Tracy, a 30 year old love addict shares her story of a relationship break up:
"When he said it was over, I stopped breathing. I could not gather my thoughts. I felt like it wasn't happening, but it was. It was surreal. My stomach turned up side down, my mouth was dry, I was sweating, my heart trembling. Out of intense denial, I said to him-- you're not serious are you? What's going on? In an unsteady voice, knowing deep down it is true, a rush of panic and shock waves pulsated through my body as the dagger pierced my chest. As weeks went on, I was trying to grapple with the intensity of it all. I had micro moments of imagined sanity. In denial, with frequent periods of intense crying and waling, I could hear the loud echoes of my bouncing off the walls. All the emptiness in my body was present every waking moment. I guess I;ve been in denial, but now these feelings confirm my addiction to love."
Withdrawal in addiction occurs when an addictve substance or behavior is stopped. Except, with love addiction being a process addiction (a process addiction is a behavioral/thought addiction), withdrawal symptoms occur when a relationship comes to end.
Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms occur sometime before a relationship ends because of the anticipation of it ending by the love addict. Addicts must continue the behavior or use of a substance in order to feel a continued high or just to feel normal as tolerance increases. When the addiction is halted from the addict for any reason, inevitable withdrawal symptoms will be triggered-- this is what happens when a love addicts relationship is broken.
It's normal for people who experience loss of a relationship through divorce or a break up to experience a grieving process--feel hurt, pain, abandonment reactions, sorrow and heartache.
There might be the sense of failure, hopelessness, loss, despair, fear, or desperation. They will move through a grieving cycle (with varying lengths of time). Eventually, as they move through these emotions, they will come to feel better and heal.
For the love addict, the grief goes beyond the normal stages of the grieving process where they get stuck in one or more of the levels of grief, which turns into extremely painful withdrawal. They ache, throb, and desperately want relief.
They experience a deep yearning and obsession to have any connection with their lost partner. Because they identified mostly through their partners eyes, they feel a loss of self-identity because the symbiotic attachment (the addiction) is now gone. It is life without the medication--coming down from the unrealistic fantasy to reality, no longer available to numb and deny the self.
Withdrawal symptoms may be anxiety, panic, fear, nausea, dramatic changes in weight, insomnia, depression, loneliness, obsession, anger, rage, emptiness, denial, and despair. Love addicts in withdrawal often experience irrational thoughts, distortions, and feelings of being powerless.
The feeling or inner sense of being completely diminished and insufficient as a person, flood the "being" of their soul. The intense feeling of rejection by their partner's abandonment and neglect sends the message that reinforces what they already believe inside--they were not worthy of being with. It all seems like they are swimming upstream against the currents of fate--fate working against them with no ending.
Family members and friends haven't a clue or any frame of reference to the trauma the love addict is experiencing. Their simple solutions of, "just get over it" or "leave him/her, and find someone new" never work. This only fuels a more inner sense of shame, weakness, or unworthiness in the love addict.
Ironically and unconsciously, one powerful way love addicts hold on to denial (denial is often strongly present during withdrawal) is through obsession. Obsessions come in many forms and may include fantasizing about recapturing the romantic relationship--the magical person they lost, the good times, sex, passion, chemistry, intensity--while ignoring or filtering the truth that it was more chaos than bliss.
Obsession fans love addicts feelings of rejection into an emotional inferno. Obsession is the pinnacle of all the experiences of withdrawing from love and other addictions. Obsessive thoughts often seem to take control and one feels extremely powerless to stop them. Even if love addicts want to stop (or slow down) obsessive thoughts, they are often unable to. Obsession is often the purest form of distortion or irrational thoughts in withdrawal involving the compulsive need to think about certain people, situations and/or behavior over and over again. The obsessed person tends to focus on a single element in its extreme and process everything associated with the particular element as all black or all white.
Love addiction withdrawal is not unlike withdrawing from a heroin. Like heroin addicts grieving the drug habit, love addicts profoundly grieve their lost "relationship". The intense feeling of rejection by their partner, abandonment and neglect send the message reinforcing what the love addict already believed inside, that they were not worth being with. Withdrawing creates a humiliation so painful or so profound that one feels one has been robbed of her/his dignity or exposed as basically inadequate, bad, or worthy of rejection. It all seems like swimming upstream against the currents of Fate, Fate working against them, with no ending.
Are you withdrawing from a love-addicted relationship ending?
Although it feels unbearable and unending-- you will survive. In fact, if you take healthy steps to take care of yourself during this period of withdrawal, you won't only survive, you will thrive and become emotionally stonger than you ever have been.
I can look back at my experience of entering what seemed like the deepest and darkest hole I ever seen and can honestly say? I am extremely thankful it all happened. I know today, if I did not go through this experience, I would not have had the life I have now. It was a true blessing.
Right now, I know that just sound like rubbish, I understand. As hard as it is right now, it?s important to see this as a chance in your life for real healing and change in your life. BUt- this will only be true if you don't run and escape... this will only be true for you if you take the steps that will help you break the toxic pattern.
Far too often, the painful symptoms of withdrawal are so unexpected and bewildering that it leads many people to ongoing relapse in which there is a return to unhealthy behaviors, unhealthy relationships, and no healing. Is this what you want? Of course not- So take one healthy step right now to honor yourself and your life now.
Jim Hall, M.S., is a Love Addiction Specialist and founder of a popular recovery website, www.loveaddictionhelp.com, a cutting-edge site for the love addict who want to recover and heal.
He is an Author on Love Addiction and Recovering. He also coaches Love Addicts how to recover, heal, and break their addiction to relationships, online at www.LoveAddictionHelp.com.
Jim authors several popular Books on love addiction and recovery, available on one of the best love addiction recovery websites- www.loveaddictionhelp.com. Or click on the links to learn about the books:
- Surviving Withdrawal: The Breakup Workbook for Love Addicts.
- The Love Addict in Love Addiction
- Gateway to Recovery
Jim is currently completing a Love Addiction Rehab Recovery Program series for love and relationship addiction which will soon be available on www.loveaddictionhelp.com. Also on his website are free articles, tips, and other related information on love addiction, recovery and relationship issues: http://www.loveaddictionhelp.com/