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Love Withdrawal: The Breakup Experience for Love Addicts


By Jim Hall, MS, Love Addiction Specialist
love addiction coach

 Tracy, a 30-year-old love addict shares about her relationship breakup and withdrawal:

 

 Tracy, a 30-year-old love addict shares about her relationship breakup and withdrawal:
 
"When he said it was over, I stopped breathing. I could not gather my thoughts. I felt like it wasn't happening, but it was. It was surreal.
My stomach turned upside down, my mouth was dry, I was sweating, my heart trembling. Out of intense denial, I said to him-- you're not serious, are you? What's going on?


In an unsteady voice, knowing deep down it is true, a rush of panic and shock waves pulsated through my body as the dagger pierced my chest.


As weeks went on, I was trying to grapple with the intensity of it all. I had micro-moments of imagined sanity.

 

In denial, with frequent periods of intense crying and waling, I could hear the loud echoes of my bouncing off the walls. All the emptiness in my body was present every waking moment. I felt I had lost my soul.

 

I couldn’t identify who I was; how could he do this. this person whom I gave my all to- he was such a kind, giving, and passionate person in the beginning- what happened to him?…

This isn’t who he is…I know he still loves me. Oh-- how I wish we could get back to how it was…he was the one I loved so much… we could have such a beautiful future together. He seemed to have it all together-have everything I dreamed of in a person. 


At night, was the most intense anxiety and loneliness- rushing through me, all of the emptiness felt… the only peace I felt was when I was sleeping.


When I awoke each morning-instantly, the pain and overwhelming reality of being alone struck like lightning--- More weeping- I wonder what he’s doing right now. Is he thinking of me, does he miss me?


My obsessions went on and on every minute of every hour- why did I make so many mistakes- details of all the ‘mistakes’ I made- I didn’t consider his mistakes, his issues, and the crap I tolerated from him.

 

No, in my mind I removed all of his flaws, I always justified it all- It was me, my fault, how could I be such a loser, no one will love me the way he loved me… oh, how I wish I could be with him. How I wish I could do it over again.


Damning myself continuously- I need to talk, touch, see him- I can’t take this hole in my chest- he was my soulmate, we were perfect together, we had such an amazing connection! I don’t think I will be loved again the way he loved me. No one could repace what we had together!


Then I’d flip to extreme anger--- then resentment--- then back to obsessing, desperately wanting him, he completes me- I yearn- I want to connect with once again, and again- I need relief, at least for a moment to stop this anguish. 


That son of a bitch- how could he do this to me, then thoughts of revenge- I want to hurt him, I want him to suffer as I am…. but I want him, I hate him, I love him. Fuck! This is not fair.


Drive byes, calling- hanging up – then occasionally, contact, actually speaking to him, only to get the cold voice over the phone, but it didn’t matter, he was my Prince, my drug that gave me relief. And in my denial, my detox, the fixes kept me going… if only momentarily. Always pining for the end of this pain, I just felt like dying.”
 

 

 

Grieving a Breakup vs. Experiencing Love Withdrawal 


It's normal for people who experience loss of a relationship through divorce or a break up to experience a grieving process--feel hurt, pain, abandonment reactions, sorrow, and heartache.

 

There might be a sense of failure, hopelessness, loss, despair, fear, or desperation. They will move through a grieving cycle (with varying lengths of time). Eventually, as they move through these emotions, they will come to feel better and heal.



For the love addict, the grief goes beyond the normal stages of the grieving process where they get stuck in one or more of the levels of grief, which turns into extremely painful withdrawal.

 

They ache, throb, and desperately want relief. They experience a deep yearning and obsession to have any connection with their lost partner. Because they identified mostly through their partner's eyes, they feel a loss of self-identity because the symbiotic attachment (the addiction) is now gone.

 

It is life without the medication--coming down from the unrealistic fantasy to reality, no longer available to numb and deny the self.
 

 

Addiction and Withdrawal


Withdrawal in addiction occurs when an addictive substance or behavior is stopped.

 

Except, with love addiction being a process addiction (a process addiction is a behavioral/thought addiction), withdrawal symptoms occur when a relationship comes to end.

 

Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms occur sometime before a relationship ends because of the anticipation of it ending by the love addict.

 

Addicts must continue the behavior or use of a substance in order to feel a continued high or just to feel normal as tolerance increases.

 

When the addiction is halted or removed from the addict for any reason, inevitable withdrawal symptoms will be triggered-- this is what happens when a love addicts relationship is broken.
 

