Ask the LifeQuake Doctor – Apr 2016
Dear Dr. Toni:
I am a fifty-four-year-old female therapist. I practice somewhere in South Florida. Last week my husband of twenty years left me for a younger woman. I have been in recovery for fifteen years, but I am not a group person; you might say I’m an introvert, so AA meetings are not for me. In my early recovery, I got sober through working with a therapist. I cannot afford a therapist right now, as my husband left me in debt.
I am reaching out to you on a whim, really. I am trying to determine if I have a relationship addiction, as I have barely been able to function since he left two months ago. I am trying to determine if I should go on antidepressants. I am in so much pain and struggling to stay in recovery.
Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated.
–Anne (not my real name)
First let me just send you my deepest empathy and a big virtual hug! The end of a twenty-year marriage is a huge loss. I understand that you feel that AA is not for you, but unless you have a community to reach out to, your oxytocin levels—the bonding hormone—are low, which makes the grieving process more prolonged than necessary. Six weeks is a short amount of time to get over a long-term relationship and one of the things that helps negotiate such a crisis on a neurological level is reaching out to friends, family, a church community if you have one or some group you feel can hold you through this time.
A relationship addiction would be operative if you had run out and started dating the first guy who showed any interest. What you are going through is normal grief and it is painful. Here is a book I would recommend for getting through this time: Moving On and Letting Go: Your Guide to Right Decisions and a Peaceful, Happy Life by Cassandra Levy.
I also would suggest that you seek out a naturopathic physician or acupuncturist who could give you vitamin, homeopathic, and herbal supplements to support your neurotransmitters that are more than likely out of balance. If amino acid therapy or Chinese herbs do not help, then in three months consider consulting a good psychiatrist in your area who can put you on an appropriate SSRI to rebalance for a short time. Anyone with a history of substance abuse usually has a vulnerable brain often made so by early childhood trauma. Grief and trauma in adulthood can reactivate those neural pathways, so if you need short-term pharmaceutical support, allow yourself to get it.
I would also suggest beginning a self-care regimen of bubble baths, soothing music, and foods rich in magnesium like dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate, and more. Magnesium calms the nervous system. The current daily value (DV) for magnesium is 400 mg, but in a crisis, it is suggested by nutritionists to take as much as your bowels can tolerate. 800 mg will not hurt you; at worst it can cause loose bowels, so remember to take to bowel tolerance. Most importantly, be kind to yourself right now.
Dear Dr. Toni:
I am a thirty-one-year-old woman who is a total loser at love. I have no problem attracting men, but within a month to six weeks they stop calling. I don’t understand what I am doing wrong. I have been clean from drugs and alcohol for five years, but I am wondering if I have a love addiction because I think about guys all the time when I am at work. I have a good job and am paid well. I am educated and considered very attractive, but I don’t seem to be able to keep guys interested.
Can you help me?
–Distraught in Silicon Valley
You don’t give me much to go on here, but let’s see. I’m going to ask a question here as a way of answering this.
How quickly do you sleep with these guys? When a woman has sex with a man, she typically bonds through the chemical that is stimulated called oxytocin. If this happens before a relationship has really been established, a woman can have expectations that are the exact opposite of a man’s. Men actually are wired to provide and protect us, but if we engage with them sexually too soon and then attach too quickly, they feel it and will often distance themselves.
If you do have a love addiction, you are probably doing this. I recommend the group Sex, Love, and Fantasy Addiction Anonymous (SLFAA). If you go online to research locations, hopefully there is one in your city. I also would suggest developing and establishing nonsexual friendships with men for at least two months before you let it become sexually intimate. It will allow you more objectivity. Sex makes us go deaf, dumb, and blind, and at your age, hormones are raging because of the biological mandate to make babies. Date guys you aren’t highly attracted to and practice being their friend. Check back with me and let me know how that goes.