The Lovely Addict

Rest in peace, Prince

prince-purple-rain-ws-710I have to say something about Prince’s death yesterday because, honestly, he was probably my first PoA. I remember when Michael Jackson died and everyone went crazy. People were crying. I thought, “Are you kidding me? You act like you knew the guy…” Well, now I understand.

I think I cried all day yesterday. No, I mean, I sobbed. I had devoted so much fantasy time to that man for a good ten years–I had every single solitary one of his albums, his 45s, his cassettes and his CDs; I knew every song, I could tell you which album each song came from; in high school, my walls were painted purple with the big EYES from the Purple Rain album; I even lost my virginity to Purple Rain with a kid who I believed was the closest thing I could get to Prince–I devoted so much emotional time to that man that when I heard the news, I felt I had lost an old love. I lost a part of my identity that took years to build.

Aside from my father, Prince was probably the man who influenced me most, good and bad, and fueled my love addiction. Everything I was running away from, everything I wanted to be, everything I couldn’t attain was wrapped up in that man. He held all the answers for a girl who was clueless and afraid of love and life. What’s more, I think he changed the chemistry of who I was the night I first saw him in concert. As he sat at his piano, screaming the lyrics to The Beautiful Ones, “I gotta know…Is it him or is it me…” Prince reconfigured my DNA that night, and there was no going back. Without him, I couldn’t tell you what I would look like today, what I might have become.

Ironically, or coincidentally, both my father and Prince died at age 57. And ironically, or coincidentally, they both died on the same exact date–April 21. This is significant. There has always been a mystique about the world for me–an innocent belief that the universe aligns certain major events in your life–as if someone behind a curtain is trying to tell you something–I may be invisible but there’s a purpose and a plan, and I’m going to drop little clues to keep you guessing. I may or may not have picked that belief up by stitching together a myriad of the lyrics Prince wrote–but, his spirituality imbued with sexuality was the perfect message of inspiration and validation I needed to ultimately know that it was OK to be me.

Thank you, Prince.

Reports are trickling in. They think the “flu” scenario was a hoax. They think, instead, that he overdosed. And that when his plane made an immediate landing last week, it was not because of dehydration, but rather, to be rushed to the hospital to receive the “second shot” (Narcan) because of opiate overdose. If that is the case, then both my father and Prince died in a similar fashion. My father’s addiction to prescription opiates was well-known. We just didn’t think it would kill him at 57. Like Prince, my father was iconic to me. Immortal. It’s a little shocking to lose someone when you’re belief in them is so unrealistic. Yes, that’s a direct message to the love addict in us who believes the guy we’re with, the one who emotionally ignores us, treats us poorly or even abuses us is not who we think he is. He’s no prince of perfection. He’s no god.  That is to say, it’s time to get real with your perceptions.

A girlfriend of mine sent me a poignant quote. I leave you with this:

Prince was so utterly, effortlessly enshrouded in mystique that he seemed other-than-human, to the point where mortality never figured into our calculations.

Amen. I’ll leave it at that.

Love addict’s wishful thought #47: if only he went to therapy…

Who hasn’t had this thought pop into her head: If only my boyfriend saw a therapist, everything would be different.

I can’t tell you how many times I wished this exact thing. And why did I wish it? Because I believed that after all the self-help books I’d read, therapy was the answer.  Not to my problems, of course, but my boyfriend’s. And if my bf would just go to a therapist, said therapists would back me up and convince my guy that he needs to change, (just like I said he should) or he would risk losing a relationship with me.

Looking back over all the men I dated, only two were willing to go to therapy “for me,” my ex husband and G. Both therapy sessions went horribly wrong.

The first time my ex husband and I went to a therapist he lied about his cheating and had no real interest in changing his behavior. He merely did it to appease me, and probably because he felt bullied by me and just gave in. I was desperately trying to save my marriage, singlehandedly, and the only advice we left with was “You two need to date again.” This didn’t exactly resolve anything. But, it did delay the inevitable. And the inevitable came with a flip flop. It was now me who wanted out of the relationship. And so,  the second time we went, it was on his instance to save the marriage. But, by the time I got to therapy, I was completely unable to be “convinced” to stay in the marriage and we divorced shortly after.

