Hope me Mefites! He's my heroin.
December 4, 2011 3:13 PM   Subscribe

How can I break an addiction to a person?

I had never heard of the term limerence before, but someone posted about it in an askme and it seems to fit what I am going through and feeling.

Since June I've had what feels like an addiction to a person. He is a distant coworker (we don't work closely together) and the addiction is fueled by the fact that we have hooked up and he flirts with me but it's completely casual on his end. It won't ever be anything but casual on his end and he's made that incredibly clear. But he "likes" me and he likes the hooking up, flirting, not-quite dating.

It eats me up inside and is making me miserable. Each day I say I'm not going to contact him. I am the one that initiates contact 90% of the time. One word from him can make me feel ecstatic, or make me miserable and depressed. I want him to be in love with me and feel as strongly about me as I do him and it's making me absolutely miserable that he doesn't.

What I have tried so far:

I've gotten involved in other activities such as sports and group activities.

I've gone out with friends more.

I've been to my doctor and she's put me on anti-anxiety medicine and an anti-depressant because I am so torn up over this guy.

Counseling. No contact whatsoever is what is recommended but I don't know HOW to do that. I wake up every day with the idea I'm not going to contact him and I do anyways then I feel absolutely awful.

I've journalled about it. That helps a little.

I am having a very difficult time thinking and functioning at this point. I've had healthy relationships before and no one has ever inspired these feelings in me. I feel completely out of control.

What can I try next? I work out like crazy to try and stop thinking about him. I'm in the best shape of my life (seriously, my body looks awesome now). I read and do anything to distract myself, but I still find myself contacting him, waiting on any contact from him. It's really negatively affecting my life and I don't know how to stop.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Delete him from your phone and block his number. Block his email address and delete every message from him in your inbox. If you have to, send him a brief email saying that you'd like to stop communicating for a while and that you'd appreciate it if he'd respect that.

There's no quick fixes for these types of situations. Time will heal, but it sucks while you're waiting for that to happen. I'm really sorry.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:17 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

You have to go no contact. Seriously. Remove his number from your phone. Direct his email straight to Trash. Change jobs if you have to. There is really no other way, because it is an obsession and you have to go cold turkey.

If it helps: You will never be good enough. You will never change him. He will never love you. He is stringing you along just enough to keep the booty line open. You should try to like yourself more than he does.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:18 PM on December 4, 2011 [18 favorites]

Erase his contact information (all of it--name, #s, addresses, etc.) from all electronic devices and block him. Try some aversion therapy--wear a thick rubber band on your wrist. When you think about calling him, seeing him, snap the band hard. Really hard. I'd say about a week of that, and you should connect him with pain.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:18 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I had this happen with someone and I actually asked him to block me from everything and not respond to my emails. Not sure how this would work with a coworker though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:21 PM on December 4, 2011

make sure he's deleted from your facebook or other social networking equivalents. it's impossible to go "no contact" on someone when there's pictures of them one click away or they keep popping up in your news feed.

i had a friend who was a bit like you -- she left herself little postit notes saying simple things like "don't call" or "don't text". she seemed to think it helped, especially when she'd get home from a bar when drunk and be tempted to email her ex. YMMV.
posted by modernnomad at 3:24 PM on December 4, 2011

Don't Call That Man!
posted by scody at 3:24 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most of us have been there. It is one of the most painful places to be stuck. So sorry. Nthing the above advice about cutting off all contact, entirely. Social sites, email, phone, whatever. Nothing else works. If he's a reasonable person, politely explain to him what's happened first and tell him you need to do this, so he won't accidentally contact you.

When you've done all that: write yourself a note that says "every time you have contact with him you will feel pain and it will not be worth it, so do not contact him." Leave room at the bottom of the note for tally-marks. If you ever do contact him again -- it will hurt and you'll be thrown for a day or several -- make a mark on the note and start again.

Eventually you will start listening to your own advice.
posted by ead at 3:35 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

You mentioned that journaling helps a little, which is good. I think the key here is to channel the energy you are focusing on this one, relatively insignificant (I mean, in the great scheme of your personal life trajectory) human being into something larger and more meaningful. What do you want out of life? What are your long-term goals?

Just imagine what you could accomplish if you re-allocated the time you spend worrying about this loser, who really is just taking advantage of you. You say you've tried group activities and such, but maybe what you need are some new personal hobbies. Or you just haven't found the right group or outlet yet... it takes time. Do you like writing, painting, or music? Traveling? Rock climbing?

