When I was around five years old, I have a vivid memory of eavesdropping on my mom's conversation with my paternal grandfather, whom I had never met. I was on the other end of the landline, listening intently as he said to my mom, "Let's just pretend none of this ever happened." It was a suggestion for both of us to erase their existence from our lives, and for them to forget about my existence as well. I hung up the phone, tears streaming down my face, feeling confused. I had never met my biological father, but the stories I heard about him and his family were on constant repeat. Most of them boiled down to the same refrain: "They're not bad people; they just struggle with alcohol." It was common knowledge that anger issues and alcoholism plagued the men on that side of the family. I was told my biological father had a heart of gold, but drugs and alcohol had taken hold of him.
At that young age, I was eager to call the next man in my life "Dad." My mom was engaged to someone who had two boys, one eight and the other twelve. The dynamics of those relationships are a whole different story. This man my mom was engaged to allowed me to call him "Dad," and so he assumed a new role in my life. But he wasn't the last man to fill that position. My mom and I had something in common: her biological father was absent, not in the same way mine was, but in the sense that he lived across the country and didn't see my mom for five or six years. My mom was young and stunning, always with a line of men vying for her attention. I spent a significant part of my early childhood in bars, exposed to the realities of life at a tender age. I received numerous lessons on how to manipulate men, how to use them to get what I wanted, and then discard them without a second thought. Back then, I didn't give much thought to this behavior. It wasn't until later in life, when I found myself unable to sustain a healthy relationship, that I realized the damage I had unknowingly inflicted upon myself. I sought out unfulfilling relationships, finding myself trapped in abusive ones well into my late twenties. I distinctly remember being told, "You need one in to get one out." This meant starting to date someone new while still in the process of leaving the previous partner. I was never single; I never actively sought out a relationship because I believed I didn't need to be alone. It felt like relationships just kept finding me, and with no boundaries or standards, I dated extensively regardless of age. I was only fifteen when I started dating men in their twenties, even getting involved with my friends' boyfriends. I didn't think twice about my behavior; in fact, it gave me a shallow sense of power. I felt worthy because I could use my body to seduce and my personality to manipulate, all for the sake of getting what I wanted. Even writing about it now brings me to the brink of tears. I had no idea what I was doing to myself or to others. At that time, caring for others in a meaningful way seemed beyond my grasp. I lacked genuine intimate connections, save for one or two older friends who stood by me. I held onto the belief that one day I would get married and finally be able to settle down. Oh, how wrong I was. It wasn't until I had a child at the age of twenty-four that I began to recognize my unhealthy relationship patterns and my distorted views on love. I knew something was not normal about how I approached relationships and treated people, but I would have never labeled it as "addicted to love." It was during my first AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) treatment at twenty-four that someone pointed out I might have a love and sex addiction, which needed addressing at the core in order to overcome my dependency on drugs and alcohol. I was receptive to this idea and started reading a book called "Is It Love or Addiction?" by Brenda Schaeffer. I was immediately captivated, as almost everything in the book resonated with me. I started delving into my sexual abuse trauma alongside my love addiction. However, just as I was making progress, another boyfriend entered my life, and I abandoned therapy once again. Within a month of meeting this guy, I became pregnant, and this led to a tumultuous relationship filled with cheating, lies, abuse, and manipulation. Both of us lied to each other about our drug use for several years. Despite the agonizing situation, I couldn't bring myself to leave. It took me an additional five years, even after my first attempt, to finally leave and establish healthy boundaries. I was attending domestic violence and sexual abuse therapy while still being in that toxic relationship. From 2013 to 2017, I found myself caught in a cycle of using drugs, then being clean for a year while dating someone, only to relapse and repeat the pattern. Sometimes, I would stay clean for nine months before using again, and other times I managed to stay clean for thirteen months, only to fall back into the depths of addiction. The highs and lows of dating, the attention from multiple men, became all-consuming. When the excitement from these relationships failed to keep me "high," I turned to substances. The intensity of these cycles became overwhelming, and after thirteen years of sobriety, I spiraled back into drinking heavily. At that point, I had lost all hope for myself, no longer caring about the consequences. My kids were away on a month-long road trip, and I embarked on a self-destructive mission, trying to drink myself into my grave. This phase came to an end when I experienced a brutal rape. In the aftermath, my friends staged an intervention, and I found myself in my second inpatient treatment.
My first inpatient treatment occurred in 2006 when I first became aware of being a love addict. It was a realization that resonated deeply within me, even before I picked up any substances. Eleven years later, after a series of horrific and miraculous events, I was now at the gift of desperation to confront the core reasons behind my incessant seeking for love and validation. Engaging a love addiction therapist located an hour away became a crucial part of my healing process. I learned that it wasn't that I lacked the ability to commit or that I was promiscuous or enjoyed inflicting pain on others. I also realized that healthy relationships are increasingly rare in today's world, not just in romantic contexts but also in terms of codependency in general. I recognized the many instances where I said yes when I truly wanted to say no, seeking validation and approval from anyone willing to provide it.
I discovered that my self-worth was tied to the attention others bestowed upon me.
Without someone paying me attention, who was I?
Without relationship troubles, who was I?
If I didn't rely on my sexuality to manipulate others for power, would anyone even be interested in me?
These realizations tore through the very fabric of my being.
In the past six years, I have spent four of them single—a concept I could never have fathomed. Ironically, being single proved more challenging than overcoming substance abuse because my entire sense of self-worth was built around being in relationships. It wasn't until I stripped away every distraction that I could focus on rebuilding my inner world. It has been a journey of trial and error, marked by countless tears, long periods of solitude, and learning to embrace my own company. Now, I can confidently say that I have been granted the rare opportunity to fiercely love myself. This love didn't come through self-discipline, but rather by being gentle and accepting of all that I am. I fell in love with the process itself and developed an intimate dialogue with myself and the universe.
I have come to realize that life is an intimate relationship. I approach it with profound openness and wholeheartedness because I am no longer afraid. This is part of where Heart Activation stems from- unlearning your heart blocks to experience life the way we are created to!. When you relentlessly love yourself and prioritize your well-being, you realize that you are your own foundation. Nothing and no one can alter that. I walk through life with grace and strength, even amidst the dirtiest of times or chaotic situations. I understand that love evolves, and relationships are undergoing a transformation in their dynamics.
If any of my journey resonates with you, know that it is indeed possible to love yourself fiercely, even if it feels like life is currently kicking you in the ass.
Life has never been and will never be solely about reaching ecstatic highs. It's about loving the process, staying curious about the path that leads to greater significance. You can become all that you want and all that you need.
In the coming weeks, I will share more about this journey, as it has been the core of my healing. Because this was all just an overview, there are so many underlying beliefs that led up to seeking Love out in that way from the beginning.
Know that I love you and that you are infinitely worthy. I am here with you every step of the way.