A Personal Story
I was given up for adoption at birth by a young girl of just 16. She got pregnant in the back of a '57 Chevy by her 15-year old boyfriend who ran around on her and finally left when he found out she was pregnant. When pleading with him to stay and raise their child failed, she decided to carry me to term and give me to someone whom she hoped would provide more than she could. In the hospital, once the mother decides to give the child up for adoption, they don't allow her to ever see the child. They consider it to be too emotionally difficult for both mother and child. When I was born, she pleaded with a nurse to be able to see me. When the nurse brought me to her arms, my mother wept, having experienced the absolute perfection of life, a life that she gave - her own newborn child. I was laid upon my mothers chest, and then taken away.
I was adopted by a 20 year old newlywed who told my mother that she wanted a child but couldn't get pregnant. Two months later, she was, in fact, pregnant, and after 16 months was divorced and raising us two boys on her own. Although she was an extremely devout Baptist for most of her life, she remarried to a Jewish man. I remember so clearly - as if it was yesterday. I was 5-years old, looking at a piece of paper with my name on it, and my adoptive mother came up behind me and told me what it was. She looked as if right through me, and said, "I'm not your real mother. You're not my real son." That day marked the first day of my life. I remember nothing before that day.
There was nothing between me and "dad". He muttered the words, "children should be seen and not heard" like a mantra. I couldn't count the number of times I heard it. "Dad" was void, mom was preoccupied, we moved a thousand times. I sat in each new classroom in each new school with my head down, hoping I wouldn't get called on by each new teacher cuz I never knew any answers. I couldn't focus, couldn't concentrate. I was lost, and I was angry. I was about 8-years old when I started to feel the power of rage. I was easily set off by my brother, fought with him all the time. I remember one day when I became conscious of the look in his eyes as I beat him into the ground with my fists. I wanted to pulverize him. It was what he used to say to me. It was what he didn't say. It was the air he breathed that I would never breathe. He was her real son.
She divorced and married again when I was 9, this time to a slick young salesman who prided himself on humiliating and embarrassing me in front of them. His tongue lashings left me paralyzed. I hated him. They sent me away to the first boarding school when I was 10. My mother wanted to spend her days and nights with this prick without the inconvenience of her children being in the way. She abandoned her boys for this fucking jag-off. The bus picked us up, and we were gone.
I was 11 when I drank my first 6-pack of Schlitz malt liquor and smoked my first joint at the first boarding school, St. Mary's School For Boys. It was this other kid and me sitting around a table with these older guys who seemed like they did this all the time. We sat there drinking malt liquor and passing joints around the table. Seemed right to me. Left me pretending I was an airplane, arms outstretched at my sides, buzzing around the room. The feeling was too good for words. Somehow I held onto that feeling even after throwing up my guts and passing out in the bathroom afterward. I was eventually suspended from that school for smoking pot in the vineyards with some other kids. I was 12.
The next boarding school was a ritzy place my father du jour had graduated from. I got kicked out in my 2nd year when they let girls in for day classes. I was caught sneaking out at night to meet one of the girls and some friends, and then lying about it in the student court. I broke probation and was expelled. But I was more worried about the girl whom I liked a lot. The school called her parents, and they decided to fly all the way back from Hawaii because of the ordeal. I punched out the windows of my room and sat in the nurse's office while she pulled the glass out of my hands. I had embarrassed my family. Good! Fuck em!! At home from the boarding school, I spent every night on the phone with Kerri. Two weeks later she was killed in a car accident. I cried deeply in the presence of parents who only stood there and watched me from the other side of the hallway. I waited for the one thing I'd always needed...stood there until I understood it wasn't coming. I closed the door of my room behind me, layed on the bed and went numb. The pain, the torment, the rage for the neglect and abandonment, Kerri's death, the disconnection from any kind of family, the betrayal, the loneliness. I was alone.
"Mom" was agitated, angry, vile, rageful with me. I just couldn't suck it all up and pretend everything was okay so easily. I tried to be a good kid. I tried to please this woman from as early as I can remember. We moved several more times, and I ended up with the "back field" crowd at the next school, stoned always. Acid, cocaine, mushrooms, pot, booze, hash, Quaaludes... I sold drugs cuz that way they were always around. I don't know how I graduated High School. I don't remember turning in any assignments.
Where am I going with this? It's hard to tell my story. It's still hard to accept it. Let me end here for now. My adult years in and after college were all about drugs and alcohol, codependency and Love Addiction. My relationships were horrendous.
I'm outta here.
