When we talk about addictions, we usually think about drugs, alcohol, and other bad habits. But there are other addictions that are equally harmful and yet are not openly discussed.
Maybe it’s because they are less glorious and more embarrassing.
These are the addictions of our broken records.
During my mid-30s I was in love with someone. I kept thinking of him, longing for him, dreaming and fantasizing about him. Every time I left my house, I was hoping to bump into him. He was all I could think of.
I was sure he loved me back but was not willing to admit it. I felt that something was blocking him from connecting with his true emotions. I was certain he just needed a little time to realize that I was the woman of his dreams.
After a few years of anticipation and continued disappointment, I had to face reality. The fact was that this man only showed me friendly affection. He never asked me out. He never did anything to try to deepen the connection between us.
And yet, my mind kept wondering about him.
I was convinced that I was in love. I thought that if my heart gravitated toward this man, I had to follow it. I told myself that by loving this man, I was listening to my intuition.
My lifestyle at that time was already balanced and healthy. I practiced daily meditation and yoga. I ate healthily, slept well, and avoided recreational drugs and alcohol.
At a certain point, I started feeling pathetic about thinking about this man. An internal war started within me. I would think of him and then would feel stupid and get upset at myself. I asked myself to be kind and compassionate to myself, to allow myself time to let go.
Thinking of him felt like a heroine shot, not that I ever tried. It was doing something I knew was harmful, and I had no choice but to do it, because I was totally addicted to it.
Being gentle with myself did not work. It kept me stuck in the loop. I had to become more vigorous about it.
I thought that maybe if I started finding reasons to hate him, I could get over it. But it did not work either because hating him was not my truth.
Down the rabbit hole of my psychology, I started asking myself if it was really love or an unhealthy addiction?
When trying to address this question, I could see that there was something in me that chose to love this man because it was my comfort zone.
Since I did not feel loved in my childhood, feeling unloved had made me feel like home.
When I entered relationships with people who presented deep and honest love to me, I would run away from them as fast as I could. Having a love affair in my fantasy world was easier than dealing with reality.
I also realized that by loving someone who did not show me love, I was holding on to the part of me that did not love me.
In the book Love Your Enemies, Buddhist psychologists, Robert Thurman and Sharon Salzberg, talk about four enemies. The fourth enemy, which they call the super-secret enemy, is self-loathing. It’s the voice inside of us that tells us that we do not deserve to be loved and happy.
As I was reaching 40, I decided that I had to take some risks to live the life I truly wanted to live. I left everything, took a leap of faith, and booked a flight to the United States to start a new life.
Inside of me, I knew that moving to a new place could not change my psychology. If I wanted to live a happy life, I needed to work with my super-secret enemy. I needed to believe that love was a real option for me. I had to come out of my fantasy world into real life and trust that reality could be even better than my unfulfilled dreams.
I decided to get clean. When I found myself thinking about this man, I closed my eyes, put my hands on my heart, and observed the feelings in my body. I did not feel butterflies in my belly. I did not feel my heart racing. What I felt was pain. The pain of being unloved. The pain I was addicted to.
It was not love. It was a broken record that kept spinning inside my mind. The more I connected with this realization, the easier it was to let it go.
Every time the record was playing in my head, I gently and compassionately reminded myself that it was not love—it was an addiction. I reminded myself that I did not want to stay stuck in this place. That by staying stuck in that place I was avoiding the gifts that life had to offer me.
It took a few years to really let it go. It was a long and gradual process.