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Addiction to Venting
"I was up too late with my friend Peg last night," Abigail told me in our phone session. "She
was needing to vent. Then I had a problem falling asleep, but at least I was there for her."
often does this happen?" I asked her.
"Oh, fairly often. At least every couple of
"Why do you continue to listen to her?"
"Isn't that what a good friend does?"
do you feel when you listen to her?"
"Kind of stressed."
"Do you see it helping her to vent to you over and over?'
"Well, she says she feels better after I listen to her."
"Of course she feels better! She has just dumped all her stress onto you. She goes to sleep and you're up with her stress. But do you see anything actually changing in her life as a result of you allowing her to vent to you?"
"Abigail, if what Peg wanted to do every couple of weeks was
come over and get drunk at your house, would you allow this?"
"No! But that's different."
"It's not different. Peg is using
venting as an addiction to avoid taking responsibility for her feelings. She isn't spending the time with you exploring what she's doing that's creating her upsets. She isn't learning about what
she can do differently so that she doesn't reach the point of anger and anxiety that she then dumps on you. There's no learning or change happening. And, your stress in response to the venting, is letting you know that listening to this isn't good for you either."
"I've had a feeling that this wasn't working well for me, but I don't know what to do. Peg is my good friend and I don’t want to let her
down. What can I say to her?"
"Well, how about, 'Peg, I know that when you vent and
I listen to you, you feel better for awhile. But I end up feeling worse. I love you and I want to be here for you, but it seems to me that the venting isn't getting you anywhere – that it's an addiction just like using sugar to feel better for the moment but not really dealing with the issue. I'm here for you if you want real help in dealing with the issues,
but I don't want to be at the other end of your venting any more.' Is that something you'd be willing to say?"
"I think so. But she might be mad at me."
"Yes, she probably will be mad at you. Most people
don't like it when someone calls them on their addictions and refuses to participate in
them anymore. Are you willing to have her mad at you? Certainly listening to her vent isn't loving to yourself and therefore not loving to her. It's far more loving to both of you for you to stop enabling her addiction, even if she doesn't think so."
"I know this is what I need to do. But what if she doesn't want to be friends with me anymore?"
would this tell you about the friendship and about her caring for you?"
"I guess it would tell me that she is using me rather than really caring about me and our friendship."
"Right. If she pulls out of the friendship because
you don't want to listen to her vent, then she isn't really a friend. It means that she wants to go on being a victim, not taking responsibility for herself and dumping her feelings onto you."
"Okay, I'm going to do this. I'm at the point where I want friends who
are learning and growing, not friends who are being victims. I guess I have nothing to lose and I'll get more sleep!"
The Second Step to Serenity
By L.G. Parkhurst,
The Second Step to Serenity: Meditation for Day 8
Excerpted from "Prayer Steps to Serenity: The
Twelve Step Journey"
By L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.
"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."
The Second Step
"Because Jesus himself suffered when he was
tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."
In the First Step, I discovered that believing could be painful. I painfully came to believe the truth about myself. How I hated to look myself in the mirror!
In the Second Step, I joyfully believed and affirmed that a Power greater than myself could substantially heal my body, mind and spirit. Because God restored so many in my Fellowship when they sought His guidance, I have good reasons to take this next Step prayerfully as
The Bible gives many examples of what God can accomplish in the lives of men and women who believe and follow Him. Those I meet in my Fellowship also tell many stories about how a Power greater than themselves saved them
from insanity or certain death.
As I believe and trust more in God, I'll find greater power in prayer, an almost miraculous, life-transforming power. Without faith, I can do nothing. From the Bible and the testimonies of people I meet, I can believe that God will do seemingly impossible things in my life.
Until I move beyond debating about God, I'll not find sanity and serenity. I need to accept God as He has revealed himself. Debating is close to rationalizing. I'll not find healing until I put down my weapons and believe.
Then, I'll make more progress in the Twelve Step Journey. My life will no longer contradict
what I'm coming to believe.
Prayer for Today
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. Lord God, help me today to. . . (Please complete this prayer as the Holy Spirit leads you).
From: L.G. Parkhurst, Jr., Prayer Steps to Serenity, Lincoln: iUniverse, 2004, pages 16, 17.
Free Study guides & handouts for groups are available at PrayerSteps.org & SerenityGroups.org
Book Excerpt: One Breath at a Time
Steps as Sila
In Buddhism the initial, purifying stage of spiritual development is called sila, usually translated as morality or virtue - what one teacher calls "cleaning up your act."
This involves living an ethical life; treating others and ourselves with kindness and letting go of destructive behaviors. In Buddhist teachings, sila is formalized in the 5 Lay Precepts - & # 5 is:
So, guess what? The Buddha didn't think getting loaded was that good an idea either - the 12 Steps are, in fact, sila.
is one of the 3 classic stages of practice. The other 2 are concentration and wisdom. When I began to practice, I didn't put much emphasis on sila, figuring that concentration and wisdom were where the action was.
None of my teachers talked much about the 5th Precept and I certainly wasn't going to worry about
it. In fact, psychedelic drug experiences were the inspiration for much of the 60's movement toward Eastern religions.
In the Beatles song "Strawberry Fields," i.e., we're told, "nothing is real and nothing to get
hung about"- sounds a lot like being stoned, but it also sounds like the stuff of certain Buddhist teachings.
