Withdrawal From Love
For most of my adult life, I had dating down to a science but I did not know how to let go. I kept thinking if I hung in there long enough things would get better. I was sure that with a little more love and patience my partner would love me or at least stop neglecting me. I was hoping my partner would change even though he said clearly that nothing was wrong with him. I was willing to change everything about myself except learning how to let go.
Eventually, I had a nervous breakdown when a relationship did not work out, and I got into recovery. I worked hard to build up myself esteem, and I finally realized I deserved better than what I had settled for all these years. Most of all, I learned how to break up with guys who loved themselves more than they loved me.
I have come to realize that it was so hard for me to break up because I did not get my needs for love met as a child, and that when I felt abandoned I was actually in withdrawal.
You may not realize this, but falling in love is actually a chemical experience much like any mind-altering experience. Once caught in the throws of passion, you are actually high as if you were drugged. This is why it is such a powerful experience and can lead to love addiction in some cases.
Like any drug, withdrawal from what Soren Kierkegaard calls “preferential love” is eminent if the connection between lovers is broken.
Withdrawal from romantic love is one of the most painful withdrawals because there is a unique connection between the person affected and the love he or she did not get as a child. During withdrawal they mentally go back in time and feel all the losses they felt as a child. The more neglected they were as children, the more they suffer in the process of withdrawal.
Sometimes the symptoms of withdrawal are physical. Lovers experience depression, anxiety and even flu like symptoms---just like withdrawal from drugs.
People have many theories about how to treat withdrawal. There is the moderation theory like they practice for food addiction, but in most cases complete abstinence works better. In Love Addicts Anonymous, for instance, lovers engage in what they call “no contact.” This works well unless they are one of those who carry a torch year after year. Such people need more help turning their passion into a sentimental experience rather than a painful addiction.
It is also important to note that in most cases one cannot go through withdrawal without help. Studies support the idea that one must reach out for help from peers as well and professionals. This is discussed in Patrick Carne’s book about sex addiction, "Don’t Call it Love." He insists that a twelve step program works better. I agree. Reaching out for help is the most important step after admitting that you are addicted to love.
If you have a hard time letting go, consider the following.
(1) Admit you have a problem. Admit this to yourself and to someone else. Face the fact that you are part of the problem and that you are not just a victim.
(2) Reach out to a support group or therapist. It is not enough to ask your friends what to do. This is serious, and you need a lot of support to get through the emotional and physical withdrawal.
(3) Initiate “no contact" with the person you are addicted to.
(4) Distract yourself with activities. Do something fun and hang out with friends who understand what you are going through. Start a new hobby or go on a vacation.
(5) Treat your anxiety and depression in a way suited to you. This may mean consulting a professional and considering medication on a short term basis. If this is not right for you, practice positive thinking and be optimistic about the future.
(6) Give yourself time to heal. Whether your withdrawal is short or long, things will get better in time.
(7) This would also be a good time to build up your confidence and self-esteem. Some people blame themselves for the end of the relationship and this only prolongs withdrawal. Most of al,l be optimistic and know that there will be a brighter tomorrow.
When a relationship is over or needs to end because it is toxic, most healthy people feel loss or sadness, but eventually they are able to move on. For some of us, however, the act of “moving on” can be a seemingly impossible task steeped in fear and a desperation to hang on. Still, breaking up can be done, and if you are not getting your needs met then it is time to move on.
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