Dating back to my earliest recollections, I have always fantasized about love. With princess idols like Ariel and Jasmine, I dreamt of being whisked away from my troubles to the land of enchantment and everlasting love. Through song and fate, I believed my life’s purpose would be complete in the arms of Prince Charming. Even after the fallout of puppy love, despite the throbbing of my first heartbreak, and succeeding seedy affairs and one-night stands, I clung to the reverie of love as the measure of happiness. I was so elated by the idea of materializing this fantasy that I found love everywhere: I was addicted to pursuit and infatuation. My attraction to love was the very thing that prevented me from finding it. The more I invested in this magical thinking, the more I chased the high of love, rather than love itself. And the game was forever changed. Like the alcoholic’s drinking that begins with the pursuit of pleasure that evolves into a craving for escape, so too does the love addict’s search for love spoil into an endless hunt for evading self. For this alcoholic love addict, the spell was finally broken when I could no longer recognize what it meant to love: to love you, to love me, to love anything.
Recovery from love addiction required many sacrifices, but the most difficult one was letting go of my delusions about love. Walking away from inappropriate relationships, finally shutting the door to ex’s, declining new opportunities for friendships with hidden agendas, setting boundaries around texting and social media, and committing to being single were nothing compared to arresting the fantasy that infiltrated my relationships, ambitions, and personality. With painful honesty and sincerity, I discovered the quest for love concealed in every major decision of my life; from the way I dressed to the very music I liked, I primped and preened myself for my fantasy partner. Long locks, a strong wit for flirtatious banter, a good arm, a lust for liquor and sex, and 3-inch heels were some of the ever-changing ingredients to this chef’s recipe for the attainment of love. To my surprise and bewilderment, love never met my expectations because there was always the fantasy of something better yet to come. So, regardless of my reverence for love, I disregarded it like it was meaningless. I suddenly ended relationships with new bait in sight, I had tumultuous affairs, I haunted old flames who I’d burned before, and I seduced men belonging to friends of mine. The more challenging the prospect, the greater the fantasy and attraction. This was the essence of my love addiction. Despite the odds, in the midst of chaos, in the heat of passion- was the great allure of Love.
Real sobriety from love addiction began for me when I stopped looking for Him. When the barista at Starbucks or the hipster at Whole Foods no longer inspired animated hallucinations of bohemian romance, my life as a self-possessed woman commenced. When I stopped objectifying men as my meal ticket for fulfillment, I started developing real, reciprocal relationships with the opposite sex. Especially when in relationship with men, failure to seek a “Plan B” became a sign of hope rather than a threat. Where I used to rely on them for self-esteem and validation, now I see men as my equals.
The joy of recovery can be experienced not only in my relationships with others, but with my relationship to self. Each decision not to engage romantically with someone used to feel like a part of me was dying. And it was a death of sorts. With each act of integrity, I retired personalities and in-authenticities I’d harnessed over the years, and I dissolved my mistaken ideas about my life’s purpose. I used to anguish over perceived missed opportunities and the disturbing risk of running out of time for love. With each act of faith however, the grip of romantic chase softened. As I got well, I came to crave the only love I ever really needed: love for myself.