I have often found it difficult to explain to someone the nature of my addiction.
I am a love addict.
When I share that information—with the intention of transparency, honesty, and owning up to some f*cked up behaviour I have developed in my life—I am often confronted with a confused human.
“So you are desperate and clingy? You can’t be alone?”
A part of me cringes the most at these questions because, while below the surface that is true, I am an avoidant love addict. This means that I am highly skilled at keeping up pretenses of strength, control, and self-reliance, while internally, f*cking myself up.
My love addiction didn’t start out that way. I was clingy, needy, and a desperate love addict.
The one who texted constantly; the one who couldn’t be alone; the one who constantly confused sex with love; the one who was entirely consumed by every emotion; the one who would beg, “Please don’t leave me, I’ll be better.” The begging is particularly unflattering and soul-destroying—both when it was happening and now in hindsight.
When I entered recovery, my first group was a telltale sign that I was used to “sorting sh*t out on my own” and “not needing anyone” and that my love addiction had evolved into something else—something I couldn’t fully understand. And how can you ever change something you don’t understand?
Saying the words, “I’m a love addict” was only the first step to tackling the beast. It was the doorway to my redemption, but there was still a ton to be done, to be felt, to be understood, and to be processed, and then to be changed.
After I had an initial, “Honestly, does this really need another level of labelling?” I came to know that labels are the vital part.
Understanding that I had transitioned from love addict to avoidant love addict held the answers to how my destructive strategies had changed. Some I was aware of, and others, I had no clue what I was actually doing—there was little conscious thought happening and more of an autopilot living.
These are some of the characteristics of an avoidant love addict:
1. Commitment Phobic
Yes, a love addict who is terrified of commitment. It’s a mindf*ck, to say the least.
Avoidant love addicts don’t talk about the future of a relationship because in most cases, they don’t see one, or in some cases, they know it will end—it has the “safety” of an expiry date.
I have been the guiltiest of actively seeking these kinds of partnerships—the ones I can predict with keen accuracy—and for the ones that are in the vague landscape, I end it in a preemptive strike, “I am going to leave you, before you have the chance to leave me.”
I have the suit in this endeavor—I am more adept at leaving than probably anything else in my life. I am always at the ready-to-bail because it has become easier for me than to have to stay and open up about how I am really feeling.
No rejection, no abandonment, no accountability, and a surefire way to continue living with a closed heart.
I can tell you that when I got to the amends step in the recovery program, I had to do the one thing I had spent the majority of my life avoiding: showing up, taking responsibility for the hurt I caused, and confronting shame head on.
I once dated a man who did all the right things: he was intuitive, open, caring, and expressive, and the closer he got to me, the more I found myself nitpicking the little things—the more unease I felt within myself.
It was so intense I could sometimes feel it physically—itching, pains, and aches—and I am a believer that our emotions will manifest physically if kept unresolved.
I started actively looking for reasons to be upset. At first, I wasn’t even aware of it—I would become genuinely upset about things I felt he could be doing better, and in some cases, questioning his loyalty with no valid reason to.
I stopped communicating with authenticity and found myself shutting down even in normal conversations—I didn’t want to engage. I chalked it up to irritation, but the root emotion was far darker, crippling fear.
Sabotage is an avoidant love addict’s destructive strategy of self-defense. If we aren’t open, we can’t get hurt, and this fear of hurt can keep us trapped in this cycle. We essentially succumb to fear and allow it to have free reign with some of our most precious decisions.
3. Hiding Behind Language
Avoidant love addicts are masters of language that is detrimental to creating healthy and genuine connections. We talk about independence rather than closeness, we talk about freedom rather than intimacy, we talk about self-reliance rather than interdependence.
We take language, warp it, and use it to hide behind phrases that give us the illusion of control and condemn what is defined by us as clingy or desperate—which is an avoidant love addict’s kryptonite. We will say and do pretty much anything not to be perceived that way, and that’s when we are embroiled most in our deceptive ways.
Are any of these familiar?
“I’m not the marrying type.”
“I’m not good at commitment.”
“I’ll never give up my freedom for anyone or anything.”
“I could never imagine living with someone.”
4. Mixed Messages
Someone once said to me, “I am so tired of this roller coaster; what do you want?” I remember clearly mulling over in my head, “I don’t f*cking know.”
An avoidant love addict will yo-yo to the point of absolute exhaustion.
We will maintain distance and then draw you in and then maintain distance. As we get closer to others, the uncomfortable emotions start to surface, and we will do whatever we can to maintain the illusion of control.
At the end of the day, an avoidant love addict wants love but has no idea how to handle it in a healthy, emotionally intelligent, or open way. That’s when the internal wrestling is at its most destructive, not only to themselves but to the other person.
5. Limited Affection
Avoidant love addicts withhold affection and are pretty stingy with it. It can also be a case of only being able to show affection during sex. The setting of sex requires affection. You can’t get around it but after, the cuddling, the closeness, and intimacy of laying in someone’s arms is too much to bear.
Over time, within my own struggle, my sexual libido started decreasing with partners as I became closer to them—in particular, after someone had expressed their love for me. My rejection of them was the continual rejection of myself, something they had unfortunately become entangled in.
6. Emotional Deprivation
An avoidant love addict will avoid the emotional and connective conversations. Sharing emotions builds intimacy—the thing that frightens them the most. They will use humor to deflect, and they will often make you feel unheard, or emotionally deprived.
An avoidant love addict can barely handle their own emotions—masters of burying things they don’t want to think about or feel—and they simply don’t have the tools to meet the emotional needs of another.
I know for myself, this was both a mix of unconscious and conscious behaviour. There were some topics I would refuse to discuss and others that I would spew on endlessly about. The important bit is the content—the conversations I was avoiding was where the pain was at its most raw, unresolved, and festering.
7. The Abandonment Wound
Avoidant love addicts may find ways to not be there when someone most needs them, and they can have great difficulty seeing their own part in problems.
This abandonment wound stems from repeated experiences early in life when they felt dismissed, pressured, taken advantage of, and not valued by their primary caregivers.
I know, as an avoidant love addict, that, at my core, is a belief that no one will ever meet my needs. I expect in most cases to be let down, and beyond that, I fear I will never be able to measure up to what others would want of me.
This is how the abandonment wound dictates behaviour. This is when the giant wall of protection goes up, and we switch off—from ourselves and the people we care about.
If you have found yourself nodding in agreement to any of these, you may have developed some strategies that are hurting and hindering you rather than the falsehood of protecting you. Once we can admit these things to ourselves, it truly is the beginning of real change.
It ain’t easy, and you will f*ck up more times than you will get it right, but you will change paths, onto a road that will bring you the love, peace, and freedom your heart and soul deserve.
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