How Long Will Love Withdrawal Last?
How long love addiction withdrawal lasts is one of the most frequently asked questions from my online recovery clients. Understandably, since it is such an excruciating experience for most.
If you’re facing the upheaval of withdrawal then you also may want to know— how long do these symptoms of withdrawal last?
I understand from a personal and professional perspective what you are going through. I've been there. Withdrawal can feel frightening anxiety-ridden, and profoundly distressing.
The truth of the matter is-- How long love and relationship addiction withdrawal will vary from person to person.
In my online practice, I work with many people going through this awful experience. I’ve seen love addicts experience a rapid decrease in their symptoms of withdrawal.
One thing for sure from experience-- what determines how long withdrawal from a breakup lasts depends on what recovery path a person takes. In other words, are they seeking recovery advice and guidance from a professional who understands this problem, who understands how to effectively help with the healing process?
For Online Relationship and Recovery Advice and Coaching with Jim Hall - go to Online Love Addiction Coaching.
In many cases, the answer to how long love withdrawal lasts will depend on what actions and choices you take given this uninvited opportunity.
Yes, I said opportunity. It is true.
It may seem crazy to call this an opportunity when love withdrawal can feel like falling through what feels like an unending scorching black hole.
The experience of withdrawing from an addictive relationship is a tremendous opportunity for growth.
Transformation and growth often occur from painful life circumstances.
Generally, when we face the pain and grief of withdrawing from an addicted relationship, we tend to go into survival mode turning to old coping strategies or adapted behavioral responses from childhood.
For example, a survival mechanism like returning to an unsatisfying relationship with an avoidant or narcissistic ex-partner to dissipate the love withdrawal symptoms—which is detrimental.
Many of us will not learn from our pains of withdrawing, but instead, continue to carry unresolved attachment wounds, and self-destructive coping mechanisms into our next relationship, and the next, keeping love addiction alive, and unhealthy patterns continuing.
It is logical to say, if we allow this to happen, growth and healing cannot occur, and we continue to abandon ourselves and any chance of genuine love and intimacy in our future.
How long withdrawal lasts is often determined by how much you engage in an effective recovery process.
Fully embracing a solutions-oriented healing process can significantly improve and speed up the healing process.
Being fully engaged in recovery can mean different things to different people.
However, from experience, it means- for example, committing to a healing process and growth process, seeing a counselor/therapist/love addiction specialist (preferably one with expertise around love addiction), and doing what is needed.
Fully engaging in recovery means reading love and relationship addiction literature. It might mean attending support or recovery groups (e.g., healing groups, online or local 12 step groups).
It means being open and honest with yourself about what you truly want in your life and the type of partners you want to spend your time with.
It means having and working on important tools and exercises to help you break denial and the obsession of an ex-partner, increase your self-esteem, improve boundaries, and gain clarity into what is most important to you.
Engaging in recovery also means knowing you won’t be perfect on the path.
Do not expect perfection- no one will recover perfectly. We heal with faith and persistence- with a knowing, we are perfectly- imperfect.
Factors that could worsen and lengthen the painful symptoms of love withdrawal.
An important matter that may challenge how fast you heal from the misery of withdrawal are any experiences of loss in adulthood; even childhood.
For example, when I (Jim, author) experienced three very close deaths in my family before my very last withdrawal experience from an addictive relationship (breakup).
My mother died less than three years before this breakup; my younger brother died a year after; then my grandmother (with who I was also very close) died around five months after my brother—all of whom I had a close relationship.
These were significant losses that required a healthy grieving process.
Around the same period, grieving was replaced with an addictive relationship. I felt grief during this period, but I also anesthetized myself pushing much of my grieving away with a romantic partner (my new drug).
So when this relationship failed, these ungrieved losses contributed significantly to the withdrawal. My world (I felt) came crashing down; the pain and agony felt unbearable.
During this period, I believed I could never get through it, but I did.
You may feel you will never escape the agony of withdrawal, but you can, and will if you focus on your self-care and do what is best for yourself.
More importantly, you don’t ever have to go through this experience again-- that is if you take your recovery seriously.
The point in mentioning this- is that even if you experienced even one close loss (death, break-up, divorce) in the last 10, 20, even 30 years— and you didn’t allow yourself to grieve and process your emotions appropriately, this can often profoundly affect your current loss of a relationship today and further fuel the pain and obsession.
Another factor that will no doubt contribute to how long withdrawal will last is the amount of contact and communication you have with an ex-partner, your drug.
Every time you have contact it is like a recovering alcoholic still experiencing symptoms of his or her withdrawal, stopping by to a local bar, sitting down, and taking one or two shots or more-- which temporarily provides relief. Contact is like a heroin addict taking a relieving hit of the pipe.
A no contact rule is critical to your healing process.
Why is withdrawing from an ex (usually a love avoidant and/or narcissist) so intense... Why does withdrawal sometimes feel like dying? - You may ask.
