I was pretty newly clean and sober, so we’re talking more than 30 years ago here. I remember an old-timer telling her story to a roomful of recovering addicts and alcoholics. “So I married the first guy who asked,” she said, and paused for the laughter. And indeed the roomful of sober addicts and alcoholics laughed, like it was funny. I just sat there with my head cocked sideways like the RCA Victor dog listening to an old vinyl record. Why are these people laughing? Of course you marry the first person who asks. What are you going to do, say no?
The RCA dog has a name, by the way. It’s Nipper. I was going to title this column “Win One for the Nipper,” but I figured that pun is dated even for Boomers.
Here’s the thing. Love addicts don’t say no to marriage proposals. Not to anyone, not ever. I mean, what if no one else ever asks? Then what are you going to do? Be alone forever? Plus, he loves you, right? He wouldn’t ask if he didn’t love you. And love is the only thing that matters. Right?
For most love addicts, it’s equally hard to say no to sex. When someone wants you, finds you hot and desirable, that’s like love. Close enough. Love, lust… potato, potah-to. This makes it hard to distinguish between the love addict and the sex addict, mainly because love addicts have trouble distinguishing between love and sex. A therapist once asked me what I would do if there were five men in a room — five attractive men, let’s be clear — who desired me. Would I just fuck them all? At once, or in sequence? How would I choose the order?
I’m pretty sure she didn’t say “fuck.” I’m sure she said something much more professional. But I still cocked my head like Nipper the RCA Victor dog. Can you please repeat the question? I stopped listening after the part where five attractive men desired me….
Sure, it sounds pretty insane when I look back on it, but it seemed reasonable at the time. Maybe you can relate. We’re not slutty, we’re just… optimistic. Maybe this time, some rom-com alchemy will transmute One Night Stand into The One. I’ve clutched some really warty frogs to my breast, waiting for them to turn into princes.
Echoes of it still plague me, to be honest. I’ve had to block a few stalkers on dating sites, and I swear it felt like flushing a bindle of coke down the toilet. Sure, he’s nuts - but blocking him means giving up all that attention! Attention, like cocaine, is a potent drug.
I could as easily have called this blog Attention Deficit Disorder, but it wouldn’t be fair to people with actual ADHD. Still, doesn’t attention feel like affection to a love addict? We are so hungry for it. And just like that nine-dollar stale hotdog I ate at the airport that time because I was so desperately ravenous, starvation leads to bad decisions. The hotdog only gave me indigestion. The abusive drug dealer I moved in with because he called me his precious baby and swore no one would ever love me like he does had far worse consequences.
“No one will ever love you like I do” may make a great movie line, but sometimes it’s a gaslighting asshole implying that you’re not worth being loved by anyone else. And we love addicts are so hungry for love we will buy that line of bullshit like airport food. You and your therapist can work out whether you have an attachment disorder stemming from early parenting mistakes, or if you suffer from PTSD and are trauma bonding, or if you have crippling low self-esteem because of too much Instagram. I just call it love addiction, and I have learned to say “thanks, but no.”
This… spoke to me, the Love Addict/ general addict & alcoholic. As someone who just said “yes” to marriage with someone last May who I had no business saying “yes” to… this clutched me by the throat. Thank you for writing, Ethlie!