With this blurring of drugs and religion, no wonder some teachers felt ambivalent about the 5th
Precept. For most of them, drugs and alcohol weren't a problem and they probably didn't want the teachings to come off as
puritanical or moralistic.
Unfortunately for me, LSD, mescaline and mushrooms were
all just another high, just another way to get loaded. They never had much of a spiritual effect on me. Even though there
were times I wanted to explore them as a gateway to some higher states, my trips always devolved into drug fests, often concluding
with alcohol to ease the crash.
That's the trouble with being an addict: it takes all the fun
out of drugs. I always admired and envied people who could make their trip a spiritual one, but for me tripping wasn't much different from drinking beer.
The purifying aspects of sila work on more levels than just the physical. It's not
just following a set of Precepts - just as real sobriety is more than putting down the bottle or joint.
Buddhist teachings are said to "reveal what was hidden" and
to "hold up a lamp in the dark." Meditation practice itself tends to uncover the repressed aspects of our psyche.
Even before I got sober, the dharma was working to reveal what was hidden, though I didn't know
it. One image the Buddha uses is of a goldsmith who heats gold in a crucible, burning off the dross. So, as my inner gold
began to shine more brightly, the dross of my destructive behavior stood out more distinctly.
I saw this unfold with Dan, a beginning meditation student who impressed me
with the intensity with which he approached his practice. He reported putting in great effort, sitting as long as he could
through knee pain, restlessness and sleepiness. His commitment reminded me of my own at his stage of practice.
day he called and said, with a quaver in his voice, "I won't be at class for the next few weeks."
you okay?" I asked. "What's happening?"
"Last week I was arrested for drunk driving . .
Dan told me that even though he had known he had a
problem with drinking and had been arrested before for drunk driving, he still thought he could control it. After he and his
wife, Karen, started meditation, he tried to hide his drinking because he was feeling shame and a sense of disconnection from
his growing spiritual life.
"In retrospect, it doesn't really seem accurate to say
that I had a meditation practice because I wasn't really practicing in the strict sense of the word. I spent time on my cushion,
but there was no consistency and the sittings felt fragmented and unfocused."
he said, his last arrest was almost a relief; there was no need to pretend anymore, and he could begin the work of recovery.
Dan's been sober for more than two years now, and still attends my group. Here's what he says about the change:
"When I committed myself to sobriety, I regained a sense of openness, honesty, and a feeling of
actually living with the ethics that I accepted. Instead of sitting around my garage smoking cigarettes and thinking about
the dharma, I was putting it in motion within my day-to-day life. I felt that I was taking the right action, and in doing
so my integrity was awakened."
The Buddha talks about "the bliss of blamelessness."
When there are no secrets in your life and you're living cleanly, a sense of safety arises. You're not looking over your shoulder
all the time. For a recovering addict or alcoholic, this delight can arise at odd times, like when you get pulled over for
a traffic violation and realize that the worst you can get is a ticket -- no fear of a drunk driving charge or drug bust.
Dan's experience of meditation has changed
as well. "My meditation often has a feeling of lightness and ease that I seldom felt before. When intently focused, it's at
a depth that is new for me. When it's tough and I'm feeling some type of existential distress, I've got the awareness to be
attentive and accepting instead of simply giving in to a habitual desire for escape."
People sometimes hear the word powerless and think it means "passive,"
that people who work with the, Twelve Steps think they are victims, that life is just happening to them. While it's true that
there are lots of things you can't control in the world -- the weather, the economy, your parents -- chances are no one is
shoving booze down your throat or a line up your nose or a supersized fast-food meal into your mouth. We are powerless over
the disease of alcoholism and the effects of alcohol, but we are not powerless over whether we pick up a drink or not. The
Buddha was emphatic on the point that we are responsible moment to moment for our words and actions, not just victims of destiny
or hidden forces; we have an element of free will.
Noah Levine, a recovering addict,
meditation teacher, and author of the moving spiritual memoir Dharma Punx, puts it this way: "I don't have power over what
desires I have, but I do have power over what actions I take." Noah recognizes, though, that his sense of powerlessness can
become corrupted. "I can see a tendency towards nihilism both in my spiritual practice and in my recovery. At times I use
the First Step and my meditation practice as excuses to avoid the suffering in the world, feeling that I can't do anything
about it or that it is just everyone's karma unfolding." This is a distortion of the concept of powerlessness. It's an excuse
to give up and bail out on life and responsibility.
The Buddhist term near enemies
can shed light on the difference between powerlessness and helplessness. For example, the near enemy of compassion is pity;
the near enemy of equanimity is indifference. I think helplessness or, as Noah puts it, nihilism is the near enemy of powerlessness.
This tendency to turn spiritual ideas upside down and inside out is very dangerous for an alcoholic, or anyone who has negative
habits of mind. It can be the beginning of a slide into depression, despair, and eventually drinking again -- or worse.
Noah brings the First Step and Buddhism together when he says, "Yes, I am powerless, but I also
have the ability to purify my actions of speech, body, and mind through the practice of spiritual principles."
Buddhists are sometimes accused of being passive as well. In fact, meditation lays the groundwork
for acting skillfully in the world. The Buddha was as concerned about the way we live in the world -- as shown by his emphasis
on qualities like generosity, non-harming, and compassion -- as he was about meditation itself. But the Buddha was intensely
practical -- and very clear about the truth that we can't control certain things: the fact that we are going to grow older,
and all the difficulties inherent in aging; the fact that we are going to get sick; the fact that we are going to die; the
fact that everything around us is going to keep changing and will eventually disappear.