I read Pia Mellody's book, Facing Love Addiction. All I've ever known is the torment of trying every unsuccessful way to get my needs met from people who can't be there for me. Every breath she takes causes fear of betrayal and abandonment for me. Nothing she thinks, feels, says, or does, offers enough closeness, nurturing, love, commitment, or connection for me. Every fiber of my being is in fear to the point of panic. I'm forever waiting for the pain and abandonment.
The dynamic between the Love Addict and the Avoidant ever fuels the disease. The Love Addict needs. The Avoidant detaches by whatever means necessary - drugs/alcohol, work, another relationship, general busy-ness. The Love Addict clings tighter. Fearing engulfment, the Avoidant steps further away. As fast as each runs in either direction, the partner follows in-step. It's a maddening, push-pull circle of torment and pain for the Love Addict, who tries to connect with the unavailable.
It was my first relationship in sobriety. The relationship began with my telling her I wasn't ready for a committed relationship. But there came a time when I found myself wanting more. The problem began when she told me I'd caught HER off-guard, and that SHE wasn't ready for a committed relationship. I don't know what happened to me over the following weeks. It was as powerful as if I'd experienced some kind of bio-chemical change that controlled my thoughts, my feelings, and my behaviors. All I felt was the pull of her unavailability, and pulled into a vortex of my own endless need. I became obsessed with thoughts and feelings that were overwhelming. I had no idea what was happening to me. I tried to reason with myself, "Give her time. Give her some space. What the fuck is wrong with you?"
I couldn't leave it alone. I was perfectly obsessed. Thoughts of her, what she was thinking, who she was with, what she was doing throughout her day ran through my mind. "Why won't she commit to me? Why hasn't she called?" I pressured her. Yeah, we discussed that maybe we weren't good for each other, that she wasn't fulfilling my needs, that maybe I needed someone who could give me more...someone who was more available. For an untreated Love Addict, facing the possibility of separation painfully scratches over ancient emotional wounds covered in denial. Separation brings up the intensity of feelings from the past, wounds unhealed...deep, voracious, unmerciful, unyielding pain of a vulnerable child.
There were days I would lay in my bed for hours, having never gotten up in the first place, never drawing the shades, never opening my door, laying there in the darkness of my room, and depths of emptiness. In my mind I saw images of her, dressed and ready for her day, comfortable, meeting people with a smile, functional, attractive, competent, happy. There were days when I was so needy and raw that I feared even a phone call from her as it would only expose my desperation and neediness. My thoughts, my feelings, my ability to take care of myself, my interest in friends, food, recreation, and my health were vaporized as I could only focus on her. I clamored for more time with her, to do more things together, sleep together more. We fought, and I raged. Even when she gave me more time, I felt something missing...something emotional she wasn't giving. I told her to open up to me more, meld with me more, let me in, be available to me. I couldn't even describe what I needed. I sounded crazy. I was fucking insane.
I tried to spend time with friends, tried to exercise, tried to get busy doing anything. I wasn't hearing what I needed to hear from anywhere that could help me with the pain. I journaled day after day...2, 3, 4, 5 times a day. Pages and pages and pages of obsession, and tormenting questions about what was happening to me. "Why can't I let go?" I prayed for God's will, prayed for God to remove the obsession, prayed for relief from the torment and the pain. There was no reply.
I was ashamed for not being able to move forward. I couldn't tell my friends that I couldn't let go of her. People advised me as if it should have been easier. I was ever sinking in despair and depression, denying my needs to try to please her, not make problems, be a better person and a better boyfriend, not show my desperation, fearing she would leave.
A recurring tactic I would use to get her attention was to tell her, in a seemingly self-assured voice, "Maybe you should just take some time to evaluate whether you really want to be in this relationship or not." Pia Mellody (Facing Love Addiction) calls it dropping bombs. The yelling and screaming, the threats to find someone who could give me what I needed, little insertions that played on her own fears of separation and loneliness. Finally, one day the tactic back-fired. In a calm, cool voice, she said, "You know, maybe you're right. Maybe I'm just not as available for a relationship as I thought I was."...just like that. What I feared most had happened. She'd called my bluff.
Pain is a motivator. The pain of that relationship, and it's final end, sent me crawling through the doors of Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) and therapy. I read books on the subject of Codependency and Love Addiction. I became overwhelmed and went into an agitated depression. I was unstable, angry, restless, uncomfortable, irritable, exhausted from trying to keep it together, not able to sleep. I saw a Psychiatrist who then put me on anti-depressant medication, anti-anxiety medication, and sleep medications. I was in withdrawal from addiction to my girlfriend, and facing the reality of my childhood at the same time. After being in and out of therapist's offices throughout my life, being clean and sober then for 2-years, and all the abusive and failed relationships, I finally began to understand, accept, and surrender to the fact that it was my childhood that haunted me. I began to open up to the memories, and to the child of many years back. I walked through the layers of denial about the rage, the pain, and the emptiness.
