Category: Love Addiction

The Toxic Cycle of Love Addiction

The new year is here and your list of goals are set for 2012. Do you find yourself thinking that this is the year you will finally be able to have a fulfilling intimate relationship? However, based on past experience, you wonder if that is even possible.

Many people long to have an intimate connection, yet because of events and wounds in their childhood, they find this a very difficult and oftentimes scary task. Perhaps they had some sort of abandonment in their past, such as parents involved in a nasty divorce, or neglect of some kind, so they keep picking people who are unavailable. Some may have been abused either physically, emotionally or verbally, and consequently have difficulty trusting and pick untrustworthy people. Or they felt unwanted as children and therefore have a rejection theme and no matter what, end up feeling rejected by their unavailable partners.

The events they experienced in childhood have created patterns and habits of negative thoughts, feelings and even behaviors, which in turn become self-fulfilling prophecies.

One extreme outcome that can occur from abandonment or neglect in childhood is love addiction. Love addiction is an addiction to a fantasy about love or about a person. There is actually a powerful chemical released in the brain which promotes passionate love, phenylethylalanine. This is the same chemical that makes chocolate so addictive. It is said that it is the chemical spike of phenylethylalanine in the brains of love addicts that causes them to become addicted.

The love addict’s fear of abandonment drives them into a cycle of obsession and aggressively pursuing the object of their affection (drive-bys, obsessively calling, etc.) This toxic cycle has the effect of pushing their partner away, the opposite of what the love addict wanted, but what they subconsciously expected. They continue this cycle over and over which produces the exact same painful feelings they had in childhood: abandonment, fear, anger, pain, emptiness and most especially yearning.

Not helping the situation and a part of the cycle is the fact that love addicts usually pick someone who is emotionally unavailable. To the extreme, this can be a person who is actually love avoidant.

According to Pia Mellody, author of Facing Love Addiction, love avoidance is the systematic use of walls to avoid intimacy. They avoid intimacy by creating intensity outside of the relationship, usually with some addiction such as sex, gambling, drugs or alcohol. Love avoidants were often enmeshed with a needy parent of the opposite sex. Since taking care of one’s parents was overwhelming to them as a child, the love avoidant’s main fear is that of being suffocated, overwhelmed or engulfed. They tend to stay in relationships usually out of duty or guilt instead of love, and in a repeat of their childhood, feel they must take care of their partners. The love addict’s neediness combined with the love avoidant’s original wound causes them to eventually leave.

What ensues is a dance, or toxic cycle, which leads to both partners stuck in the loop of anger, pain, loneliness, and yearning… always the yearning. And even if they do leave each other, they start the cycle over with someone else. Either one of these scenarios makes having a loving connection with another virtually impossible.

Fortunately, not everyone fits into those two extremes. So, what’s the solution to finding the love of your life if you don’t fit into these two categories? The following are some tips to help you on your quest to attract your soul mate:

  1. Pursue health – make a decision to become as healthy and happy as you can be in body, mind and spirit! True health glows and that glow is a love magnet!
  2. Hire a nutritionist or a health coach. The right food, exercise and supplements can go a long way in promoting the healthy new you!  Find out about food sensitivities. Believe it or not, food sensitivities, gluten intolerance or insulin resistance can cause mood swings and/or anxiety when you eat the wrong foods.
  3. Feed your soul. A spiritual practice such as worship, prayer,  scripture reading, or yoga causes us to be at peace. Meditation has been proven to bring more peace and actually can change our brain waves. An intimate relationship with a higher power that provides solace, comfort, guidance and wants the best for us, is very healing and an important step toward being intimate with others.
  4. Get in touch with negative thoughts that may be affecting you. These are negative programs that have been running subconsciously since childhood, so they might be a bit challenging to reach. Such beliefs as, “I’m not loveable”, “I’m not important”, or  “I’m ugly”, effect what we will attract into our lives. Pay attention and write down all such thoughts. Then challenge them with a more accurate and positive thought.
  5. Finally and most importantly, learn to love yourself. We can’t expect others to love us if we don’t love ourselves. You might find it necessary to hire a coach or counselor, and even explore some of your childhood history or relationship history to look for patterns that may be sabotaging you.

If you find you can’t take the above steps for any reason, or if you feel you might actually have a problem with love addiction or love avoidance, look for a therapist trained to help you. There are support groups as well that can help. Love Addicts Anonymous, AlAnon, and Adult Children are good adjuncts to recovery from this insidious addiction.

10 Steps to Conquering Love Addiction

I admit it, Step 1 is gonna be hard, so prepare yourself. Here goes:

  1. If at all possible, abstain from a love relationship for 6 months to a year…Yes, you’re going to go into withdrawal, but we’ll get into that in a minute….If you are married and it’s not possible, practical or desireable to get out of your primary relationship, it is do-able, but harder.  (See Pia Mellody’s book, Facing Love Addiction)
  2. Get a support system – preferably Love Addicts Anonymous, SLAA, ACA or AlAnon….begin to learn relating and connecting in healthy, non sexual ways.
  3. You will go through withdrawal..It’s very likely going to be very uncomfortable.Do not enter into another relationship to fix your feeligns at this crucial time!  this is an important step in the process where you will….
  4. Feel the feelings from your childhood that didn’t get resolved and expressed….those feelings of pain, shame, anger and fear.  It is very important to identify your feelings, feel them and express them… There’s an old saying in twelve step circles, “You can’t heal what you don’t feel”….
  5. Find a therapist who is trained in helping you do the trauma work you need to do to resolve these feelings that are from your past…
  6. Connect to your inner child, the part of you that was enmeshed,
    abandoned and/or abused in childhood.  It’s important to develop empathy for child feeling reality that you experiened back then.
  7. Develop a Loving Parent inside who can connect to, nurture, protect and love the “true you” unconditionally.
  8. Get a Higher Power – we cannot do this work alone!
  9. Be clear on your trauma template…this is the template that was laid down when you were a child…it’s who you’re looking for – but usually not in a good way!  When we’re clear on the template, we will know which types of people will trigger our unhealthy love behaviors. (obsessing, avoiding, drama)
  10. Transform your thinking and your life. With all these resources in place, your inner environment can be transformed.  You truly can become a positive, powerful and optimistic person…..Then slowly re-enter or enter a love relationship….