So, no matter how much exercise I get, or how much
organic food I eat, I'll die. All the vitamins and supplements in the world can't keep me from sometimes catching cold or
the flu, getting cancer or heart disease (or even the disease of alcoholism!).
Plastic surgery, herbal elixirs, and skin creams can't stop the fact of my aging; my car will eventually wear out, my roof
will leak, my children will grow up and leave me, and my parents will die. I'm powerless over all these things. The Buddha
saw how much suffering we create fighting with these facts, resisting and trying to circumvent aging, illness, death, and
loss, and he realized that clear understanding and acceptance was the key to letting go of that suffering.
After the Buddha tells us all of this, essentially pointing out what we are powerless over in this world --
everyone, not just addicts or alcoholics -- he says that there is one thing that we do have power over: our karma. This means
that we are responsible for our own situation -- up to a point. The Buddha said that people do have free will, and that this
is what karma is, the energy of our will. The way I express this will, whether skillfully or unskillfully, determines the
results of my life -- a simple cause-and-effect formula.
Karma, like powerlessness, is often misunderstood.
People commonly think it means destiny or fate. But both the Twelve Steps and Buddhist teaching point to the ways in which
we shape our own destiny. The Buddha said everything starts with thoughts; that we speak and act based on thoughts; that our
words and actions turn into habits -- or addictions; and that those habits shape our character into something inflexible.
So, he says, "Watch the thought and its ways with care, and let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings . .
. As the shadow follows the body, as we think, so we become." This underscores a strong argument for the value of meditation
practice. Meditation makes it possible to see your thoughts more clearly, and when you see your thoughts clearly, you can
consciously decide how to respond to them.
This idea can be taken too far, though,
and we can blame ourselves for things we have no power over. The Buddha points out that because there are so many causes and
effects happening simultaneously, our own will can have only a limited impact. It's up to us to find the balance between responsibility
and powerlessness. Sorting this out is what the Serenity Prayer, often recited at Twelve Step gatherings, tries to help you
do, with its plea to "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and
wisdom to know the difference." Though this prayer calls on God for help, the Buddhist teachings and the inherent wisdom that comes through the practices can bring the same acceptance,
strength, and clarity. Meditation develops in us the power to sit through all kinds of experiences without flinching, with
a willingness to see what is true. This non-flinching willingness can be called courage. So, the courage, wisdom, and acceptance
of the prayer come from the same place, from the inner strength that grows through continuously opening the heart and mind.
Copyright © 2004 Kevin Griffin
For more information, please visit www.kevingriffin.net or www.writtenvoices.com.
The Next Step in Recovery
By Nancy Nolley
I believe alcoholism starts with a breach of personal integrity. As children and young adults, we couldn't always reconcile our whole Self with a dysfunctional environment and the pain of that breach of wholeness was dulled by drinking.
We drank to survive.
I believe we stop drinking when we feel like we have what it takes to start re-building our integrity. To become whole.
After 11 years of sobriety, that familiar feeling of void was resurfacing in my life. I couldn't figure out what was going on. I had a good life, owned my home, had a good job, etc.
but still felt empty. My soul searching started several years ago and I'm just now starting to get in touch with how to live a truly authentic
life. My quest for living a life full of joy and authenticity began with a career change. I knew I was ready, but I never imagined it would take me on this journey.
my new career as a personal coach by enrolling in the coach certification program at Coach U, Inc. After taking classes for
about a year in the program, I was ready to enroll in one of the more intensive courses, Personal Foundation. This was the
class that really started me on my journey for a deeper level of understanding and desire, to really know WHO I am. With this deeper desire, I had a vision of my full potential.
As I progressed on this new journey, I came
to believe that as alcoholics, we're seldom taught the tools we need to live an authentic life. So much of our living is just surviving. Even after we're sober. We don’t know how or where
to start learning these foundational tools. We know integrity only as a word in the dictionary. We hear people say they live by their values, but again, we come up empty.
I was astounded that, even after 11 years of sobriety,
I hadn't been exposed to many of the principles that the Personal Foundation course is about. Now, I have a new desire to deliver it to others that are ready to take their recovery and life, to a deeper level, to the next step in recovery.
A strong personal foundation will lead you to truly learn what your core values are and how to live from them. It starts with bringing an awareness to what you're tolerating in your life, raising your standards and setting extensive boundaries.
Along the way of building a stronger foundation, you learn how to get clear of the past and restore
your integrity. Living in integrity is when you can start living your life based on your values and not by being driven, haplessly, by life circumstances.
When I first started taking this course, I came to see how the deficit of the life tools learned
in the Personal Foundation course had caused me to make the decisions I had that sabotaged me living a full life. There's
a phenomenon with alcoholics of social immaturity, that the age at which we started drinking
is the age you delayed our social and emotional development. This course has taught me the life skills I have missed out on
and how to start living a fuller life.
This program starts by discussing and defining
the What, Who and How of your life. The ultimate goal is to integrate the What and Who, by learning and living with the knowledge of a healthy How.
I'm just now learning, at age 48 and 11 years sober, the Hows of living a
full life by integrating my What and Who. Living authentically.
Are you living a
life fully integrated? Are you living an authentic life?
I now facilitate the course that starting me on my journey to a deeper self awareness to other people in recovery. Call or email to get a schedule for my next course.
- Nancy Nolley
click here to send me an e-mail about anything you want to ask or say!
