1) Understand the Dynamics of Love Addiction & Addicted Relationships
A very important first step in recovery is to gain clarity into the intricacies of love addiction, the love addict, avoidant partner, and love addicted relationship dynamics.
Understanding your problem in love addiction means you are reading books about love addiction it means to be familiar with addiction and its relation to love addiction; to understand the relational dynamics of love addiction, the relational patterns, and cycles, -- the behavioral and emotional characteristics of love addicts, their romantic avoidant partners, and other important aspects.
Read as many books on love addiction as possible. There are good books on love addiction (with different angles on the problem) and not so good ones-- nevertheless, I believe you can get something good out of them all.
If you haven't done so, download and read my very informative book on love addiction, The LOVE ADDICT in Love Addiction- inside, you will develop a very clear and comprehensive understanding of the problem.
Moreover, to find long-lasting recovery, you first need to understand the core issues of shame/self-esteem, boundary impairment, unrealistic relational expectations, rescuing and placating, and fear of abandonment and intimacy- which is thoroughly covered by my book.
2) Face it: YOU and ONLY YOU- Are Responsible For Making Change Happen
One of the hallmarks of addiction is addicts often attempt to hold someone or something other than themselves responsible for discomfort and pain, or whatever undesirable situation we're in.
In early recovery love addicts easily blame our partner or ex-partners-- always distracting or avoiding the self- we obsessively think about what they did, didn't do; said, or didn't say for the situation we're in. Inevitably, blaming will only halt any chance of growth and recovery.
Recovery is NOT about your partner -- Your Happiness or Pain is not about him or her-- unless they are in a relationship and involved in a recovery program with you. What they do or don't do, say or don't say... IS NOT about you. Don't take on another person's responsibility, take on your own, only. Early on- this is very difficult to comprehend- but try as best you can today.
Change and recovery will only come with you. Change comes by your choices and willingness and true desire to make a change- and what you focus on a day to day basis.
You are an adult- and as an adult, the #1 responsibility is your own growth and well-being- the better you are to you, the better your well-being will be, the better your relationships ahead will be, the better your life will be.
You are in charge of your life. You have a RIGHT and DUTY to break free from unhealthy habits; to take care of yourself and grow. Be selfish in this- it IS OK.
3) Realize -You have the capacity to change.
Human beings have an innate capacity to change even the most difficult conditions.
The behavioral and emotional patterns of love addiction are emotionally ingrained --- you can't will it away, or wish it away, but you do have a great capacity to change.
Healthy change is possible for every human being regardless of age and circumstance.
Change is to human life what the metamorphosis is to the caterpillar. It is the inevitable cycle of life. If there is no change, there is no life. The change will happen, the kind of change that will happen depends on what you focus on.
The possibility of genuine positive change is in your hands all depending on what direction you want to go- then choices and actions you choose in your life from this point forward.
Today, as an adult at this moment, you have the capacity for amazing change; healing and recovery. Success builds upon success. Sometimes inner changes come from outer changes, and sometimes outer changes are a by-product of inner changes.
Recovering from love addiction is not a simple process. It will take hard work and persistence on your part. Change is never easy for anyone. This is the reality of it all.
Still, with perseverance, willingness and desire for change will come more hope, strength, empowerment that could change your life in extremely positive ways.
4) Expect Discomfort
After a long pattern of unhealthy dependency patterns, you will feel worse in the first stages of recovery, even as he or she begins to get better.
This is because when recovery begins there often is a withdrawal because we grieve our fantasies; we go into withdrawal from old patterns of thinking and behaving, all of which must change in order for her to get well.
Expect that you will feel pain and discomfort as you would be having surgery and recovering in a hospital. Even with pain you are healing, and know it won't last forever if you stick it out and trust the process.
5) One Day at a Time
There is a wise saying in recovery and one you should remember-- "one day at a time".
It's too easy to want immediate results, you want to feel better now, you want everything just right- right now... and you want to skip the important work needed to recover-- which only fuels frustration and relapse.
It's easy to look into the future and become overwhelmed and think "how is it possible"?
IT IS POSSIBLE. So take your recovery path One Day at a Time. Today is all you have- it's all we all have.
If necessary, focus on one hour or even one minute at a time. If you become overwhelmed with recovery tasks to be accomplished, make yourself a list of things to do. Keep them small and simple. Take a break if needed.
Tasks that can be accomplished in five minutes or less can be as rewarding as major long-term tasks, especially in that moment of confusion and bewilderment.
Be mindful when your attention is not at the moment. When your mind dwells in the future or the past, you can do nothing. Remember, the only time you can ever do anything is right now.
6) It Is About Progress - Not Perfection
As I mentioned, breaking love addiction and related addictive relationship patterns at its core- isn't easy. Change is sometimes a seemingly very slow process.
