I’ve been feeling guilty lately about the time I ducked out of an important family celebration to go meet my drug dealer. I don’t want to be specific about the event, out of consideration for the bride and groom. And I should specify that the dealer wasn’t bringing me any illegal substances. The dealer was the drug. He was bringing himself, and if I didn’t get a fix of him soon I was going to curl up in withdrawal like a junkie. Which is what I was. Just not with heroin.
So I left the banquet table and ran out back, and he did a drive-by in his crappy compact –- he was probably ducking out of a date with another woman himself, because it’s not like he was dealing quality drugs or anything –- and he kissed me and told me I looked beautiful and drove away and I… exhaled. I got my fix. I was going to be okay for a day, maybe, or two days. Then, if I didn’t hear from him, I would slide back into withdrawal.
Anyone who tells you love addiction isn’t really an addiction, not like drug or alcohol addiction, has never had it. If you’re a love addict, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You know how you get nauseous when you haven’t heard from your obsession in a couple of days. Nausea, headache, lethargy – it’s like a low-grade flu, except the flu doesn’t make you check your phone a dozen times an hour. When you do hear that voice, see that face, touch that skin, the energy returns like champagne bubbles coursing through your veins. You giggle. Your voice rises half an octave. You’re high on your own body chemistry – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, whatever your dealer is holding – and it feels fantastic. Until it starts to slip away and you need another hit.
The worst of it is, I built up a tolerance to lust and infatuation and codependence. The feelings fade. The high isn’t high enough. It’s like “who cut this shit?” when the coke stops working… but with people. “You’ve changed,” we say. “You’re not who I thought you were.” “You don’t give me enough attention.” “We should see other people.” What we’re really saying is “I need a new dealer with a better connection.” Because next time, it will be the good stuff. Pure, uncut, 100% romance.
Ever run out of coke and scrape the insides of old straws or bindles, hoping for one more line? Or rifle through the medicine cabinet, praying for an overlooked pain pill? The love addict equivalent: Calling up an old flame, that old reliable hit of sexual connection. Or maybe you’ll take a chance on that new dealer your friend told you about – a.k.a., Tinder or Grindr or OKCupid.
Meanwhile, back at the family celebration. I don’t know if my absence was noticed or my rudeness remarked upon. I was too miserable when I left to think about anything except my own pain, and too high when I got back to pay much attention. Because like any drug addict, when you’re addicted to the love drug, you hurt the people you care most about and you don’t realize it until much later. Maybe it all rushes in at once and fills you with shame, but it’s too late to do anything to make up for it and all you can do it write a shitty blog post and maybe help someone else from doing the same thing.
So here’s the secret: The craving will pass, whether you pick up or not. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re craving This or That or Her or Him. It doesn’t matter if you’re picking up a drink or a drug or a cigarette or an iPhone. The craving will pass, whether you pick up or not.