like stepping on a live wire

I don’t talk about this as much on here, but it’s definitely time (and maybe overdue). I have another disease besides alcoholism, and it’s called love addiction. Sometimes this is paired with discussion of sex addiction. Sex played a small part in my own experience and I exercise sexually responsible behaviors now. But love addiction has been the core of the problem for me. I’ve been in recovery now since June 2012, and I’ve made some serious progress. But I still have moments where it sneaks up on me unawares and then hits my veins like opiates or speed.

I’ve been having one of those weeks and I’m still shaking in its wake. Love addiction. It can be a lot of things depending on the person, but for me it composes a few key elements. Fantasy, projecting my image of the perfect man, desperation for attention, picking the same man over and over (usually someone that looks or acts like my father… disturbing yet true), getting involved with someone I don’t actually like, getting involved in the same situation over and over, flirting, and obsessive thoughts about an object of my “affection” (or someone I’m trying to hook). To name a few.

It starts off all innocent. I see someone and out of nowhere, WHAM

and I’m like…

add a little stardust, a little twinkle twinkle, a small dose of attention and…

I can’t forget about you. You’re on my mind all the time. Even if you just said “hi” to me at the coffee shop. And EVEN IF YOU ARE DANGEROUS.

Offer me attention and I will be your bitch. I will do anything for you. I will lay down and let you run me over with a Mach truck if you want.  This continues to work far into the relationship… through flirting, dating, and marriage. AS LONG AS YOU DON’T EVER LEAVE ME ALONE.

And if you DO happen to leave me alone, watch out for my soul-sucking, needy wrath.

And if I do find you and you back. away. slowly… as would be warranted… a meltdown ensues.

and then I drag you back and MAKE you stay. Or you run in the other direction and I am left wondering what could have been. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Yeah. It’s pretty ugly.

Thankfully, I can usually catch it in the starting stages. I’m not all trapped in the nasty cycle anymore of doing that over, and over, and over again. Ad nauseam. At least, I’m not trapped in that cycle TODAY. Like my other program, all we have is a daily reprieve. I can’t guarantee I won’t relapse sometime. I have to keep doing the work, going to meetings, staying connected.

But from time to time, I do get stuck in stages 1-2. Fantasy and sparkle and obsession. The part where they’re like a drug to me and in my head, we’re getting married. There’s a reason why Edward and Bella are such a good demonstration of this whole thing.

I had an “occurence” this week. Probably the worst one I’ve had since I got sober, actually. At least it was the worst one in several months. I felt like I was stepping on a live wire, or taking a hit of heroine. Someone followed a pattern that has historically worked on me. This person was of a certain height, had certain features, met me at a certain place that is historically dangerous, mentioned things that insinuated problem behaviors, and paid me a lot of attention. Some people would say I’m not giving it a chance. Some people might think I’m being oversensitive. I’ve heard from some people that he’s a good guy. And if you’re one of those people, I get it, I really do. Honestly he really may be a great guy. But this isn’t about him, it’s about me. I know a hit when I feel one. And this was definitely a hit. I can write about the subject like I am now – carefully – but if I allow any hint of fantasy I’m high for a couple hours. Complete with racing pulse.

I’m writing this because I know a lot of you don’t know about love addiction. I want to give you a glimpse into what it’s like. On a “good” week, I can get through with only traces of fantasizing about someone. In my love addiction recovery work, I set bottom lines and then don’t cross those lines, and that is what defines my sobriety. My lines are different now than in the beginning, but right now one of my lines is not to go against my dating plan (I’ll write a post on that one later). And generally not to get involved with someone that triggers old patterns for me. I also try to abstain from conscious fantasizing. So on a good week, I’ll have some unconscious fantasizing come up, and I can reign that sucker in without getting trapped. On a week like this one, I consistently hit my knees in acknowledgment of my powerlessness. I’m helpless in the vortex of that tractor beam, unless my Higher Power comes through for me. Which he (she/it) usually does, IF I can ask.

Better believe I’m asking in all directions right now.

If you think you might have sex or love addiction, there are resources online through SLAA, SA, and other sex and love concerned fellowships. Other materials that were helpful for me were the books Facing Love Addiction (Pia Melody), Is it Love or is it Addiction? by Barbara Schaeffer, and How to Be an Adult in Relationships by David Richo.

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9 Replies to “like stepping on a live wire”

  1. Very powerful stuff here, Laurie. And you know what, I get it. I really do. When I did my 5th step – where I shared my 4th step inventory of resentments, fear, harms and sex harms with my sponsor – he mentioned something that I found curious. He is in AA, but also in several other fellowships. including SLAA. And he mentioned that I probably qualified for SLAA. He then explained a bit about it, and also mentioned that I would be surprised to see how many AAs were there in SLAA. He too mentioned bottom lines and what his were.