Love addiction is a powerful addiction that causes lots and lots of pain. Like any other addiction, no one escapes the negative consequences.
Moreover-- you likely have experienced wounding in childhood; childhood losses, trauma, and abandonment which are unresolved and you have repressed.
With the help of counseling, an expert in love addiction-- facing these experiences, grieving them, and letting them go can be profoundly helpful in recovery.
Your Brain In Love Withdrawal- Is In Biochemical Readjustment Mode
It’s essential to keep in mind that when you are going through withdrawal, your brain is in a readjustment period.
Addiction, including love addiction—initially puts your brain in an unnatural state of balance. Intense romantic love initially releases high levels of an essential ‘feel-good’ chemical, dopamine, which gets the reward circuit activated, which causes euphoria-- similar to cocaine and heroin.
This activated dopamine in our brain reward center, is the “high” love addicts strive to keep going as a romantic relationship progresses.
When the addiction supply has run out (romantic partner disappears- relationship loss), it is like removing cocaine from a cocaine addict's life – the result is a painful emotional and physical withdrawal.
Because of the biochemical changes in the brain, such as dopamine, have been on overload as a result of this addiction, many brain chemicals are also depleted.
Love addiction also depletes the neurotransmitter, serotonin in the brain setting off obsessive, anxiety-ridden thoughts, --the obsessive-compulsive behaviors associated with infatuation.
So part of the process of overcoming withdrawal is to realize we must temporarily tolerate some of the pain and uneasiness while being mindful that your brain (which has been in an addictive state for some time) is going through a period of readjustment, or getting back to biochemical homeostasis.
We must ‘lean into the pain”, acknowledge and face the discomfort of withdrawal, knowing you will live through it; you will not go ‘crazy,’ and you will come out stronger than you were before.
By ‘leaning into the pain’ and face it head-on---you will allow your body and mind to detoxify and finally rid the self of withdrawal symptoms and overwhelming desire to act out toxic relational patterns.
However, we must not try doing this on our own.
We need support.
We need tools.
We need one or more persons (healthy safe persons) to, in a sense, hold our hands in this process.
We truly need reminders to keep reality in check, validation, and encouragement.
By doing what is right through this process (support, tools, healthy self-care) --you will significantly reduce the impact so you get through this period.
You might say to yourself, "No Way – I can’t take this… it’s not worth it"
But the truth is, it is worth it. You are worth it.
Also, you are not alone.
How to overcome the symptoms of love addiction withdrawal?
You may be experiencing the unexpected withdrawal symptoms from a relationship that has ended or one that is on the verge of ending.
You might feel "crazy", insane like you're dying.
Let me just say off the bat-you are not going crazy. You are not insane, or crazy. You are going to be ok. I understand what you are going through. Withdrawing from so-called “love” because of love addiction is an extremely agonizing experience.
The obsessions, the emptiness, the panic, the sense of not knowing who you are; the feeling of never finding love again... it all can feel insurmountable.
You feel like you don’t know what to do or how you will get through it-it seems like it will never end. It will come to an end-- and hopefully, you come out much stronger and wiser as a result of this experience-- this is possible.
In a sense, what you’re feeling is an important part of you that has been trying to surface; one in which you have been avoiding or postponing for a long time now, yet you have never been able to outrun it.
Far too often, the painful symptoms of withdrawal are so unexpected and bewildering that it leads many people to ongoing relapse in which there is a return to unhealthy behaviors, unhealthy relationships, and no healing-- and for sure, an ongoing pattern that will no doubt continue in the years to come.
But this does not have to be you.
Although it feels unbearable and unending-- you will survive. In fact, if you take healthy steps (steps I recommend) to take care of yourself during this period of withdrawal, you won't only survive, you will thrive and become emotionally stronger than you ever have been.
I can look back at my experience of entering what seemed like the deepest and darkest hole I ever saw and can honestly say-- I am extremely thankful it all happened.
I know if I did not go through this experience, you would not be reading this and I would not have had the life I have now. It was a true blessing. And I know when you're experiencing this right now that just sounds impossible, like rubbish, I understand.
But I do believe if I was able to get through love withdrawal, so could you.
As hard as it is right now, it's important to see this as a chance in your life for real healing and change-- try your best.
But- this will only be true if you don't run and escape... this will only be true for you if you take the steps that will help you break the toxic pattern.
Certainly not doing anything and believing another person or returning to your toxic relationship will lead you back to where you are today- I guarantee that.
Don't accept the lies in your head of what your love addiction may be trying to say to you.
The experience of withdrawing provides you the opportunity to embrace recovery and future happiness- I know by experience. It's hard but worth it.
It is time to honor yourself and your life - you have a right to do so. Step into recovery.
The more effort you put into becoming healthier, the more you engage in recovery, the healthier you will become, the better you will adjust, adapt, and strengthen yourself.