When a conversation is had about drug or alcohol addiction, you wouldn’t naturally assume that it included the subject of love, unless there was a quarrel about how substance abuse is ruining a personal relationship. But humans’ internal chemical reactions to love shows some interesting similarities to addiction. If you’ve ever wondered what’s love got to do with addiction, this blog’s for you.
Face It, You’re Addicted to Love
Over the years, musicians have topped the industry charts with songs about love and addiction, Robert Palmer and Roxy Music come to my mind instantly as I’m sure you’ve got your favorites. The pressure to fall in love or be in love is no greater than during Valentine’s Day, thanks to Hallmark and social media jabs at the heartstrings. As a culture, we love drama. And love certainly brings drama but are we obsessed with it and… are we predisposed to addiction in love?
Like other addictions, there are similarities.
Why the Dopey Attitude
That feeling of falling in love is attributed to the body’s reaction to the attraction. A mix of dopamine, cortisol and vasopressin showers the brain giving us that euphoric feeling that we never want to end. But according to researchers it has a shelf-life of no longer than a year before returning to its normal state. Yes, there is validity to the concerns that after a year or two, it just isn’t the same anymore.
The longing you have when you’re in love is also because of the increase in dopamine activity. Like drug addiction, once the dopamine level drops, you crave more, even if you’re addicted to love.
How Addicts Fall in Love with Drugs
While love can be a positive addition to your life, even with its bizarre changes to our chemical balance, a love affair with drugs or alcohol is overpowering. With substance addition, it can’t simply be turned on or off like a switch through willful intent. Drug use disorder and alcoholism is far more potent.
Through an ample investment in time, money and personal integrity, addicts succumb to the psychological and physical codependency that ongoing use brings. The brain changes, literally, affecting the ability to make reasonable decisions and sound judgements about themselves, other people and how to conduct their lives.
Ongoing alcohol or drug abuse alters the body’s natural process in igniting the feel-good hormone, dopamine. With each use, the body becomes programmed to expect the dopamine surge that the drug provides. If the body doesn’t get enough, it will crave more through varied withdrawal symptoms that can cause emotional and physical discomfort and pain. No matter how much he or she may love you, there isn’t anything you can say or do to entice away from the addiction and back to you.
Why You’re Not as Appealing as the Next Fix
This might sound weird but being in love with an addict carries a lot of jealousy. If only he would give you the same amount of attention as his alcoholic friends or the neighborhood bar. If only she’d spend the same amount of time with you as the drug dealer at the nightclub. Here’s the missing link in this line of thinking. These thoughts indicate that the addict has a choice in these preferences. With active addiction, there is no choice – only selfish need. The jealousy about the inattentiveness is based on a dangerous codependency for a chemical fix.
There’s nothing you can do to change that need. It isn’t you, it’s them, but not them, the addict in them.
It’s hard not to get overly focused on your partner’s addiction. It might drive you to engage in OCD-like behavior because you’re losing control in their loss of control. Fighting your way through angry word exchanges and acts of revenge or retribution will only cause more heartache, distance and despair. Even if your loved one says and does all the right things one week, without stopping the drug use and seeking treatment, the becoming behavior is only temporary. Unfortunately for now, his or her only true love is their drug of choice.
Feelings Change During and After Active Addiction
Perhaps this love story is more about you than your better half – meaning, maybe you have a problem with alcohol intake or drug use. Maybe you’ve started to use after you’ve been in your current relationship. If your partner has said things to you like “You’re just not acting like yourself,” or “You’re not you anymore,” there is something to that.
Drug use disorder (includes alcoholism) will alter the way you perceive things about your life, including how you feel about the people closest to you. In fact, addiction will compromise your ability to feel real, period. This single aspect of addiction changes the way you relate to the world around you, thereby affecting life decisions, such as love relationships.
One of the foundational reasons why most addiction treatment and recovery programs include the admonishment about not making any major life changes during the first year of recovery. The mind and spirit are just starting to readjust and redefine your new normal, free from chemical dependency.
To give your love relationship a chance for surviving the tumultuous ride of addiction, include counseling for you and your partner. It will help you understand the changes in thoughts, perceptions and feelings about one another throughout the recovery process.
Loving Yourself Starts by Admitting the Problem
Before you can truly love someone else on a level that does not involve codependency or addiction, it takes the courage to turn that love inward. Whether this speaks to you as an addict or as someone in love with an addict, there is help available for you both.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Arizona Addiction Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 888-512-1705.
Authored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.