For love addicts, finding balance in life can be a struggle. Understanding and respecting one’s own boundaries requires that one has a knowledge of themselves and their limits, and also, an honesty regarding the unmanageability that love addiction and toxic relationships can cause.
Entering a 12-step program such as SLAA (Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous) can be a very important part of the recovery work from love addiction. Modeled after the 12 steps of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), the 12 steps for recovery from love addiction look similar, with just a few differences that address the addiction specifically.
Working the steps has many benefits; among them, developing new ways of relating to others and new choices of how to be in the world. Prior to working a 12-step program, we may have found ourselves attracted only to other love addicts or other love avoidants. When we work the steps, we learn to love ourselves, and in turn, select more functional partners for relationships.
Sometimes initially in SLAA, we may be asked to refrain from being involved in a romantic relationship. This is to help us do important work on ourselves without the distraction that a relationship can bring with it. Working a solid program in SLAA can help us to become aware of the ways that we as love addicts create chaos and intensity, often mistaking these qualities for genuine intimacy. Having the time and space to begin learning how to be truly intimate can start with learning how to be authentically intimate with ourselves.
Working on unrealistic expectations about others can also be an important part of our recovery from love addiction. While working the steps, we might find ourselves reviewing our pasts; that is, examining our family of origin and making the discovery that we did not get some crucial emotional needs met in childhood. That can translate to bringing those unresolved feelings into our adult relationships, and re-enacting painful childhood experiences, in the hopes of creating a different outcome from the one we experienced in our past.
One very important part of this work is coming to the realization that other adults cannot fulfill unresolved childhood needs, and cannot be expected to love us unconditionally like a parent would. This is a need that we can only fulfill for ourselves. While it can be a painful realization to acknowledge that others can’t heal our past emotional wounds, new growth can be achieved through confronting our codependency and learning how to function interdependently, rather than relying on others for what we can only supply to ourselves. In recovery, we come to have realistic expectations about others, and we own our parts in relational interactions.
People who struggle with intimacy issues can benefit greatly from getting support. A solid relationship with a skilled therapist trained in love & sex addiction can help guide the individual through this process. At Center For Healthy Sex (www.centerforhealthysex.com), we offer individual, group and intensive therapy programs to effectively address sex addiction, love addiction and intimacy issues.