“The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others” ~Sonya Friedman
Love is a funny thing. According to modern day psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists alike, the consensus is that it is just as easy to become addicted to falling in love as it is to get hooked on street drugs. But I think maybe my favorite drug is love. I guess they’d call it my drug of choice.
The irony in that statement is beyond comprehension. Any one of us who has fallen in love, or struggled with addiction on some level, knows damn well that choice seems to have very little to do with it.
About seven months ago I came to a breaking point. I made a decision to leave my spiritual community, to seek other ways to grow and develop. I was drained from giving so much of myself, as a result of not placing healthy boundaries with others and was suffering physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I began to find it hard to breathe. I forgot what it was like to breathe deep into me.
I didn’t realize I had become obsessed with loving everyone, but never allowed myself to receive love. When you are a love junkie, you think you know how to love well. You give your love to everyone and everything but yourself.
It becomes an external solution to an internal problem. The saying goes that which we cling to, we end up losing. As a result I experienced a great deal of loss, because suffocation repels rather than invites.
Addiction comes in many forms. You can smoke pain away. Drink the sadness away. Shop, gamble, or have sex until you think you have released your pain. It always returns because it never really left in the first place.
So I tried love. It seemed like such a safe and noble way to escape the throes of my mind. And yet time after time I was left feeling empty. When you try to fill a bottomless cup from the outside, it never gets full.
It was when I stopped loving myself at the expense of loving you that I lost sight of the truth. It was all the time I spent worrying about you when I could have been working on myself. I had started my process of healing, but I got lazy along the way.
That’s the thing about addiction or escapist behavior of any form. It becomes comfortable. The slipping, sliding, and easing back into negative and unhealthy narratives. Those voices inside our heads which feed our deepest insecurities.
It can sound like this:
You aren’t good enough.
You don’t deserve someone or something like this.
You’re a bad person.
You should have done this or could have done that.
You aren’t worth the effort.
You are going crazy.
You aren’t trying hard enough.
You aren’t doing enough.
You aren’t giving enough.
Do you see a pattern here?
At the root of all junkies is the core belief that “we are not enough.”
It was easy to slip back into these thought patterns because they had been a part of my personal narrative for so long. Thinking, acting, and being healthy was very uncomfortable for someone like me. Once I allowed this negative voice to become my internal dictator, my “love junkie” was awakened.
Where I was misled was through this internal belief that things would be better if I only loved more—and this “love” was demonstrated by giving all of myself, not listening to my personal needs for space or voicing my desires, or speaking my truth in most of my closest and personal relationships, including my marriage.
I felt that if I only loved more, then maybe I would be okay. Then I would feel whole.
“Loving more,” really, was my codependency playing out, and it often took the form of:
- Not being able to say no to people’s requests, or outright demands for my time and energy.
- Feeling guilty when I asked for things or wanted to make time for myself, out of fear of being seen as “selfish.”
- Putting up with abusive behavior such as neglect, inconsideration, blaming, and shaming from friends, family, or lovers.
- Feeling that if I distanced myself from these individuals or created boundaries within my relationships, it meant that I was “abandoning” them. As an individual who has experienced childhood abandonment and neglect, this meant I would be disloyal and undeserving.
Until I was able to adopt certain practices and healthier boundaries, I could not respect myself. When I began building up that self-respect and deconstructing the self-denial I had become clouded in, I could then demonstrate authenticity in all areas of my life.
As I began to understand myself better and treat myself with compassion and kindness I began to experience self-love rather than conceptualize it mentally.
Real intimacy and connection begins internally. If we seek our happiness, acceptance, and contentment outside ourselves, we will never be satisfied. The journey starts with the first step of moving toward ourselves.
I took stock of all the energy I was expending on people around me and realized my intention to love was actually blocked by my ego’s need to seek validation. In the quiet and the stillness I closed my eyes and began on the journey to find the greatest gift of all—myself.
Today I experience self-love as a process that begins with a shift from recognizing when I am heart-centered as opposed to being centered in the mind. It is a process where one actualizes acceptance and release from the ego.
When I returned to my spiritual community, it was from a place of great humility and personal grace. I was able to see it with a new pair of glasses. I returned with nothing to prove, only a deep desire to trust in a new way of loving myself and opening up to those capable of returning that love.
Love is not an obsession. Love is not a possession or the pursuit of possessing any one person or people. True love fuels a sense of freedom and joy. It is a process of intimate liberation.
Photo by GettysGirl4260