*Warning: salty language ahead!
“I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullsh*t.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
Haley Joel Osment once famously whispered, with the blanket pressed up to his chin, quivering lip and fear in his eyes, “I see dead people.”
“The Sixth Sense” was released over a decade ago, but it was just one of those cinematic moments that cling to the recesses of your mind, and naturally, as we humans do, we relate things to our little lives. I had a Haley Joel Osment moment recently, but I whispered, “I see love addicts and codependency.”
When you spend a great deal of time researching a particular subject, much like medical students, you start to convince yourself that it’s everywhere—and in the case of the students, that you are one hundred percent sure you are dying.
When I made the decision to go through the recovery program for love addiction, I knew I could no longer ignore the truth; I couldn’t date it away, I couldn’t fuck it away, I couldn’t deny it away, I could not drama it away, and in four months, I learnt more about myself than I ever had, and it was fucking raw.
There were no pretty bubble baths with Enya playing in the background or eating tubs of ice cream while watching rom-coms; it was sobbing myself to sleep for too many nights to count and walking through situations in a hazy blur—half in the past, half in the present, and too intimidated to even contemplate the future.
I then promptly relapsed twice with two new failed relationships and another two years under my belt as a colossal fuck-up, proving Einstein’s definition of insanity but with a lot more self-berating because I was no longer denying my truth—which is often harder than being blissfully ignorant. I’m okay (just fucking okay) with that, and as they often say, “Relapse is a part of recovery.”
As I brought in the new year, sober, sitting on a beach with hilariously drunk humans, watching a still ocean, I had that gut feeling, that little voice inside whispering, “Please don’t do that to yourself anymore.” That was the sum of my new year resolution.
No massive declarations of eating right, exercising, and going after my goals the way I am constantly being told I should “dream big!” It was a quiet, serene “I am not going to make conscious choices that fuck me up anymore.” If I know it goes against my core values, if I know it crosses my boundaries, it’s not happening—it’s that simple and that complicated.
I’ve been single for almost five months now, longer than I have ever been single for (*happy fucking dancing*), and a funny, enlightening thing happens to you when you choose to not participate in the dating game—you begin to see the dysfunction that plagues our society with a clarity that starts to scare you.
I’ve watched as friends relationship-hop (with no judgement, just recognition), I’ve watched friends cheat on their partners because they are just so desperately unhappy with who they are with, and I have watched friends cling to each other, knowing wholeheartedly that they are just not right for each other—a palpable feeling in the air of the fear of being alone. I’ve watched with a mixture of empathy and sadness. Sadness for them as well as sadness for how many years I have wasted on doing the same stupid shit.
Yes, being single sometimes fucking sucks, and sometimes the loneliness can feel unbearable, but being single brings peace; it brings selfish pleasures, it brings emotional and spiritual well-being, and it brings time. I’ve had more time during these last five months to do the things I have often put off because I’ve been losing myself in someone else (for much longer than I care to remember).
And while I understand that we are social creatures who thrive on human connection and intimacy, I’ve embraced my hermit status for now, found comfort in it, and built on other relationships in my life that fell to the wayside in my frantic search for “the one.”
I can honestly report to those who feel that they would wither and die while being alone, you’d be surprised at how much you can connect with yourself and actually enjoy it. You’ll also find how your tolerance for bullshit takes a nosedive, and it’s a fucking deliciously freeing feeling.
I no longer expend energy on making excuses for myself and others; if someone shows me who they are, I believe them.
So, to end this little ramble about things we all should know by now but have an uncanny ability to deny, here’s a list of some typical signs of love addiction—might be worthwhile to do a little yes/no count:
1. Mistaking intense sexual experiences and new romantic excitement for love.
2. Constantly craving and searching for a new romantic relationship.
3. When in a relationship, being desperate to please and fearful of the other’s unhappiness.
4. When not in a relationship, feeling desperate and alone.
5. Inability or unwillingness to maintain an intimate relationship once the honeymoon phase is over.
6. When not in a relationship, compulsively using sex and fantasy to fill the loneliness.
7. Choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable and/or verbally or physically abusive.
8. Participating in activities that don’t interest you or go against your personal values in order to please or keep a partner.
9. Giving up on important interests, beliefs, or friendships to maximize time in the relationship or to please a partner.
10. Using sex, seduction, or manipulation to hold onto a partner.
11. Using sex or romantic intensity to tolerate difficult experiences or emotions.
12. Finding it difficult or impossible to leave unhealthy or abusive relationships or repeatedly returning to previously painful relationships.
I do need to say that most of our romantic relationships may exhibit some of the above signs, at least occasionally, but with love addiction there is a consistent pattern of one or more (usually more) of the signs—a barrage of shitshow behaviour.
My wish for everyone this year (including this little recovering love addict) is more self-awareness in our romantic relationships so that we can put a stop to the dysfunction, and maybe, just maybe, doing our part in repairing the damage these kinds of relationships cause the heart.