The First Step and the Serenity Prayer
By L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.
“We admitted we were powerless to overcome our weaknesses - that
our lives had become unmanageable.” - The First Step
“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.” -The Serenity Prayer
“Those who oppose him he must gently
instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from
the trap of the devil.” - 2 Timothy 2:25, 26
When we took "The First Step"
we acknowledged that we were trapped in our addictive or compulsive behavior. After repeated efforts in our own strength to
overcome our weaknesses, we recognized that we were powerless to achieve our goals.
Bible teaches that we can be trapped by the devil to do his will. In a similar way, we can be trapped by an addiction to alcohol,
our drugs of choice, food, gambling, sex, other people or other behaviors; such as:
hardness of heart
The devil can also work to keep us enslaved to harmful choices. God wants to free us from our sins, while the devil wants to keep us in bondage to him and lead us to destruction.
Thankfully, neither the devil nor our weaknesses need keep us in bondage. When the Bible says that gentle instruction and prayer to God can help us repent or turn around, we are encouraged to follow the Bible’s teachings, to take "The First Step," and to pray "The Serenity Prayer."
By praying "The Serenity Prayer," we can enjoy personally and individually
a conversation between “God” and “me.” “God, grant me.” When I pray "The Serenity Prayer," I trust that God will grant me the freedom I seek and the serenity that
will help me stay free from the traps that I have fallen into in the past.
completed "The First Step" and began praying "The Serenity Prayer" daily, I started a new
life of striving for pure humility. I opened my eyes and ears to look and listen for what God wanted me to do.
As I prayed and surrendered all that I knew about myself to God, He did His part and released me from the trap that was too strong for me to escape by myself. As God did His part, I responded by doing my part in following Him and "The Twelve Steps Journey." Daily, I am admitting the fact
that I cannot, but God can, so I am asking him to help me overcome my weaknesses.
When I pray, “God, grant me,” I am admitting that I do not deserve His help. Precisely because I am powerless and my life has become
unmanageable, precisely because I am unworthy to ask Him, God has promised me His love, grace, and mercy when I repent and turn to Him. In "The First Step,"
I am completely giving up and not just asking God to fix a thing or two.
In "The Serenity Prayer," I am trusting in God to grant me a total life change as I trust in Him for deliverance. When I took "The First Step," I admitted that when I tried
to manage my life without relying on God that my life became unmanageable. When I pray "The Serenity Prayer," I ask God to manage my life and give me the fruits of His labors and His Spirit, which are the Serenity, Courage, Change, and Wisdom
I need each day.
Prayer for Today
Dear God, I am truly powerless to overcome my weaknesses. I have proven my powerlessness to myself by trying over and over again to
help myself. Everything I have tried apart from you has failed.
Therefore, I am admitting my weaknesses and powerlessness today, and
I pray once again, “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.” Help me now as I continue to pray and bring before you this day my greatest concern and fear . . . . Amen.
to Serenity the Twelve Steps Journey: New Serenity Prayer Edition,” pages 43-45. Published by Agion Press, 2006 ISBN
978-0977805389. Copyright 2006 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.
Love Addiction, Approval Addiction
By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
In my experience as a counselor for 40 years, I have found that love addiction and
approval addiction are far more prevalent than any other substance or process addictions. We live in a love-addicted, approval-addicted
What does it mean to be love/approval addicted? Below is a checklist for
you to see if you are addicted to love and/or approval. Believing any of these may indicate love or approval addiction.
I believe that:
- * My happiness and wellbeing are depended upon getting love from another person.
My adequacy, lovability, and feelings of self-worth and self-esteem come from others liking me and approving of me.
Others disapproval or rejection mean that I’m not good enough.
* I can’t make myself happy.
can’t make myself as happy as someone else can.
* My best feelings come from outside myself, from how other people
or a particular other person sees me and treats me.
* Others are responsible for my feelings. Therefore, if someone
cares about me, he or she will never do anything that hurts or upsets me.
* I can’t be alone. I feel like I’ll
die if I’m alone.
* When I’m hurt or upset, it’s someone else’s fault.
up to other people to make me feel good about myself by approving of me.
- * I’m not responsible for my feelings. Other people make me feel happy, sad, angry, frustrated, shut down, or depressed.
When I’m angry, someone makes me feel that way and is responsible for fixing my feelings.
* I’m not responsible
for my behavior. Other people make me yell, act crazy, get sick, laugh, cry, get violent, leave, or fail.
are selfish if they do what they want instead of what I want or need.
* If I’m not connected to someone, I will die.
* I can’t handle
my pain, especially the pain of disapproval, rejection, abandonment, the pain of being shut out - the pain of isolation and
Living as a love or approval addict is a very hard way to live. You have to constantly
make sure you say the right thing, do the right, and look right in order to get the needed love and approval. Your feelings are on a roller coaster – from feeling the wonderful feelings that come from getting
your love or approval “fix” to feeling the despair that comes when your “supply” – the source
of your love and approval - shuts down, gets angry or judgmental, or goes away.
THE UNDERLYING CAUSE OF LOVE AND APPROVAL ADDICTION
Love and approval addiction
is rooted in self-abandonment. Imagine the feeling part of you as a child – your inner child. When you are love or approval
addicted, you have handed your inner child away for adoption. Instead of learning to take responsibility for your own happiness
by loving and approving of yourself, you have handed your inner child away to others for love and approval – making
others responsible for your feelings. This inner self-abandonment will always cause the deep pain of low self-worth, making
you dependent upon others for your sense of worth.
