Hello. My name is Joyanne and I am addicted to people.
This may strike some of you (okay, probably all of you) as extremely funny. But I’m here to tell you that truly, I am a people addict and that it really sucks.
I didn’t always know that I was a people addict; in fact, I only realized this about a month or 2 ago. I was reading this fantastic book called Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood (available at your local library, I’d expect), which focuses on women who have an addiction being needed (many of these women grew up in dysfunctional families or had some exposure to alcoholism or other addictions, including drugs, workaholism, etc.). The men they find themselves attracted to and attracting are those that in some way, shape, or form recreate the same environment they had while growing up. This is turn creates a cyclical phenomenon that they can’t get out of unless they then seek outside help.
Now, even though this book specifically talks about women’s romantic relationships with men, I believe this concept can be extended to include all types of relationships. One could be in a friendship and experience the same kind of feeling of, “I must help this person or else they won’t get through,” or “this person really needs me and that makes me feel good.” Well, guess what. According to M. Scott Peck, M.D. in his book The Road Less Traveled, being needed or not being able to live without someone is not love; love is being able to live without someone but not wanting to. Same thing with a truly healthy friendship. If one person keeps feeding off the other, that’s parasitism, which Peck speaks about as well (please forgive me; I don’t have his book anymore and can’t quote the exact pages, but his book is at the library too).
If I look at myself with respect to this concept, I feel it to be true. I am a people pleaser. I always want to help. I feel best when everyone else is happy, especially if I was the one to bring around the joy (pun maybe intended). However, I’m finding that the more I say yes and don’t set boundaries, the more tired I become with all this responsibility I feel I have for other people’s well-being.
At this point (if you know me well enough) you may be thinking, “But, hold up! You didn’t come from a dysfunctional family. There isn’t any alcoholism or addiction to drugs.” You’d be right. There isn’t. Interesting thing that a therapist once told me, however, is that addiction or dysfunction doesn’t have to be at the root in order for a woman to become one who loves too much. As long as something exists in childhood that then makes one begin to try and compensate for the bad feelings, that’s enough.
I was a bullying victim (and in turn, I feel like I can be quite a good bully at times as well, to my chagrin) and as a result I became so concerned with people and what they thought about me. I began to learn that if I did things for people that made them feel good, then maybe they’d be my friend and therefore I’d be worth something.
See? There’s the problem: “maybe they’d be my friend and therefore I’d be worth something.” Do I not have my own, inherent worth? A lot of the time I don’t feel I do, which is why I say I’m addicted to people.
Now, I don’t pretend to know a lot about addiction. I really know nothing. But I believe the concept of addiction is that you start with a little bit of something that gives you pleasure, and then when that something is gone, so are the happy feelings. When you crave the happy feelings again you seek that something that gave you them in the first place and you begin to crave more and more until you can’t seem to live without it because living with yourself is unbearable. If I’m by myself for a long period of time, with no people to distract me from me, I can feel pretty lousy. At that point, I will try to text, call, or Skype someone so I can feel alive again. If that doesn’t work, I’ll dive into a book (hey, there are people there too). It’s a vicious circle that goes round and round.
However *big breath* there is light at the end of the tunnel (and it’s not a fast approaching train, at least I hope not). At least I know what’s going on now. It’s painful, and what’s more, it’s painful to know that I probably have a good deal of responsibility in getting this way (okay, not probably; I do). But the fact that I have this knowledge is a start and that’s something.
So, why did I put this sad tale on here (that many of you still probably think is a joke)? Because I needed to get it out there. And maybe this will help you understand a bit where I’m coming from if something seems a bit off.
Also, read Norwood’s book. Men, I’m talking to you too. It really is interesting.
Peace and be happy! (So I don’t have to work so hard ><)