She lays on the bed, doubled over, holding her stomach. Her hair is matted a little on one side. It hurts to move, yet she’s strangely numb. The nausea is so bad she can’t eat or drink. Her eyes are swollen nearly shut. She sweats when she thinks about her addiction and her body reacts to the mere thought of the drug. Her eyes are lifeless and dilated. Her body aches. She can’t sleep, but when she does, she can’t surface. When she thinks about it, she panics. What will happen now? She can’t live like this; it’s hurt too badly. She tried to quit once before but the pain was so intense she couldn’t handle it. The wave of depression and robotic movements threatened to swallow her whole. If only she could end it. She knew it was wrong but couldn’t stop from riding the train one more time. Everyone knew. Everyone watched her waste away. But the fix was pure pleasure. She couldn’t get enough, constantly clawing for more as her body adjusted its need for consumption. Now, the drug is inaccessible. It’s been too long and too much is at stake. She frantically searches for some way to get it back. Her eyes widen briefly with hope at one last chance for relief, but the drug isn’t there any more. It’s gone. And there are no more chances. No more choices. The knowledge brings a fresh wave of hell. Her drug is him….
And so goes emotional addiction: the crazy train of unhealthy love. The roller coaster of adrenaline begins to weave itself into your mind like a sticky vine. When you fall in love and you’re emotionally unhealthy, you are in love with how the other person loves you. It’s not so much the person you love, but how he or she loves you. Feelings of power, attractiveness, desirability and completeness are aphrodisiacs that even the most hardened soul struggles to deny. When it begins to feel as if you can’t live without the other person — if the thought of it sends you into a panic so deep that you are physically affected, it’s called addiction. You’re seeking for someone else to fill the void and emptiness in your life, attaching your worth to their returned love love.
Society traditionally glorifies love addiction with the notion that we fall in love and live “happily ever after.” This theme, commonly played out in movies and books ignores the groundwork that real, honest relationships require.
Make no mistake, the withdrawal symptoms are nearly identical to drug/alcohol/nicotine addictions. It goes down like this: Emotions and behaviors create chemicals in the body that plugs into our opiate receptor. The body gets used to having those chemicals and becomes dependent – demanding more of them. Our bodies send withdrawal signals to our brain in its effort to keep a stable chemical balance (neurophysiologist Joe Dispenza, D.C.). External chemicals like narcotics, and body-manufactured chemicals like drama, are treated much the same way by the brain. In fact the brain doesn’t know the difference.
This means when we try to change a behavior or emotion, our body actually fights the change. It wants the drama. It feeds off of it. The drama addict is hooked on the adrenaline rush of relationships and people that appear wildly exciting (women: insert the image of your favorite “bad boy” here).
Often we confuse these ”exciting” qualities with love: lots of intense conflict, punctuated with yelling, screaming, throwing things, as well as verbal and physical abuse; frequent dramatic breakups and passionate makeups; ongoing lying and cheating; withholding of truth; betrayal of trust; emotional and/or physical affairs; spying on each other; and racing from the height of ecstasy to the pit of despair in an out-of-control emotional roller coaster.
Drama addicts fall into three main categories:
The Victim. The victim is powerless. There are always things happening to the victim over which they have no control. The victim often feels hurt or sadness that they are being picked on or unfairly treated.
The Aggressor. The aggressor is the bully that picks on the victim. The agressor often feels angry, frustrated and misunderstood and blames the victim for things going wrong.
The Rescuer. The rescuer is the knight in shining armour. The rescuer saves the victim from the aggressor, and gains some satisfaction from that. However soon the rescuer becomes frustrated with having to constantly save the day and becomes resentful that the victim can’t take care of themselves.
Enter: the crazy train. It’s time to hop off.
- The emotion, habit or behavior you’re working to overcome was developed through self-preservation and it served you well at one time. So appreciate it and imagine yourself letting it go.
- Expect yourself to be successful. Know that you can kick your habit.
- Get used to discomfort. It won’t hurt you; it’s just part of the change process. In fact, it’s essential.
- Make a plan, get support. At Glendale Community College, the Counseling Center can be of support for many students.
- Celebrate every win (you didn’t call him/her again; you didn’t participate in gossip; etc).
- Know yours triggers and where unwanted behaviors are likely to show up. Smokers know to stay away from certain people, places and events when they are trying to quit.
- Start with a small change and develop your capacity to change before tackling the world. (Emotional Addiction by Lori Shook)
Once you know your addiction and identify it, you have a choice: If you choose to stay unhealthy you are no longer a victim – you are now a volunteer.