The sad thing about all of this
is that love is the most abundant thing in the universe. We live in a sea of love – it is always within us and all around
us. It is our Source. When you learn to open to Spirit/God/Source, you become filled with love, with peace, with joy. The empty place within that yearns to be filled becomes so filled
with love that it overflows to others. You find yourself desiring to give love rather than always trying to get it.
As long as you make others your Source, you will not find the love, peace and joy that you seek.
By learning and practicing the Inner Bonding process that we teach, you can learn to fill yourself with love and heal your
love and approval addictions.
Typical Kinds of Love Addicts
By Susan Peabody
In the last decade, a lot has changed in the world of love addiction. Not that love addiction
itself has changed. It is pretty much the same insidious disorder it always has been. What has changed is how the world looks
years ago, our understanding of love addiction was still emerging out of our understanding of codependency. Therefore, love
addiction and codependency seemed to be one in the same. However, today we understand that this is not true. Love addiction
stands alone, and codependency is only one of several underlying personality disorders. To make it perfectly clear how one
love addict differs from another LAA has prepared the following list:
Obsessed Love Addicts (OLAs) cannot let go, even if their partners are:
Unavailable emotionally or sexually; afraid to commit; cannot communicate; unloving;distant; abusive; controlling
and dictatorial; ego-centric; selfish; or addicted to something outside the relationship (hobbies,
drugs, alcohol, sex, someone else, gambling, shopping etc.)
Love Addicts (CLAs) are the most widely recognized. They fit a pretty standard profile. Most of them suffer from low
self-esteem and have a certain predictable way of thinking, feeling and behaving.
This means that from a place of insecurity and low self-esteem, they try desperately to hold on
to the people they are addicted to using codependent behavior.
This includes enabling, rescuing, care-taking, passive-aggressive controlling, and accepting neglect
or abuse. In general, CLA's will do anything to “take care” of their partners in the hope that they will not leave
- or that someday they will reciprocate.
Relationship Addicts (RAs), unlike other
love addicts, are no longer in love with their partners but they cannot let go. Usually, they are so unhappy that the relationship
is usually affecting their health, spirit and emotional well being.
Even if their partner batters them, and they are in danger, they cannot
let go. They are afraid of being alone. They are afraid of change. They do not want to hurt or abandon their partners. This
can be described as “I hate you don’t leave me.”
Narcissistic Love Addicts (NLAs) use dominance, seduction and withholding to control their partners.
Unlike codependents, who accept a lot of discomfort, narcissists won’t put up with anything that interferes with their
They are self-absorbed and their low self-esteem is masked by their grandiosity. Furthermore,
rather than seeming to obsess about the relationship, NLAs appear aloof and unconcerned. They do not appear to be addicted
Rarely do you even know that NLAs are hooked until you try to leave them. Then they will no longer
be aloof and uncaring. They will panic and use anything at their disposal to hold on to the relationship - including violence.
Many professionals have rejected the idea that narcissists can be love addicts. This may be because
they rarely come in for treatment. However, if you have ever seen how some narcissists react to perceived or real abandonment,
you will see that they are indeed “hooked.”
Ambivalent Love Addicts (ALAs suffer) from avoidant personality disorder - or what SLAA calls
emotional anorexia. They don’t have a hard time letting go, they have a hard time moving forward. They desperately crave
love, but at the same time they are terrified of intimacy. This combination is agonizing. ALAs come in different forms too.
They are listed below.
Torch Bearers are ALAs who obsess about someone who is unavailable.
This can be done without acting out (suffering in silence) or by pursuing
the person they are in love with. Some torch bearers are more addicted than others. This kind of addiction feeds on fantasies
and illusions. It is also known as unrequited love.
Saboteurs are ALAs who destroy
relationships when they start to get serious or at whatever point their fear of intimacy comes up. This can be anytime - before the first date, after the first date, after sex, after the subject of
commitment comes up - whenever.
Seductive Withholders are ALAs who always come on
to you when they want sex or companionship. When they become frightened, or feel unsafe, they begin withholding companionship,
sex, affection - anything that makes them feel anxious. If they leave the relationship when they become frightened, they are
just Saboteurs. If they keep repeating the pattern of being available/unavailable, they are seductive withholders.
Romance Addicts are ALA who are addicted to multiple partners. Unlike sex addicts, who are trying
to avoid bonding altogether, romance addicts bond with each of their partners - to one degree or another - even if the
romantic liaisons are short-lived or happening simultaneously.
By “romance” I mean sexual passion and pseudo emotional intimacy. Please note that
while romance addicts bond with each of their partners to a degree, their goal (besides
getting high off of romance and drama) is to avoid commitment or bonding on a deeper level with one partner.
Often romance addicts are confused with sex addicts.
A Note about ALAs: Not all avoidants are love addicts. If you accept your fear of intimacy and social situations, and do not get hooked on unavailable people, or just keep your social circle small and
unthreatening you are not necessarily an ALA.
But if you eat your heart out over some unavailable person year after year, or sabotage one relationship after
another, or have serial romantic affairs, or only feel close when you are with another avoidant, you may be an Ambivalent
Combinations: You may find that you have more than one type of love addiction.
Many of these types overlap and combine themselves with other behavioral problems. For instance, you may be a codependent,
alcoholic love addict. Or a love/relationship addict. The important thing is to identify your own personal profile so you
know what you are dealing with.