When I dated G, I was in therapy because I was unable to accept G’s “flaws” and I was trying to figure out why I was always so frustrated and depressed. He always said he loved me, and he called all the time. What was my problem? Well, my problem was he smoked pot and never wanted to have sex with me. So, I thought if I could get him to meet with a therapist, she would convince him these things were interfering in our relationship and he should change his ways to save the relationship.

This didn’t work. He liked smoking pot and he had an extremely low libido (most likely because of the pot), and he had no desire to change.

So what did these men learn from therapy? Probably nothing. What did I learn? That’s more important here. I learned that just because a well-educated relationship specialist understands what it takes to have a healthy relationship, they could not convince someone to love me or to BE what I wanted them to be. Just because my therapist and I agreed that my boyfriend’s behavior was not acceptable, it didn’t mean he also agreed or even cared. And therein lies the problem.

Therapy doesn’t convince anyone to love you, especially if they don’t want to be convinced. And believing in therapy as a way to “fix” a relationship that is founded on neglect, disrespect, avoidance or any other ingrained behavior is wishful, unrealistic thinking.

Therapy ONLY works when two people are committed to each other and when those two people share the same value in working on the relationship. More importantly, what we learn from therapy is often something we don’t particularly want to learn: that we cannot control or convince others to love us. And the “everything will be different” fantasy typically comes when you ditch the guy who clearly doesn’t love you and replace him for one who does. And, surprise! When that happens, you typically find yourself not needing therapy at all!

Healthy problem or toxic one?

My life has been somewhat chaotic for the past several years. In 2013 I quit working with my brothers at our company because I felt I was being treated poorly, and so in July 2014, I started my own business (a smoothie bar inside a fitness center). But, after a year, I felt trapped and wanted to do more with my life. So, I sold the business in September 2015. From September to the beginning of November I had no job and so, my goal was to return to grad school to get my Master’s in Counseling. During that time of no work I was sick almost every day, fought with my husband, felt depressed and was bored out of my mind. But, on November 6, the president of our company died, which thrust me right back into having to work with my brothers. While I was once again in a situation where I was being bullied, mistreated, ignored and hated, I eventually felt as though I had a greater purpose–to save my company. All the whining I did in between jobs, all the panic attacks and anxiety and yelling at my husband, all vanished once I had a huge problem outside myself–once I had something to overcome.

I see my love addiction the same way, and you, as well, should consider the idea that your love addiction, or, at the least, your PoA (person of addiction) may fill a much needed purpose. He or she might be helping to distract you from yourself, so you no longer have to deal with JUST YOU. So often we create problems or hold on to problems as security. No matter how bad they get, they seem to offer a painful “thrill” to an often humdrum existence.

I don’t know how to resolve this need in me to have a “struggle” or a problem. And, I am not so sure it’s an entirely bad thing IF I work towards solving the problem and making the problem my life’s work. Despite the pain I must endure from my one brother who regularly attacks me,  I am struggling to help rebuilt a company. And when I focus on that, I feel good about myself.

So, ask yourself, if your problem or struggle is a dead end or has a worthy purpose.  What parts of it are you in control of? What is out of your control? If you are struggling to convince your PoA that he should love you but you continuously find yourself being ignored or neglected, this may not be a “healthy” problem to solve, but rather a toxic one that could be draining you.

If my only problem was to fight with my brothers, I would say this problem of mine was a toxic one. In fact, that’s how I felt in 2013. I was unable to make any changes in the company (because the president was still alive), and so, the problem of dealing with my brothers was mostly beyond my control. This time around, my brothers are still beyond my control, but I now see a PURPOSE hidden within the problem. I only see this purpose because I am able to see REAL AND POSITIVE  RESULTS from the work I am doing. So, for now, I will take on this problem as a healthy one. Yes, it is distracting me from myself, but it is also giving my life purpose.