For information on appointment fees and times, please call Stephanie Ecke, LPC at 210-287-4002.

Withdrawing from Love Addiction

Well, it’s Christmas and this is often the time that the love addicted tango comes to a screeching halt….I get lots of calls this time of year from love addicts in the throes of withdrawal….So, what is it and how does one get through it?

Basically, love addiction withdrawal occurs like any other addiction withdrawal when the addictive substance is removed.  In this case, when the object of the love addict’s affection is removed, all the feelings come up that the love addict has been stuffing down.

Since love addiction is an addiction issue caused by childhood trauma, neglect and abandonment, it is the feelings from the original wound that come up during withdrawal…the feelings of shame, pain, abandonment, fear, grief and anger. This can be an excruciatingly painful and difficult time for the love addict.  A good support system such as SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous), LAA (Love Addicts Anonymous) or Al-Anon can be invaluable during the withdrawal process.

Besides attendance at meetings, some tools to help cope with withdrawal are: 1) taking it one day at a time; 2) calling a support person when obsessing; 3) journalling about feelings; 4) having some child-like fun; 5) going for a walk or exercising; and most importantly 6) working the Steps with a sponsor.

The main thing is to resolve the child trauma experiences.  It is for this reason that I have teamed up with Amy Fisher Hodges, RN, LCDC to conduct Healing Pathways, our Three-Day Trauma Intensive…..Through this process, participants have enough time and group support to resolve much of the trauma that drives the love addiction…

This frees the Love Addict up to take all the energy they have been using on their addiction and use it on loving and taking care of themselves…..NOW THAT’S A GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT!  HAPPY HOLIDAYS

For more info:  contact Stephanie Ecke, LPC, LCDC at 210.287.4002

Love Addiction Continued…

Learning all you can about Love Addiction is vital to recovery.

Love addiction is an addiction to a fantasy – not really to a person.  The love addict medicates with the fantasy of the Knight in Shining Armour or Happy Family walking off into the sunset! This fantasy begins usually at a young age because of the trauma of abandonment, neglect or abuse.

To obtain relief from this addiction,  recovery must involve inner child work to heal the childhood wounds of trauma and purge the body of that “child feeling reality” (Pia Mellody)

Inner Child work requires that one connect to that helpless child (ego state inside)  that truly was a victim and begin to meet those needs now that were not met then.

How can I go back and redo my childhood? You may be asking.  That’s not what we’re talking about here.  We must also grieve our childhood losses as well. But meeting those needs now means having a relationship in the now with that part of us – being in touch with our bodies’ needs, our feelings, our desires, dreams and goals.

For instance, a part of me always may have wanted to learn to paint.  I can be so stuck in childhood pain that I may never give myself permission to try this. Inner child work would require that I strengthen the Functional Adult part of me and go take the risk.  The more I attempt to  fulfill the dreams of that part of me the greater the connection and healing.  At a recent lecture given by John Bradshaw, he stated that there are several studies that point to the high probability that Inner Child Work changes brain chemistry – for the better!

A good book that might help you with this process is Recovery of Your Inner Child by Lucia Cappicione.

If you would like any help Recovering Your Inner Child, please call me. Let me help you in your Journey to Transformation!!!

Facing Love Addiction

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a group about Love Addiction. As is usually the case, while preparing for this talk I learned a lot! Many years ago, I read Pia Mellody’s Facing Love Addiction and it changed my life. My husband and I were stuck in the cycles she described. At that time, I began codependency recovery and we began to address our issues that were keeping us in the vicious cycles of Positive Intensity and Negative Intensity that signify a love addicted tango. We got better. As I prepared for my talk I remembered the work I had done in the early 90’s. I also studied the text of Love Addicts Anonymous, Addiction to Love, I came across the description of the Narcissistic Love Avoidant. According to author Susan Peabody, a Love Addict will always be triggered by a narcissist. It pays the Love Addict to familiarize themselves with the characteristics of the narcissist. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a Love Avoidant – in that they fear engulfment, but they are much more toxic.

Narcissists lack empathy, think they are special, can be bullies, blame and avoid taking responsibility for their part in things, are manipulative and controlling, cannot admit faults and avoid activities that lead to bonding. At their best, they can be charming, at their worse, they can be abusive and even dangerous. (You can learn more about this by searching the internet.)If you are a Love Addict and are in the unfortunate position of being in a relationship with a narcissist, there are a few things that you need to know. 1) you are not to blame; 2) it is very difficult to get out of the snare, but it can be done; 3) Love Addicts Anonymous meetings will definitely help provide the education and support you will need to get free 4) you will need to begin recovery and probably do some work on resolving childhood trauma issues. The important thing to know is recovery is not only possible, it is quite probable if you do the recovery work you need to do.

If you would like to know more about the avoidant narcissist or how to free yourself, please let me know.For information about my next 3 day Trauma Intensive to help you break free of the bondage of love addiction and other addictive disorders….call me at 210.287.4002 or email me. I would love to help you on your journey of recovery and Transformation!