likely it’s what you are avoiding right now. Once you figure it out, DEAL WITH IT. FACE IT. ADDRESS IT. No matter how scary.

3. Know that there are two energies at work inside you: your emotional energy (the child within you) who you are most likely giving all the power to, and shouldn’t, and your logical energy (the adult within you) who wants to become healthier and brought you here. These two energies are battling for power over you. Let LOGIC win, for now. Force yourself or teach yourself about both energies and how to turn off your emotional energy, at least until you can balance out the two energies, and at least until your emotional energy knows its place. Right now, my guess is, your emotional energy is ruling your brain. It shouldn’t be. Emotions don’t make logical decisions and as adult grown ups, we really, really, really need to make logic decisions. What this means is, stop making decisions based on “what feels good now.” What most likely feels good now is no pain, and so, to dull the pain, we run back to a PoA, or pick up the bottle. Or “zone” out. Stop making choices on what feels good. Make logical, rational choices. I am in pain, but the garbage needs to be taken out. Or, I don’t feel well, but I need to go to work. Or, I am lonely, so, I will find something all by myself to do, etc.

4. All your great “insight” is just a start. You actually have to change your behavior and that means physically taking different actions. I too had great insight. Most love addicts, believe it or not, do. I knew everything about love addiction and still nothing changed. It’s because I never put all that knowledge into action. I knew what to do, I just didn’t DO IT. You know the expression “practice what you preach.” Start preaching healthy and then start practicing it. What do healthy people do? Well, they most likely don’t accept unhealthy people into their lives. They don’t sit around all day fantasizing about a better life. When they detect red flags they are not afraid to acknowledge them and if need be, leave a relationship because of them. They also have a set of personal values that outweigh the need for a relationship. Love addicts have values, but the relationship outweighs their values and becomes more important. Many healthy people do not see the world the way addicts see the world: a place where people and substances are available to take the edge off a painful existence. This is how I perceived the world for many years. Until I didn’t anymore. Find healthy people and start to surround yourself by them. Copy their behavior. Learn from them. Chances are you didn’t have healthy models of love growing up. Neither did many of us. BUT, you’re an adult now. You are free to find healthy teachers in this world and learn new ways of coping and managing your life. Also, learn your VALUES and stick to them. Make them more important than the relationship.

5. Change your perspective immediately. When I was at the very beginning of recovery, I felt overwhelmingly frustrated. I had no idea where to begin to get better. I was finally sick and tired of being sick and tired. Yet, I kept imagining that someone would come to my rescue and teach me, or do it for me, or give me the answers. But because this never happened (well, I received many answers, but they weren’t good enough), I then imagined taking pills to dull the pain. And then, at some point, I gave up these FANTASIES. And little by little I started to work on some RANDOM problem I was having. And then I worked on another. And another. And after five years of chipping away at my problems, I built a new me. And some of my learning came easy, and some didn’t. And I fell on my face MANY times in the process. But the one thing I think I had through it all was a sense of determination to succeed. I WILL get better, I said. You can’t read a 50,000 page self-help book and not come away without learning SOMETHING. And you cannot unlearn all you’ve learned about being healthy. What you can do (and what I did for many years) is refuse to practice a healthy life. Give up trying. And the only thing that causes you to give up is that you’ve lost your positive perspective. So…don’t do that. It’s hard to always remain positive. But it’s all you’ve got. It’s the ONLY thing standing between a love addict and a healthy person. Perspective.

