Shary Hauer is the author of the new book Insatiable: A Memoir of Love Addiction. She is the founder of The Hauer Group, a strategic consulting and coaching organization, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Working Woman and HOW magazines. She lives in Clearwater Beach, Florida.
Q: You write, “The tricky part about love addiction, unlike alcohol, drug, and other addictions, is that people don’t take it seriously.” What exactly is love addiction, and how did you realize you were suffering from it?
A: Let me share a few telltale signs of love addiction. Do you:
· Constantly crave and search for a romantic relationship?
· Fall in love too quickly? Get swept away easily?
· Have a pattern of serial dating, being in serial relationships?
· Stay stuck in relationships that go nowhere …afraid to let go?
· Hate being alone? Panic at the thought of losing your partner?
· Become very distraught and depressed when a relationship ends?
Technically, “love addiction is a compulsive, chronic craving and pursuit of romantic love in an effort to get our sense of security and worth from another person.” That’s from author and love addiction counselor Ann Smith.
While I lived the life of a love addict for 25+ years, I had no clue there was a disorder called love addiction until just a few years ago when I was in the early stages of outlining this book.
Just for fun, I Googled “love addiction” and was flabbergasted to discover there actually is such a disorder. We all know about sex addiction. But love addiction?
I found Love Addicts Anonymous (LAA) and immediately downloaded materials from its web site, particularly “Forty Questions to Help You Determine If You Are a Love Addict.”
According to LAA, “If you can answer yes to more than a few of the following questions, you are probably a love addict.” I responded yes to 35 of the 40 questions. I had found my tribe.
Q: Why did you decide to write a memoir about your experiences, and how difficult was it to revisit and share some difficult personal times?
For the past 30 years, my savior and constant companion on the long, hellish spiritual healing road has been my journal. I had a gnawing inkling that there might be other women in similar shoes who could benefit from some of the lessons I’d learned and chronicled in my journal.
That inkling mushroomed into a fervent mission to magnify awareness of one of the least understood and talked about addictions, what I call the silent sister of sex addiction.
I want to give a voice to love addiction, something I think thousands, tens of thousands suffer from but, like me, don’t know there’s a name for it. By talking about love addiction, it’s my greatest hope that those who are afflicted will find their healing path.
Writing this book, sharing my story wasn’t difficult. While writing a memoir can be emotionally intense and cathartic for many authors, I had thankfully processed and healed much of my ancient traumas by the time I started writing Insatiable.
That said, sure, I was queasy about sharing my addiction to love, my addiction to food and assorted other “minor” secrets. Having to fess up to my mother, father, past boyfriends, and my clients about my desperate and unsavory hunger for love and attention was going to be no picnic.
But, as my larger calling to help heal others propelled me forward, my fears and zones of comfort seemed to vanish. They didn’t matter any more.
Q: How were you able to move away from your addiction?
A: Gradually. Very gradually. I didn’t experience the proverbial hitting “rock bottom” that many addicts speak of. My path was an agonizingly slow awakening throughout 25 years of deep spiritual work, therapy and counseling.
But, as I was turning 50, I really woke up! I didn’t feel good about myself any more. It wasn’t fun or satisfying any more. I was tired of obsessing, searching for a fix and ending up in the same place each and every time: alone, sad and feeling more disgusted with myself.
I went cold turkey eight years ago. Dating detox. And I haven’t been in a relationship since. I had to be out of a relationship to learn how to be in one. Learning how to nurture and love myself rather than depending upon others to convince me that I’m lovable has been my biggest awakening.
Q: How did you choose the book’s title, and what does it signify for you?
A: Actually, the original title, the working title for the book for four years, was "Fixing for Love." My primary “brand” of love addiction was the most prevalent- co-dependent love addiction. That is, I tried to “fix” men in order to feel loved.
By day I was a high-caliber executive coach, a fixer of leaders if you will, advising big-time corporate executives; by night I chased love by refurbishing men. I became so preoccupied with excessively caretaking the man of the moment that I completely lost sight of my own needs.
When my publisher presented the initial "Fixing for Love" comps to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other buyers, they received some feedback suggesting the cover art and title were outdated, not modern, edgy enough. So, 24 hours later, we generated a short list of several title alternatives, including my first recommendation,
"Insatiable" is precisely what every addict knows: the voracious hunger, craving, obsessing, out-of-control, consumed with, taking-over-life feelings we have for our drug of choice, be it alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling, and in my case, love and romance. In the grip of addiction it seems NOTHING can satisfy the emptiness.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: As it’s only been four months since Insatiable was published, I’m still working on spreading the word about love addiction through social media, blogs, talks and other publicity efforts. I want to keep feeding my baby. There is a limitless opportunity to educate and share others’ stories.
Of course, like many authors, the lure of new writing projects tugs at me. What’s calling me deep in my heart is to further understand, demystify and deconstruct self-love.
For most of my life, I had absolutely no clue what self-love was. I was blind to all the ways I was unloving. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t really GET the totality of self-love.
Can you guess the first words that pop up when you search for synonyms for self-love? Conceit, narcissism, vainglory and vanity. No wonder we’re experts at self-rejection!
I am convinced that if more of us on this planet held ourselves in the highest regard, our greatest ills -- poverty, violence, disease, addiction -- would be obliterated. I want to write more about the powerful consequences of loving ourselves more completely.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I was at a “Nonsense Writing” workshop last weekend seated next to a couple of 20-something women who were lamenting about not having their books finished yet. When I mentioned that I did not publish my first book until I was 57, they fell back in their chairs with relief.
I am incredibly blessed to be able to hatch my next act as an author at this stage of my life. I hope, like my hero Grandma Moses, who started painting at 78 and pumped out paintings and a humongous following well into her 90s, that I will be as passionate and prolific as she throughout my next 50 years.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb