Hello, my name is Kate and I used to be an addict.
Mumbling from the background: Hello, Kate, Welcome, Kate . . .
I’ve been sober for five years.
I’m slowly trying it out again, and I’m doing my best to have a healthy approach. I don’t want to go tumbling down like last time. My addiction is not a part of me anymore. I refuse to let it take hold.
A few respectful nods.
Okay, so . . . takes a deep breath. I used to be seriously addicted to my ex-boyfriend.
You might be addicted too.
It’s not that hard to fall into this trap when you let your feelings run wild or when you’re inexperienced like I was at 15. Even baby boomers can still get addicted, though — I see it all the time with my mum and her friends.
This addiction can catch almost anyone. Age doesn't have to play a role. It’s got really long arms and a really tight grip. It hugs you and never lets you go . . . A comfy warm prison.
A partnership can easily become a drug. Which can easily ruin your partnership. It’s a human trap and too many of us fall for it.
The following symptoms mean you might have fallen for it as well.
Their text message is a dopamine rush
Almost any notification on your phone is, to be fair. That’s why we stare at our screens all the time and can’t read a few pages in a book without checking it.
The difference is in how excited you are and how you respond to it.
I used to have a bird-chirping sound on my phone when I dated my ex-boyfriend. My brain linked this sound to his existence to a point where I jumped up every time I heard it, even when it came from someone else’s phone — in turn, this flooded me with disappointment.
Oh, my boyfriend didn’t text me. Someone else got their daily affection intake, not me. I’m involuntarily sober. Text me, text me, text me!
My mental telepathy didn’t work on him. The signal on his end was always humming and cracking, he just couldn’t get the hint. Like, ever.
When he did text me, it felt like the ultimate high. Look, he cares! I loved my phone at that moment. I loved the birds chirping, I loved my boyfriend and his glorious “good morning”, the whole world was pink and beautiful!
When he didn’t text me for days, though, I was lying on the floor in my bedroom, staring at that monstrous device that refused to chirp, and I wondered if injuring myself would make him come to the hospital and give me some affection at last. I didn’t do it. Instead, I cried, and planet Earth was grey with the ash of loneliness.
One piece of advice: Your phone shouldn’t dominate your universe like that. I could have read an interesting book in those hours wasted on my misery. Also, your partner shouldn’t make you feel that way.
That text message rush might be a sign your partner is becoming your drug.
Their cuddle is an oxytocin injection
Aah, oxytocin. The cuddle hormone. Who needs heroin when you have oxytocin?
It’s normal to be under the influence of this gorgeous hormone when you cuddle with your partner. It’s not so normal to feel like cuddling them is the best fucking thing in the whole world and anything else can’t possibly compare.
I’m going to be honest with you: I would rank cuddling my boyfriend pretty high on my list of things I’d rather be doing any time of day. Maybe a bit embarrassingly high because I’m a cuddle monster.
But I also don’t live each day thinking that if I don’t touch him, I won’t be happy.
I know it’s hard, okay. Their warmth, their heart beating, their chest slowly rising and falling, the peaceful silence, their familiar smell, oh yeah, that’s the stuff . . .
Alarm, alarm, alarm! Don’t let it take hold of your feelings for too long or else you’ll end up rushing to your partner every day just to get your oxytocin! Go read a book or something! Remind yourself that eating or hanging out with friends or working on your own projects is great fun as well.
Also, be a cuddle monster only if they agree to it. You don’t want to annoy them too much with your tactile nature. I’ve learned this the hard way.
Sharing? What’s sharing?
When I was addicted to my ex-boyfriend, I hated sharing him. All his girlfriends looked like a gaggle of geese who just couldn’t stop quacking in his ear. All his boyfriends kept calling out to him like mermaids to a sailor, singing in his ear: “Come and play League of Legends with us. Forget your girlfriend. League of Legends for the next four hours, it is.”
How I hated it when he played that stupid game. Voicing these annoyances didn’t help much because it only made him annoyed at me. His friends understood him. I only judged him and complained. One more reason not to spend time with me and to plunge into the world of video games, where no whining girlfriends exist.
He loved meeting new people. I didn’t. I was often cranky because he marched off somewhere to hang out with his new temporary mates while all I wanted was to have him next to me 24/7. It’s not that much to ask, is it? I was fuming.
On top of that, as you’ve probably already guessed, it wasn’t that hard for me to get jealous. So, yeah. I was the whole package. Obsessive, possessive, jealous, and whenever he asked me: “What’s wrong?”, I answered with the famous: “Nothing,” and shot him a murderous look.
I bet people would pay millions to have me as a girlfriend at that time. I was simply perfect.
On a more serious note: I bet he would pay millions to get rid of me. Well, he didn’t have to, he just ended up breaking up with me.
If you’re unwilling to let your partner have friends, you’re an addict. Addicts don’t like to share their secret stash of drugs. My boyfriend wasn’t a secret, which was actually good — everyone knew he was mine! Growls.
Well, that just goes to show that whether it’s a secret or not, not wanting to share is a problem.
Your universe revolves around them
No, wait. You don’t have your own universe. They are your universe. With all the planets, galaxies, black holes, space dust and whatnot.
When he broke up with me, my world shattered. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I invested all of my personality and effort into our relationship. Even when he wasn’t next to me, all I could think about was him! Mind you, this wasn’t at the beginning of our relationship. It lasted for the whole two years.
My obsession grew. The more addicted I was, the more he wanted to get away. Turns out, when drugs transform into human beings with their own autonomy, they don’t like their consumers. They suddenly hate being used. Who knew?
Seriously, if you don’t have your own hobbies, you should find some. If you feel like nothing is worth your effort as long as it’s not about your partner, something’s wrong. Your relationship, as important as it is, can’t rule your whole world. You need to be happy being on your own and doing your own things every once in a while.
Why? Because your partner likely is. And if your partner is happy without you, they probably want you to be happy when they’re not holding your hand as well. It’s also not very sustainable. Be your own person, not just a mashup of two.
Create your own universe.
Sober up, step by step
“Help me, I’m addicted!” I hear you say.
Let me give you some advice. Take it from a 5-year abstinent.
I know you’ve already heard this a million times before, but you need to learn to love yourself. What do I mean by that?
Have fun on your own. Find hobbies or projects to keep you busy. Spend time with your friends. Repeat some affirmation words to yourself — I find sentences like “I am enough” and “It’s okay to be imperfect” very helpful.
When I was going through that horrible breakup, my friend told me this:
“Do something nice for yourself every day. It doesn’t matter what it is. Buy something nice, do an activity you like or have a self-care day. Wake up every day with the intention to be kind to yourself. Focus on your own well-being. It’ll get better.”
And it did. His advice helped. I redirected my focus on myself, probably for the first time in my life, and I learned to be kind and forgiving to myself. I held my hand. I hugged myself. I bought some nice things just for me. I slept alone and I learned to like it.
I started reading sixty books a year. I learned two languages. I travelled, meditated, grew as a person. Life was good. I let go of my addiction.
After such a long time, I have a boyfriend again now. It’s so much better this time. I don’t struggle with any of my previous problems. I’m sober and I’m happy. How about you?
Do you feel like the following describes you quite well?
- You feel fulfilled when you’re on your own
- You don’t wait for their texts as if they were Godot
- You know there’s more to life than their physical presence
- You respect their autonomy and you’re happy for their friendships
- Your love towards them is gentle and forgiving
- You understand that you don’t need them to feel complete — you’re already your own whole person.
If you show these signs, congratulations, you’re most likely free of your addiction!
Glad to be of help.