Of Love and Addiction

Dearest Readers,

“Therefore, take care to guard your heart, for this game we play is dangerous, and likely there will be blood.”

Today we explore Love. This is, I believe, a topic that I have covered previously, but at the same time, I think there are always facets of love left to be explored. Who can truly say they know all about it and how it operates? Damn few, I would care to hazard. The love that I’d like to explore today is the love that binds unrelated people together. This is often in such a way that if they are straight they get married, if they are homosexual then they may have a commitment ceremony, etc.

Now that we all have an idea of the type of love we will be exploring, onward!

I’d like to start off by posing a question:

“What is the difference between romantic love as it manifests itself and addictions that can be found destroying the lives of so many in our world?”

The answer, as complicated as it is, would no doubt boil down to the realization that there is, basically, no inherent differences between what we deem as romantic love and what we deem as addictions in other facets of life. Honestly, I think you might be hard-pressed when you really consider the question to come up with some justifiable differences that would seem to make romantic love okay.

A few differences might be pointed out, for instance romantic love would usually (usually, but most assuredly not always) result in the destruction of ones life, friends, dreams, and goals. This is something that other addictions most usually involve, and may perhaps prove to be the difference that results in the undoing of much of my arguments today. But I have, at length, pondered this difference and can sincerely say that I do not think this one reason will kill my argument. Another difference between romantic love and addiction is simply the perception that surrounds them. Romantic love is beaten into everyone from a very small age as being the one thing that nearly everyone should strive to attain. How many love stories have been written or told? Within those love stories, why does love always triumph? We are taught that love has the ability to make everything okay. Love, we are taught, can surpass any and everything.  Love is often given greater power than religious people give to their deities.

So then, shall we consider some of the things that romantic love and addiction share?

First and foremost, I would say, is the altering of the perception of reality. While I cannot speak from first-hand experience from addiction, it is certainly something that I’ve read a lot about; enough so that I feel reasonably sure of my assurances here.  When someone is first entering any type of situation that can remotely involve romantic love, then there comes a chance in the way that person perceives the world. The world might seem a happier, more beautiful place. Other peoples’ faults may be overlooked more readily by someone who is high on love. This altered perception of reality seems often span the entire duration of the experience of romantic love. It would be interesting, indeed, to see someone who claims to be in love that did not experience this altered perception.

The same altering of the perception of reality can also be seen by those suffering from addiction. When they are high from their various substances, their perception of reality is most certainly altered, and I think a case could even be made that when the addicts are not using they still experience this alteration. For an addict, the only goal in life is to find the next high, to remain high as long as possible. So too in romantic love.

In romantic love people seek to remain in love as long as possible. How often when love finally recedes to we hear the words, “I should have ended it long ago” or “I should have known when [such and such].”  Love keeps people from moving on because they know that to be in love is much preferable (so we are told) to not being in love, and so therefore it would seem logical that to remain in a flawed love would also be preferable to not being in love at all.

Another thing that love and addiction share in common is the idea that when we are in love, it hides our personal flaws as well. Love can be an escape as surely as addiction is an escape for addicts. Love allows us to push aside all of our doubts and insecurities. We tell ourselves that if someone else can love us, then certainly there is nothing really wrong with us, nothing at least, that doesn’t stop someone from loving us. So too with addicts. They often realize that they cannot keep pursing their addiction forever, yet they allow the next high to push aside their doubts about the way they live and therefore are able to continue until they reach rock bottom.

When an addict hits rock bottom, often this is the moment at which they enter recovery. In recovery, they profess that they will never again submit themselves to their addiction, that they will remain sober and put the pieces of their lives back together.  How often too when lovers hit rock bottom (the inevitable break up) does a period of “rehab” occur? We tell ourselves that we will never again make the mistake of falling for someone like that, even at the same time that we assure ourselves that we will eventually find love. So too, I think, do many addicts know as they are denouncing their addictions that they will, at first chance, go back.

It seems unlikely then that we should, any of us, support romantic love as we know it today. Why do we encourage people to so readily leave the period of rehab and go back for the “rebound?” Perhaps if we all stayed in rehab longer and had no need for the rebound we might make the changes that would be needed to escape from this vicious cycle.

In her memoir, Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, Kerry Cohen talks about for her, seeking out what she perceived as love came to dominate her life. For her, this love took the form of sexual expression, but I think the same thing can be said for anyone who uses love as a cover to seek approval and validate self-worth. Cohen writes that even while she was letting men use her as a sexual object, part of her realized that was all she had become, but there was a greater part of her (the addict perhaps) that didn’t care; that part of her sought the validation that the love she was getting gave her. She had wrapped up her self-worth in her ability to get men.

From the other side of our exploration, Nic Sheff’s memoir Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamine offers a unique journey into the mind of an addict. Interestingly enough, Nic’s psychiatrist points out at one point that Nic also uses love to validate his self worth, further supporting my claim here that love is nothing more or less than a societal approved addiction. Nic would go from relationship to relationship seeking the safety that love could bring him, and in doing so became, I think, a victim to it.

If we accept that love is simply an addiction that we as society deem as okay, then the question, I think, becomes: “Is Love as an addiction really okay?”

I think, dearest readers, that it would depend entirely on how much control we allow love to have over us. If it controls us to the extent that we are subservient to it, then no, I do not think love is okay or justifiable. If we allow love to enhance our lives in a way that does not harm other areas of our lives, then I would be confident in saying that love was a good thing and its designation as an addiction, while accurate, would have no consequence. Perhaps then we should let our minds make decisions for our hearts; our hearts too quickly forget the bruises of the past. Consequently, then, the heart makes it easier for us to fall victim to a love dominating our lives.

I think it is only possible for us to enter into a romantic love if and only if we are one hundred percent comfortable with ourselves and where we are in life. If we can be sure of ourselves we would then not be as susceptible to loves altered sense of reality and consequently when love is gone from a relationship we would be not only better prepared but we would be able to recognize and move on.

On the same hand, an addict who was one hundred percent comfortable with who he or she was would probably never escape to substance abuse either, not needing the escape that they so readily provide.

Until next time,

Jim

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