Addictions occur in constellations and do more than coexist. They interact, reinforce and become part of one another. Consider the client who struggled with with compulsive working (workaholism) and sex addiction. One hundred and ten hour work weeks were not uncommon. He became sexually involved at work with employees, vendors and a key board member who was an investor. The client told his spouse that he had to keep up the pace because they would be ruined if he stopped, whereas if he was successful they would never have to worry about money. However the descriptions of short-term situations stretched into years. He clearly recognized that both the amount of sexual activity and the risks he took escalated. Similarly, the amount of of his work continued to grow as did the business risks.
How do we make sense of these issues when they are so interwoven? Some commonly accepted addictive substances are alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamines, nicotine, heroin, and prescription drugs for many are a nightmare. Many sex addicts ingest cocaine when they act out sexually to achieve a more intense high. Then we have other process addictions such as food, work, exercise and money. Consider the sex addict who obsesses about staying at less than 8 percent body fat and exercises six to eight hours a day. He does this so he can have more sexual conquests.
With compulsive attachments, relationships become addictive. This includes the classic "that man is your drug" phenomenon. We include codependency which is becoming obsessed with the addict and the addict's behavior. The parent searches the adolescent drug user's room to find evidence. The spouse marks every bottle to monitor the partner's drinking. The co-sex addict hires a private detective to catch her partner or pours through years of bills and bank withdrawals to pinpoint unexplained expenditures. Codependents are case builders who exhaust themselves proving their worst fears.
Danger, fear, and risk are allies to codependent obsession. Some actually seek out dangerous and hurtful people. We call this traumatic bonding, where the essential ingredient is fear: staying with a battering partner, remaining loyal to an exploitive boss, or covering your partner's illegal behavior. Another form is hooking up with someone who needs you and is unavailable. We step in with money, time, solutions, enabling round after round of crises. Or the addictive risk might be in romance. A romance junkie will aggressively court someone but abruptly drop that person when it is time to commit. Their lives are about constantly "falling in love" but never succeeding in attachment.
We call this phenomena Compulsive Attachments because it is where intimacy and addiction become most obvious. All these relationships have commonalities:
- Usually they involve seeking and staying with troubled people
- They involve pathological giving, rescuing, and being a hero
- Inevitably there is intensity, drama, and crises
- Boundaries collapse so what is obvious to everyone is overlooked
- Impression management causes secrecy as well as believing in improbable events
- Conflict avoidance asks for peace at any price including living as one who has to walk on eggshells
— Adapted From Patrick Carnes
Contact Mark Felber to schedule your free consultation.
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