PART 17 – IS LOVE MORE ADDICTIVE THAN HEROIN?

This is a serial about love and awakening. Previously: I tell Billy not to contact me again. I feel relieved, elated, but then comes the crash. Check “Recent Posts” on right side of page to read past installments or to start with Part One.

When I moved to Venice, CA, in the 70s, the first thing I did was plant a garden: tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and, in a corner by the 7 foot fence, I threw some marijuana seeds. I wasn’t a big smoker but liked a toke now and then. The vegetables did not do well in the sandy beach soil, but the pot grew like Jack’s beanstalk.

I was writing my first book, Loose Change, and late one night, when the neighborhood was silent, I sat at my desk, struggling to make the story come alive. I was startled by a sudden banging and thumping of footsteps around the side of the house. I ran to the front door and yelled, “Who’s there?!”

“Police.” Two policemen with guns drawn were shining a high-powered flashlight at my eyes. They asked if I’d reported a burglary. I hadn’t. They said a call had come from 85 Windward.

“This is 58, you’re in the wrong place,” I said, wanting them to leave quickly. I glanced to the left. The police swung their flashlight to the left and there, in a pool of chalky light, stood the pot plants, five feet tall.

They handcuffed me and drove me to the Women’s House of Detention, where I was strip-searched and locked in a cell with prostitutes. In California at that time, possession of pot was a misdemeanor but cultivation was a felony. At 4 a.m., they let me use a payphone to call my father, who called a bail bondsman and at 6 a.m., utterly shaken, I was released.

I had to go to court but, because it was a first offense, I was given “diversion” – placed in a rehab program instead of being tried. I had to attend group therapy twice a week for 2 months at the Venice Drug Coalition.

There were 9 people in my group and I was the only one not there to kick a serious habit. May, an obese black woman wearing a flowered dress and slippers, spoke in a groggy voice. She was addicted to speed, took 20 Dexedrine a day, had been hospitalized and given shock treatment and still, despite the Dexedrine, she slept all day.

The man next to May had stolen a TV from his grandmother so he could “get down,” then fallen asleep with a cigarette in his mouth and burned down half the house, killing his cousin.

The leader of the group turned to me. “What’s with you, baby? You gotta contribute here, not just listen.”

What could I say? I grew some plants? I’m having writer’s block? I wake up with fear and trembling because I’m stuck on chapter 2?

The leader asked me to bring a chapter and read it aloud next time, but when I did, half the group nodded off.

As weeks passed, though, I became more involved with these people and their stories and they with me. I began to talk about my relationships with men, and nobody went to sleep. In fact, they vied to give me advice.

I told them I’d fallen in love with a man who was married, someone I’d known for many years. I’d promised myself I would never get involved with a married guy, but once we’d slept together, I had trouble stopping. I told the group, “I keep thinking: Being with this person makes me happy. How could something that makes me feel so good… be bad?”

The man who’d burned down his house and killed his cousin stared at me. “That’s what I used to say… about heroin.”

* * *

At the time, I thought it was a funny story and repeated it to friends. “Is that what happens? If I keep sleeping with this guy, I’ll end up strung out in the gutter?” But 30 years later, the analogy seems dead-on.

In the 70s, there was no concept of an addiction to love and sex. If you’d told me I was an addict, I would have laughed, because I was sure I did not have an addictive personality. I never smoked cigarettes or got hooked on alcohol or pills. Chocolate, maybe, but didn’t everyone love chocolate?

The study and treatment of love addiction did not begin until the 80’s, spurred by the publication of “Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous” by the Augustine Fellowship staff. Sex and love addiction are different syndromes but related. For men, it’s usually a compulsion to cheat and sleep with lots of women. (Think Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Gov. Sanford) For women, it tends to be an obsession with one man. (Why are we not surprised?) What’s true for both men and women is that we can’t stop ourselves, even when we know our behavior could destroy a marriage or our sanity or the chance to lead a country. And this goes back to the earliest civilizations. Antony lost Rome because he couldn’t keep away from Cleopatra.

The most helpful book I’ve found on the love syndrome is by Howard Halpern, “How to Break Your Addiction to a Person.” Halpern calls the problem “attachment hunger,” and lists three symptoms:

1. The compulsive quality — you’re driven to merge with a specific person, even when you know it’s not healthy.
2. You feel panic at the thought of losing the person. Keeping or losing the relationship feels like a matter of life and death.
3. When the relationship ends, you have withdrawal symptoms, which include depression and intense physical pain, especially in the chest and stomach. “A person who has just ended an addictive relationship may suffer greater agony,” Halpern writes, than heroin addicts when they go cold turkey.