As I'm sure you already know, it's way tougher to break bad habits than to form them (and reinforce them.) Definitely delete all of his contact information and block him too if you can. Every time you feel tempted to contact him, force yourself to write down another reason why you shouldn't AND a specific suggestion for how you could/should spend your time instead. Carry this notebook of reminders with you, and re-read or add more whenever you need reassurance. Ask a friend or two who you trust to hold you accountable.
posted by happyjuice at 3:46 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Every time you think of the guy, short-circuit the thought and tell yourself "nothing is ever going to happen with him, ever; he is not interested". Often, folks get stuck where you're stuck because they do not want to accept that nothing can happen with the person. Subconsciously, being all torn up about it is more appealing than accepting that nothing will happen - being all torn up is a way of keeping things going even if it's horrible. For me, it helps to think (in a variety of situations) "my subconscious is fucking with me, this isn't what I want, my subconscious is fucking with me". (Yes, technically I am my subconscious, but I find that externalizing the damn thing helps me to move on.)

Anyway, once you and your subconscious accept that this is really over, you'll be able to let go and move on.

Oh, also I look back on past crushes and think to myself "I feel nothing for X, about whom I was so crazy two years ago...these feelings too will vanish like they never were". Crushes and obsessions really do vanish like that; in the heat of the moment, we like to tell ourselves that they are Big and Cosmic and Meaningful and will Never Die, but they do, luckily.
posted by Frowner at 3:46 PM on December 4, 2011 [15 favorites]

I think it is improbable to break off contact. I had a really hard time. I tried to erase instant messaging name so I would not see when they are online, but I remembered the name and I would easily add the name back and initiate contact.

I found that online dating helped me. I found men who were interested in me and I learned not to be so focused on one guy....unless that guy was also so focused on me. I think the online dating allowed me to place my focus on new and exciting things and broke my habit on concentrating on a guy who was not so into me. I think friends, exercising and other activities never replace the desire for a companion in your life (or at least mine) everyone is different. Flirting and getting compliments can make you happy and that might be what you are craving so finding it elsewhere might be the best bet. I am sure metafilter has other posts about online dating if you need advice for that.
posted by Jaelma24 at 3:46 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Keep doing what you're doing -- and keep trying to go no contact. Nthing all of the above advice. Additionally, set milestones for yourself and reward appropriately. You didn't contact him for a week? Indulge in a slice of pie. Or something. Essentially, you want to associate contact with him as negative and no-contact as positive. Also, whenever you feel the urge to contact him, take some time out and talk to a friend (not necessarily about him, but just to distract yourself) or journal. Give yourself alternatives to speaking with him.

[And: when you stop contacting him, one of two things will happen. He will either try to contact you more, or he'll just let you go. Ideally, the second of these will happen but with a cake-eater they will sometimes hold on for either the possibility of more cake or just the control. If that happens, you need to remind yourself that he's not doing this for you, he's doing this for himself. He is not going to change his mind (even if he says so, he's lying). Keep reminding yourself of that.]
posted by sm1tten at 3:47 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

A long time ago, this book was very, very helpful to me.
posted by desjardins at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cutting off all contact may be tricky because he is a co-worker. You can't ignore him at work.

I agree with deleting him from social networking, etc. I would also tell him that the flirting needs to stop, if he's doing it at work at all, and that you would appreciate if he did not agree to make plans with you.

I'd also consider dating. Maybe if you get out there and meet someone else and feel a spark, that will make it easier to suppress the feelings you describe.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2011

You're not addicted to a person. You're stuck in a pattern of behavior where this feeling is serving some kind of need. Comfort and control over this compulsion/obsession.

You seem to be doing all the right things. There are different types of SSRIs that have different levels of effectiveness for different people.