    Now things were a little bit different in my case. I didn’t get into that latter phase of yours. I was also married, so it manifested differently. But I can tell you that (before and after marriage) if a woman even said “hi” to me (someone not familiar to me), then I too was already on a high – in my head I was taking it to a totally different plane. When I was single and this happened, I certainly dated them and then when the sparkle disappeared, I treated them very poorly. I was always looking for that next “high”, disregarding the feelings of the person I was with at the time. My self-esteem was so low that any sort of interest was magnified a thousand fold.

    When I got sober, all this kind of behaviour and fantsizing disappeared. I wrote a new sex (relationship) ideal. I ask all the guys who get past the 5th step do to one. What is the ideal for them, I ask? What kind of person do they see themselves as a lover, partner, husband? What things do they see themselves being? Kind, considerate, respectful, etc. How do they see themselves when with other women (not their partners).

    anyway, thank you for bravely sharing this, Laurie. I really appreciate it and it makes me think about these things and just how powerful this addiction can be too. It’s not about sex, but the chemicals that give us that hit. Sex is a part of it yes, but more importantly, the thoughts around it and the other person.

    Wonderful post.

    Blessings,
    Paul

    1. Paul, thank you for sharing your experience! I agree with your sponsor that there is a LOT of crossover between AAs and SLAAs. I’ve seen that pretty commonly in my short time of sobriety. Personally I had to start them both almost at the same time, because if I don’t stay sober in one, I almost definitely will not stay sober with the other. Drinking for me was also another easier way to get someone’s attention and to coax someone into the company I craved.
      I’m so excited to hear that your struggles with this decreased after getting sober! I’ve always kind of wondered why this stuff isn’t more integrated into substance recovery, both considering the overlap and considering the recovery material that talks about it. So I’m glad to hear it’s working for someone, and really glad to hear that you pass it on.
      Definitely is not about sex, or love… and I suppose that could be applied to food and money, too. It’s the chemical reaction in my brain, and the way I think. Just like in my alcohol recovery, it’s not the alcohol that’s the problem… it’s my way of thinking.
      So glad you got a lot out of this. Peace to you.

  2. Woah– I have to be honest and say that I have not heard of this. I have nothing constructive to add other than a “thank you” for some insight into how your mind works and the struggles you deal with on a daily basis. I hope this is a better week for you!

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Aussa! I’m glad it was informative to you. It’s not a well-known issue, but it is fairly widespread. So I’m glad to spread the word. 🙂
      This week has been easier so far… two days in. Most weeks are generally okay this far into recovery. Last week was just a really great example of what it can look like, so I wanted to share.
      Have a great week! 🙂

  3. Great post.

    I don’t talk about it as it really is no issue for me but in my cross addiction questionnaire assessment that they gave me at Rehab this was the third of my addictions. Alcohol was number 1 by a huge way, food was next then love and sex – which I took exception to a bit. It took me a long time to realise that actually they were right I do the fantasy, the flirting the dreaming etc. It has very very rarely gone anywhere further than that – but it fills my headspace to change how I feel.

    Like you I set a line – I stay this side of the line (most days) and I’m ok with it it. Luckily for me it wasn’t too big a bad deal…

    One thing that still hurts is the rejection bit – if I do feel something for someone, even if I’m this side of that line steadfastly and all it good in my head if they then don’t seem to reciprocate as I expect (want… need?) then I get the right hump about it. And that can be a bad space for me to be.

    Terrific post – very brave of you to share and thanks

    1. I’m glad you mentioned your cross addiction questionairre. I have one of those somewhere that I did before I got into recovery, and I need to dig it up and look at it again.
      Fantasy is probably the starting game for sex and love addiction. At least personally I find it to be the precursor to everything else. Sometimes even just the fantasy could occupy me for hours at a time and distract me from things that I needed to do. It’s lucky that yours didn’t go any further than that!
      I feel you on the rejection piece. I work on that on a weekly basis. I try not to make up stories in my head about people, but instead tell myself that I am responsible for my own needs and if they can’t fulfill them, I need to find another avenue. It’s hard though and I don’t always succeed. I get exactly what you mean when you say it’s a bad space to be… agreed.
      Thank you for reading! Good to see you here, and so appreciate your insight.

  4. This is a fascinating post and gives me a lot to think about. I only thought there was sex addiction, and that never quite fit. I can relate to a lot in here. Thanks for your honesty and for the eye opener.

    1. Thank you for stopping by! Yes – love addiction is not very widely spoken of. But at least in my personal experience it is very, very real. The difference between sobriety and living in it today seems really stark to me.
      Glad it was helpful for you 🙂

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