Another sign is that you only feel fully alive when you’re with a partner, and you’re incomplete without one. Your identity, your worth, your very survival depend on keeping that partner.

Halpern and others who’ve worked in the field say the roots of addiction are in infancy: not receiving the love and acceptance you needed. As a result, you never develop the ability to love yourself. You’re constantly seeking to merge with another to feel whole and safe. And because the problem began before you had words, it operates at the most primitive level, unconsciously.

Not getting the love you needed as a baby seems to be the source of most problems, and when I hear that, it’s just words. But as I read Halpern’s book and others, I would feel physical pain, my chest constricting, because the descriptions of attachment hunger hit home. Hard.

I’ve had wonderful and nurturing relationships, I’ve been married and raised a family, but since I’ve been single again, I find the hunger and pain are coming up in extremis – stronger than they did when I was younger.

The pain is increasing, I suspect, because the attachment hunger needs to be released. I can’t live with it anymore. The books I read were great at defining the problem, but their prescriptions for ending it didn’t help. I resolved to do what I’d done when I was suffering from heel pain that wouldn’t go away: Everything. Therapy, body work, 12-step meetings, reading, journaling, prayer, meditation retreats. I was determined to do — or not do — whatever it took to reach the state where I could savor life to the fullest, whether I have a partner or not.

But before I arrived at this determination, I had to play out my fiery attraction to Billy. I had to hit bottom.

TO BE CONTINUED

PENIS FINDER CONTEST WINNER
Thank you all for the fantastic comments! It was so tough to choose a winner, I had to enroll five judges to reach a consensus.
AND THE WINNER IS….
Harry Tucker
FOUR-WAY TIE for second: Samantha, Gini Maddocks, Gordon, and Beauregard
Check them all out.

Harry, please send your address. And choose one of my books.


This blog is based on a true story, but names and identifying details have been changed to protect privacy.

 

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20 thoughts on “PART 17 – IS LOVE MORE ADDICTIVE THAN HEROIN?

  1. Slohabob

    Dear Sara, I have no doubt that love is addictive, and, by me, that's a good thing. That doesn't mean that we can't make stupid decisions behind our desire to have more love in our lives. Excuse me if I have a bit of trouble with buying that thing about our addiction to love being related to how much love we did or did not receive as babies. What is true is that as we become more conscious of our lives, most of us realize that we have some control over what we do or do not do, and that includes our emotions. I suspect that if Billy were to submit to the expectations of any of the women he's playing, that woman would get tired of him in a hurry. It is perfectly normal and a good thing that you want more love in your life, but, from all I can tell, we have to love ourselves first before we are going to get that special love from others. It would also probably be very helpful if you could identify what it is you are actually looking for in a loving relationship with a man. I wish you the best! Aloha, Bob

    Reply
  2. mary

    Great essay. I've been there – the obsession, the panic of doing losing him, the depression when I did lose him, the fantasies of burning his house down (kidding). But you know what? All that obsession garbage went out the window when I went through menopause. I'm so much happier now.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    .

    Ok Sara, this is some good story talk, writing, description and analysis. From this persons perspective it is all due to the primary misconception: Mistaken Identity. We think we are separate guys. Seeing that we are “not two” is not an experience which can come and go like the sunshine. It is a realization. Like realizing you have a profile. You've always had it, it has always been the case. When this is realized, this I, is all of that out there. Then the other 'addictions' based on a need to merge or attain or consume, lose their power. Of course who am I to say what people need to do. On the other hand (same body) .. maybe you could sit down and observe what arises for a few years. Some call this meditation and yes you need a teacher, what you personally might need, though it may be inspiring, won't come out of a book because a book can't answer your particular questions… and “call you on your bulls**t… Good luck!

    Love, Bob

    .

    Reply
  4. Lora

    Is it really too dependent to want somebody to love? Is attachment a bad thing? Obviously yes, if it is to a married man or a jerk. But don't be too hard on yourself. It's as natural to want someone as it is to breathe; and it doesn't have to mean you have some attachment/obsession disorder.It's a legitimate human need.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    .