But ... A co-worker? Start thinking about making a big change. New job? A new therapist? A new set of activities that take you completely away from all your current set of triggers.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:51 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ah, man, have I been there. Here's one trick that helped for me: Picture the coolest cat you can think of. Paul Newman. Grace Kelly. Jo March. Michelle Obama. Angelina Jolie. Madeleine Albright. Clive Owen. Beyonce. Katniss. Anna Wintour. Kate Winslet. The Dos Equis Guy. Christina Hendricks. George Clooney. Julia Child. Hermione Grainger. I don't know who does it for you, but there's probably some public figure who just strikes you as the most unflappable, self-assured, take-no-shit person you can think of. Then BE that person. Put up a picture on your bathroom mirror and your fridge and as your screensaver and on the home screen of your phone. Whenever you're tempted to call/text/email/stare at the phone/reread old messages/analyze the pattern of time between phone calls/Facebook stalk/etc., just tell yourself, "I AM CARY FUCKING GRANT. I DO NOT DO THIS." (your message may vary)

Best of luck.
posted by argonauta at 3:55 PM on December 4, 2011 [110 favorites]

Nthing no contact - may be tough since he's a co-worker, but if he's distant and not working closely I'm sure you can do it! It took me roughly a year to get over my limerance. And I still feel pain for the time lost just dreaming. Get it over with and start to live!
posted by TrinsicWS at 4:05 PM on December 4, 2011

I've been there. The best thing you can do is go no contact, but this goes beyond just communicating with him. You have to delete him from all social networks and stop yourself from cyberstalking him or even talking about him with other people. Because I've done the technical no contact thing before (not contacting him) and yet neglected to go all the way by occasionally looking at the crush's facebook page and the obsession still sticks.
posted by timsneezed at 4:13 PM on December 4, 2011

argonauta, I think your advice is the bees knees.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 4:13 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

"Limerence deeply desires return, but it remains unaltered whether it's returned or not."

Agree completely with no contact. Keep at it. You may fail for awhile, but you'll find it get easier over time.

Since you've slept with him, you'll also be dealing with the oxytocin bonding aspect you feel, which may make the process of letting go take a bit longer.

Also, you may as well surrender to the idea that it will take awhile for your feelings to go away. But be assured: THEY WILL. It may take longer than you like, but unless you're one of the very, very few who have this problem for a crazy amount of years, you will be looking back at this and shaking your head sometime soon-ish.

You are right on with the exercise. I promise, this will continue to help you process everything if you use it as a method of catharsis rather than to distract yourself.
posted by devymetal at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2011

I've never heard of this "limerence" before... but what you're going through is something I've experienced a few (dozen) times... I say its because i'm a bit of an emotional masochist... something about the man who keeps me at a bit of a distance makes him irresistible, while the one who clings and wants nothing but to make me happy gets boring fast.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend my way of handling the situation, as it usually involves me packing up and moving away. Its an extreme way of cutting contact, because it puts him physically beyond reach and makes it that much easier to resist the temptation to call.

With my most recent romantic misadventure... I'm making a move from oklahoma to nevada, where I'll never have to worry about bumping into him through mutual friends or out in public with the girl he chose over me. I've cut myself off from our social group, pushed away any friends who might have supported or comforted me (of course, the fact that they all immediately befriended "her" made that easy), made it clear to a few key friends that being painfully in love with him is the reason that I've gone into hermit mode...

Something else I did, that I might actually recommend, is talking to him one last time. I told the guy in my case... exactly how I feel and why I don't think I can be friends with him anymore. Yes, I may have secretly hoped that the confession would lead to him changing his mind, but I'm actually relieved that he is now avoiding me as much as I am him. In the case of the coworker, I'd at least let him know that the relationship needs to remain completely professional.

In the current situation, as well as most of the previous ones, it helps to constantly remind myself that the situation is unhealthy... and even if I went back, it would still be unhealthy. I was allowing myself to be taken advantage of, and nothing would change if I went back. He's not going to magically fall in love with me after all, he's never going to give me what I deserve. I've learned over the years, with my multiple misadventures in this area, that the kind of men who treat me the way these men do... are never going to change. This is just who they are, and being with them means never being happy.

I'd rather be lonely for a while in hopes of eventually finding someone who I can be happy with, than m iserable with someone who will never care about my happiness.
posted by myShanon at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

What to try next? Some suggestions: Read this blog about the No Contact Rule and get support from the author and other readers. Read this book. Therapy (I'm surprised no one has mentioned it so far, this being mefi and all. Talking it out with someone can be very very helpful).
posted by foxjacket at 4:28 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The fastest way to get over one man is to get under another...