Robert was a love addict, relationship addict, romance addict and sex
addict. He was married but did not want to divorce his wife of twenty years even though he was not in love with her (relationship addiction) His hobby was masturbating to pornography when his wife
was not home (sex addiction).
He had affairs with several other women simultaneously without his wife
finding out. He really cared about each of these women (romance addict).
One day he met Jennifer and fell in love with her. It did not take long before he was obsessed with her. She did not want
to be with him because he was married, so he began stalking and harassing her (love addict).
Robert finally got into recovery, divorced his wife, gave up the pornography
and affairs and married the woman he was obsessed with. At first his jealousy was out of control, but after a few years of
therapy and 12-Step meetings he began to trust his new wife. Because she was mature, well-grounded and had high self esteem,
the relationship began to normalize. Today, all of Robert’s addictions are in remission.
Narcissists and Codependents: It is very
common for love addicts to end up in relationships with other love addicts. The most common kind of love-addicted couple is,
as you might have guessed, the codependent and the narcissist. In the beginning, narcissists are often seductive. After they
have hooked their codependent partners, however, they change. Here is an example of a narcissist/codependent relationship.
Nancy and James met at a bar and were instantly attracted to one another. Within days, Nancy (the codependent) had fallen madly in love with James (the
narcissist). From the beginning, she was helpful, nurturing, attentive and went out of her way to make him
James, on the other hand, appeared to be able to take or leave the
relationship after they made love. He canceled dates, neglected to return phone calls, saw other women, became very domineering
and for the most part seemed aloof and detached. Still, six months later, Nancy married James because she was in love with
him and secretly hoped that he would change.
After Nancy and James were married,
the pattern of neglect continued - especially his affairs with other women. When Nancy objected, James bullied her until she
stopped nagging him about it. This went on for years. Nancy tried to save her marriage by placating James in every way she
could think of, but he continued to do what he wanted.
Eventually, Nancy stopped loving James and thought about leaving
him, but she just couldn't bring herself to face the loneliness of being single again. This was better than nothing she thought.
So she continued her codependent behavior, always trying to keep James happy and comfortable even if it meant sacrificing
her own happiness in the process.
Eventually, Nancy sought counseling and within a year she felt strong
enough to leave James. He had other ideas. The first time Nancy brought up the subject of divorce he laughed at her. Then
he threatened her verbally.
The day she presented him with divorce papers, he beat her so badly
she had to go to the hospital. It seems that despite his lack of love and respect for Nancy, James was addicted to her and
the relationship they shared. He also felt that if he couldn't have her, nobody else could.
Eventually, Nancy got away from James even though he stalked her for months
- threatening to kill her if she didn't come back. Thankfully, he eventually let go. However, you only have to read the newspapers
to realize that such a lethal combination of codependency and narcissism can lead to homicide.
Switch-hitting: Many love addicts switch-hit because they have
more than one underlying personality disorder. For instance, a relationship addict may play the role of a codependent for
years, then finally get out of the relationship and fall in love with someone who is unavailable. Suddenly, our relationship
addict is an obsessed love addict or a torch bearer.
Even narcissists switch-hit - believe it or not. For years they
be in one relationship after another playing the role of the dominant, uncaring partner. However, if they ever fall hard,
they can easily turn into a torchbearer or obsessed love addict. If they fall in love with another narcissist then they have
no choice but to become the codependent love addict in the relationship because the narcissist will not stand for anything
else. Even ambivalent love addicts will start obsessing instead of running away when they are addicted.
Love addicts switch-hit because of separation anxiety. If another
form of behavior is necessary to placate a partner and to hold on the him or her, the love addict will adopt that behavior.
Is it an act?
Sometimes . . . but if the love addict has weak personality boundaries,
they may actually become the other person while under the spell of the addiction.. The point here is not to identify all the
kinds of switch-hitting going on, or to even explain it, but o point it out and learn from it.
Conclusion: The Importance of All This: If all this seems complicated it is. And, to be honest, the only reason
it is important is because it makes a difference when it comes to treatment. Codependent love addicts, for instance, need a boost in self-esteem and self-acceptance. They must learn to think better of themselves.
Narcissistic love addicts, on the other hand, use grandiosity
to bolster their low self-esteem and need to come down to earth. They need to learn some humility and how to become “unselfish.”
Ambivalent Love Addicts need to find a healthy relationship and stay engaged it even when their fear threatens to overwhelm them. Most of all, understanding as much as you can about love addiction will form the basis of your
Fourth Step Inventory in LAA or lay the groundwork for professional therapy.
The following letter was written to one of my readers in response to his letter of April 13, 2004.
He has given me permission to excerpt his letter so that others might benefit from my advice.
Thank you for sharing your story with me. I have excerpted some of your
thoughts and made the following comments. I hope they are helpful. (Your original words
are in bold.)
“I had the arousal of intense feelings . . .” Love addiction is triggered by intense
emotion which becomes projected on to the object of our desire.
we did not get our needs met as children, we are very vulnerable when these feelings come up. We have what Howard Halpern calls an “attachment
We are like starving men and women ready to devour love. In your particular case, since you spent
so much time during your adolescence suppressing your sexual feelings, you are vulnerable when you feel desire. In other words,
your personal history has pre-disposed you to being a love addict.
“Soon, I began thinking about him everyday . . .” Once the mood-altering
experience (desire, arousal, passion) comes up, the addiction moves forward.