    Lora, you are correct, yes it is natural. People are too hard on themselves like you said…which just makes things worse. Most people won't suffer enough to want the truth. They find a good mate, have a relatively happy life. Are admired by their friends and cherished by their mate. You'll do what you need to do for yourself and maybe things are working out ok. On the other hand… all of this…everything, will vanish.

    Love,
    Bob

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I can relate. I spent many years sleeping around – my husband was abusive but my behavior didn't change for a long time after I divorced him. I didn't want sex; I wanted to be loved. I have one son who has been in prison for selling marijuana. He was an addict and admits it. He has no idea about me . Sometimes I think I should confess but I don't believe that would serve any good purpose for him. I have enjoyed reading the story.

    Reply
  7. Dr. Barbra

    What worked for me was Codependants Anonymous, the same 12-step program, but everyone has to find what works for them.

    I did a lot of journaling about it. You are certainly doing that now. maybe that will be your cure.
    I can't wait for the next installment!
    Regards,DRB

    Reply
  8. Bluekelpie

    Wow Sara! I have lots to say about this one. Saying that we have an addiction is one way of looking at this situation, certainly. Lots of therapists would say so. I find it hurtful and judgemental. Maybe there is another way that we can look at our actions that holds more respect for ourselves … and feels much better. Perhaps we could say that we came from a place of love, that we put love before everything else, were willing to look foolish because of our belief that connecting with a particular person on a deep level was extremely important to us and that we were brave to put ourselves out there in order to manifest such a relationship. We fought for this love against all the odds. We believed in ourselves and in this person and felt guided by our heart. Maybe we don't have to believe that we are addicts, or sick, or at fault. We could turn the beliefs around to be positive. It feels so much better and I honestly feel that the opposite belief is just as truthful. I think that our emotions are strongly connected to our beliefs. Perhaps the pain comes from the belief that we NEED this person in our life in order to be happy. We tend to turn our wants into our needs. We can want to be in relationship with someone and not have them in our life and still be happy and feel good about who we are. We can put ourselves on the line for love, have the love not work out the way we want and we still don't have to think of ourselves as addicted or at fault. Why are we judging ourselves so harshly? Of course there is pain when we think we are emotionally unwell. It is natural to feel a loss when we tried so hard to love someone and it was not returned. It doesn't have to mean that we are wrong or sick in some way. It is okay to feel sad sometimes. Life is all the colors of the rainbow. I think what we could do to heal, is change the way we think, change our pattern of learned beliefs. We get so sad when we don't get what we want. I don't believe that we are being authentic with ourselves by calling ourselves addicts simply because we cherish love. In the end, love really is all there is. That's worth fighting for.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    Sara, Sara, It’s the intellectual claptrap trap: Arrive at a definition of the problem and its etiology (inevitably a lack of self-love), hit a brick wall — ­no easy solution — ­and you’re a victim, a victim of insurmountable forces, with the only way out to enjoy the ride until you hit rock bottom. My advice, and I know you can do it: enjoy the ride, but keep your hands on the wheel –you just might drop off Billy and pick up Mr. Right.

    Reply
  10. Annie

    Sara – you live in the Boulder area don't you? Do you workout? Run, bike, swim, yoga, ever try a triathlon or trail run? Hike? Exercise is just as addictive to me as this whole love/sex thing. And there is nothing that makes you feel better about yourself and stronger as a person than a fit body and incredible energy! You look fit in your photos so you have probably already discovered the secret of the runner's high but if not I highly encourage you to hit the trail!!! When I couldn't get over a praticular young man in Moab I got in the best shape ever and met yet more guys to get over. HA.. I vow to meet my soulmate by a certain age (which I won't mention here) so in the meantime… time to run!!

    P.S. You have the best state EVER. I am really enjoying Silverton and the San Juan Mountains.

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    I was once told that my not drinking wasn't a virtue, and that was because I was neutral about the feeling I got from drinking. And so I suppose that all of us who aren't addicted to a person or sex can't give “you” advice such as what was written after the first blog. It all sounds like a good idea, but it won't make any difference. It can't, based on the addiction information (which was so well written that the unaddicted among us can easily empathize and not feel superior). Is it necessary to hit bottom? The only image I see is that of women who are abused by their “boy friend.” Very scary, Sara. I guess I was lucky in my parents as an infant (I can't say that about some of the years afterward) because I smelled trouble during your first chapter and know I would have never seen him. Good luck.

    Reply
  12. BEV HON

    Sara, sometimes the answer lies in the funny papers. Mike Doonesbury's daughter Alix has just proclaimed that she needs the DRAMA!!This episode appears to be a sendup of a certain Senator and his Argentine mistress: He called it “a tragic love affair,.