All joking aside, have you considered causally dating other people?
posted by Shouraku at 4:56 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hate to say this, but finding someone new is really effective. The trick is to keep finding new people until you either find someone who can give you what you need, OR you find someone who you can fall for and then easily get over and break the cycle.
posted by anaelith at 4:58 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've been there before. What helped:

1. No contact.
2. Very strenuous physical exercise.
3. Keeping very busy with other people. Doing stuff by yourself allows thoughts to creep in and also gives you the privacy to phone/text/email.

Good luck.
posted by tuesdayschild at 5:16 PM on December 4, 2011

There's nobody on earth that you 'need.' Along with the other book recommendations, let me recommend one more that could reveal to you that this really, profoundly, is not even about this other person - it's about you.
posted by Miko at 6:37 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make a gift to your future self by moving on & cutting off contact. Take a moment each morning and imagine yourself on, say, Feb 1st 2012: imagine yourself waking up happy, imagine yourself moving through your day unencumbered by these thoughts, imagine how grateful your future self is that you were strong enough to make this brave choice now.

I often find it easier to externalize these kinds of difficult choices - imagining helping a best friend or sibling, or even a future version of myself makes it easier to do what I know is the right thing, even if it doesn't feel good in the moment. Perhaps it will be the same for you.
posted by judith at 7:15 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Love is an addiction. Much the same as a drug addiction. The brain becomes addicted to the feelings the person gives you, to the chemicals that are triggered by being in love. I've even heard recently (through the grapevine, I don't have a citation) that the brain becomes addicted to feelings of sadness.

So you need to understand that there is a chemical addiction at work here.

And what do you do with a chemical addiction? You go cold turkey. You remove the source of the temptation and you suffer for a while. I know it's tough because you work with him, but I've been through what you've been through and it's incredibly tough, but you do get over it. It takes a couple of months of no contact. The option to relapse - the temptation - has to be removed totally.

Withdrawal is a bitch. Dragging out the addiction just delay the withdrawal. It will eventually attenuate on its own as long as he doesn't keep leading you on too much - 6 months to a year, maybe more.

Eventually you get on with life. "This too shall pass" and just be a memory - and a cautionary tale.
posted by MesoFilter at 8:06 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Just did the "sever all electronic ties" a few hours ago with a Love Of My Life ex. Broke down immediately into sobs. She replied by trying to refriend on FB, and sending me an inscrutable email that I will now waste time overanalyzing for hidden layers of meaning.

Sever all ties. It's for the best. It doesn't feel good, much like digging out a splinter, or having a lump removed surgically. But it's also for the best.

Sympathy for you.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:26 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm going through this right now (and yeah, it really sucks). Something I didn't see suggested - every time you feel like contacting him, contact a friend instead. I've had a few sympathetic friends who were willing to be a substitute... when I've felt like texting the other person, I can text my friends instead. Helps get it out of the system a little, I guess.

Also nthing the suggestion for casual dating (reminding yourself that there are other interesting people out there too).

But it still really, really sucks. I hear you so hard. :(

Hell, MeMail me if you want and we can be contact-substitute buddies or something.
posted by metalsexkitten at 9:35 PM on December 4, 2011

(a few hours later, since like I said, this is heavy on my mind right now)

Two more comments -

- One of my sympathetic friends is starting to text me out of the blue - just saying hi or some random bit about what she's doing right now (sometimes with the phrase, "Not that guy!"). She's deliberately doing this so I can quit the habit of hearing my phone buzz and thinking, "Is it him?" because I'm getting more text messages from people who *aren't* the person in question. (This is actually helping. Now it's "(bzz) I bet it's [awesome friend]" instead of "(bzz) Please be him please be him".)

- Don't make the mistake I made earlier of thinking "okay, maybe friends-with-benefits would be good enough; I just want to be around him" when you know it wouldn't be and he's made it clear there won't be anything further. It just prolongs the suckiness.

Good luck.
posted by metalsexkitten at 11:28 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been doing the no contact thing for ten months. I'm slightly less miserable than I was ten months ago. But check out my awesome resolve!
posted by mokujin at 4:32 AM on December 5, 2011 [6 favorites]

Dating other people does help. Be careful about moving straight into another intense situation, but being reminded that there are other prospective partners out there, some of whom are pretty interesting, some of whom think you're hot shit, helps.

