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Amy Jo SmithAmy Jo Smith
Amy Jo has been exposed to addiction in many forms during her life, ultimately resulting in the everyday struggle of conquering her own demons. Amy Jo is not a mental health professional. Rather, she speaks from her experience.

Addicted to People

Amy Jo Smith Updated: Dec 13th 2011

Addictions can be more than just drug related!

couple fightingWhen we think about addiction, we think of drugs, alcohol, pills and things like that. However, there is another form of addiction...some call it 'Love' addiction, but that is not how I most relate to it, because in truth, there is no LOVE in this kind of addiction. I speak from personal experience. I know that some people truly can become addicted to another person. The problem with this, however, is that it is generally an unhealthy relationship. This type of relationship tends to be full of painful arguments, emotional tear-down and destructiveness. But we stick with it. Why? The short answer to that question is simply that we have become addicted to that person.

Officially, this could fall under a mental disorder known as Borderline Personality Disorder. At least that is what I was told when discussing the situation with a psychiatrist. The diagnoses makes sense...however, as a recovering addict, I can tell you that it is just like being addicted to a drug. The drug in this situation would be the person, but the symptoms would be the same. There are triggers, withdrawals, and the need to go back (at least in your mind) to get that fix...even if the fix is bad for you! Then again, every alcoholic who is not in denial knows that drinking just one drink will lead to further problems, so it's that same thinking process that leads one back to the person they are addicted to. Yes, I know this will just hurt me, but I NEED it. There is actually the same physical sensations and drive that pull you back.

How do you know if you are addicted to someone? Well, at first it is not easy because, as with drugs, there is the high and good feeling of the relationship. The partner you seek will offer love, comfort, support…provide a means of escape and have you on cloud nine. That is a good thing...that is healthy love. However, that same person can (and does) turn equally nasty, downgrading you, and make you feel terrible. As with the hangover part, you'll question why you got yourself into this situation? You'll say you're not going to do that again. But, just as with a drug also, the rewards and happy sensations will come back into play-either by your own doing (memories of the good) or by your partner's, who will show you the reasons why you NEED him/her. Again, as with drugs, you will find yourself in a fog of confusion before you realize how deeply you've gotten into the situation. You'll know it hurts you, but you'll know you can't walk away from it. And it won't be because the relationship has been so good, or that there were more good times than bad. No, it will result from a complete sense of confusion. You'll know you're in too deep when you can't let that person go, when you will let that person treat you however he/she wants to. You'll take anything being dished out, if you can just keep getting that fix. You'll sit there, knowing you should run, knowing it is SO bad for you…but when it's good, it is oh-so-good and that is the part you are addicted to.

How do you protect yourself from this? It is not easy. It takes time and the ability and willingness to become very self aware. You will have to first see it for what it is. You will have to learn to not rationalize the behaviors, but see them for what they are. I can give you one hint: if you find that instead of having a deep love and compassion for this person you have an excitement, a super-intense drawing force and absolute physical need (I am not talking sexual need by any means) to be around him/her, you might want to ask yourself what's going on. If you feel worse when you're around that person, you might want to figure out why. Love and relationships do not just instantly happen…they take time, there is the courting phase, the getting to know one another phase and it's a progression. On the other hand, an addiction to a person is nearly immediate. You might want to say it's just love at first sight or something that is just meant to be. I would argue that you are doing what every addict does-looking for an immediate fix…that immediate high. I would further suggest that you recognize your triggers…are you interested in getting to know this person more or are you diving straight in? If you feel that instant excitement, sort of high reaction upon first meeting that person, I would step back and think it over. I would ask myself: does this feel the same as it has many other times? Am I still repeating a pattern? Addicts…we love our patterns. We love our comfort zones. On the other hand, if you know you're attracted to someone, yet you are willing to take the time necessary to build something, you are probably on to a far more healthy relationship. You have to keep in mind, as all addicts do, that you are impulsive, that you want what you want and that you are willing to take more bad than take someone who would spit on your face, but then two seconds later claim he or she loves you. You have to learn to watch for how you truly feel, most often around this person.

I can honestly say that this has been a challenge to me. I was not even aware of it until I sat with the psychiatrist and she equated it to addiction for me. Honestly, it would have never occurred to me that I could be addicted to another person. However, once she pointed this out, so many things made sense-why I was picking the same type of person over and over again, why I sought that immediate attraction and why I let myself continue to go back to it. The example above, about someone spitting in your face and two seconds later telling you how much he/she loves you, is something that actually did happen to me. I should have stayed away right then…but I went back because I allowed him to make me feel so good afterwards. I allowed him to offer me the high, the escape, the 'I'll take it all away and make it better' sensation.

I can also additionally say that he ruined my life for a short time. I let him. I can share with you that it took me a very long time to be able to stop the withdrawals. However, as each day passed and my mind became clear again, I could see the damage that had been done...and I would not have imagined that I'd ever let it get so bad. Like drugs, you can't see how bad it is while you're in the middle of it.

My advice to you is simple, recognize the physical and psychological sensations you are experiencing. BELIEVE that you deserve better...KNOW it. Talk with someone who is completely detached from the situation (such as a professional) and if your friends and loved ones are telling you that something is wrong, be willing to listen. I do know how easy that all sounds because I have been in the middle of it, but now that I am away from it, I see it for what it was.

Addiction to people is real. You can even be addicted to the fighting because it is a rush. I completely understand. However, there is a better way. You can have that excitement and passion for someone who will treat you nicely, who does not need to engage you in battle because it's a turn on. There is a better way and you owe it to yourself to learn about it. Good luck to us all who have the tendency to be addicts. We can overcome and be happier for it.


Amy Jo Smith

Amy Jo has been exposed to addiction in many forms during her life, ultimately resulting in the everyday struggle of conquering her own demons. Though Amy Jo's learning has been more from the 'school of life' as opposed to formal training in the addiction, she considers herself quite in tune with addiction causes, ways to beat them and how to help others. In terms of education, she attended Southern College in Orlando, FL double-majoring in Legal Investigations and Paralegalism. You can visit her personal blog, Serious Social Issues for more information on her other interests in things that she feels we as a society need to be addressing, ranging from mental health to violent crime.

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Pure inspiration - Alba Douek - Dec 14th 2011

Amy is a true inspiration! Even from far away I could see her transformation...she is a very clever and sweet human being - but at the same time mentally strong. VERY strong! She was a hidden diamond, hidden by her inner demons. She has been through a lot in her lifetime and I know her story. And in my opinion her story should become a Hollywood film, interpreted by big names... I'm so, so proud of you Amy Jo!!!

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