    Actually, nicotine is more addictive than heroin.

    I am sticking with the body chem roots of addiction; we like the rush to our brain pleasure center. My prime exhibit is my oldest: from birth, she prefered the bottle (table sugar) to my breast milk (lactose, not nearly as potent.)

    She was Bulemic at age 13 – -addicted to the adrenalin buzz of hunger pangs.

    I believe that she was an alcoholic by the time she graduated college. She raved about “REALLY good DRINKS!”

    Alcoholism runs in my family. I grew up with Bad Boys and Worse Girls. This points to a genetic component. Still, we have responsiblities.

    Fibromyalgia prevented me from excessive drinking. I would hurl. But oh, my attraction to the Bad Boys!!!!(and the three packs a day.)

    All this is intellectualizing… “all up in our heads”. And it is action that gets us clean. I don't want to be a toxic woman.

    Even thought that is so much fun!!!!

    Concentrating on healthy activities and having Fibro as an excuse for no sexual relationships has kept me straight – – -but I really don't know how things will go. My Fibro is improving – – and I LOVE the drama!!!!

    Hmm, second thoughts; have you thought of acting in local little theater? Plenty of Bad Boys there, but the excitement of the drama stays on the stage. You walk out the door, high on the risk involved in production- – and go home safely.
    I guess this is kind of like methadone for drama junkies.

    Risk is our high.
    Whatever works, girl.

    BEV HON

    Reply
  13. BEV HON

    Sara, sometimes the answer lies in the funny papers. Mike Doonesbury's daughter Alix has just proclaimed that she needs the DRAMA!!This episode appears to be a sendup of a certain Senator and his Argentine mistress: He called it “a tragic love affair,.

    Actually, nicotine is more addictive than heroin.

    I am sticking with the body chem roots of addiction; we like the rush to our brain pleasure center. My prime exhibit is my oldest: from birth, she prefered the bottle (table sugar) to my breast milk (lactose, not nearly as potent.)

    She was Bulemic at age 13 – -addicted to the adrenalin buzz of hunger pangs.

    I believe that she was an alcoholic by the time she graduated college. She raved about “REALLY good DRINKS!”

    Alcoholism runs in my family. I grew up with Bad Boys and Worse Girls. This points to a genetic component. Still, we have responsiblities.

    Fibromyalgia prevented me from excessive drinking. I would hurl. But oh, my attraction to the Bad Boys!!!!(and the three packs a day.)

    All this is intellectualizing… “all up in our heads”. And it is action that gets us clean. I don't want to be a toxic woman.

    Even thought that is so much fun!!!!

    Concentrating on healthy activities and having Fibro as an excuse for no sexual relationships has kept me straight – – -but I really don't know how things will go. My Fibro is improving – – and I LOVE the drama!!!!

    Hmm, second thoughts; have you thought of acting in local little theater? Plenty of Bad Boys there, but the excitement of the drama stays on the stage. You walk out the door, high on the risk involved in production- – and go home safely.
    I guess this is kind of like methadone for drama junkies.

    Risk is our high.
    Whatever works, girl.

    BEV HON

    Reply
  14. BEV HON

    Sara, sometimes the answer lies in the funny papers. Mike Doonesbury's daughter Alix has just proclaimed that she needs the DRAMA!!This episode appears to be a sendup of a certain Senator and his Argentine mistress: He called it “a tragic love affair,.

    Actually, nicotine is more addictive than heroin.

    I am sticking with the body chem roots of addiction; we like the rush to our brain pleasure center. My prime exhibit is my oldest: from birth, she prefered the bottle (table sugar) to my breast milk (lactose, not nearly as potent.)

    She was Bulemic at age 13 – -addicted to the adrenalin buzz of hunger pangs.

    I believe that she was an alcoholic by the time she graduated college. She raved about “REALLY good DRINKS!”

    Alcoholism runs in my family. I grew up with Bad Boys and Worse Girls. This points to a genetic component. Still, we have responsiblities.

    Fibromyalgia prevented me from excessive drinking. I would hurl. But oh, my attraction to the Bad Boys!!!!(and the three packs a day.)

    All this is intellectualizing… “all up in our heads”. And it is action that gets us clean. I don't want to be a toxic woman.

    Even thought that is so much fun!!!!