You have to learn the art of accepting failure, mistakes, and missteps (without shame or self-blame) while still pushing forward to the next milestone.
You must be fully aware that in recovery you will take two steps back and one step forward. In fact in life-- when we humans are striving for something positive - the path is always full of ups and downs.
But with persistence, the goal is achieved. Come to fully accept the problem in love addiction and recovery is a bumpy road. Come to fully accept there is no perfection in recovery, there is only progress.
... Progress - Not Perfection
Progress may be happening when you don't even realize it. Don't blame yourself for failures or mistakes (you are human)-- but don't give up or give in either. Avoid beating up on yourself when you make mistakes--- because you will it's all part of the journey (did I mention you're a human being too?).
There is no room in recovery for buying into feelings of guilt and shame, as they perpetuate the shame/guilt spiral that often feeds our very dependency and addiction.
Guilt is when we feel we've done something bad. Shame is when we feel that we are bad, inadequate, somehow shouldn't be on this earth. The shame is at full force in our addiction to love.
When we make mistakes or slip for whatever reason, the shame wants you to believe that it's not worth it, you'll never make it, and things will never change... Excuse my language- but this is Bullshit.
This kind of Toxic Shame is always full of lies, distortions, and total untruths. Both of these attitudes need to be addressed head-on in recovery.
7) Acknowledge, then Validate ALL of Your Feelings/Emotions (good or bad)
In our addiction, we've tried to escape and control feelings at all costs.
We often believe "I shouldn't feel this way or that way". We shame ourselves if we feel discomfort. We developed unhealthy distorted beliefs about our emotions. We came to accept the lie that our real feelings were not acceptable.
We, therefore, used other people in our addiction to avoid our feelings--to cover up and minimize them at all costs. In recovery, you learn to let your feelings in and accept them for what they are-- with no shame.
Accepting and honoring your feelings is part of nurturing self; part of honoring your humanness; part of validating the self.
Feelings are feelings- they are neither good nor bad- wrong or right. To be healthy we learn we have the right to our feelings, whether it is sadness, joy, passion, grief, frustration, etc.
Feelings are part of our human experience. To heal we learn to acknowledge and accept whatever feelings we have.
We accept all feelings with an awareness that they are a necessary part of our humanness, and that uncomfortable or painful feelings will not last forever and will NOT make you die.
You can survive with all your feelings, and you need to keep aware that the bad feelings are a warning sign (like a pain in your leg from a fractured fibula) for you to do something about your situation- something positive and something that will help you grow and thrive- because you can.
Allow me to reiterate this very important point regarding feelings: Feelings are NOT always facts.
Feelings simply let us know where we are at the moment. Feelings are not always rational. Many of our feelings are distorted because of our thinking. Our mind creates our feelings.
So when you have the feelings of unworthiness, un-lovability, not being good enough; feeling that you will never get through this, that you cannot change, etc.; don't accept the feeling like a reality.
You just validate its presence. You'll understand this much more as you are fully into your recovery.
Accept where you're at right now. Accept your feelings. And take appropriate action to take care of you.
8) Embrace Truth and Honesty
From this day forward, commit yourself to a policy of absolute honesty and truth. In every step on this path of growth- be rigorously honest with yourself and others who are present to help and support your journey.
One of the most important aspects of living a healthy life is your ability to share your true self with the world around you. This is engaging in intimacy.
And in recovery, we need to learn what intimacy truly is and how it enhances our lives.
In love addiction, like all other kinds of addicts, you have been in denial- and recovery is impossible with denial. And your truth and reality are absolutely necessary if positive change is to be made.
Being honest with confronting your denial is part of loving yourself. In recovery, a large part of it is learning how to love you- with freedom and authenticity.
While being honest in every aspect of your recovery process you become capable of taking an honest look at yourself, your life, and your relationships; no to mention your flaws and your strengths (we all have strengths and weaknesses- and that is okay).
Choosing absolute honesty is not a task that can be assigned to you. It is a value to adopt on your own for no other reason than it exemplifies the life you are striving to build-- about a CONCEPT of absolute honesty as a foundation for how you live your life.
We are talking about establishing honesty as a pro-active guide to living your life, rather than as a reactive decision. If you want to break free and start living the life you deserve, trust in the truth, even if it doesn't feel good.
Once you learn to face the truth - you will find it difficult to go back to the lies. The truth will set you free. So it's time to show up for you, your life, and for meaningful, healthy relationships you deserve.
About the Author:
Jim Hall is a Love Addiction Specialist, Recovery Coach, and Author of 3 Books on addictive love and how to recover. As a former therapist, turned relationship-recovery coach, Jim offers hope for those struggling with obsessive love-who want to grow, develop inner-security, and move towards a healthier path to achieving safe, happy, loving relationships. Learn more about Jim