Seconding therapy. And maybe volunteering?
posted by bunderful at 6:23 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

And throw yourself into something awesome, something that gets your adrenaline going. That's not a cure for your heartache, don't expect it to be, but let your heartache fuel something that's good for you, if you can.
posted by bunderful at 6:28 AM on December 5, 2011

I came in here to recommend the same book that scody did. It's a very simple and straightforward book, and fairly short too.
posted by rubbish bin night at 7:50 AM on December 5, 2011

If you're finding that deleting his number from your cell phone is too hard at the moment, what about changing his "name" in your phone to something that makes you feel strong? Not sure how many characters the handle can have in your phone, but maybe something like, "I am better than this," "I deserve real love," or the slightly long, but oh-so-empowering: "I know I think this will make me feel good, but it really, really won't!"

Added benefit: if he does happen to contact you, having a positive and healthy statement show up instead of his name may be a good reminder to stick to no contact.

Also, don't be too hard on yourself! Addiction is a really hard place to be and realizing/admitting to yourself that it's addiction and not love is an amazingly good first step.
posted by bluestocking at 8:03 AM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you let it linger, his mind won't change and it won't get less intense for you. What will happen is that you will get deeper in and you will wake up one day and it will be years - yes, I said years - later and you will be looking back with such intense sadness when you think about the time and the effort and the love that you have wasted. And it will be harder than ever to move on, because you'll look at the sunk cost and find a way to avoid moving on.

You know it but you haven't accepted it yet. You're going to have to sooner or later. You can't out busy that.

Here's a post - It's Time To Go - that kicked me in the butt a bit. You know it's time to go, don't you?

(I like argonauta's advice! I'm going to start with "would Brian Fucking Williams act like this?")

When you want to contact him, promise yourself you will write one journal entry about how you're feeling and why you're contacting him. If you write that out and then you re-read it and it still seems like a good idea to contact him, then go ahead and do it. And write one journal entry after you do it. That's easy enough, right?

Please MeMail me if you feel like it.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:22 AM on December 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

The time I was in your shoes I was really worried about my master's thesis, but I was so unwilling to deal with it that I chased this woman all over creation. So see if you might have something else bigger that you don't want to think about.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:18 AM on December 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

When in a similar situation, I added "fuck that guy" every time I thought of him. It worked.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 1:21 PM on December 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've been going through an addictive situation that warrants "no contact", too, for two years (I let him come back numerous times). I will say, the journal thing made it worse for me, I was poetically wallowing, overwriting and overthinking and overanalyzing all over the place.

This is behaviorialism 101, but did the trick:
Don't tell yourself "No contact," but tell yourself no contact today (or for an hour or whatever timeframe you need). I give myself fun milestones: Well, I'm not going to respond until after that cocktail party on Tuesday! And then I put another event/task in my own way -- I'll answer that email but I'm waiting until after I get a manicure ... and so on.

It's been a couple months with no contact, I've cleared the Thanksgiving blues and am now facing the Christmas stretch. Also, I shut down Facebook, detour around Places We Went (we live a block apart so my entire neighborhood hurts), don't listen to love songs when I'm in a vulnerable mood, change the channel/station/screen if something reminds me of him (he's actually ON tv and just pops up in my damn living room!). Nothing fixes it, but it all helps.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:44 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

"No contact" is hard if you just end up thinking about him constantly, with no release. So when you want to call him, call a friend instead, and talk about him if you must. But give your friend control–when she says to shut up already, your time for thinking of your addiction that day is through.

Also, flirt with other people. Attention helps!
posted by vasi at 5:18 PM on December 5, 2011

I also delete(d) everything from him...call records, text messages, emails. If I did break down and send an email I immediately deleted it and tried not to read his response, which I deleted ASAP. No reading things ten times or going back over old emails etc.

Much of the reward of the behavior was in reading my emails, obsessing about whether they could've been "better"m or imagining his response to the, reading his emails, figuring out what he really meant...taking that away from myself took away a lot of the appeal.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:16 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

This thread is full of sparkling advice, but I just wanted to add one thing that really did help me move on from something like this. (May have been something I read in a Metafilter thread, in fact).

This person is not really a person you want to be with. You want to be with an alternate-reality version of this person who wants to be with you, and that person just doesn't exist.

It was easier for me to think of it this way. It helped me move on, mostly because it helped me realize he wasn't going to change his mind.
posted by sweetkid at 9:22 PM on December 5, 2011 [10 favorites]

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