Love and Addiction: are they one in the same?

Love and addiction, is there a difference between the two? Maybe it’s having grown up around addiction that everything starts to look like it. You sort of never want to want or need anything in your life, ever. But then, the things you do want, and need become almost obsessive. My mother was an addict and I was addicted to my mother on some level subconsciously, even addicted to the chaos, though I had no idea yet. I didn’t really want to leave after my mom left, I didn’t want to live the life I was living, but I didn’t want to leave my mother. I had to move from Long Island to Brooklyn. None of my friends knew anything, I had done a pretty good job at hiding what went on inside my house. I just told my friends we’re moving and that was that, pretty much cut all ties with everyone.

As I mentioned my siblings and I were separated, so I went to Brooklyn alone. It was a shock to say the least, Long Island to Brooklyn was a huge difference. In Long Island, I was in public school, I lived in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood and that was my normal. The aunt I went to live with was a Catholic School teacher who went to church every single Sunday. Yeah, so she signed me up for Catholic school, talk about culture shock. The school was predominantly white, all girls and everyone there for the most part was a Brooklyn native, I was completely out of my element. I made a few friends, but they might as well have been from another planet. I didn’t realize how completely isolated I was in my little chaotic world. I hadn’t even kissed a boy and I was in 9th grade! Pretty much every girl I met was already in love and definitely not a virgin. Nevertheless, I used my intuition (which I had become damn good at) and found one or two girls that I felt I could connect with on some level, though they too were way more experienced than I, as far as boys were concerned. So, I was fully thrusted into a world I had to quickly adapt to and at least that I was good at, survival of the fittest.

Let me make a long story short. Within 6 months, I was smoking weed, hanging out till wee hours of the night, drinking and dating. I was socializing for the first time and had a freedom unlike I had ever experienced. I was able to do what I wanted to do, and having an aunt who worked in NYC and had never had children of her own, made that very easy for me. The times that she didn’t, I would just sneak out. I dated a few guys and kissed and fondled here and there and it was intoxicating. It was unlike anything I had ever felt, needed. To be honest, it was the first time I had ever really felt wanted. I don’t come from a family of huggers and we didn’t say I love you often, if at all, so I was in complete bliss when I was with a guy. That people, became my drug. Now don’t get me wrong, it felt so good, but I wasn’t interested in feeling that with multiple men, I believed at the time this is what could possibly save me, love. And so, my search began, for my drug.

Now let’s keep in mind I was 14 at the time, but I had already begun to drown in romantic movies and the notion that romantic love saves all. Pretty Woman literally had come out that year, not take anything away from the movie, but you get my drift, fantasy land. So, I had begun the search. I know it’s crazy, but low and behold, I found him. Shortly after my 15th birthday, I saw him from across the street, he held my gaze and he came over and well that was it. I spent the next 5 years with this boy. I lost my virginity to him, I tried drugs with him, I had a lot of “firsts” with him. More importantly, I made him my world, my entire world. By the age of 16 and a half, I left my aunts house and moved in with him. I was still going to school thankfully, he wasn’t, and I didn’t care. This boy could do no wrong, even when I knew damn well he had flirted and maybe kissed other girls here and there, there was no way I was letting this go. He would have to either kill me or do something reprehensible for me to walk away. Of course, he did the latter, it was a toxic relationship to say the least. He had no drive, wasn’t seeking an education and was even selling drugs for a good part of our relationship and none of it mattered. Like addiction, no matter how bad it hurts us, letting go is even worse. I found out I was pregnant in my senior year. We decided to keep it because after all, isn’t that part of the fairy tale? He gave me this song and dance about needing to get out of the hood we lived in to get his shit together for us and for the baby and I believed him. I gave him my full support. He moved to Miami with his sister in pursuit of his GED, while I stayed in Brooklyn living with his mother and working. I was still in communication with my family and at this point my mother was back, but in and out of my life. This is the time I mentioned earlier where I realized just how much I wanted my mother. He came back, sans GED of course, and I was 9 months pregnant at the time. We had a baby shower and I was just waiting to go into labor. I knew something was off upon his return, he was different and not in the way I would have expected.

One evening he had received a call from his sister in Miami and he took the call in another room as he often did. Something told me to check up on him and well I found him whispering sweet nothings into the phone that one would not or should not be saying to their sibling. I confronted him, I lost my shit and he admitted everything. He had met someone in Miami and had fallen in love and was planning on going back. I was completely and utterly devastated, I wanted to die. I fell asleep crying out for my mother that night. I stayed with a friend for a few days and ended up coming back on his insistence and went into labor within a few days. I was terrified, and it was just him and I, he was supposed to be the only person I would ever need, and he now felt like a stranger. The baby was breech, and I ended up having a Cesarean section. It was dramatic and euphoric and in that moment, I was full of love and gratitude and hope. We had a son and he was beautiful and healthy thankfully.

After my stay in the hospital, we went back home to his mother’s apartment. My mom came and stayed with me for a week while I healed from the Cesarean. Maybe it was that, maybe having my mom around gave me strength, my new drug was back. Whatever it was, two weeks after my son was born, I called my aunt and asked her if the baby and I could go back to live with her and she said yes. I didn’t say anything, I knew he was going out on Saturday and while he was out, my family come over and helped me pack our things. He walked in as we were loading up the car. I don’t know how I got to that place so fast, but I was done in every single sense of the word. He had broken me in a way that I could never go back to what we had. I remember thinking I must be cold and heartless and maybe on some level at that time I was. Or maybe it was a survival instinct. I knew this man wasn’t going to change overnight and I now had another life to consider and our future. I may have been broken, but I was far from out. More importantly, I was not willing to let another person fuck me over in every sense of the word again.

