Sex, Love and Other Drugs: My Cross-Addictions

This is not me. It's just a cute couple.

This is not me. It's just a cute couple.

I deserve love. I write it out on my mirror, as my therapist suggests, and I repeat it to myself multiple times a day. I think it’s bullshit. Why do I have to keep telling myself this? She keeps assigning me tasks that I do not want to do and I am tired of all this talk about self-love and vulnerability. I do not want to focus on my “abandonment issues” for one more minute. She tells me I won’t heal if I won’t do the work. She says that perhaps I am unwilling to do the work, because I don’t want to change. She believes I have grown accustomed to a cycle of abuse and that abuse is my new norm. Maybe she’s right.

I have completed a trauma egg, a relationship chart, an in-depth examination of my entire childhood and I’ve answered every single question in this 300-page booklet they gave me at treatment. I am tired. I am tired of looking this deeply and intimately at my history. I have all these feels and now I really have nowhere to escape. Why? Because for the first time in my sobriety, I am addressing not only my issue with drugs, but my issues with love and men, and possibly, even sex.  

I did not realize I was addicted to love, until I tried to stop abusing drugs. I discovered that if I am unable to alter my reality with drugs, then I will do so with men. I had a compulsive desire to be high and to escape my own feelings and emotions. I found myself involved in a game of addiction-transference and it was glaringly apparent to everyone, but me. I had been kicked out of rehab three times for getting in relationships with men. 

There are a number of names for this phenomenon: cross-addiction, addiction-transference, addiction-replacement, etc. Cross-addiction is defined as the instance when one compulsive behavior is exchanged for another compulsive behavior. It is the tendency to substitute one addiction for another. Apparently, and neurologically speaking, it is the desire to cope with a perceived lack of dopamine in the brain. And guess what? I needed my dopamine. 

Every time I have tried to treat my drug addiction; I found myself falling mercilessly “in love” with another human. I don’t know how I picked my partner – all I know is that I become fixated on one person and I had to have them. The person became the big red center of a bullseye and I targeted them. My behavior was predatory, but that is how one behaves when they need to survive. Dopamine was my survival mechanism. 

When people speak about love addiction – it is not love that we become addicted to: it is the euphoria, obsessive highs, security, and power. It is the way the relationship makes us feel. Just as a drug addict has an obsessive desire to be high; a love addict feels the exact same way about her partner or conquest of choice. My thoughts became obsessive. I could not focus or think about anything else but my “love.” I would do whatever I had to do to maintain the relationship, because it fed my need for dopamine, just as the drugs did. If you think trying to quit one addiction is hard, try having to quit two simultaneously.

The best thing I ever realized is that I could not stay sober, if I did not face my addiction to love. Even when I did not want to face this addiction, my therapists’ and my treatment team showed me how. They taught me the importance of self-love and the work they asked me to do was work that was necessary to my growth. 

 The poet Yung Pueblo says: “I was never addicted to one thing. I was addicted to filling a void, with something other than my own love.” In facing my addiction to love and drugs, simultaneously, I discovered how to love myself. I discovered that I truly do deserve love.