I quit smoking 21 years ago. No applause, please; you don’t congratulate someone for escaping a burning building. But I am rather pleased with myself for Ethlie’s Three Tips for Quitting Smoking.
1. The craving to smoke will pass, whether you pick up a cigarette or not.
2. You never need to be 100% willing quit smoking. You only need to be 51% willing.
3. Quitting smoking doesn’t make you angry. You were already angry; you just didn’t notice.
What does this have to do with love addiction? Everything. Because while most of us suffering from affection deficit disorder think we have an emotional problem, we actually have a physical problem. Sex and romance — even the anticipation or illusion of sex or romance — create a neurochemical “reward cascade” in my head that is as addictive to me as nicotine was. Dopamine, oxytocin, PEA, GABA… my brain adores that stuff, and it doesn’t cost me seven bucks a pack and bad breath, either.
Problem is, when the reward cascade stops cascading, it creates withdrawal symptoms every bit as uncomfortable as a nicotine fit.
All love addicts (and most high school students) know what withdrawal looks like and feels like. It looks like you on the floor in a fetal position, generally curled up around a telephone. It feels halfway between stomach flu and chemotherapy — and I know one woman who, having survived both cancer and heartbreak, swears the heartbreak was worse. Withdrawal looks like suicidal clinical depression, and is frequently treated as if it were clinical depression, but I rarely see that approach succeed because withdrawal is not depression. Withdrawal is withdrawal.
What does succeed? The same things that work for quitting smoking.
1. The craving for him/her will pass, whether you pick up the phone or not.
2. You never need to be 100% willing to get over him/her; you only need to be 51% willing.
3. Not having him/her in your life isn’t what made you feel sad, empty and alone. You already felt sad, empty and alone; you just didn’t notice.