6. Give up. Yes, I said it. Give up. Give up the neediness for a romantic relationship. Give up the EXPECTATION of a romantic relationship. Give up the fantasy that you deserve a romantic relationship and that it is owed to you. It’s not. You need love and companionship in this world for a more humane existence. And you definitely need sex to procreate. But you do not NEED a romantic relationship. This is a cultural construct of western civilization and once you stop watching love stories and reading romance novels and take a good look at human history and anthropology you will come to understand that human beings don’t need romantic love. They simply need closeness to people to survive AND to thrive (yes, can you believe it? You can thrive without romance–most people do). You can get closeness and thrive through family, friends, pets, a satisfying career, etc. And because the world doesn’t owe you a romantic relationship, and there’s no knowing whether you’re destined for one or not, REFOCUS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE ON YOU AND WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL. Here’s an exercise for you: imagine you are living in a world with NO CHANCE OF ROMANTIC LOVE. What would you do? What would you look for? What would your goals be? Who would you befriend? As a love addict, we all must imagine ourselves as individuals separate from any romantic notions. When we are truly able to do that and we can focus our attentions on other things, we have won half the battle. And while love addiction is not about love or romance at all, but rather, about avoidance of the self, we (as love addicts) still need to deconstruct the fantasy that we’ve built around the notion that we are DEFINED by whatever partner or romantic relationship we happen to be in.

7. Learn better coping strategies through better management of your life. In my opinion, it is not the addiction that needs to be dealt with, it’s the addictive personality. The rest of your life, you may most likely want to turn to SOMETHING (who knows what) to dull your pain. And you will most likely do it obsessively, unless you understand what drives your addiction. If it’s not alcohol or men it might be shopping. Or gambling. Or whatever! There’s no sense in going to AA, then switching to LAA, then switching FAA or SLAA, or NA, etc. It’s all the same. Whatever you are addicted to is irrelevant. It’s your WAY to protect yourself. Once you build yourself up, learn how to cope with stress and manage your life like an adult and suddenly, poof! the need to run away is gone, or lessened. So, how do you learn to manage your life better? You live it. Stop running away from things. Practice, practice, practice. One of the things in life that scared me to death was working. At a job. Well, it stressed me out so much because I had zero experience, zero confidence, and being in situations that I didn’t feel comfortable or confident in stressed me out. So…I would avoid working by hopping in to a relationship. And then of course, I would be broke and need money and the vicious cycle would begin. So….go to school. Learn a trade. Get good at something. And allow yourself TEN TIMES to practice a hobby before giving up. Learn about better communication, how to create boundaries, when to talk, when to shut up. Learn how to manage your money, your free time, your living space, your stress. Yes, learn to manage stress in healthier ways. The more control you take over managing your life, the more confidence you will have in your life and the less you will need to depend on men or booze or whatever other object we can shove in the perceived “void.”

Shall I go on? Because I’m really not finished yet! Bottom line: you are in the right place. You are beginning a journey that has MANY MANY opportunities for growth. I’m glad you’re here. Keep reading.Keep posting. Become part of this community. Read my blog thelovelyaddict.com. And whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF. You, not anything or anyone else (except maybe your kids if you have them), are your best investment. Really try to understand that. YOU are your biggest and best investment. The more you learn about better health, and the more you do to work towards better health, the more of an investment you are making in yourself. It’s that easy.

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29 thoughts on “Feeling hopeless?”

  1. Thank you so much for this. I didn’t realize I was an addict until I read it. I was beginning to see what I was doing in my life that seemed to help me and what seemed to be detrimental to me. What you have written explains to me clearly what these are and what I still need to work on.

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  2. Do you think you were fully recovered when you entered into your relationship with D? What is the longest you’ve gone without being in a relationship?
    Im doing all of these things. I’ve worked on finances, facing fears, pursuing my education, but I still haven’t managed to let go of wanting to be in a relationship. I’ve never not pursued or been in a relationship. The only thing that’s changed is that I want a relationship for a different reason now. I no longer want to be rescued and I understand the significance of boundaries within a relationship. I’m also able to spot red flags immediately although it takes me a while to let go, I eventually do. Having the list you wrote about has really helped me. Im just wondering if recovering means bend ok wih living alone for the rest of my life.