Sidenote: While I was in fetal position on the floor in rib-breaking pain of withdrawal from my girlfriend, she was already dating and sleeping with another man within 2-weeks of the breakup. Hell is a cozy diner compared to the hell of this disease.
For 6-months I crawled through the pain and withdrawal. When it became apparent to her that I was finally becoming free, she ran back to me. For the Avoidant, under the primary fear of engulfment is their own fear of abandonment. After 6-months of hard work in recovery, therapy, medications, group work, and CoDA, I still had to fight hard to not re-engage in the relationship. Everything in me wanted to go back. She came back with such force. Here was the woman I thought I loved, the woman I had been completely obsessed with, had done everything in my power to win her approval, her love, her time, attention, focus, and priority, and now she was running back to me, telling me she'd made a terrible mistake, that she knew what she wanted for the first time in her life, that she'd never loved anyone more, that she'd figured it all out and she was now ((((AVAILABLE)))). My mind was a whirlwind. Her words were magical and seductive. They were everything I'd ever wanted to hear from a woman. THE woman. Mom.
God had put a few good people in my life at that time, which, combined with my own recovery, gave me just enough strength to keep moving forward and not go back. I came upon a timely passage in Melody Beattie's The Language of Letting Go that gave me the final thrust. I knew what I was dealing with and decided to not re-engage. I was lucky.
Here's what Melody writes: Page 255: Word Power
Some of us are so vulnerable to words. A well-timed "I love you." A chosen moment for "I'm sorry." An excuse delivered in the right tone of voice. A pat on the head. A dozen roses. A kiss. A greeting card. A few words that promise love that has yet to be delivered can spin us into denial. Sometimes, it can keep us denying that we are being lied to, mistreated, or abused. There are those who deliberately set out to sway us, to control and manipulate us through cheap talk! They know, they fully understand our vulnerability to a few well-timed words! Break through your naivete. They know what they're doing. They understand their impact on us! We do not have to give such power to words, even though the words may be just what we want and need to hear, even though they sound so good, even though the words seem to stop the pain. Sooner or later, we will come to realize that if behavior doesn't match a person's words, we are allowing ourselves to be controlled, manipulated, deceived. Sooner or later, we will come to realize that talk is cheap, unless the person's behavior matches it. We can demand congruency in the behavior and the words of those around us. We can choose our own behaviors and our own course of action. We do not have to let cheap, well-timed talk control us - even if the words we hear are exactly what we want to hear to stop our pain.
Today, I will let go of my vulnerability to words. God, help me trust myself to know the truth, even when I am being deceived. Help me cherish those relationships where there is congruency. Help me believe I deserve congruity and truth in the behavior and the words of those I care about.
Growing healthy from a dysfunctional family, an empty childhood, and this disease, takes time and happens slowly. I was still very needy in the next relationship that followed. I needed more than I could expect anyone to give, and she left. But while I worked in recovery, learned to communicate my feelings a little better, and to fight the urges to explode in panic and my fear of betrayal and abandonment, I enjoyed a better relationship.
I think that all I ever needed was a mom. Someone to be there for me through all the moves, the changes, the fears, the avoidant, disinterested fathers. A mom who would love me and care for me and not abandon me while I struggled to cope with so many things going on that I had no choice in. And while I try to learn new ways to live, and to fill the emptiness from many years, I still haven't been able to accept that she wasn't there. Mom's not coming...ever.
Today in recovery, I see how I've been incomplete, unhealed, and needy with the women in my life. I've relied on them to heal ancient wounds and pain. I was never taught, nor did I ever learn, how to fill my emptiness and loss. "Just grow up" didn't cut it. I only learned what I was taught. I learned to abandon myself.
When a Love Addict says, "I just wish I could find someone who's available," what we really mean is, "I need someone to take care of me." We're stuck in our childhood. The work begins inside as we journey through the fear, the pain, the memories, and the truth of our childhood. With time, we learn to connect with our feelings and our needs. We own our Truth...and the incredible loss and disappointment. We connect with the wounded, scared, lonely child within, and gain the courage to accept the magnitude of that child's need. We learn to fill that place inside. We begin to feel whole and complete just exactly for who we are right now. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share a piece of my story, and a part of who I am.