It’s early 2011 and Noah is driving me nuts. I am on my way to another hotel that I paid for because I can’t bear the thought of him sleeping on the streets. I’ve been driving him to Pasadena psych wards and Hollywood detoxes for the last month to try to help him sober up. He keeps playing me Band of Horses to make me fall in love with him and it’s working.
Noah worked in the entertainment industry for years before becoming so addicted to alcohol that he couldn’t function. He lost his huge home in the Hollywood Hills, his wife, his job, his dog, and his career. Despite all this, or maybe because of it, Noah is sexy. He’s whip-smart, can recite philosophy, studies art history, and knows multiple languages.
Noah was my first love after my first stint in rehab in late 2010. He wouldn’t turn out to be my last rehab romance but he’s one of the more memorable. I didn’t know it when I met him but I know it now: When drugs and booze and every other substance that intoxicated me are taken away, I fell in love.
Not really love but a deep obsession — so very similar to my obsession with cocaine, wine, and pills. I couldn’t stop thinking of either. They both made me feel at ease, valuable, and on top of the world.
This obsession with men, well, it ruined me. I felt as though my heart would break without them and I wouldn’t be able to stand the pain so I’d swallow three pills of Xanax and a bottle of wine, and for a brief moment, I’d be calm and at peace. Men wouldn’t rule my every thought and I wouldn’t feel like such a fucking failure.
This is the cycle that has replayed in my life when it comes to stopping drugs and then starting on men. I’ll drink or I’ll use over a man and then I’ll go back to rehab and stop drinking and using and then, because I am not drinking and not using, I’ll find a man — in rehab. I’ve met every one of my “future husbands” in rehab. And they are all tormented souls that need my rescuing. I forget that I am a tormented soul as well and if I’m doing the rescuing, who is rescuing me?
After Noah, there was Evan. Evan actually proposed to me on my birthday in a North Hollywood rehab in late 2012. He presented me with a cross necklace made of recycled trash cans in lieu of a ring. Apparently, this is a skill learned in jail. My necklace was handcrafted by his roommate who spent many years in the pen due to drug and gang convictions. I found this gesture to be the sweetest thing ever and said yes. I didn’t tell my parents but every one of my friends in rehab was rooting for us. At least, it felt that way. I imagine some of the community couldn’t stand us but I didn’t think about them — I thought of our future and how my rehab roommates will be bridesmaids on a beach in Hawaii. It’s going to be so gorgeous, I thought.
“I lay in my twin bed crying, trying to decide if sobriety is what I really wanted or if love would save me.”
My counselor, Susan, tried to warn me — she said I needed to stick with the women. If I got caught one more time speaking to Evan or passing him notes, she told me, I’d be kicked out. The threat at least gave me pause and I laid in my twin bed crying, trying to decide if sobriety is what I really wanted or if love would save me. It was a tough decision. I had been sober the longest I had ever been, 83 days, and I was proud of that.
Ultimately, I chose Evan. And soon I was kicked out of rehab once again and returned to drugs and alcohol.
I didn’t listen to Susan, but I heard her. Each time I was kicked out of rehab because of a relationship, a smarter, wiser woman would tell me the truth about what I thought was love. That these relationships were just a way to distract me from, well, me and my own pain and healing. Little by little, it started to sink in — but it still took years before I was ready to admit I had an addiction to love.
But I was beginning to see my patterns. And soon, I would begin to crave sobriety more than I craved men.
“And soon, I would begin to crave sobriety more than I craved men.”
At my fourth and final rehab in early 2014, I checked in for both substance-use disorder and love addiction. My parents chose a facility in Argyle, TX, because the clinical director told them that they take the toughest cases and that I would not be kicked out. The staff promised to address my love addiction and help me find long-term sobriety. And they kept their promise.
During my second week in treatment, my parents told me that Evan asked for the engagement ring back. (He had given me an actual ring about a year into our relationship.) And although this was devastating, I had an unfamiliar determination to remain whole without a man.
I can’t say that determination lasted as long as I would have liked. When Logan, a young financial entrepreneur from Tennessee who was in rehab with me, told me I was beautiful, I fell hard. But although the beginning of the story is the same, the ending is different.
The treatment team at the Argyle facility worked to help me address my love addiction. Every morning, I would have to announce that I was a love addict. I would also have to confess my “sins” to the community to hold myself accountable. I hated that, but it saved my ass.
When I look back, two things people said to me have stayed with me: The medical director, who referred to himself as an ex-sex addict, told me, “You will never get sober if you don’t deal with your issues with men.” And my psychiatrist explained that the best way to measure the health of a woman is to look at her relationships with other women. I realized that my female friendships over the last couple of years had become non-existent.
“In those 12 months after rehab, I learned what loneliness looked like and how it felt to be empty, alone, and scared — without a substance and without a man.”
When I left treatment — on my own accord, as opposed to being booted — I moved into an all-women sober living home in Plano, TX. I started attending meetings for Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, got an SLAA sponsor, read every book I could on love addiction, and attended therapy with a love addiction specialist. I consciously decided not to spend time with men, even as friends, and instead, I put all my time into building my relationships with other women.
In those 12 months after rehab, I learned what loneliness looked like and how it felt to be empty, alone, and scared — without a substance and without a man. I cried tears of fear and despair and I read poetry by Rumi and listened to Jasmine Thompson playlists on Pandora. I felt real feelings for the first time in five years and I sat with my cravings for both substances and male company. I sat with myself.
During my active addiction, I was unable to truly feel anything because the minute I started feeling sad or anxious or depressed, I would find either a substance or a romance to distract myself. Even joy was diminished. I couldn’t feel real joy. I had forgotten how much I loved poetry and how much joy it brought me to read and write it.
The most beautiful thing of all? I remained sober. For the first time in five years, I was sober! Completely. I wasn’t involved in another relationship or an obsession or a toxic habit. My worst vice was inhaling cigarettes with my best female friends. I laughed and I played and I hoped for a future that was beyond my wildest dreams. I trusted in faith.
“Learning how to be alone with me was key to overcoming my love addiction. It was also key to overcoming my drug addiction.”
When people ask me what love addiction is, or how to overcome it, I answer that it’s the same way you overcome any other obsession: It’s a slow burn. Love addiction had been playing out in my life since middle school, long before I ever became addicted to substances.
Learning how to be alone with me was key to overcoming my love addiction. It was also key to overcoming my drug addiction. Eventually, being in deep, radiating loneliness consistently and constantly became something I started to crave, rather than something I would avoid at all costs. Loneliness is a gift — the thing that helped me fall in love with myself. I discovered who I am, and who I was, and who I have always been. In recovery, I built a life that I no longer want to escape from.