    Concentrating on healthy activities and having Fibro as an excuse for no sexual relationships has kept me straight – – -but I really don't know how things will go. My Fibro is improving – – and I LOVE the drama!!!!

    Hmm, second thoughts; have you thought of acting in local little theater? Plenty of Bad Boys there, but the excitement of the drama stays on the stage. You walk out the door, high on the risk involved in production- – and go home safely.
    I guess this is kind of like methadone for drama junkies.

    Risk is our high.
    Whatever works, girl.

    BEV HON

    Reply
  15. rick the celestial cowboy

    dear sara,

    your story about your arrest and incarceration just because you grew a plant in your backyard that happens to grow wild in deserts and on mountains around the united states and in the caribbean, was precisely why i chose to leave the u.s. for a spell and go to st. kitts and nevis to live and work. it's tragic that america is turning into a police state. anything the government cannot tax — and how can you tax a plant that a person chooses to grow at home — is made illegal! THIS should be the subject of your next book. i'm surprised you didn't bring it up in LEAP, which i admired very much. you shouldn't have been arrested and i think it's great that you admit it on this site.
    are love and drugs addictive?
    well, i do not consider marijuana a drug, for starters. it is a plant and i guess a federal or state government could make other plants illegal just because they suspect they may give a person a euphoric 'high' by smoking, inhaling, making them into tea or whatever. while love is not addictive, i think sex possibly is, based on my own experiences. no high can match an orgasm with the person who is right your life at the time it happens. the problem with monogamy is that a person seeks an even higher feeling when orgasm occurs, and that is why many men and some women seek other partners — especially people who are celebrities, important, wealthy (think donald trump) or otherwise in the public eye.
    i believe sex is as great a need in a person's life as water, food or breathing.
    and i still renounce those cops for subjecting you to the indignities of being arrested, body-searched and otherwise treated. america needs another revolution, and the law enforcement agencies MUST be placed under the control of the taxpayers who pay the bills to run this government and the city, county and state municipalities. california and several other states are finally coming around on the marijuana issue, but to date i have been extremely disappointed at both president bill clinton and president barack obama for not doing more to lift this guillotine from the necks of individuals who would rather get their euphoriaa from smoking rather than from drinking.

    Reply
  16. Debbie

    Sara,

    I found your comment about the need to “be with someone” becoming more intense as you get older very interesting. I, too, have the same longing….my last relationship ended 2 years ago, and I have tried to “heal” ( we have remained friends, in fact), but when I recently found out that he had a new girlfriend, I was jealous as hell!! How come HE found someone and I didn't??

    I have tried to keep myself in good shape, am still fairly attractive at 56, but as a school teacher, I find the opportunities to meet “eligible” men to be much fewer than when I was younger. Although I like sex, too, I prefer it to be with someone that I am romantically involved with…i.e, Bill Maher (as much as I like his political views) would never be my type.

    So here we are….and the view is not always pretty. But there are so many other things to be thankful for….and I try to think of at least one each day. So, if the right guy comes along – great. If not, I'll still have my friends and myself. I hope you can do the same.

    Reply
  17. Beauregard

    After eight years of singleness, dating, study and introspection, I had it mostly figured out. How to love a woman and be loved. At age 62 I found her, as close to perfection as exists. We lived together for two years and she decided she really didn't want a man in her life, at least, not in a marriage-like relationship. In the nine months since she dumped me, after significant heartbreak on my part, we've been together, in the Biblical and other senses, five times.
    Each time quite pleasant and what I would consider a normal man-woman relationship featuring routine activities, good conversation and sex.
    I think we could continue this indefinitely, but it's not enough for me. I'm just caught in this rut (OK, rutting… pardon me) because of the distaste for getting back in the search mode and my conviction that it's not likely to get much better.
    Back to you Sarah, you've been out there long enough and have enough features of attraction to make me ask, do you really want a man?
    I wonder if some of us just can't admit to ourselves we really don't want a partner in a meaningful, permanent, full-time way.
    We don't admit it, but our actions speak volumes.
    School teacher can't find a man. Yeah, yeah, me too. The Internet is full of people, mostly duds I know, but I'm there and so is Sara.
    I see some people I know have been “active” for more than six years. In all this time if they haven't found a partner I have to think they really don't want one.
    Or maybe there is some fundamental flaw in me I'm missing. I have to admit that possibility, but the women I've dated seem to be honest and don't reveal any serious deal breakers.
    So what is going on?

    Reply