When the one you love leaves, it can be hard to let go. When this happens, some of us display unhealthy addictive personality traits. We don’t want to feel that pain of loss or withdrawal of losing that person, which can be similarly related to drug withdrawal.
As an addict (I refrain from using the term “former” addict even though I have been drug free for over eight years). I recognize addictive personality traits. I’ve been through counseling and have counseled others as they have fought their own addictions. Addiction is not limited to just substance abuse. In my case it morphed and attached to people.
If we love someone who no longer returns the love we have for them it can become easy to fall into the cycle. I call it love addiction.
Love addicts display similar tendencies to drug addicts and the traits of both are eerily similar.
When we are addicted to someone who is attempting to make a break, we start to develop unhealthy patterns. We bombard them with questions of “why?” We constantly find excuses to see them and communicate with them. We have trouble honoring the space they need, or we get in the way of their needs. We need our fix and can make the person we are addicted to frightened and uncomfortable.
I broke up with a girl once who I was madly in love with. I was sure she was “the one.” We had some amazing experiences together, shared a mutually raw physical attraction and had many common interests. We were both introverts and understood each other. We connected deeply, and I felt we complemented each other very well. We introduced each other to many new things that both of us carry with us to this day.
Things change and after about a year, she felt unhappy with her life. I was not the cause of her unhappiness, but she felt she needed a change and to let go of all attachments and start over new. The break up was sudden and hit me like a ton of bricks. I was devastated. She stated that we should “just be friends,” but also to let a little time pass away from each other first. She spoke to me in a very respectful, direct, polite and sincere manner. “Let’s be friends again… someday.”
My addictive personality went to work immediately. She was unwilling to accept and return the love I had for her at this point in her life.
As an addict, I started off with my usual addictive tendencies. I asked many of the “why” type questions (looking back I probably didn’t want to hear the answers, because it only made me more sad) and I received few answers. I asked mainly because I just wanted to keep an open line of communication with her. I tried to rationalize, minimize and create hope. I didn’t want to stop talking to her.
The conversations we did continue to have were toned down and short. She did this so as not to hurt my feelings, but she was honest and true to herself, and looking back, I highly respect her for never wavering. She was not sending mixed messages. However as an addict, we tend to attach to something or somebody, no matter how unhealthy or unrealistic.
I began to display more addictive behaviors. I came up with excuses to try and see her. I texted, emailed and passed along anything that would keep me in contact with her. I was invading her space. My addiction was strong. I did not want to feel the pain of losing her. As a result, problems arose. Conversations began to turn sour. A few were encouraging and sent a message of, “I still care about you and wish the best for you…” But most ended with, “Please allow me to have space right now.”
It was very hard for me to finally let go. As any addict would know, letting go is never easy and we can’t fully let go until we are ready and willing. We can’t be forced to change how we feel and what we crave.
I had to find new ways to channel my energies and thoughts. I reached out to friends for support. I took up new hobbies and did volunteer work. I traveled. I wrote letters to her that I kept to myself. I made lists of new things I wanted to do and followed through. I can’t begin to express how helpful all this was for me at the time.
As with any addiction, recovery includes withdrawal, depression and feelings of self-loathing to name a few. We often feel the need to be “fixed” by an outside source. We rarely take responsibility until we hit rock bottom or some life-alerting event forces us to change. Even then, letting go and making the necessary changes can be difficult.
Addicts know that the only way to conquer any addiction is that we have to want to stop. We can’t help how we feel for that person. No one can force us to stop loving someone. However, If we don’t stop the addiction, we will continue to push the people most important to us out of our lives. It’s perfectly acceptable to seek professional help from a therapist, friends and family.
Over time, this will get easier.
Finally, I was able to release her because I knew that I needed to be free from this attachment and the baggage of the addiction which served no one. The best way for me to show her my growth was by honoring her space and allowing her the freedom to move on with her life.
Sometimes, when enough time passes, that person may begin to respect you enough to allow you back into their lives to establish something new. Often, this won’t happen, but we can never know what the future holds.
One thing is certain: if we continue to burden the ones we love with our addiction, we will lose them for good.
We can still choose to honor the person who was our focus in our own way without involving them. I got a small tattoo that symbolizes that this girl will always have a piece of me. It was a private choice and my way of tipping my hat to the past as I moved on.
I carry lessons with me that she opened my eyes to and I will always have with me.
Author: Adam Wilkinson