Is your love addiction giving your life purpose? Or is it sucking the life out of you? Choose your problems wisely.

The Break Up Journal: Lies

August 6

Drab and humid.

I’m supposed to go down to my sister-in-law’s tonight. I almost want to drive up to Brooklyn to see Marie. It very well might save me from doing something destructive like calling C.  Every time I get pissed off with P and think he’s lied about something, I want to run to C where all my problems were apparently resolved. I don’t believe P worked last night. I think he wanted to make sure I didn’t expect him over. Then again, he’s usually able to voice that and say, “I need my sleep tonight,” or something else. Maybe he wanted his excuse to seem out of his control. Read More…

The Break Up Journal: Breakthrough

Last night was pitiful and divine. I read my journal from September 2000 when Liam was born up until we moved into this house. It was triggered by Marie and I talking about New Orleans, so I went back to research my 24-hours there and my rather brief affair with Randy the male nurse when I was separated from R. I had met Randy online playing one of those ridiculous roleplay games that R wanted me to get involved in, but then, basically moved out and dumped me. I was left playing alone until I met Randy.

Reading through those days sickens me. I was a loser. I was married to a loser, and I was dating a loser. The only flowers rising up out of that ugly evil bad world of darkness were my two beautiful sons.

After hours of reading through those pages, I realized I’m sick of men. Of trying to please them, of not being treated with dignity and respect. I’m not sure I will ever get over the trauma that R caused. No one should have to put up with that shit, ever. There is no where to turn for consolation from that sad life, and yet, here am. I am still standing.

But am I? The more I thought about it the more I realized …Read More

Are you worthy of love?

I recently read another love addict’s blog online and felt compelled to comment on her post about worthiness. This is basically what I said to her that I would like to share with you:

You only need one reason to be worthy of love. To exist. Nothing more. But here’s something I would very much like to suggest, as a fellow love addict. At first it may sound hopeless, but trust me, it’s not: what if you lived your life and appreciated everything you had in it but ONLY what you had in it now? That doesn’t mean you don’t already appreciate your life. It means, what if you removed the idea that you are complete if only you had a relationship? What if you simply resolved that you are perfect as you are now, and you removed the prospect, the hope, the wish for romance? What if you pretended that romantic love were not a possibility?

And, what if you were not so much worthy of love, as in, you should be given something that is owed you because you are worthy of it, but rather, what if you were simply perfect as you are now, not owed anything, just alive and grateful within yourself for that life?

Losing the hope of romance or finding someone may sound completely depressing, but for love addicts it’s a fear we all need to face in order to truly find ourselves and heal. For some of us, it’s our greatest fear. I know it was mine. The thought of dying “an old maid” horrified me. It made me scared to be alive. It made me chase after anyone I could get my hands on. And yet, when I finally faced it, it had the opposite effect that I assumed it would have. I didn’t die. I didn’t collapse into oblivion.  Instead, a deep sense of relief washed over me. The searching was over. The against-all-odds effort that went into longing and hoping and wishing and dreaming was finally over. It had all been so draining. It had all been so life-zapping.

Accepting my life and only what I had in it at that moment in time–and being grateful for just that, and removing the wants and the needs for all the things I didn’t have– was enlightening. 

Seem impossible? Well, swap out the longing and perseverance for love with, say, money or fame? Could you imagine if your biggest and most important dream was to be a millionaire? Or to be famous? That, as the law of attraction states, if you think it, it will be yours? And if you don’t achieve that goal you don’t feel alive? Fulfilled? Accomplished? What kind of a fulfilled life would you have if you couldn’t achieve this goal no matter how hard you worked at it? Sure, you’re worthy of being a millionaire, sure you’re worthy of being famous, but will it happen?

What if it doesn’t? And if it doesn’t, can you be happy anyway?

