Sunday, October 16, 2011

Finding love in all the wrong places


Recent Chico visitor Ethlie Ann Vare, screenwriter, humorist, and a woman with a past, is now, thankfully, a woman with a future. The Hollywood resident spoke last month at Lyon Books about what she calls "affection deficit disorder." Her cravings almost got the best of her. She graduated with high honors from UC Santa Barbara and was busted and jailed for drug possession. But that was not the half of it.

"By twenty-two," she writes, "I was twice married, once divorced, once annulled, and had a felony record. I had slept with seventy-five men (yes, I counted), a remarkable feat considering I didn't start until I was eighteen and had been locked away for a year." She tells her story, with clarity, wit and unblushing language, in "Love Addict: Sex, Romance and Other Dangerous Drugs" ($14.95 in paperback from Health Communications, Inc.; also available in e-book formats for Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook).

Love addicts come in three overlapping categories. "The infatuation addict flits from one romance to the next, rarely getting into a long-term relationship because ... novelty is the great aphrodisiac." "A relationship junkie is the gal with the black eye who insists it was her fault for making him jealous." "The sexaholic's life revolves around--you guessed it--sex; ... being thought of as a bombshell or a stud is paramount." The bottom line? "Love addiction is a chronic, relapsing, and potentially fatal condition. Left untreated, it can kill you."

So "Love Addict" also offers a treatment, but a realistic one. Vare has done her research on the part neurotransmitters might play in the seduction-withdrawal downward spiral, the compulsive craving for dangerous relationships followed by the intense need to escape. But, she says, one can't blame one's situation on chemicals, nor can one think one's way out of love addiction (rationalizations, anyone?). "Addiction," she writes, "is a disease of loneliness. Recovery is a process of community."

The author present several case studies of men and women who faced their "love addiction" and brings in insights from a number of therapists. She commends a 12-step approach, though while it's clear one must say no to alcohol, how does one say no to love?

Vare's answers are a journey toward hope, not hype.

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