Love Addiction: Digging Up The Roots

Posted by on 03 11 15 in Sexual Addiction | Comments Off on Love Addiction: Digging Up The Roots

My journey toward recovery from love addiction has been far more complicated than my journey toward recovery from my addictions to alcohol, substances and sex.

As I’ve progressively peeled back layer upon layer of addictive behaviors, behavior patterns and self-destructive activities that I wrestled with for decades, I slowly came to believe that this notion of love addiction was at the core of it all. It’s the kernel, the seed, the root cause of which all of my other issues are symptoms.

When I came to that realization, it was like a giant weight was lifted from my shoulders. I finally felt as if I was headed in the right direction: I had a fighting chance at living a fulfilling, happy life.

Early Chronic Trauma – A Root Of My Love Addiction

Glad You Started Today - Love Addiction Treatment

Without going into specifics that could be triggering to people in recovery from love addiction, I’d like to share that the root of my love addiction—and hence the root of all the addictions that are symptomatic of this love addiction—is a childhood trauma that, more or less, froze a particular aspect of my emotional and psychological growth at around the age of 5.

I experienced what’s known as “chronic trauma,” i.e. adverse experiences that lasted over several years. For me, the bulk of the experiences happened between the ages of 6 and 9, with additional events occurring around age 13.

Sex, Alcohol, Substances And Love

The upshot of this is that my addiction developed in reaction to these events in order to make me feel safe and to create the emotional protection I needed, which I wasn’t getting from the people who, in a perfect world, would otherwise have given me safety and protection. To find safety and to soothe myself, I sought alcohol, substances, sex and ultimately love.

Sex Addiction Breaking Up Family And Loved Ones

Identifying the self-destructive and harmful elements of alcohol and substances was easy, for reasons upon which I probably don’t need to elaborate. Identifying the self-destructive elements of sex was not quite as easy; I thought I was just a really active guy with an unusually powerful drive. That is, until I destroyed my marriage, broke up my family and hurt people I love with actions related to my sexual addiction.

My Love Addiction: Drawing Bottom Lines

As I sat in my first love and sexual addiction recovery meeting, I realized that sex wasn’t the root of my issues: the root of my issues was my internal emotional need for love and protection. And in the pursuit of that love and protection, the addict inside of me had gone about pursuing relationships that were ultimately self-destructive.

When I found a relationship that was potentially healthy, the addict inside of me went about sabotaging that relationship. The best thing about that first meeting was that I was exposed to a tool that I could immediately put to use: establishing bottom line behaviors.

In terms of love addiction, what this meant for me was creating a list of lines in the sand that, if crossed, would compromise my sobriety. Creating these bottom lines was tricky: they weren’t things as simple as “don’t get high” or “don’t drink” or “don’t have sex on the first date”—they were much more internal.

Nevertheless, I did some serious soul searching, and with the help of recovery materials I took home from that first meeting, I made the following list:

Personal Bottom Lines For Love Addiction Recovery

  • No more dating sites: The search for a perfect partner consumed too much of my time. What I was really doing was self-soothing, looking for someone to make my pain go away.
  • No more social media chatting: As with dating websites, what I was really doing was self-soothing when I should have been looking inside and learning to love myself.
  • No more flirting: While this may seem extreme to some, for me it was essential. I was at a point where I could not discern the motives behind my flirtatiousness, and because of this, I simply had to stop until I could untangle the drives behind it.
  • No pursuing married women: This was a habit for me that would always end poorly. It had to stop, and it did.
  • No more unrealistic expectations: Up to this point, my pattern was to put far too much emotional weight on any relationship I entered—too much weight, too many needs and too many demands.

Taking Responsibility For My Happiness

As I set my bottom lines, I saw a pattern emerge: the landscape of my love addiction revealed that what I was doing, what I had been doing all along—through my teenage years, through my 20s, 30s and all the way to my early 40s when I finally found a love and sexual addiction recovery group—was looking outside of myself for things that, in a perfect world, would have been instilled in me from a young age.

The love, safety and protection I needed were now my responsibility and mine alone: as a grown adult, I realized, I had to take care of all of those needs myself. No one else could do it, nor should they.

As a love addict, I can love and be loved in return, but the baseline, the bottom line, is this: my happiness is my own, and as a recovering addict, it’s my job to work at it every day with diligence, compassion, understanding and, of course, with hard-earned self-love.