Let me put it into plainer terms– I came to understand that my love addiction was my protection. It was in place all those years for a reason. It kept me safe. It kept me out of danger. If I was expending my energy on someone else’s issues, or getting someone else to love me, I didn’t have to confront the disaster that was ME.
When I think back, before my LA tendencies popped out, I was a very insecure, raw, nervous, awkward child. I felt very cumbersome in my body and had horrible stomach problems all the time. My stomach problems were so bad sometimes that I would lose friends over this. If my parents were not home to take care of me and work me through the pain, I would call friends and desperately beg them to come over to be with me. When this wouldn’t work (who the heck at age 16 wants to come over and take care of a crazed friend?), I would scream at them and say things I would later regret.
I suppose to avoid this ugly behavior, and this feeling of loss of control and self-hate, I learned to deal with it in what I thought was a more acceptable way: I dated (and ultimately married) men who didn’t care for me– men who, first and foremost made me feel the way my father made me feel–insecure, neglected, ashamed–and who took away the inconvenience of dealing with the hot mess that I used to be. Being in love, falling in love, longing for a man–these things all made me feel NORMAL and good and happy. Bouts of crying over the loss of some guy was far easier for me to handle than sitting with the emptiness of me. Sitting with the emptiness of me was horrifying. It was fraught with sickness, stomach problems, awkwardness and massive feelings of insecurity.
So, what’s the point in me telling you this? It’s this: when you recover, when you take away your security blanket that has protected you all these years, watch out. You need to do it slowly, carefully and consciously and you need to know that there will be many moments of feeling raw, naked and exposed. Oh yes, and this: you won’t be entirely successful.
Now that I am where I am, I am back to facing myself and sometimes it ain’t pretty. I no longer have the emotional highs and lows and the drama of love addiction to hide behind. My stomach problems have returned. The awkward gawky child in me is back and she’s shaking her fist at me telling me to hide her away again–she doesn’t want to be out in the world. She doesn’t want to grow up.
On Thursday, I went on antibiotics for stomach issues of some sort. The antibiotics threw me into a deep depression and ended up hurting my stomach even worse. As I lay with the pain, I tried to face it, but at times it was unbearable. Then, I thought a very strange thought: I never had stomach problems during the years I was with Avoidants. And why would I? I was too preoccupied with flagging them down and trying to get them to change their bad boy ways. I was also mired down in the fantasy of wanting a better life for myself, fantasizing about unrealistic things. The more I thought about this, the more I realized the importance and value of fantasy and love addiction. It’s not entirely bad. We all need SOMETHING to protect ourselves, otherwise the world will eat us up. Unfortunately for most of us, we take it too far and love ends up being a rather faulty defense mechanism that hurts us more than protects us. But I went the opposite extreme. I was trying to remove every single solitary one of my defenses and be this perfect, flawless individual. I even gave up fantasy almost completely. Who needed fantasy when reality was so perfect? Bah.
Reality is never perfect.
With that, I moved to the side of my bed and picked up my iPod and placed the earbuds in my ears. I flipped through the menu, back, back, way back to the 2005 Playlist and summoned Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams.” I hit play. In an instant I began to sob. This was a song I have not wanted nor needed to play in almost six years because it was the song I used to play repetitively that allowed me to dream and cry of G. To long for him.
G was a singer and a drummer and many years ago when I would go on gigs with him he’d sing that song to me. When he was gone, or almost gone, I conjured up that song as a means of soothing myself–and it worked.
I suppose this is what some, in recovery, might call a slip. I did, after all, betray D ever so slightly by going back and revisiting a long dead emotion: longing. I haven’t longed for someone in years. And while that is ultimately a good thing, it’s not without recognition that longing is still part of the spectrum of human emotion and not an entirely bad thing.
Does this mean I’m all into G again and have feelings for him? Absolutely not. It’s not the person I summoned yesterday, it’s the emotion, the drama, the feeling that used to transport me. In that sense, I didn’t slip. If anything, I realize even more that it was always the emotion I was going for more than any man that helped me to feel it.
As for D, I love him more than ever and I am grateful for him daily. I wouldn’t trade him for the world. But he does not inspire in me the more unstable, irrational emotions that I had become so accustomed to–that I grew up with. Instead, he inspires new emotions, new feelings of love, security, trust, friendship and passion. Those are all good, wonderful emotions, but from time to time, I now realize that it’s important–it’s imperative to the essence of who I am–to go back and experience the ugly from time to time. It’s like the story of Pygmalion– Eliza Doolittle is pulled from the gutters of poverty and transformed into a Lady. With the help of the Professor, she is able to pass herself off as a Duchess. And yet, the poor cockney flower girl is still inside her. You can take the girl outta Brooklyn but you can’t take Brooklyn outta the girl.
So, remember that on your way out of love addiction. You will need some sort of net to protect you and you might not be able to totally exchange who are for someone new. And why would you want to? At least that’s what I am trying to tell myself today.