In recovery you will learn to nip this in the bud at this stage so that “attraction” will not become “addiction.”
“We did everything together . . .” Contact with the object of our desire pushes the addiction
to the next level. It does not have to be sexual contact. You have had sex with this man many times - in your head - so you
are sexually involved. I have discovered from my own experience, and my work with other love addicts, that when our feelings
are sexual we are even more powerless than if the relationship were platonic.
stalked him, followed him, checked up on him, broken into his house searching for anything that could give me information
about him . . .” Addictive behavior is just our desperation being manifested. Even if we control the behavior, we cannot
control the feelings.
“He was in recovery for sexual addiction . . .”
Many people have analyzed the nature of attraction. My theory is we gravitate toward that which expresses openly what we suppress.
This man would certainly be attractive to you because of your history of trying to suppress your sexuality.
Your attraction to this person might fade when you become more like him.
This does not mean you should become a sex addict yourself. But certainly you must find a healthy sexual relationship if you
are to recover and “be yourself.”
Love addiction feeds on isolation and fantasy. One warning, however: One
of my clients is married and still very addicted to his high school sweetheart. This is because he does not engage in his
marriage. He just shows up like a robot. I suggest you look for a healthy, invigorating relationship to channel your human
need for sexual expression and companionship. This relationship will not be as exciting as the one you are engaged in now . .
. but more about that later.
“Every person that he has been with has caused a major pain in my
heart. I view his affairs as a rejection of myself . . .” This is what keeps us hooked. Love addicts will do ANYTHING
to avoid feeling rejected. We will hold onto our addictive love, way past its time, just hoping that the person we love will
come around and want us as much as we want him or her.
We are afraid that if we let go we will miss this reunion - a reunion for
which we live. I say “re” union because the object of our desire is really a manifestation of our lost selves.
We are split off from ourselves because of shame.
If we unite with the loved one, we symbolically reunite with our lost selves. We crave this so badly. As you
consciously and unconsciously integrate with yourself, your obsession to unite with this man may fade.
“I fear abandonment from him . . .” The operative word here is fear. The objects of our desire not only represent our lost selves, they represent the lost parent. Since all children fear abandonment, our “inner child” fears abandonment even after we become adults.
The problem with love addicts is that because we were actually abandoned
or neglected as children, we cannot process our fear. It takes on a life of its own. It becomes terror. It is life and death for us. When I was 3 years old, I had to go into
the hospital for 3 months. I was terrified. Something broke inside of me when my mother left me there everyday - alone with
my terror. Now, my fear of abandonment haunts me.
In 12-Step programs people process their fear by initiating a relationship with a Higher Power. I use imagery to help me. I imagine myself being held, comforted and taken care of. Sometimes I see myself in the arms of God, the Father. Sometimes I see myself “in the garden” with Jesus. Sometimes I am with Spirit who is more feminine
and nurturing. She is my “comforter” and “counselor.”
“II cannot go a week without hearing his
voice, although he lives several states away from me. I fantasize about him daily . . .” The mood-altering experience
of sexual feelings is prolonged by fantasies. You might say we get high off of the fantasies. They become our “drug
of choice.” We do not feel our anger, sadness, depression, confusion or loneliness when we get high. Curtailing the
fantasies is important - but an arduous task. You should begin by controlling your behavior and then look for ways to distract
yourself from fantasizing.
“I have fantasies of us being together one day in
happiness . . .” This particular fantasy begins in childhood. We are “stuck” in our childhood. We are unhappy,
frightened and lonely. Like people trapped in prison, we dream about happiness in the future. When we get out of prison we
don’t realize we have been released, so we keep feeding this fantasy about living happily ever-after “someday.”
To keep this fantasy alive, we gravitate toward “unavailable” people.
have the urgent longing in my heart and am afraid to let go, afraid to tell him my truth. It has been almost fifteen years
of hidden passion, hidden truth, hidden love. I have tried several times of slowly letting go, I do not make calls to him
anymore. He calls me at least twice a week. Some calls I will ignore. When the anxiety gets too great, I need to relieve the pressure and make contact. He is my addiction, my addict . . .” Yes! been there . . . done that. This
is an insidious disease. Please note, however, that there is no secret here. Believe me, he knows how you feel.
“He is in a relationship that has lasted five years, he has been
having an affair with another man for about a year. Neither of them know of each other . . .” This is what sex addicts
do. It does not sound like he is in recovery.
“He tells me what I want to hear but does not tell me more for fear of hurting me . . .” He does not withhold information to avoid hurting you. He does this to control you. He is addicted
to your affection. It bolsters his ego. It abates his fear of abandonment. He is a love addict too - just of another type. He will never let you go willingly. That is why he calls
you when you do not call him.
He is what Pia Mellody calls the “avoidance addict.” Her whole book, Facing Love Addiction,
is about the relationship between the love addict and the avoidance addict. I mention it briefly on page 129 of my book.
“Therefore, I have adverted to other forms of investigation to get to the truth of his affairs
. . .” This is typical love addict behavior. We rarely suffer without trying to relieve our pain which is abated momentarily
by contact of any kind (fantasies, phone calls, spying, drive-bys, letters, emotions -
anything). WITHDRAWAL for the love addict is loss of contact. Just like the heroin addict in the later stages,
we need a constant “fix” to avoid withdrawal.
“I know I need to stop . . .” You are powerless over your feelings, but you are not powerless over your behavior. If you align yourself
with God and join a support group you will get better.
