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Romance addicts beware

'Love Junkie' author Rachel Resnick used to be one herself -- then

February 14, 2009|Carolyn Kellogg

Amid all the cards, flowers, candy, teddy bears and romantic comedies this time of year, Rachel Resnick has a warning.

"Valentine's Day is pure toxicity," the L.A.-based author says. "Like this is news. Cupid is so a pusher! Yes. Those chubby cheeks, you know he's packing the love potion in there, ready to sling poison arrows, waylay unsuspecting women."

In fact, one Valentine's Eve set off the events that led to her writing her recent memoir, "Love Junkie." Resnick says she came home to find her apartment vandalized and her computer destroyed by an ex-boyfriend. Just a year earlier he'd broken in the same way -- and covered her bed with rose petals. "What a difference a year can make when you choose the wrong lovers -- over and over," she says wryly. "All I can say is, beware!"

The book may be a story of addiction, but it's not a typical one. In vivid, even brutal language she describes the exquisite highs and baffling lows of her intense, passionate -- and, as she came to understand, addictive -- romances.

"Falling in love takes time," Resnick says. "Getting a love junkie fix is instant. An addict is impatient. You want what you want, now. You confuse sex for love, intensity for intimacy, and drama and distraction for passion. You want to get high. That is your raison d'etre.

"A healthy person is basically happy alone. They aren't desperate."

Resnick's difficult childhood, which she explores deftly and without self-indulgence in the book, may have had something to do with her later, desperate desire to connect. When her parents divorced, her father focused on his new, conservative family; the outgoing Resnick says she was shunned by her stepmother. And Resnick's mother never recovered from the divorce, quickly sliding into alcoholism.

"Memoir is intimate, confessional," Resnick says. But her story, she thinks, is only interesting because of the commonality others might find with her love and sex addiction. "Then, if I write honestly enough, it might resonate with other people."

Those among us (no need to raise any hands) who have dialed an ex's phone number in a fit of ill-considered neediness may have felt a twinge of the love junkie desire.

Resnick also writes vibrantly of her sexual peccadilloes. "I made a conscious decision to embrace and celebrate my sexuality and love of it at the same time that I was exploring how I was misusing it because of a chemical imbalance in my brain and body," she says.

When Resnick tried to change her behavior, she first went into physical and psychological withdrawal, she says, experiencing symptoms of nausea and depression. But, other than a few missteps, she's stayed on a healthy track for a couple of years.

"When I wrote this book, for a whole year I was a hot mess," Resnick says. "I'd never been so vulnerable. Finishing this book was like coming through a dark, dank, twisted tunnel and emerging into the light."

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