Addiction to a Person
Having an addiction to a person is like any other addiction. All addictions inherently involve relationship. And you can have a relationship with a substance, or group of substances, or a host of other things including sex, money, power, etc.. Some people, places, and things can be powerful sources of pleasure and/or tension relief. And it’s easy to become addicted to such things.
Understanding the Dynamics of Addiction
All addictions develop in the same way. At first, our relationship with the “object” of choice is immensely satisfying. You get something you really value and want to access again. But it isn’t long before you need more of what you got before to feel the same degree of satisfaction. And before you know it, you become dependent. And despite not feeling as good, you get enough of what you crave to keep coming back.
The same dynamics apply when you’re talking about addiction to a person. And the dependency that develops is an emotional dependency. Moreover, once you succumb to emotional dependency, it’s easy to allow your relationship partner to exploit or abuse you. That’s especially true you’re still getting something out of the relationship you crave. And much like happens with a slot machine, intermittent rewards you might experience hook you. (See: In Sheep’s Clothing, pp. 92-93.) So, you stay involved despite knowing at some level that you’re subjecting yourself to abuse.
Breaking Your Addiction to a Person
The first step to overcoming any addiction is to acknowledge it. So, if your addiction is to a person you must first acknowledge the true nature of the relationship. That also means honestly reckoning with any emotional dependency. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do. Dependencies don’t develop overnight. And they’re inherently hard to shake. But the payoffs can be dramatic.
As anyone having experience with them knows, walking away from a slot machine is hard. It’s not that you simply love being fleeced. And it’s not that it’s particularly enjoyable watching your resources go down the drain. But you’ve already made an investment. And you’d like to recoup at least some of your losses. Better yet, it would be nice get just a little reward for all you’ve sacrificed. So, you stay. And you hope. But in the end, you get taken. Being beaten isn’t fun. But admitting it happened and how it happened is even less fun.
To break your addiction to a person you have to admit to yourself what hooked you. You have to know what meant so much to you that you stayed involved even when part of you was begging that you leave. You have to reckon with any emotional dependency you may have, too. And you have to appreciate that looking externally – to any person, place, or thing – to do what only you can actually do for yourself – is always a recipe for both depression and eventual heartache.
People, places, and things can’t possibly make us happy. But we can keep happy company with them. Finding our own happiness first is the key.
Here’s the link to the latest Character Matters podcast.
4 thoughts on “Understanding and Breaking Your Addiction to a Person”
Thank you so much for this article! If there are any other tips on healing when it’s an adult child Who is abusive, I’d really appreciate it.
Think this is the root of my problem. Coming to terms with it and how it developed. Now that I’m aware of it, it has less of a pull on me and it’s easier to detach and take time to figure out what’s pulling me and why. I recognize the pattern now. They recognize this vulnerability, and begin to withhold, exploit and abuse. Often it’s slow and subtle, but it’s there. It’s my cue to pull back and assess, and usually, get the hell away from them.
With most people it’s fairly easy now, even family. With my daughter, it’s brutal, and when I think I’ve done it, either my guilt or baiting from her, and I get tripped up and want to hang onto hope that she’ll change. She knows this of course and periodically dangles the carrot. Haven’t seen or spoken to her in years. Only email when she initiates. She claims she’s grown up, but don’t see how you can change from trying to isolate someone, gaslight them and terrorize them into submission to someone fit to have a relationship in a few years.
I know I’ve grown up and changed over the years, but I didn’t start from anywhere near where she is. She’s knows it wrong and harmful and does it anyway. The ends justify the means.
There’s that little piece that wants believe. It’s hopeless I know, but that part is stubbornly holding on and taking longer to accept.
It takes us a long time to figure these things out doesn’t it? I’m afraid of new relationships now, with men. Not going to start one till I’m sure I can use the tools of discernment, vetting, taking it slow, not having a “relationship” till I know the true character of a person.
I’m sorry about your daughter, and I can understand having hope. Why she does this to you is mind boggling. My husband did it to me. It’s much easier to let go of a husband, though, than one’s child.
I took a six month leave from my daughter. Just was not going to stand the way she talked to me anymore. And she has made changes. She’s had and still continues with counseling, and is becoming a better person, mother, and daughter. She says she learned how to “treat” me by watching the way her father treated me. So she’s unlearning. I can see the woman now that she once was before she got so mean. There is hope. Maybe your daughter will want to change her ways.
My X, though, has not changed one bit. He really makes me leary and he feels creepy. I invited him to dinner, along with my grandson and daughter, and my son, who would not accept his calls or contact him in a year. I did a step to reunify them by having a dinner. My son is mentally ill. So that is the one time in a year that I have had communication with the X. He’s so vile towards me I’ve had to cut off communications. I don’t intend to reach out to him again. I did the dinner for my son’s benefit, not the X’s. He needs two parents. I won’t always be here. If I go first, the X will need to tend to his needs.
It does. And I’m quite sure there’s still a ton that I haven’t figured out yet. Unraveling a large, knotted, twisted ball of yarn. Was basically programmed to put others first, and that I was bad or selfish if I didn’t. Healthy boundaries were shamed or met with aggression and being ostracized. I have to be super careful now about who I let in.
Good for you about not giving up on relationships. It sounds like you’re taking good care of yourself and being mindful and vetting people. I certainly understand your concern about being taken in again. I’m not there yet. Too much has happened and repeated malignant narc’s. I swear they can sense me from a mile away!
Thanks, Lucy. I feel very foolish for having hope. She seemed to be able or willing to keep in check somewhat when she lived at home and during college. She was resentful, antagonistic, and manipulative, but at times helpful and somewhat protective. I thought she was outgrowing it. Then in her mid twenties she got worse. Think it makes her feel powerful and in control. It’s really bad. I was terrified she’d physically hurt me. She would break things (“accidentally”), when she was angry she didn’t get her way. I’m so glad your daughter is in counseling and is actively working on it. I understand following the modeling her father provided. I believe my daughter is testing and manipulating me for the most part. She pretends to care when it suits her, and sad as that is.
I can understand the instinct to try and get a reconciliation with your son and ex. As a parent you want your children to have both parents. It sounds like your son has his number and wants nothing to do with him. Smart man. Makes sense you cut off contact. They just use it to harm.
You know him best, do you think your ex will actually care for him? Or will he exploit, manipulate, use and abuse him? My experience is they have contempt for vulnerability or any kind of “weakness”.
I understand what you’re talking about your daughter keeping it together when at home and school. Then getting worse in 20’s. I saw the same. I saw the tactics my X used being copied by my daughter. And I’ve told her many times I know all the tactics, her dad used them. I can’t be fooled. You can still have hope but without holding your breath. We just don’t know what the future is. If someone wants to make the change, they can with intense counseling.
As far as my son, he’s mentally ill and on top of that a very selfish person. He tends to isolate himself, finds comfort in his own environment. He’s on Social Security Disability, and I am the designated payee. If something were to happen to me his father would need to take over. I’m pretty sure that he’d make sure he’s not homeless and has food and medical care. The X was distraught and worried and sad, according to my daughter, during the year that our son would not contact him.
So my family, what troubled people! How did it happen? I’m a normal person (as far as I can tell — haha) surrounded by this.