Symptoms of Love Withdrawal 

Withdrawal symptoms may be anxiety, panic, fear, nausea, dramatic changes in weight, insomnia, depression, loneliness, obsession, anger, rage, emptiness, denial, and despair.

 

Love addicts in withdrawal often experience irrational thoughts, distortions, and feelings of being powerless. The feeling or inner sense of being completely diminished and insufficient as a person, flood the "being" of their soul.

 

The intense feeling of rejection by their partner's abandonment and neglect sends the message that reinforces what they already believe inside--they were not worthy of being with.

 

It all seems like they're swimming upstream against the currents of fate--fate working against them with no end. 

 

Family members and friends haven't a clue or any frame of reference to the trauma the love addict is experiencing. Their simple solutions of, "just get over it" or "leave him/her, and find someone new" never work.

 

This only fuels a more inner sense of shame, weakness, or unworthiness in the love addict.

 

Ironically and unconsciously, one powerful way love addicts hold on to denial (denial is often strongly present during withdrawal) is through obsession.

Obsession: A Primary Symptom of Relationship Withdrawal
 

Obsessions come in many forms and may include fantasies about recapturing the romantic relationship--the magical person they lost, the good times, sex, passion, chemistry, intensity--while ignoring or filtering the truth that it was more chaos than bliss.

 

Obsession fans a love addicts feelings of rejection into an emotional inferno. It is the pinnacle of all the experiences of withdrawing from love and other addictions

 

The preoccupied thoughts often seem to take control and one feels extremely powerless to stop them. Even if love addicts want to stop (or slow down) obsessive thoughts, they are often unable to.

 

Obsessive thinking is often the purest form of distortion or irrational thoughts in withdrawal involving the compulsive need to think about certain people, situations and/or behavior over and over again.

 

The obsessed person tends to focus on a single element in its extreme and process everything associated with the particular element as all black or all white.
 

How Long Does Love Addiction Withdrawal Last?


If you’re a love addict facing the upheaval of withdrawal then you may wonder— how long does withdrawal last?


I understand from a personal and professional perspective what you are going through. 


Withdrawal can feel frightening anxiety-ridden, and profoundly distressing. 


How long love and relationship addiction withdrawal will vary from person to person.


In my online coaching practice, I’ve seen love addicts experience a  rapid decrease in their symptoms of withdrawal.  
One thing for sure I know from experience is, it matters what path to healing is taken.


In most cases, the answer to how long withdrawal lasts will depend on what actions 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, when we return to an unsatisfying relationship with a toxic avoidant or narcissistic ex-partner—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 patterns going.


It is logical to say, if we allow this to happen, growth and healing cannot occur, and we continue to abandon our self and any chance of intimacy and inner serenity in our future. 


How long withdrawal and the grief lasts is often determined by how much we fully engage in a recovery process. 


Fully embracing a healing and recovery process can significantly improve and speed up the healing process.


Being fully engaged in recovery can mean different things to different people.

However, in my 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 relationship addiction and recovery literature. It means 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 the best tools and exercises to help you break denial of your 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 May Add Time And/Or Intensity To Withdrawal From Breaking Up


An important matter that may challenge how fast you overcome the misery of withdrawal are experiences of loss in adulthood. 

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 (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 which 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, I faced the most significant and acute withdrawal ever. 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 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.

 

I haven’t experienced a loss in my adulthood like this- so why is withdrawing from my narcissist avoidant ex so intense—why do I still feel like dying? - You may ask.

 

The answer: 


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 you have repressed. 


With the help of counseling, facing these experiences, grieving them, and letting them go can be profoundly helpful in recovery.

 

Your Brain In 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 addictions supply has run out (romantic partner disappears- relationship loss),  it is like removing cocaine from a cocaine addicts 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?


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, I would not have had the life I have now- you would not be reading this right now. It was a true blessing.

 

Right now, I know that just sound like rubbish, I understand.

 

As hard as it is right now, it's important to see this as a chance in your life for real healing and change in your life. 

 

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 a 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. 
 

 


 

If You are in Love Withdrawal from a Breakup or Divorce, THERE IS HOPE.
Start Now to Break the Excruciating, Obsessive Symptoms of Love Withdrawal!

Surviving Withdrawal: The BreakUp Workbook for Love Addicts


 

 Surviving Withdrawal: Breakup Workbook for Love Addicts | love addiction help

 

 


 

 

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