The New Year always brings about an opportunity to make positive changes in your life. It offers the chance to start with a “clean slate.” Some of those changes could be ever so small, while others might need to be BIG changes! Maybe this year you won’t just say you are going to make changes, only to then just swap one bad thing for another.
Maybe this is your year to make REAL changes that could possibly save your life, or, at the very least, it might save your identity and your soul!
Addiction is often times one of those changes people set out to make, but addiction to what? Shopping addiction, gambling addiction, substance addiction, porn addiction, sex addiction. The most frequent addiction appearing in my counseling practice is “Love Addiction.”
It’s not always the first addiction one thinks of, which makes it one of the most dangerous in my opinion. Let’s define addiction.
The official definition is “devotion to, dedication to, obsession with, infatuation with, passion for, love of, mania for, enslavement to.” If you look at those words carefully, you might notice that the majority of those words have been used when people define or describe their relationships.
Some of those words, when used to describe a relationship, are healthy and appropriate. However, those terms can be extremely unhealthy when you have someone suffering from a “Love Addiction.” Those terms can actually become deadly!
There are a significant number of people in our society finding themselves in one relationship, maybe healthy maybe not, after another for much of their lives.
Have you ever wondered why these people just can’t seem to enjoy being single for longer than a minute…if even that? Ever caught yourself questioning why it seems you say you are going to “take a break from dating,” but you always find yourself quickly in the next relationship with “The One?” When evaluating your relationship history, I challenge you to think about whether you have EVER taken a break from a relationship or turned down a dating/relationship opportunity to consider self-improvement. To consider exactly what keeps you repeating unhealthy relationship cycles.
If your relationship evaluation indicates that you haven’t been single for longer than a short moment, this new year might just be the perfect time to try setting some personal growth goals that don’t include finding “The One,” “Your True Love,” or “The Next Best Thing.” Maybe the goal this year could be “Finding Myself” or “Becoming My Own True Love.”
Individuals who continuously seem to be searching for the “NEW” are who we, in the counseling profession, consider to have a “Love Addiction.” When using the term addiction, most people jump to substance addiction, but we all know, as mentioned earlier, that isn’t the extent of what can be and IS addictive amongst our fellow humans.
The research on “Love Addiction,” however, is limited with no statistics to show its prevalence, but it is a very relevant addiction. My own practice has seen numerous people and relationships who have suffered from Love Addiction.
It isn’t acknowledged as a diagnosable mental health disorder, but it creates very real issues for the individuals and relationships suffering from it or caught in the middle of it. Reports do suggest that more women suffer from this addiction than men, but that doesn’t mean that men are immune!
Lives change when addiction is in control. “Love Addiction” controls your life in even more ways than you might expect! Unfortunately, like other addictions, others see the negative effects before you.
The ones who truly love you begin to question you, but you, like most other addicts, won’t hear it or see it until you want to. Self-awareness is extremely important. If you are reading this, I’m hoping you are trying to become more self-aware. So now you need to know how to recognize your own signs of “Love Addiction?”
- Your family and friends start questioning your decisions.
- You find yourself no longer spending quality time on your friendships that were once very important or the personal goals you might have had all of your life, with almost all things that were once important in your life now suffering.
- You relinquish your own identity to assume theirs.
- You base your days on what the “addiction” desires, and your schedule becomes based solely on THEIR schedule.
- You find yourself feeling more anxious, depressed, easily agitated, or angry.
- You do the things your “addiction” wants, even when you disagree.
- You crave the attention of your “addiction,” but there is never quite enough attention.
- You find yourself constantly contacting your “addiction,” even when you try to refrain.
- You want more time with your “addiction,” even though you feel anxious or even abused when with them, and you can’t seem to leave the relationship.
- You fear you are suffering an emotional death when your “addiction” looks remotely disinterested, and your anxiety increases* intensely for fear of the “addiction” ending the relationship.
- You take on responsibility that isn’t yours and give in to insulting/repulsive requests just to keep the relationship from ending.
Once you have realized you have a “Love Addiction,” there are some important steps you must take to kick that addiction. It is so important to follow these steps because addiction is one of the most difficult changes someone can make.
- Recognizing you have a problem, “Love Addiction,” is the 1st step.
- Tell someone! Having an internal war with yourself is not usually very productive, and will typically lead you into greater depths of your addiction.
- Create a healthy, positive support team. Think about the ones who have questioned your relationship and behaviors already. These people might be your strongest supporters and the best members to pick for your team.
- Remove* yourself from the relationship currently feeding your “addiction.” If you struggle with this, seek counseling to assist in pushing you to the next step.
- Seek counseling for a “diagnosis” and evaluation of your relationship history. Many times, you can see a long-term pattern with a pair of fresh eyes helping you. You might even see that this “Love Addiction” stems from unresolved childhood abuse/issues. You will need professional assistance to work through this.
- Create a structured plan for recovery and reclamation. Without structure, we relapse. Without a plan, we relapse. Without support, we relapse!!!
If you have read these signs and plan ideas, and feel you are ready for a New You in the New Year, reach out to a friend or a counselor. Take the first step towards recovery by admitting you have a “Love Addiction” to someone you trust. If you have a loved one you worry has a “Love Addiction,” try to reach them.
Read the signs listed, and find appropriate times to point out concerns in a loving, yet cautious manner. Find a local support group. Most of them can be of assistance, even if they aren’t specifically for “Love Addiction.”
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