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    1. To answer your first question, no, I was not fully recovered by the time I met D. But, important to note is that I was resigned to not dating and resigned to living alone. So…because of that way of thinking, it created a different (far less desperate, needy) vibe coming from within me. D and I used the term “organic” a lot when it came to defining our relationship. We just wanted it to happen “organically” meaning no pushing, no defining it, no hoped for outcomes. Just ENJOYING each other. Period.

      So, my advice is always the same…Try to let go of the preconceived notions and expectations you have of dating and wanting a relationship. It’s not like going to store when you want ice cream. You can’t just pick out someone and be done with it.

      And yes, in my heart of hearts, I do believe that recovery DOES mean being ok with living alone for the rest of your life. Not that that’s going to happen!!! But, if it did, you have to be ok with it. If it did, you would not have spent your life waiting in vain, looking for something that didn’t happen. You lived your life and ENJOYED it, AS IT IS. This is incredibly hard to do. But, that, my friend, is the secret. 🙂

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      1. Just to add this: after living over 50 years with L.A. isn’t living alone for the rest of your life going to be like a holiday? because I find that it is. I understand that there are people here who are not as old and long suffered as I am, but even a year living in L.A takes its toll. I don’t see it anymore as ‘not having a relationship in my life’, I see it more as having a fantastic relationship with myself. And this is SO good enough. I have forgotten all about finding or having a relationship. It SO doesn’t feature anymore. I am far too busy just being…..And ever so more exciting..(yes, even after ALL the drama) I wish everyone well on this site; it really saved my life. Keep reading people. You wont ever regret it… ❤

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  3. Wow! Extremely well written! Blunt and to the point without all the commonly used sugar coating. Wish this was an entire book because I didn’t want the article to end. I SOOO needed to hear exactly this right now. Thank you for writing 🙂 ❤

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  4. Have you ever experienced times when you don’t have many friends, lonely times, in the beginning of recovery? When you let go of unhealthy relationships, or at least, stop giving them energy and find yourself down to a couple of people that you can call a true friend? I stayed in friendships with people that didn’t share my values when I was actively love addicted, not just with lovers.

    I’m pretty lonely right now. But happier because I’m taking care of myself. But still, lonely.

    Can you relate? Is this a common stage of recovery?

    -Blue Fox

    ps–Zinger of a post btw!

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    1. Oops, please remove my name from the previous comment to protect my privacy!
      I’m new at this, forgive me for doing it wrong.

      Thanks.

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    2. Thanks, blue fox. And the answer is ABSOLUTELY. When we start to understand, construct and use boundaries to protect us (i.e. weed out unhealthy friends and lovers), we may find ourselves completely alone! I specifically remember thinking, “Why did I do that? Why did I end that relationship with my best friend, now I’ve got no one to hang out with.” But again, if you see VALUE in your choice to let go of unhealthy people and you see VALUE in the path of recovery you are on, then the loneliness can be not only bearable but cathartic.

      If there is a time and place for aloneness, THIS IS IT. This is the time to make peace with your aloneness. To start to recognize the huge gaping difference between aloneness and loneliness. Think about this: chances are when you were in one of your toxic relationships, you felt very much alone or lonely. Yes?

      Remember too that this might be the only time in your life that you will have this valuable time to learn who you are, unheeded by distraction. Make good use of it. Try to fill it with as much positive learning and growing as possible. This is YOUR time. Use it wisely.

      Lastly, to understand the depth of recovery means that you understand that it will not take away all your pain and suffering. Pain and suffering will happen. The rest of your life! What recovery ultimately does is teach you to better MANAGE pain and suffering. It teaches you to have a more positive perspective on it, and that includes loneliness.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

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      1. Heartfelt thank you for the response! It does help, so much.

        You climbed out of the hole, so I’m taking your advice very seriously.

        I’m a Buddhist so I’ve got pain and suffering covered, but I don’t have to keep inviting
        it in the same form, in the same blind way anymore.

        Onward! I just know your books are going to help a lot of people, Lovely!

