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When it comes to addiction, people often say how much they love something. For example, “I love chocolate cake, cigarettes, gambling, romance, sex, shopping, sugar, work,” and so on. What they’re really saying is that they love the way these things make them feel. But they confuse the high they get from these experiences with genuine love.

Once these distinctions are made, making clearer choices between artificial and natural feelings is easier. This can lead to replacing addiction with real, lasting love.

#1 Getting high is not love – When a person engages in addiction, they are stimulating the dopamine (reward) receptors in the brain resulting in a powerful surge of feel-good chemicals. And anything that stimulates that part of the brain can trigger the need for more. Once a person experiences that high, there tends to be an automatic response to get more of the same. Most addicts are chasing and never find that first high.

People who are full of self-love don’t get the same kind of reward as someone who feels empty. When they enjoy something, the reinforcement is different. Think of someone who’s starving and puts food in their mouth versus someone who’s satiated and doesn’t experience the same craving. These individuals have two entirely different experiences. People prone to addiction will get more reinforcement from the dopamine rush than those who aren’t hungry.

#2 Addictive love is never satisfied – The problem with an addictive experience is that there’s never enough. No matter how good the experience, the chase for more is on. This only reinforces the existing void – the more I get, the emptier I feel without the fix, and the invisible hole keeps growing.

Genuine love provides lasting fulfillment. Sharing and receiving experiences, feelings, and honest communication creates a natural high and fills instead of depleting the soul. These experiences are not artificially induced. Even things that might be exceptionally fun and desirable are not abused because the person will be able to yield to the limits of reality. They will not be driven to destroy their careers, relationships, or themselves by chasing after the next high.

#3 Addictive love always has negative consequences – There’s a price to pay for all addiction. Aside from the monetary expense, the other losses are devastating as well. Legal consequences could alter a hard-earned career path. Damage to the body can result in cancer, heart attack, stroke, and even accidental death. Mental health is wrecked by altering the brain’s chemistry, lowered self-esteem, stress, and the devastation of addiction-related losses. Dysfunctional families and the negative impact on children are directly related to addiction.

Love never has negative consequences. It never takes away; it always increases. It is never pursued because it is the natural state of sharing and receiving with all life. Food is appreciated and enjoyed, and crops are planted. Art and music lift us out of our troubles and help us to transcend our troubles. Children are raised, their needs are met, and then, as adults, they give back to their families or communities. Lovers focus on each other’s needs as much as their own, allowing the relationships to flourish. There’s a reason pets are so valuable. The focus is on caring for them and receiving unconditional love without expectations.

When addiction is replaced with love, addiction will no longer have a hold on us because it will simply be something we used to do – a learning experience that no longer has value. The person who chooses love over addiction is filled with so many good feelings that there just isn’t room for self-destruction anymore. They recognize what is sacred and they’re too busy feeling good about themselves and their lives to risk losing the joy they are receiving.

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Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.

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