I remember how beyond disbelief he was, where was the girl who chased him, forgave him time and time again and adored him. The girl who believed he was everything. She was gone, and we were done, and I was clear. Something shifted, maybe he showed me something that was all too familiar, abandonment, feeling unloved and not valued, and I was unwilling to feel that again. But as with most addictions, we always have the possibility of relapse and relapse I did. He may have killed the fact that he was the one, but he sure didn’t kill the fantasy that somewhere out there, there was someone who would give me everything I’ve never had and so the search went on. Within 8 months I found him, my new drug, my knight and shining armor, everything my ex was not. Employed, living on his own, a sense of maturity and even had a similar upbringing, a fellow survivor. Unfortunately, he had a girlfriend at the time, but that didn’t stop us. In my mind, the chaos felt right, nothing good comes easy right? In fact, this one my friends, I ended up marrying… Ahh that feeling when you get your fix, the high, though we all know, addiction usually doesn’t end well.

To be continued…

How in letting everything go, I found the beauty in nothing

I’m not a pessimist…at least, I like to think I am not. On the contrary, I’ve always considered myself a badass woman. At 23 years of age, I was married, a mother, and a homeowner. I had a stable, financially secure career—and my life looked damn good (especially on the outside). Four kids, 15 years of marriage, a beautiful home, and two expensive cars later, I started to find myself tired. Smiling became difficult, waking up every morning was a feat, and my husband’s usual romantic gestures felt meaningless. My husband noticed and recommended I see a therapist, so I did. I loved my therapist—she was a brilliant woman, but even she couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t happy anymore. I was bereft and didn’t know why.

Everyone in my life was telling me that I was losing my mind. I reacted, and started tackling the things in my life that I wasn’t quite sure of. Soon I asked my husband for a separation. I knew the 19-year-old who chose him was not the 34-year-old woman I was today; a lot had changed. Of course, that meant crashing not only my life, but the lives of four little beings I was responsible for. As a woman, I naturally felt responsible for pretty much everything and, as a woman, I was blamed for pretty much everything. Shortly after my separation, the only solid rock I had in my life, my mother, became increasingly ill and died within six months.

Here I was now, having to be completely alone with all the choices I had made. It’s funny when you have someone in your corner; some things are just easier to do. Alone, I decided to crash and burn in it all—in the hopes of a fresh start. So I quit my job and gave up the cars and lifestyle my family had come to know as the norm.

My children thought Mom had lost it—and though at times I thought so too, there was always a voice inside telling me, “Go, let it all go!” Of course, I didn’t wake up one day and just say “fuck it,” though I can appreciate it may have seemed that way to the outside world.

I watched everything I had spent my life building fall away. I started to see, I started to hear, and more importantly, I started to feel. I was numb, and I was living a life designed by someone else. It didn’t belong to me, and more importantly, it was missing important aspects of me.

The first thing I did was ask myself: “What do I want? What am I feeling?” I cried, broke down, and let myself feel and release what no longer served, fulfilled, or inspired me. After, I was left empty but it was an emptiness unlike anything I had ever known. I had space, I had room, and I had possibility.

I ended up signing up to do some mindfulness and Awareness training courses that essentially brought me back to life. I took the next three years to get to the bottom of how I had gotten to where I was. Who had created this life and why? Who had told me that this was the ”right” way? Who set these rules in the first place? I embarked on a journey of self-exploration. It wasn’t an easy journey by any means; after all, looking back at one’s life, particularly one’s childhood, isn’t usually fun. I had to face some hard truths and some real pain that I had never allowed myself to feel and grieve, which I now know is a very necessary part of the process of growth and transformation.

It wasn’t easy. I did various jobs to keep myself and my children afloat while I plunged into my subconscious at full force. Nevertheless, we survived, and allowing myself the permission at 35 to explore the depths of my being was priceless. I had four children and various responsibilities, but I was getting to do something that not everyone has an opportunity to do. Even though there were some very hard financial times, I consider it all a blessing—after all, change is the only constant.

There were many insights and breakthroughs that came. To be honest, I haven’t necessarily arrived anywhere, as many spiritual texts say. What I do have is a level of freedom and a relief from external pressures—be they from society or familial expectations that I’d either inherited or absorbed. Many of these things I had believed to be who I was, not even cognizant of the fact that I had never had a choice in the matter. I was mindlessly going with the flow, which brings me to another precious piece of knowledge I obtained: mindfulness.

I define mindfulness as walking, moving, thinking, and interacting with a sense of purpose, no matter the situation. Allowing myself time to digest information and to ponder a decision, or any movement in my life. Allowing myself to be in the presence of anyone and know I have no idea who this person is, regardless of how I or society may have categorized them. This is what opens up possibilities and beauty.

I now take my time. I listen, I sense how my body responds to energy, I pray, I pull cards, I light candles, or I meditate. Damn it—I have the right! This is my life, and whether it’s my next career or relationship, I can move as I see fit. And as long as I bring no harm to others, and treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO, I can do whatever I please.

There is no better way to wake up every day than knowing, at any given moment, I can hit the reset button. I’m not saying it’s always going to be easy but I can promise you, it will be worth it…because you’re worth it. Mad love…