Love is an addiction. No, seriously, it is.
This isn’t just a metaphor – our brains react in precisely the same way to love as they do to heroin and crystal meth. Despite what culture has been telling us for centuries, love isn’t supernatural. It’s a profoundly natural phenomenon, with identifiable neurobiological components. This doesn’t diminish it. Our bodies and brains are incredible entities, and the fact that they can create and perpetuate love simply adds to the wonder of the thing.
But what about when our addiction is taken away from us? When the brain has a ‘love habit’ and love is suddenly denied it, we go into a truly horrible form of withdrawal. What can we do to get through this, without damaging ourselves or others? How do we go through this thing called letting go of love?
Ride Out The Crazy (And Forgive Yourself For It)
When someone is addicted to something, they may lose all rational sense of perspective (or acceptability) in the pursuance of that something. The same is true of those in love. Their behavior may become erratic or even slightly unhinged – and at no time is there more danger of this than when they go into withdrawal.
When you’ve broken up with someone you love, you’ll find yourself compelled to do all kinds of things which you’d otherwise find embarrassing – begging, sobbing, even stalking your ex. While it’s hard to see clearly when your addicted brain is driving you to get that love ‘hit’ back, try your hardest to ride out those impulses. A good way in which to do this is to call a good friend when you feel the crazy coming on. Release your impulses on those who will understand and forgive you. And then, crucially, forgive yourself for doing so. You’re not mad. You’re not this weepy, crazy person. You’re an addict who’s going through withdrawal. And you will be fine.
Just as those in love are like substance abusers, so substance abusers are like those in love. Many substance abusers go through a process of grief when they finally kick their habit. Grief can also help at the end of a relationship. Don’t get grief wrong, though. Grief is not an emotion – it’s a psychological savior. Many people believe that grief is nothing but sadness and regret – a miserable experience, in short. In fact, grief manifests in many ways.
To grieve, one must face up to the fact of something’s passing. One must accept and ride with the emotions that this brings – but one must survive them. Grief is not succumbing to the black hole that is depression. Grief is a way of avoiding depression. Grief is emotional processing. Grief is resilience.
So feel all that you must feel, and deal with your emotions as best suits you, but do not torture yourself, or blame yourself, or sink beneath the weight of your sadness. Grieve. Take as much time as you need, but allow grief ultimately to transform your misery into emotional equilibrium.
Don’t Get Re-Addicted Too Soon
As you’re going through love-withdrawal, your brain will continually crave the neurochemical love-soup upon which it has come to rely. Until you’ve got yourself through this, you cannot trust your brain not to make stupid mistakes as it chases the dragon. ‘Rebound’ flings are almost always the result of cold-turkey brains looking for a love-hit, and willing to get it pretty much anywhere.
Remember, until you’ve gone through the love DTs, you’re like an alcoholic who cannot go near a bar lest they fall off the wagon.
Be very wary of romantic entanglements until you’re sure you’re ready. For this reason, although it may be painful to do so, it’s probably best to limit communication with your ex until you’re properly over them. No, you can’t even Facebook stalk them. It feels horrible, yes, but that’s withdrawal – and it will be painfully prolonged unless you go cold turkey.
Do Things You Enjoy
When we do something fun, we get a rush of dopamine to the brain. Dopamine is the brain’s ‘pleasure’ chemical, used to reward us for doing advantageous things. We’re evolutionarily programmed to seek out methods of gaining that dopamine ‘reward’, which is why the chemical is implicated within the complex science of addiction.
You may feel too miserable to enjoy yourself, but do try to do things which you’d normally enjoy. If you manage to induce a little dopamine to enter your brain, then your cravings and your withdrawal will diminish. At least for a little while. It’s tough to get up and out when you’re feeling awful, but doing so can and will bring big emotional rewards. So cook your favorite meal, watch your favorite movie, go out with your mates, hit the shops, go for a hike, cuddle your pet – whatever works for you. It really will reduce the effects of love withdrawal!
This post was written by Anne Calvert.