About a year ago, I didn’t understand how and why love addiction could be an actual thing that anyone (and definitely not myself!) could suffer from.
I dated many people back to back (or, in my polyamory phase, multiple people at the same time), simply to experience a high. I didn’t realize I was using people because I was addicted to a way of life, but it’s now stunningly obvious in retrospect as I’ve unfolded and reflected in this past year of focusing on myself and figuring out my patterns.
“ You’re simply not an atheist in your actions, and it is your actions that must accurately reflect your deepest beliefs — those that are implicit, embedded in your being, underneath your conscious apprehensions and articulable attitudes and surface-level self-knowledge. You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself”
In other words, what you do is a reflection of what you believe.
For example, someone might say to you,” Oh, I absolutely love school and studying.” The only way to see if they truly believe this is to break down the components of their life and see how they actually spend their time. Are they actually spending lots of time studying? Or are they procrastinating and actually getting very little done? If they are spending most of their time pursuing other interests that have nothing to do with school and studying, then they probably don’t love it as much as they think they do, and may just like the idea of it.
Our layers of narrative, true or untrue, exist for a reason. In the above person’s case, maybe they’ve embedded themselves in a narrative of loving something they don’t actually enjoy because of the way they were raised, being told every single day that school and education should be a priority in their life.
In my case, being raised in an Asian family, education was a huge emphasis. I was forced into prioritizing it. I was told to go to school, come home, study, then go to bed. No extracurriculars, no hanging out with friends, no parties. Then, when I got to college, I told everyone I loved school. And maybe I thought I did. But maybe I just thought I loved what felt the most familiar to me, and that is different from what I actually love.
Even now, I’m still trying to figure out what I actually love. Years and years of narrative have been heaped on most of us in ways we are unaware of and cannot comprehend.
That is, until we start looking for and recognizing it.
Because what you aim for is what you see, and what you see limits the information you absorb from the world around you.
So start looking for who you actually are. Don’t be too certain that you are who you say you are. The reality is that it’s way easier to state something as if it were the truth, simply to avoid dealing with the vastness that lies beneath the narrative. Because once we start questioning our narrative, it opens up some uncomfortable realities about who we actually are, and we may not like that person much at all.
But you cannot improve if you do not know who you are.
So what does this all have to do with love addiction?
Addicts, in general, are notoriously prone to denial. The reason that many addicts continue to engage in behavior that destroys them is partially because they cannot see who they really are.
One of the fundamental components of love addiction, and all addiction in general, is a detachment from reality. It’s a defense mechanism, protecting you from this idea that you may not actually like the person you are.
Love addicts, in particular, are prone to living in a fantasy world, one that only exists inside their heads. That is the escape from reality they engage in, not dissimilar from a druggie’s escape into a drug-fueled oblivion.
Addicts may use a substance in order to escape from their reality because on some level, they believe that they cannot cope with their reality. Love addicts escape into relationships and sex and yet operate under the narrative that they are just like everyone else, dating and loving in a “normal” way.
There’s a reason why in a 12-step program, the very first step is this:
We admitted we were powerless over [fill in the blank] and that our lives had become unmanageable.
Reinforcing this belief right off the bat can be incredibly freeing for many, even though it may feel scary. To actually admit you are powerless means you didn’t have control, even when you thought you did. It’s like driving a car at 70 miles per hour and then realizing the brakes are out.
If addicts are so prone to denial, then it’s reasonable to assume that some of us may be living in addictions we are completely unaware of.
So I challenge you with this: Take stock of who you are. Watch yourself with ‘eyes wide open’. Observe your life and what you do, because that will tell you what you really believe. Let go of who you think you are, if only so that you can find who you really are. For you, it may not be love or sex or relationships. It may be TV, negative emotions, shopping, or work. But it’s all fundamentally the same.
Take a moment to ask yourself, is there something I spend a large amount of time doing or thinking about? Do I use it to escape from reality in some way? If so, what am I escaping from? Why do I feel the need to escape?
And also: What do I believe about myself? After taking stock of my life, do those beliefs actually line up with what I do? Is my belief reflective of reality? If not, what is my reality? Do I have fears about embracing this reality? What are they and why?
From firsthand experience, it’s incredibly overwhelming when everything you thought you knew cracks open the shell of your denial and reality starts rushing in. And for a period of time, you have to deal with feeling a little bit crazy. Although my journey through love addiction hasn’t been easy, it’s been incredibly worth it. I’m now on the other side with so much more love, joy, peace, and fulfillment than I ever could have imagined when I first started.
Once you accept reality, that is the beginning of truly letting love into your life. If you can know who you really are, then you can start working towards accepting that person, even if you don’t really like them that much. Once you accept yourself, you may not be so ashamed to show people your true self. Showing your true self is authenticity, and authenticity is required for intimacy.
In other words, you must know who you really are to truthfully tell people who you are. And then, if you tell people the truth about who you are, you allow them to love who you are. As people love who you are, you may also come to love who you are. If you love who you are, you can celebrate who you are.
Once you can celebrate who you are, you open up the door wide to abundance, infinite potential, and hope into your life.
If you’ve identified you may have an addiction, what I’m saying may not make too much sense to you yet. But if you take my word for it and commit to taking this journey of finding yourself and who you really are, you will unquestionably find countless blessings on the other side.
Trust me, it’s worth it.
To hear more about Joyce’s personal journey with love addiction, check out this episode on her podcast, Overthinker.
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