I would like to address the topic of “venting” as it came up in another thread, and I would like to talk about how it’s more detrimental than we think. That it is not part of recovery or the healing process, but rather it is a continuation of the addiction.
I have been in recovery since February 2008, and I can assure you that whenever someone is called out on the Boards for “venting” they become defensive and usually leave. Why? Because you are telling them to stop an addictive behavior they do not/cannot stop. This tends to feel shameful. So, instead of changing the behavior and recognizing that it is a toxic behavior and not who we inherently are, we feel the need to defend ourselves and rationalize the venting as “necessary.”
Well, it’s not necessary. Believe me.
A perfect example of this is in my own life. When I was high on the PoA, all I wanted to do when I was not with him, was talk about him to others. But in my talking, I wasn’t saying what a great guy he was. I was “venting” to others how wronged I was, how much he hurt me, how much I knew I needed to get out of the relationship, and ultimately, how I went back and fell madly in love again. I vented to my friends over and over and over until the inevitable happened. I burned a lot of bridges and lost some friends. People didn’t want to hear me complain anymore. If I wanted to get out of the relationship so badly, why didn’t I? Eventually, instead of stopping the venting, I started hanging around others who were also in miserable relationships. They could vent and I could vent together. Misery does, after all, love company.
Looking back, this process of venting was not part of the solution. It was not healing or cathartic, it didn’t help propel me forward. It was toxic. It was part of the addiction. When I was not with my PoA, I would summon him any way I could by thinking and talking about him. It was the flip side of the SAME coin! And when someone who cared a lot about me (my mother) would tell me to stop venting, I would get angry and defensive and eventually, I wouldn’t want to be near her. “She didn’t understand!” I thought. “She just wants me to shut up!” I thought (which was partially right. Who wants to be close to someone who’s miserable and negative and toxic all day long?).
But I was the one who didn’t understand. The more I obsessed over my situation without doing anything about it, the more the act of “venting” and the PoA controlled my life.
It was only when I realized this that I started to change. That the solution to my addiction was not only “NC” (no contact), but it was changing the very way I THOUGHT and communicated about the things in my life.
To a love addict, our drug of choice is not only our PoA (person of addiction) but our obsessed thoughts and fantasies of our PoA. So, each time we analyze our relationship via the PoA or act out, or “vent” about how we can’t stop loving the PoA, or how he or she wronged us, we are taking a hit of the drug.
When we enmesh others in that fantasy and that drama, we are validating our PoAs, we are validating our pain, we are securing “partners in crime,” so to speak, and we are taking another hit of the drug.
Recovery is not venting. Venting is not part of the recovery process. Analyzing your OWN behavior is. Analyzing his behavior or the impossibility of the situation is NOT. Recovery is recognizing that no amount of “talk” about the PoA will do any bit of good. That only repeated ACTION toward a solution is worth anything in the fight against addiction.
But letting go of venting is EXTREMELY difficult. We are just as addicted to our venting as our PoAs. The way we think, however, and the way we communicate and what we talk about all day is WHO WE ARE. So to just stop venting is hard to do. You need to replace your negative, PoA-driven thoughts with other thoughts. Little by little.
I always post this experiment you can do with yourself to see how deep you are into the venting. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Sit in a quiet room all alone. Close your eyes. Try not to think of your PoA or anything about him (or, for that matter, love or another lover, or relationships past, present or future). What other thoughts can you think? What else have you got on your mind? When I did this experiment, I was shocked and saddened. I had literally NOTHING to think about besides my PoA. No wonder no one ever wanted to talk to me. I ONLY talked about the PoA, nothing else. I knew nothing about art, music, politics, what was going on in the news. Nothing. That’s how obsessed I was.
That experiment was a huge wake up call for me. I didn’t want to be like that. So, I took action to fill my head with other stuff. I started writing again, I started to learn more about politics, I took classes, I got more involved (and thus, more present) at work and with my kids. And you know what, I trained my brain to stop depending on the habit of venting.
Venting is a crutch. It keeps you anchored to your addiction. When you are really ready to recover, the venting has to go. It’s not productive. And the ONLY way you can truly see this is once you’ve given it up and moved on. You can look back with 20/20 vision.
Here is also an old blog on “Obsession” which sheds some light into what I was going through four years ago regarding the thoughts in my head and how I communicated. Hope it helps!
Also, here’s a video blog on “obsessing” which, if you changed the wording around to “venting” may also be helpful.