Love, Addiction, And The Tantalising Promise of Existential Discomfort

Dear curious ones,

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, and I noticed that I am drawn to songs that express the bitter, twisted, addictive side of love. The human shadow is alive and well in the musical world, as it should be.

After all, people have to work their shit out somewhere, and shared music means that we can look into the collective toilet-bowl together and go ‘oh yep, that was an especially indigestible chunk of excrement there, and I see you have one that looks really similar.’

It’s truly magical.

I got into reminiscing and dug up a story I wrote for a writing class about one of my own adventures into addicted, lip smacking, nasty love. In the spirit of musicians who bring the murky underworld of romance alive, I want to share it with you here, because I suck at writing songs.

Like many stories, it begins with a kiss. A moment of anticipation. Lips meeting lips. Soft and delicious.

The lips in question belonged to the indie guy, who turned out to be one of those mistakes that you will literally cross the earth to make.

A friend of my ex boyfriend (who also had a huge crush on him and spoke his name in hallowed tones), the indie guy had captivated my attention, mostly by strumming his guitar, and being wreathed in cloud of perpetual smoke. He had a habit of disappearing for a few months here, a year there, to live abroad, returning to tell his tales, but not to me.

That is, until he did turn to me one night and one thing led to another, and we fell into a state of complete, smack-me-in-the-face-with-a-shovel love.

This was never going to end well. But I had fallen into a beautiful, deep, glorious feeling, and I just did not care because it felt AMAZING.

You know that period where you encounter someone, with whom you have recently fallen in love, where every story that you tell of your past doings and undoings, is met with total, unconditional adoration. The glow of your ardour is stronger than any fragility or awfulness that either of you can muster, and you can pour yourself into each other without shame or fear. You can compassionately absolve one another for all crimes and weaknesses.

All of a sudden, you find that you are encased in a tangible bubble of excruciating, wild intimacy and joyful acceptance. Your body is giddy from flooding sex hormones, and your heart and mind are swung wide open. It is a highly addictive experience.

Photo by Ali Gooya on Unsplash

Add to this a snow swept landscape, of the Yorkshire moors at Christmas. Tiny hamlets of stone cottages with their lights blinking merrily. Sparse churches and wooded copses, covered with a sprinkling of frost. A crooked pub, adorned with a roaring fire, twinkling brass, good ale, and plates of ploughman’s sandwiches, cut into triangles. Oh my.

For a sensual lass with a fairly slim grip on reality, there was nothing to do but assume this would go on forever as long as we were together. I dreamed that he and I would be merged into some tumbling ball of limbs and lusciousness that would steamroller across land and sea into exotic climes and unexplored vistas.

All the while, my intoxication appeared to be coming from him, and his absolutely fucked up perfectness, and the apparent fact of his desire for me. He was the fix that I needed, and I knew that our affections for one another made us whole.

It was a marvellous disaster waiting to happen.

Of course, what I know now was that my intoxication was with this sudden ability to see myself through a lens of absolute tenderness and wonderment. To be liberated from insecurity and shame, not by becoming someone else, but by knowing myself to be deeply, utterly perfect in my neurotic self. Through the lens of our entanglment, I was able to unify all aspects of myself as one, fabulous, loving being, with all my apparent faults and madnesses.

And likewise, for him, it was much the same. Through the idea of another’s love, we could unite all parts of ourselves in all kinds of juicy sensations. We were temporarily off the hook from feeling less than adequate, from being damaged and bad.

Given our misunderstanding that this experience was coming from the other person and not from our internal projections, it was only a matter of time before the sparkling illusion began to tarnish. For the drug to stop working, and the highs to become lows.

And a part of us wanted that too. We knew that the candle would go out. This trick of seeing ourselves through the unconditional love of another was not a sustainable reality. Life keeps marching on, as do the thoughts and feelings that happen to be creating your experience at a given moment.

We are really good at fooling ourselves when it thrills us, and when it messes us up, but there is a point where the game will be spent, life will go on, and we will be rearranged into ‘normality’ (at least until the next fix). This is a truth we know in our inmost, rooted places, and yet is unfathomable at the surface of minds that are busy with getting high or coming down.

So what happens is that, at a conscious level, you say “Surely, it is not up to me what I feel, when it’s obvious that this beautiful bastard is the one making squirmy, delirious things happen inside me. Give me my sin again. Twice. And then some more.”

But all the time you somehow know that the stars are not aligning, and the emperor has no clothes. There is always that silent watcher underneath stories and distractions, that sees the out of control mind mushrooms, and recognises their nature. Always.

However, reality is not a priority at all when you are high as a kite. And so it goes, as plot twists emerge that keep you moving with the fiction, rather than setting it down.

In the case of the indie guy, the plot twist was that he moved to South Korea, while I finished my studies in Scotland and looked for work in Japan.

We agreed to go our separate ways, but found that we had terrible withdrawal symptoms.

So we engineered for me to take a job near to where he was living, and I moved out to South Korea so we could be in love and too cute for words. With this, the story had nowhere to go, and the spell was broken.

It was monsoon, and the clouds released the heavens onto the tarmac of narrow, neon passageways, filled with curiosities. I took in hillside buddhist temples, and bland apartment complexes alike, delighted to explore the Land of The Morning Calm. Bright red swastikas topped the buildings used for Christian worship, oddly reminiscent of Christmas bling.

I had spent several happy months, partying, attending university, and taking my finals. The continuation of the relationship, but the absence of the indie guy, was a wonderful combination for me:

The illusion of someone else endowing me with shamelessness was intact, and the indie guy was not there to spoil it. Likewise, my image of him was ever perfect, rendered through an interweaving of soppy emails and fantasies of who we would be together.

The moment we met again, the second I saw him, I knew it was over.

I battled on with my determined imagination for a few weeks, as did he, but it was crystal clear to both of us. Love had worn off. Time to come down.

I felt angry, and humiliated. I was ashamed of my hoping, my wishing for a love story. The total acceptance was retracted and transmuted into resistance and repulsion. I was back on my own resources, reliant on myself for my projections of who I was, without the edifying veneer of loveliness created by refracted desires. I felt a strange calmness at being back to myself, but then would become wild with rage the next second. I did and said some things I am not proud of.

Now, I wonder at the power of addictions to create drama in life, and the strength of the unconscious will to manifest its desire one way or another. Love addiction highs are so bright, so shiny, and feel so goddamn good on the upswing, and are so all consuming with sensation on the downswing. No wonder they seem so compelling, so enslaving.

My relationship with the indie guy was indeed a mistake. A case of mistaken identity, and mistaken reality. It was wonderful. It was terrible. And it wasn’t true. I knew it then, I know it now, but I couldn’t see it until I was ready to.

The irony is that none of us could be more perfect. We are all fucked up, because thinking gets us into trouble, but underneath it all, we are pure as the first fall of snow on a Yorkshire moor. We all have the potential to liberate ourselves from addictive behaviour, and to love with an open heart.

Not to overlay the metaphors too thick, but there is always good earth underneath the mind mushrooms. Great songs somehow show us how to find the good stuff, to laugh at the crazy stuff, to dance to it all, because what else can you do?

For what its worth, I think there is a lot of hope for love. I’ve been married to my husband for ten years now, and have a deeper, more grounded relationship that comes with sharing your life and yourself in a less frantic way. I don’t need him to give me an identity. He doesn’t need one from me. We don’t need to validate or fix each other. We can grow and change together, and be fallible human beings.

I love his pants off, naturally.

What is your favourite song about addicted love?

What is your story?

Lots of healthy, abundant, happy, daffodil type love to you.

Alexis xxxx

Featured image by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash. 

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