“It's like having a wound that will not heal and every time I investigate
I cut my wound deeper . . .” I'm a “cutter” in recovery.
There's a lot on the internet about cutting. If you substitute “emotional self-mutilation” for the word “cutting” you may be able to understand what you're doing to yourself. There's also a good book about the borderline personality disorder that discusses this.
It's I Hate You Don’t Leave Me by Jerold Kreisman. I
cut myself to transfer my emotional heartache to physical pain. I call this: “Nail me the cross, but don’t hurt my feelings.”
“I'm emotionally weak . . .” The emotional development of most
love addicts was interrupted at some point in their lives due to stress and trauma. Once we get into recovery we must re-activate the maturation process. We must grow up. This is a painful process that take years. It's our only hope. I wasn't able to do this on my own or with therapy alone.
I've found the 12-Steps of recovery very helpful with regard to this “growing up” process. See this as your metamorphoses. Break free from the cocoon of love addiction and become your real self.
“I'm afraid of dying . . .” For love addicts, love is LIFE and DEATH. All infants are intuitively aware that they'll die without care. As we get older we substitute the word “love” for “care” and we feel we'll die without it.
“I'm afraid of being alone . . .” The fear of loneliness is right up there with the fear of abandonment. Adults, who got consistent love and attention while they were growing up, can process their fear of being alone. Love addicts can't. So we hold on to whatever we can get our hands on (sometimes
we take people hostage) no matter how toxic it might be.
afraid of going insane . . .” If the addiction isn't aborted, you may very well go insane.
Fortunately, for me, I “came to believe” that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. (Step 2 in a 12-Step program)
“I'm single and can't have a relationship with anyone,
for no one measures up to my addict . . .” Love addicts are often addicted to drama and excitement. We don’t want love, we want to get high. Romantic love sends certain chemicals flowing through our bloodstream that are very similar to anti-depressants.
Love abates our depression. I can understand that a healthier kind of love would be less enticing, but you're an addict
and your addiction is killing you. If you end contact with this man (he'll not make it easy) and go through withdrawal, then try and accept the fact that “real” love will always be less exciting than addiction.
Intense desire - which abates your depression - has turned on you. The cure is worse than the disease. Find another way to treat your depression or live with it. I do both.
often ask me “When does desire turn into addiction?” It's at the moment you let your mind believe that only one particular person can satisfy your needs. This is an erroneous idea fed to you by your “disease.” As you have come to realize, when you allowed yourself
to become fixated on this one man who “has to love you or you'll die,” you became a full-blown love addict. I encourage you to reverse this process.
First, remind yourself as often as you can that there's never
just one person in the world to love.
There's ALWAYS someone new to love if we're open to this. Keep telling yourself this until the day comes when you really understand and believe it. Your obsession will not make this easy. The addicted mind wants to stay addicted. It's the heart that aches to be free.
Once your fixation on one particular person is broken, begin telling yourself the
truth about other things; i.e., if you've been “broken” by your childhood or your addiction,
no other person can fix you. We all fix ourselves with the help of a Higher Power.
Of course, there are other “truths” and you'll find them on the road to recovery. Books will reveal the truth to you. Experienced and wise people will reveal the truth to you.
On my website, http://www.brightertomorrow.net, there's a copy of my new
book, The Art of Changing. Read it & get back to me with any questions you have about your own personal recovery. I'll keep you in my prayers Tom.
on a personal note.....
I feel it incredibly important to share with readers of this
article, that perhaps what society considers to be an "addiction" for love is truly a sign
of the epidemic of "emotionally dysfunctional parenting" that plays out loudly within the realm of one of the largest generations
in history - the baby boomers.
Too close are my memories of 30+ years ago, when I was a child,
wondering why my parents were so sad, so distant, so unloving towards me. Then as a teenager, being so distraught as to act
out - in a continual stream of seriously dysfunctional behaviors - becoming alcohol addicted - becoming love addicted - needing
my parents' approval, their touch, their love, needing to know without doubt that my parents loved me.
It was horrible. I have to say that the only reason I tried cutting was because I was "too
chicken" to commit suicide. I tried to get their attention, but alas, they were all too consumed with their own personal dysfunctions,
physical illnesses, mental illness & being ill prepared to be parents. They were expected to fulfill their parents' expectations
though. They did what they knew how to do. I didn't know that back then. I put the knife to my wrists, pressing carefully
instead of with wild abandon. I was afraid to die. I was afraid I wasn't wanted by my parents. I was afraid I would never
be loved by anyone else if my parents couldn't love me.
The love addiction I experienced after throwing away probably the only true love I had ever
known. I broke up with my boyfriend of three years to go out with a friend of his. It was a haphazardly stupid decision. I
wanted love, I got nothing in return from this new boyfriend. But you see, it was self punishment for beginning to believe
that this is what I deserved, pain, suffering or a comparably dysfunctional relationship (to my parents' relationship, of
The addiction was more like the "expectation of pleasure" while sabotaging any possible chance
for my expectations to be fulfilled. Setting myself up for failure is what was happening in reality, while in my poor, sick,
lost mind & heart... I was hoping that this next time would prove feelings of true love, a sense of security, a genuine
touch, or a simple blissful kiss. It never happened. I played it over and over years later wondering why I had done that to
I had cast away my true love, my only friend, my only hope of unconditional love to receive
pain, hurt and suffering.