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“You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind — or even a storm cloud on the horizon.” ~Bob Marley 

Love Lesson: Love Junkie Rehab! Kicking Your Ad-dic*%-tion.

“I don’t know why I can’t leave him. I know that I don’t love him and I want to leave but it’s just so damned good!”

My good friend Melanie was talking about her live-in boyfriend of three years. He was a demanding jerk who didn’t believe in her career. He was always too cheap or too broke to ever go anywhere, ever. The relationship was not moving toward the marriage that Mel wanted. This man never acknowledged her feelings or needs and she was totally over it.

So why was my educated, successful friend staying? Melanie insisted again that she really didn’t know why she was staying but I did. She was staying because like she said, he was her “BSE.” Best Sex Ever. “What should I do?” she asked, brushing back her fluffy curls. She was laughing and almost crying at the same time.

“Are you ready for my self-love coach diagnosis?” I asked. She nodded. “Mel, you are totally and completely a-dic*%-ted. We have been having this conversation for over a year now. You’re not quitting your addiction cold turkey so you need a step-down program.”

“You’re so right! I need a BSE Rehab,” she said. At this point we were both cracking up so hard that other folks in our favorite cheap dive restaurant near Penn Station were turning around. “Melanie, you know that anti-smoking patch? That’s what you need! A step down program and a Kasseim addiction patch.”

We were laughing but I know exactly where she was coming from. A-dic*%#-tion sounds funny but it’s not a barrel of blueberries when you’re in it. Just ask Melanie or the many other women who write to me about the exact same issue.

It sounds simple, right? If Melanie was being mistreated by this loser of a boyfriend, why not just walk out the door? It turns out that expecting Melanie to just leave is much like asking a heroin addict to just put down the needle. In some ways it can be more challenging because all of society agrees that no one should be on heroin. We live in a world that loves love. Everywhere you look romance is being pushed. Single women, especially black women, are told to settle or die alone.

What is love addiction?

Love addiction may not sound as destructive as being hooked on cocaine, meth, cigarettes, food or even sex but it can be. Love addiction stops your personal progress and can wreck lives all the same. If you’re in this situation, find a coach or therapist who specializes in co-dependency and get help. My friend and I were laughing because she takes her situation lightly but for many women this is no laughing matter. I recently advised a sex addict on my Essence Love Intervention column. Please find phone numbers to help at the end of this column if you are in dire need of help.

A true love addict can fall for anyone quickly and lust for the next feeding of their drug of choice. For others of us, we get addicted to specific people. You may have all “normal” relationships and then happen on someone who taps into your mind,  body and psyche in the perfect way to make you “a-dic*-ted.” The problem is not finding someone amazing and being all in. That’s fantastically wonderful. The issue is when the person or the relationship is not what you want. In these situations you want to leave and you can’t. When every phone call or booty call is your fix for the last time, you swear and it’s not, there is a problem. The challenge is when you literally crave that person, not any person, but you are jonesing for just that person. And like any drug it’s “just so good” when you “cop” his “junk.”

What is “New Relationship Energy?”

There are very real physiological reasons that Melanie had issues walking away from her boyfriend. Our bodies are co-conspirators in lust, making us hooked to our intimacy partners. Our sexual hormones, testosterone and estrogen, drive the first stages of love.

My favorite love scientist Helen Fisher has broken love down into three stages: lust, attraction and attachment. Our body chemicals like adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin feed those in new stages of love with thoughts and hopes of the object of our affection. Our brain is rewarding our early stages of lust addiction, helping us to get hooked. Fisher says that “exactly the same system becomes active as when you take cocaine.”

So quitting someone you’re addicted to is like trying to get off drugs. When it feels to you like it physically hurts to separate yourself, it really does hurt. You’re not just imagining it

What does the love interest represent?

For those with come and go lovers, a part of the thrill can be the very rejection you despise. Every time you hook up and he doesn’t call you may want another chance to prove to him that you are worthy. His general unavailability, which would turn you away in a saner state of mind, keeps me hooked.

[Read: When You Just Can’t Walk Away]

Alternative lifestyle coach Zhahai Spring Stewart coined the term “New Relationship Energy” back in the 1980s. Stewart is an expert in polyamory along with his wife, relationship coach Elaine Cook. New Relationship Energy is that rush that we all feel when a new relationship begins. Forget oysters and chocolates. They say that New Relationship Energy is the “ultimate aphrodisiac.” The sexual and emotional rocket fuel from a new lover may last a few weeks or a few years but it always eventually wears off.

What are your triggers?

Like any addiction your triggers are probably whenever you’re feeling any extreme emotion: mad, glad, bad or sad. These are times to be on high alert. I’d also be hyper aware of when you’re ovulating. Hormones and horniness may make you more susceptible than usual. If you usually watch Sunday night TV together then that can be a trigger for that person who makes you feel high.

Should you step down or try to quit cold turkey?

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