The lesson is this: happiness is in the now. Not in hoped for outcomes. Be the best YOU you can be, and whatever the universe gifts you, be grateful for it. Work hard. Live. Challenge yourself. But remove longing.  And use hope in its intended purpose–as the potential for possibility, not the guarantee of it, and not as a crutch to support your loneliness or dissatisfaction with life.  And worthiness doesn’t mean we receive something in return for our worth (love). It means we recognize that we have value and we live our lives according to that value. And, if someone doesn’t recognize that along with us, it means we value ourselves enough to move on.

Hooked on a bad boy?

Deep down, I think love addicts are attracted to the bad boy type because he is the type we relate to. He is what we see in ourselves. I always fancied myself an independent artist and writer, traveling around the world, smoking cigarettes and drinking wine in smoky bars, with my rebel attitude and free spirit. But, the truth is, that’s not exactly who I was. When I really took a look at myself, I was a mother of two sons. I drove a minivan. I liked to bake pies and spend time with family and travel every once in a while. Did I like the arts? Sure. But I wasn’t even an artist! In fact, any time I hung out with my wilder, artist friends they all stayed out late, smoked, drank, partied, and ignored their kids, if they had them.  I couldn’t handle any of that stuff. What’s more, I didn’t believe in any of that. And yet, I was still going after these badboy types, driving them around in my minivan with my screaming kids, baking pies for them. Oh sure, it’s funny now.  But back then, I was angry that they didn’t want to go to family events, sit around with my kids or bake (they all loved eating the pies, though!)
Anyway, the trick to a healthier relationship is KNOW THYSELF. And when you write out your list of descriptions about who you are, don’t describe yourself as you wish to be, but as you truly are. This is hard. But, take a look at your world around you. Don’t write down what’s in your head. Write down what you SEE. Minivan = person who drives minivan. You may, in your heart of hearts want to drive a Ferrari but you’re not driving one.  That’s not who you are at this moment. The minivan is. Sorry.

Second, look for people who share those similarities (and values). Partying and living the rockstar life only lasts so long. Eventually, we all want stability, warmth, comfort and even a little predictability. And, if you’re not into partying, why date someone who is? You’ll just end up frustrated, trying to pin him down. It’s not going to happen. Instead, what about searching for a good, stable, healthy man with some adventurous, slightly “wild” or even quirky traits (if that’s who you are, that is)? Bottom line, look for qualities similar to your own. The whole opposites attract thing doesn’t hold over very well as far as values are concerned.  You want to be similar on that front.
Lastly,  stop thinking in black and white. Giving up the bad boy doesn’t automatically leave only “boring” types in the dating pool. That’s ridiculous. People are not ALL bad boy or ALL boring. What’s more, there are some pretty boring bad guys, and some pretty exciting nice guys!

When I first started dating my husband D, I initially feared that he was boring. Why? Because he was nice, had a professional job, wore suits to work, had a family and lived a very normal life. In my mind, those were the traits of a boring guy. But, I was so off the mark. He also played guitar and drums, was in a band in college, loved the arts, and was kind of a bad boy in the bedroom (TMI?!). Plus, he had a fantastic sense of humor, which is really important to me.  Sold!

And while there were still times early on when I actually mourned the bad boy fantasy I was holding on to (gosh, I had held onto it for so many years), I eventually grew up, made peace with who I really was, and got real about the qualities a healthy partner should have, not the qualities I wished he had.

Read more on the LAA forums

The Break-Up Journal: June 23, 24, 25

Three new entries have been posted on The Break-Up Journal. Don’t forget to scroll all the way down on The Break Up Journal’s main page and click the “Follow this Blog by Email” link so that you receive notices of new posts.

My favorite entry of these three is June 24th. A lot of soul searching and a perfectly formed description of what I now understand to be introversion:

…As I drifted through the streets yesterday and took in all the people and their sad and lonely faces and their bad smells and rotten circumstances I came to the conclusion that I do not belong in a city. I am too delicate. Fragile. Too easily influenced by the energy of others, both good and bad. Actually, too drained by the energy of others, good and bad. I don’t have a way to shut the world out and be peaceful within myself. I let everything in. I would like to learn evasiveness. I would like to imagine a wall around me where I can look out, but not let anything in to disturb me.

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!!!

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.