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We're All Addicts
During the span of five weeks, when I was most convinced that my avoidant, pot smoking, unavailable boyfriend was singlehandedly to blame for our painfully frustrating, almost-over relationship, I met weekly with a therapist in Philadelphia. I wasn’t too keen on therapy. I was a reader and figured all I really needed was a few good self-help books. Why pay $150 a session just to have someone nod and mirror my every word? Trouble was, I didn’t like what the self-help books told me (dump him). So, why not give therapy a try. If I could just tell my side of the story, it would make all the difference. And, surely I could win the support of a professional whose job it was to fix broken relationships.
I ended up finding a woman named Sidney who got her degree in psychoanalysis in the 1960’s from UC Berkeley. She had a fabulous reputation for telling it like it is and offering mindful meditation at the end of each session, which, frankly, I could use. And so, it was off to Philly for the first of my five pre-paid appointments.
The dilemma I wanted her to solve was relatively easy, “How could I make my relationship to G work?”
In the first appointment I spent the entire hour telling her about my alcohol father and all his antics, including a corroborated story of me being kidnapped as a child for ransom to pay one of his gambling debts. That’s always a good one to tell. It tends to absolve me from making any responsible decision about my future life and excuses a heck of a lot of bad behavior. Together we sighed and ooh’ed over my chaotic youth. Sidney took notes.
In the second appointment, I gave her the full scope of my three-year relationship with G. How we were meant to be together, how deeply we communicated, how wonderful the sex was for eight glorious months, and, how two years into the relationship, there hadn’t been any sex in almost a year, how his pot habit seemed more important than “us,” and how unavailable he had suddenly become. I told her, if I could just get him to the next session, we could both help him see the error or his ways and figure out a plan to negotiate his pot habit and our time together. I told her I was definitely willing to negotiate. She applauded me for that and said she looked forward to meeting G. We ended with a meditation on staying in the present. I focused on wondering if I’d put enough money in the meter. That was as close to the present as I was able to get.
I showed up for the third appointment in tears. G refused to go to therapy. He said, “I’m not comfortable with that. We’re not even married.” Sidney comforted me by letting me cry it out. When I collected myself, she said, “Maybe you’re putting in more effort than he is. Do you think a relationship like that is worth saving?” I sniffled through my response: “He says he loves me. And I love him. When there’s love it’s just a matter of negotiating the difficult parts.”
“And does he negotiate with you?”
“Well, he tries. But then he just reverts back to his old ways and we seem to get worse. What I just don’t get is that, he says he loves me, but then he just disappears, or he’s too busy to hang out, or he’s doing something else. Excuses, excuses. It’s driving me nuts.”
Sidney said we’d run out of time. She said that my homework was to A.) ask myself if I thought I deserved better than the scraps this man was feeding me, and B.) ask myself why I was devoting so much time to a relationship that had clearly turned painful for me.
Assignment #2 was so much easier to answer than assignment #1. If G changed and tweaked his behavior just a little, met me half way, the pain would go away. And, I was committed. Assignment #1 stumped me. Was I being fed scraps? I knew I was starving. That's for sure.
In the fourth appointment, G came. I threated to leave him if he didn’t and so, he came, albeit brooding. We sat awkwardly next to each other as Sidney looked us over. I wanted her to get the sense that we were a couple in love, worth fighting for. G wanted her to know that there was no reason for him being there. He liked pot, and he wasn’t all that aware that I was upset about it. I thought, "Huh?! What the hell do you mean you weren’t aware that I was upset about it???" Sidney said, “Well, nowadays, everybody smokes pot or drinks or does drugs. We’re all addicts,” she said.
In our meditation session, I felt hugely uncomfortable. All I could think of was that G didn’t sign up for this and G doesn’t like meditation, and, G would be angry with me for dragging me here, and…my brain obsessed over what G might be thinking. Not me. I had no thoughts about me. I never had any thought about me. Maybe that was my problem. Maybe I was the problem.
When I went home I couldn’t get it out of my brain that Sidney was trying to convince me to get over the whole pot-aversion thing. "Heck, everyone does it," she said. "What’s the big deal," she said. But, it was a big deal to me. And I didn’t believe for one second that “everyone” is an addict. My mother doesn’t do drugs. Her husband doesn’t. My brother and his wife don’t. There are people out there who don’t do drugs. Who don’t smoke pot. Who live normal, un-obsessed lives. In fact, these same people who don’t do drugs also don’t feed scraps to their significant other.
Before I went back for my last appointment, I bought Susan Peabody’s book “Addiction to Love.” I thought maybe my unwillingness to break-up with G had nothing to do with my heroic and committed stance to saving our relationship, but rather, something far deeper—my own fear of being without someone. Why else would I put up with so much crap? This wasn’t something that happened just this once. This was the pattern of my life. Clearly something I could blame on the kidnapping.
In her book, Peabody writes, “The hallmark of an addictive relationship is the fact that the deterioration [of the relationship] does not mean the end of the union. Because love addicts are dependent on their relationships to keep their dreams of happiness alive, they are far from ready to give up so easily. Instead, they work out an increasingly elaborate network of denial so they can pretend nothing is wrong…the relationship hurts, but you can’t let go.”
Yeah. That was me. I underlined nearly every sentence. I left tears on every page. And by the end, I knew I needed to reassess my dilemma with G and reconfigure my plan for our relationship. It would not be saved. He would not be saved. I would.
In our fifth and final appointment I thanked Sidney for all her help. She praised my courage and told me that relationships are oftentimes more difficult than we think. I told her they shouldn’t be. She shrugged, but agreed and said, “only for the lucky ones, I guess.” In our final meditation, which again failed me miserably, I wondered if she might be in a relationship where her partner was only giving her scraps. I wondered if she were resolved to taking them. I wondered if she were just as hungry and desperate to be fed as I was. I never told her about the love addiction stuff. I never told her that I think I had hit on something. I figured that would just inspire her to suggest that I sign up for five more sessions. I was done with therapy.
Back to books.
I write a blog on love addiction at http://www.girlrebuilt.com Come visit me!