Updated: Dec 20, 2021
A recovering love addict finds love.
I was told by a psychic just prior to my meeting Jeff: “He’s right in your vicinity. You could, just, probably swing your arms. He’s right in your wingspan.” I had a Christmas party coming up and I was planning to go as part of my: Emily is Re-Entering the World Tour. This party was being thrown by my holistic doctor and his wife. It would be small.
“There was a recognition when I saw Jeff. Like, “Oh, I know you!" ”
On the way to the party, I was incredibly nervous. I was already socially anxious and introverted but this was heightened. I even drove past the office, too scared to go in. I drove around a bit and gave myself a pep talk. Once inside, I went straight for the food. My happy place. I noticed a guy with a plate of food sitting near the food spread. He had an open spot next to him. I thought, ‘I’m gonna go sit next to that guy.’ This is very much out of character for me. I don’t go to parties and sit next to men I don’t know and strike up a conversation. But that’s exactly what I did. That was Jeff.
(*Fun fact: The doctor, Dean, and his wife Jenn were planning a set-up for me and Jeff at this party. Jeff was aware and I was NOT. Which is better because I can only imagine how much more awkward I could have been.)
We talked all night. People thought we came together. That night, I knew he was… something. On our first date, I knew he was it. Recovering from love addiction I was very wary of the high. I didn’t have it with Jeff. I was excited but calm. This was very different. There was a recognition when I saw Jeff. Like, “Oh, I know you!”
We went to eat at True Foods in Denver, one of my favorites. We closed the restaurant down. He was on a rare break from his normal schedule of full-time school and full-time work. This allowed us about two weeks to really talk and get to know one another without interruption. We had so many similarities. We ate so much of the same, weird foods. Like the same brand of unsweetened coconut milk. We’d been down very similar paths of healing. We both had a weird, nervy tender spot at the base of our left heel. We had shared values.
He was kind. He was quiet. He was strong in his own convictions. He was not an addict. These were all very different qualities for a partner to have, for me. I knew that I had changed dramatically to attract and be attracted to someone like Jeff. I remember guys like Jeff when I was younger; I was repelled away from them. Those guys back then were clear, available, and no drama. Nope. I wasn’t ready for that! Not at that time.
We moved quickly. We were older: 30 and 38. We had sorted out some things; knew what we wanted and didn’t want in a relationship. We found out a short time into the relationship that we had both made a written list for an ideal partner, before meeting. We both matched each other’s list really well.
A word about god. I come from Catholicism. I went to a private Catholic school from preschool to 8th grade. I was protected there. I could wear one red shoe and one turquoise shoe and one red sock and one turquoise sock. And not be embarrassed. Or bullied. I could be myself at St Joseph Catholic School. The Cardinals. I could wear a knitted Rastafarian beret that matched my sweatshirt and not feel self-conscious. I’d known these people all my life. I knew all their families and they knew mine. My parents were very involved in the school. It was very small. All my troubles there were very innocent. I’m grateful for that.
As for my spiritual life, I don’t remember ever feeling that my spiritual garden was watered by Catholicism. And I think I had a pretty mild Christian experience. I didn’t have any overt spiritual abuse. I was blessed to have many, many kind people (adults and kids) in my life by way of this church. But it did not do me any favors on figuring out the god of my understanding.
It was not until 12 Step recovery that I started to investigate that in earnest. Up until then I was being motored by addiction and one-upmanship. Oh, and perfectionism. These were my guiding principles.
Why am I speaking about god in my Love Addiction series? Because Love Addiction and its euphoria was my religion before. The only way I was going to recover was through a power greater than myself. I had to have something else I could lean on and believe in to guide me through the dark night’s of my soul.
Exposure to religion and god did give me just that: exposure. And I was open to a god/higher power/spirit. I know that does not always produce the same result in other people. So I suppose I was just always open to a Higher Power. That line of connection was open. But it was in simple things I didn’t have words for. It was in the sunlight that came through the trees. That’s still where it is for me. That simple thing. I had that inside of me as a kid. But how to connect that to the church I went to? It didn’t really. Except for in the music. I could feel something in the music. I had no words for this as a child; it’s all as I reflect back.
When I came to Al-Anon on my knees, as they say, I had hit a significant bottom. The previous night I had fallen to my knees in my apartment out of desperation and pain crying out to I don’t know what. Saying, “Please help me, I can’t keep doing this.” And in that darkness was the faintest whisper of light. I saw a fork in the road: to the left was this recovery thing everyone was into at my internship. To the right was a doctor and medication for my craziness. I instinctively knew that this was a path deeper into addiction. I was not compelled by that path to the right. I wanted help and I wanted to understand myself.
And to get help I needed to deal with this god thing. I hated that word. God. I was so goddamned (get it) sick of the male pronouns and all these men saying, “No it’s not about men! Men means everyone! It’s neutral!” Fuck you. Anyway, it’s still fresh. I was told by my sponsor I could change all the Gods and Hims to Goddesses and Hers. I did that. It’s annoying because it is still easier for me to say god. It’s simple. But then I want to fight and make a point! It’s basically noise. I had to own this. I had to find my own concept of a Higher Power. I had to do exactly what the Catholics told you not to do: be a cafeteria Catholic. Pick and choose what works for you. Surely this was sacrilege!
