Withdrawal in love addiction is like withdrawal from any other mind-altering drug: miserable, painful, intense, physical. Pretty much the only difference between this and withdrawal from, say, heroin is the soundtrack. Most junkies don’t play Leonard Cohen songs over and over again as they shudder and shake. (Or Hank Williams Jr.’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Or your favorite.) The weeping and the vomiting, though, are about the same.
It amazes people how intensely physical withdrawal can be. Who would have thought that simply not picking up the phone would lead to sleeplessness, nausea and headaches? He cancels a movie date, I get a rash. WTF? But brain chemistry is brain chemistry, and whether it’s the dopamine rush from a winning blackjack hand or the touch of His hand, the phenomenon of craving and the symptoms of withdrawal persist.
There’s your mild withdrawal, that ache you feel when you long for the sound of Her voice. The relief you feel when you hear it is what any reasonable drug addict would call a fix. Take that fix away for too long, and someone’s going to be lying on the floor, clutching their stomach, staring at the phone and/or howling at the moon.
Go too long without the object of desire, and Affection Deficit Disorder kicks in bigtime. You have no appetite. You cry without warning, quite randomly, and frequently in public. You can’t sleep… or you can’t do anything but sleep. I did get in terrific shape during one withdrawal, because I couldn’t eat and hitting the heavy bag was the only thing keeping me semi-sane. But then there was this other time when I couldn’t get out of bed and Ding-Dongs were the only thing keeping me semi-sane….
Another hallmark of withdrawal is becoming unstuck from the present tense. You’re constantly replaying tapes of What Went Wrong, rewriting and revising every conversation you and your beloved ever had in your head or with your friends. If only you had said this… and then he would have said that… and then you would have said this…. This is incredibly boring to said friends, but no one in withdrawal notices stuff like that. It’s part narcissism and part pure pain. If I fell down the stairs and was clutching my broken leg in agony, I doubt I would consider whether my whimpering was annoying you.
Another sign and symptom of Affection Deficit Disorder –- as opposed to garden variety heartbreak — is what you might call an increasing sensitivity to the allergen. Once upon a time, it took me six hard months to process the death of an eight-year marriage. At my ADD bottom, it took me six miserable months to get over the loss of a Muppet with dimples I had been casually dating for maybe five weeks.
Then there’s the classic junkie need to chip: listening to old voicemails, are we? Looking at pictures? Fingering love tokens? Does it give you a little lift? Get you just a little high? Does it remind you at all of picking butts out of the ashtray after quitting smoking?
I could go on but I promised to post this today. Why don’t you give me your experience on the subject. Happiness shared is happiness doubled; pain shared is pain halved.