Addictions are, by nature, efforts to alleviate some sort of discomfort within us. This discomfort can range from a vague uneasiness to a full blown panic attack with chest pains, trembling, shaking, choking, and out-of-control racing thoughts. People often engage in impulsive behaviors in an effort to ease the intensity of discomfort. However, these behaviors usually do not address the real root of the problem. Anxiety experienced in a relationship addiction can be desperately terrifying.

Some addictions are more socially acceptable than others, so they may also be more difficult to identify.  Relationship addictions certainly fall into this category. The following list of Red Flags Waving describes typical patterns and behaviors of a relationship addiction.

Red Flags Waving:

  1. An unstable pattern of relationships that begin with a burst of energy and passion and the feeling that “This is the one!” At the beginning of a relationship the addict is “hooked” on the feeling of bliss and euphoria expecting this experience to become the norm.
  2. Setting aside family and friend relationships for the possibility of spending time with that special one. Some people find themselves waiting for the phone to ring or staying home hoping that special person may decide to come by instead of engaging in ordinary social gatherings of friends and family.
  3. Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. The fear of abandonment is like a hum that vibrates in every cell of the addict’s body creating a distorted lens through which rejection and desertion are seen in every direction.
  4. Obsessive thoughts that preoccupy one’s mind. Often these thoughts involve some form of jealousy or a fear of being unimportant and insignificant.
  5. Endless demands for reassurance. There is often a desperate need to be constantly relieved of anxiety by hearing words and exacting actions that soothe emotional turmoil.
  6. Aborted efforts to end an abusive relationship. Often after promises to leave have been made to oneself and others, taking action and ceasing communication with the abusive partner is undermined by a multitude of fears.
  7. Feeling out of control. When a person is unable to follow their own wisdom and values regarding their behavior in the relationship, there is a feeling of helplessness as unconscious processes drive addictive behaviors.
  8. Choosing partners who are fit for the fix. Addicts are often drawn to people who become emotionally unavailable or who are demanding and critical after the honeymoon phase fades.

The initial elation and exhilaration are the “high” the addict seeks, and the partner becomes the drug of choice. Like with most disorders, there is certainly a continuum of symptomatology from very mild to severe. Here are some steps for becoming “sober” in the area of relationship addictions.

Steps for becoming sober:

  1.  Identify the problem. As with any addiction a person must first acknowledge that there is a problem before the process of changing a life pattern can begin. 
  2. Commit to a new way of living. This needs to be an ongoing commitment, day-to-day, and sometimes (like with all addictions) moment-to-moment.
  3. Get support. For moderate to severe cases professional support is recommended.  For milder cases family, friends and support groups may suffice.
  4. Load up a tool box. There are a myriad of treatment modalities that can facilitate the journey into sobriety.  Therapists have a host of tools from traditional Psychotherapy to Emotional Freedom Technique, Clinical Hypnosis, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma  Release Techniques, Healing Touch, Guided Imagery,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy and many more approaches.
  5. Put off long term serious choices. If one is not in a relationship when beginning recovery, wait at least 6 months before getting involved in any romantic relationship.  It is also wise to put off any major job changes until emotional stability is adequate.
  6.  Immerse yourself in healthy practices. If you were a fish, you would only be as healthy as the water in which you swim.  There are many factors that contribute to the health or toxicity of this environment in which we live and swim. Some of these are: the food we eat, the TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, the clothes we wear, the orderliness/disorderliness of our home space, the people with whom we spend time, but MOST OF ALL, the thoughts that go on in our head.
  7. Become your own expert. There is no right treatment for everyone. There are many issues that underlie a relationship addiction. Find the ones that move you, inspire you, that work for you.
  8. Invite assistance from the unseen realm.  I would invite you, even if you have no religious beliefs or spiritual practices, to simply open your heart and invite beings from beyond the veil of heaven to support you, guide you, give you strength and courage and make themselves known to you in their own way.