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    3. Blue Fox; just read your post. The fact you are here on the site, in my mind, means you are ‘recovering’. Your comments resonated with me as I too found that after I went into recovery, people dropped off like flies. Not just men but female friends too. I was worried at first but then realised that most of the female friends had the same innate personal tendencies as the men I had been love addicted to!!! i.e. weak, shallow, self centred, etc. This was one of the biggest revelations I had (and trust me, I had MANY). But I went on to trust that if they were unhealthy, they would automatically leave as my own emotional health flourished. Lonely? no I cant say I ever was; I was too busy loving and clearing my new life to make way for better people, situations and circumstances. I don’t believe I was ever lonely, just GRATEFUL. The pain had stopped, the mental confusion had stopped, the ‘what ifs’ had all gone away. My mind was free to create, at last! The truth really does set you free. Blessings Blue Fox and best wishes… ❤

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      1. Shirley S.,
        Thank you for the encouragement! I’m taking it to heart, especially the reminder about the power of gratitude.
        Best wishes returned!

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    1. Thanks, Jennie. It’s taken a while, but I am devoting the next year to writing, so, I hope to make some serious progress. Trouble is, I am working on 2-3 writing projects at a time. We’ll see!!! 🙂

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  5. So it really is okay to have a mindset of not worrying that I don’t date or am not looking for a relationship any more? What a relief!

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  6. It is critical to continue to keep investing in yourself and your recovery, as if you were depositing money into your savings account 🙂 Great post, very inspiring! Thank you for sharing this with your readers. As someone who has struggled with addiction my whole life I am always looking for websites, blog posts, and books that inspire me and remind me that there are so many people out there going through the exact same thing. It is nice to share with others what has worked and hasn’t worked throughout recovery. I would like to wholeheartedly recommend a book I just finished entitled “Addiction is the Symptom” by author Dr. Rosemary Brown(http://addiction-is-the-symptom.com/). I will not claim that this book will magically heal you and you will never drink (or whatever it is you do) again, but what it did is provide some very valuable insight into my own addiction, and the root causes behind it. It is nice to read material from someone who is not only an expert in the subject, but has faced many of the same trials as I have, it makes the advice more “real” for lack of a better word.

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  7. An excellent post written with knowledge and compassion. I know love addiction. I didn’t really start to recover until I started a long process of self-examination and goal setting that involved many things, but most importantly what you have written so much about- defining my values and making decisions that reflect my values, rather than the impulsive need to run away from something (in my case my fear of abandonment). I spent a long time alone and came to the conclusion that being without romantic love was not just not the end of the world, but as fulfilling as being with a partner, but in a different way. I learned to say no to people who didn’t align with my values, once I defined them. I started making decisions with my head (and not my pounding heart). It was slow and it was tough and yes, from time to time I feel certain impulses…but the difference between then and now is that I know I don’t have to act on those impulses. And with time I also learned that choosing options that align with my values and what my head tells me to do is ultimately far more rewarding, but not in an instant gratification, RIGHT NOW kind of way.

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  8. I’ve been doing all of the above for the past month and at this point, when I am trying to get over yet another PoA, I find that facing what I have been avoiding all my life head on has been bringing me to tears every day for the past week. I kind of force myself to cry over my avoidance of the self and lost years fantasizing and not living life fully, even if I have accomplished a lot.
    If this a normal part of recovery or am I headed toward depression? In a way I am glad the tears are coming and I am not trying to stop them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I go through this same process from time to time. Avoiding the self crops up through the years and you really have to work hard to combat it. I truly believe when you first recognize the depth and breadth of your avoidance it overwhelms you! I know it did me. But, I also think this is VERY normal. Now that you know you’ve been avoiding life, and now that you feel you’re starting from the bottom, what are you going to do about it? You have choices now, whereas before, you didn’t. You can choose to be miserable about who you are, or you can choose to say, “Let’s not waste anymore time!” Only ACTION, consistent action can combat avoidance. 🙂

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