I can't remember the moment his eyes stopped lighting up when he'd come home after work. Some nights he'd go out with the guys and get home well after midnight, cigarette smoke and whiskey on his breath, too tired to talk.
My hand resting on his leg bothered him. He said I was trying to control him when I reached across a restaurant table to hold hands. I got the feeling not only didn't he love me anymore—he didn’t even like me.
Instead of seeing the reality, I kept believing we were going to make our marriage great again.
It took a long time for me to realize there was nothing I could do. He'd been cheating and wanted out of the marriage. By the time he confessed to multiple affairs and moved out, I was a fragile shell of the person I used to be—the one who had dreams and self-confidence; the one who felt loved. I felt abandoned, unworthy, discarded and unlovable.
The addiction to dope consumed me after the first high.
Dopamine. Not pot. The powerful feel-good neurotransmitter which is reward-motivated had me feeling like a drug addict looking for my next fix. I felt the rush of comfort flow through my body, calming me, and creating a sense of urgency at the same time.
It's the energy surge a chronic shopper has upon entering his or her favorite department store. It's the pulse-quickening feeling a gambler gets approaching the blackjack table. And it was the flood of warmth and pleasure I felt when I received attention from men.
But because my self-worth was non-existent, my standards were pretty low. Did he have a pulse? Did he pay attention to me? Could I arouse him in bed? Perfect. That's all I was looking for. But you know what happens when drugs wear off? You crash.
Anyone who's ever had a hangover knows what I'm talking about. There is a grey cloudy malaise and a bit of regret for the actions that felt great at the time. In the light of day, we feel a bit ashamed. And so we wallow in that shame, and possibly self-loathing, until we feel the twinge of craving again and we need to get that fix.
And that is the power of addiction.
Whether we are addicted to sugar, oxycodone, people, alcohol, work, shopping, gambling, sex, power, food or attention—it's human nature to avoid pain and seek pleasure. And sadly, so many of us are in such deep pain during a divorce, we'll do anything to feel better. This is where a pleasure-seeking activity can lead to an unhealthy addiction.
If you find yourself in the grip of a dopamine addiction, do your best to put embarrassment and shame aside.
- Talk to your doctor and /or therapist. They can both give you tools to help break the pattern.
- Listen to calming music, meditations, and self-hypnosis recordings.
- Talk with other people who have had the same experience.
- Read information about addiction and brain chemistry. Educate yourself on the very real condition you could be experiencing.
- Engage in healthier activities that release dopamine; exercise, accomplishing a task, learning something new.
There was a certain amount of anxiety I experienced when I thought I wasn't normal for feeling and acting the way I was. Sharing my story has helped me, and others, not feel so ashamed and isolated.
One of the most comforting aspects of going through any life experience is to know we are not alone.
Written by Patty Blue Hayes
Patty Blue Hayes is a divorce survivor. She chronicles the crippling effects of her divorce and the dark days and manic nights in her book "Wine, Sex & Suicide - My Near Death Divorce." Patty is a certified trainer and coach, who shares the tools and techniques that helped her heal her broken heart. You can learn more about Patty Blue Hayes at www.PattyBlueHayes.com.