Let’s be really honest. Working on Step 2 and 3 was an exorcism. These Steps are about exploring the ways in which I had been insane in my addicted thinking. And then finding a Greater Power that I could enlist for help. One that I would, in fact, attempt to turn my life over to. I had to exorcise the ideas about god put in my mind by Catholicism and my/our Christian world. These ideas had really festered and become extremely toxic to me. It had warped my mind. The warping in my mind told me that any attempts to free myself of these harmful thoughts was sinful. Was Wrong and Bad. On a moral level. That I would go to hell for challenging these ideas. There came a time when I thought well, ‘I might be wrong. Maybe I will go to hell for trying to create a more peaceful existence but I’m willing to take the gamble on the off chance. I’d rather go to hell than live like this.’
Every step of liberation I attempted to make out of this old dogma meant making a choice between my own heaven and hell once again. I really thought there would be a god police there to stop me. It was this huge, dominating, imposing figure in my mind. It’s hard to explain. Before I challenged this presence, it’s authority seemed absolute. It would not let me out. It would not let me pass. Yet the only thing really holding me in there was me. It was WILD. BIZARRE. Shocking.
I’ve been through this many times, to date. Each time I realize I need to shrug off the old ideas of life, god, or myself. It has this barrier of belief: ‘I can’t possibly??!!’ And then I just do! There’s no one there guarding this old idea except for me! And I’ll go through it many times more as I challenge what seems to be gospel. I find that once I’m there ,challenging the belief, it’s just a choice. I have a choice what to believe. This is still shocking to me. As I write this, I’m not in crazy town, so it seems simple. But when I’m down in the depths of shame or indecision I fear that I won’t survive if I dare to step out of line. I fear there is a god that will smite me. That intends me to suffer. It terrifies me. Shakes me to the core. Then, the clouds part and I see the sunshine. I remember my new core beliefs and I keep going.
A Higher Power has been essential to the shifts in my life. It has been essential in my recovering from love addiction. Lori, my sponsor, helped me take ownership of and get in touch with the Goddess/God/Creator of my understanding. I’ve learned in the intervening years that it changes for me; what that Higher Power is. It’s been many different things in many different forms. Sometimes I pray to this thing sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just breathe. It is often a presence that is easier to not name. It is a knowing inside of me that’s easier to know inside than to try and describe.
I put in the time to create a relationship. Just like my marriage. Just like my friendships. I continue to form it. Each year it deepens. Each year this presence shows up even more personal in my life, in a way that is undeniable to me. That leaves me thinking to myself, ‘It would seem ungrateful and quite frankly ridiculous to not have trust in this relationship. Do you see the way this Presence shows up for you? Again and again?? In ways that are designed just for you?’ This Power has proven itself to me a million times over and that’s why I put things in It’s care. It really is a scientific process. I try things in my own frightened way, or in other peoples’ way, or the conventional way and I see how that works out. I take notes. I try things that seem to be suggested by a Higher Power and I see how that works out. I take notes.
My simple observations is that I don’t make good decisions from fear. And it feels bad. I don’t want to feel bad. And my Higher Power only wants good things for me. My God doesn’t want me to suffer. My Goddess does not trick or scold or withhold. She guides me with love. And when I make decisions from a place of love, kindness, and quiet I feel better inside. I’m finding that’s what I care about most. I don’t wish to live in an environment of chaos or meanness. Without or within.
All of this is the infrastructure that allowed me to take a leap. I was under new management. I spent several years in Al-Anon creating a relationship with a Higher Power of my understanding. Totally defined by me. Then I spent those years building trust with that Power. Not only did it lead me to create an extraordinary life but I felt better. This really matters to me. This is my gauge. If the “right” thing feels bad, then I don’t want to be “right”. You know what I’m saying?
I look back and I can say that my life, on this spiritual path, improves every year. All my chronic problems have improved since I engaged with this Power. Chronic pain, anxiety, self-loathing, insecurity, love addiction, drinking, nutrition. All areas have improved and most of them have improved dramatically. Each year there’s more. Another layer. And what’s funny is I’m still anxious! But if I compare it to anxiety 3 years ago? 10 years ago? Dramatic difference.
When I turn to this Power it takes my life to places I would have never come up with. This engages the mystery of life for me; the magic. And it wasn’t until I began this spiritual development in earnest did I realize how hungry I was for it. I can’t live a life without magic. Or joy, or intrigue. When I engage with fear, when I turn to fear as the guiding power in my life, doors close. The walls close in. My life becomes smaller. Options disappear. I feel bad. Being afraid feels bad in my body. I don’t want to feel bad. The voice of fear is also unkind to me. When I’m in my right mind I am not interested in following a frightened, aggressive, critical leader. I’ve realized that I trust calm, patient, consistent, and loving energy. That energy feels better.
I set out to tell you about my relationship with Jeff. I tried really hard to do that but this is the thing that wanted to get written.
It was this relationship with a greater Power that freed me from love addiction and supported me in having a relationship with Jeff.