“Our first and last love is – self-love.” – Christian Nestell Bovee, writer
She says I am an addict and wants to divorce me!
Robert chose the stiff, straight back chair while Evette picked the padded rocking chair.
Evette completed my paper work and past it to Robert to look over. He put his initials in
the appropriate places and passed the clip board to me.
“She says I am an addict and wants to divorce me!” Robert blurted out. It was as if he
had been holding it inside for weeks…which he probably had. Evette just looked away
from him in disgust.
They were a well known couple married over 24 years with three children in university.
They were successful professionals from large, local families and so had an extensive
network of relatives, friends and associates in the community.
Robert was a very successful business man with a large company in the agricultural
sector, employing many people. Evette had worked as a paralegal for many years but
her pride and joy was her children and their well being.
Robert continued…he was on a roll…downhill and determined to get it all out before he
reached the bottom.
“I have given her everything she has ever wanted…a beautiful home, fine clothes, exotic
vacations…I even put up with the crazy ones in her family. I am paying for our kids
education, they all have cars…and I don’t even get a thank you from you or them! What
else am I supposed to do?”
“We are what we think.” – Buddha, Indian sage
You don’t love me…
Evette finally spoke, “You don’t love me…it is that simple!”
“How can you say that?” Robert challenged.
“Because I don’t feel loved by you…that’s how I can say it!” she retorted emphatically.
“But I’m the guy who works sixty hours a week, rarely takes a vacation and have never
been unfaithful to you during our entire married life.” He said this with pride in his voice.
“What are you talking about…you were never unfaithful?” Evette countered.
“Well, I never had an affair with someone else…like you did!” He stated with a strong air
of self righteousness.
Evette appeared stunned and then…really angry! She turned to me and said,
“Ken excuse my language!”
Fidelity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Then she turned back to Robert, leaned forward and said in a slow, articulate, strong,
“You jackass…first, that affair occurred over fifteen years ago and we agreed to
both let it go and move on. Second, you have been having an affair for the entire
twenty-four years of our marriage. Third, your affair, your mistress is your work…your
business…which has always come before me and our children. Fourth, I wanted a
spouse, not a workaholic, our kids wanted a real father not a rich father. And fifth, for
the last twenty-four years, I was the one who went to the parent teacher interviews, I
attended the sporting and school events, I took them to the doctor and dentist…where
Evette sat back in her chair and took a slow, deep, exasperated breathe.
It was Robert’s turn to look shocked. He appeared genuinely surprised to discover
Evette perceived his affair had been his work…and it still was. He was not aware of her
values or that her values might be as important to her as his values were to him. He had
not considered his affair with work was causing any damage to his family. He had been
oblivious to its impact on his family. Robert was a stereotypical addict…a work addict…a
Every addiction has a counterbalancing sub-diction!
We are wired biologically to run towards pleasure and away from pain simultaneously.
Whenever we run towards a behaviour excessively, an addiction, we are always
running away from some other behaviour excessively, at the same moment. With
every addiction toward a specific behaviour, there will always be a sub-diction or the
avoidance of another behavior. This is in keeping with the natural law of balance or
While Robert was running toward his work he was equally running away from family
intimacy with his own family. This was connected to his unresolved anger at his own
father. This is a very common pattern with drug and alcohol addicts who are often
running away from an unresolved, dysfunctional parental relationship.
“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice
what we are for what we could become.” – Charles du Bois, lawyer
Evette was also an addict.
But in the same way, Evette was also an addict. But her addiction was to her children.
She infatuated her kids. It was evident in how she talked about them, smothered them
and tried to control their lives. Her addiction was reaffirmed when she said she had
always planned on being a lawyer but had given it up for her kids. And, of course, she
perceived Robert was never there to support her in her dreams and so she blamed him.
Interestingly, Evette’s sub-diction was her fear of failure if she had pursued her legal
Evette had long lists of events which supported her position of Robert’s highest values
were his work and being successful while his family was secondary. Robert had his own
long lists of events which showed Evette’s highest values were being focused on the
kids and ignoring him and his successful career.
A perfectly balanced, symmetrical relationship – a marriage!
So there were two addicts, each with their own form of addiction. We explored each of
their perceptions of this relationship they had created during their married life. We even
discussed how their marriage has lasted twenty-four years because it had enabled each
of them to honor their own values. While Robert focused on his work he relied on Evette
to take care of the family relationships he wanted to avoid. And Evette focused on her
family while she relied on Robert to take care of the career aspirations she wanted to
avoid. A perfectly balanced, symmetrical relationship – a marriage.
Each was stuck inside their own value system and unprepared to entertain the idea
their partner had a right to their own value system. Without this level of awareness and
respect they could not sustain their marriage. Because each was unwilling to respect
the value system of the other; not willing to own how their partner served them in living
within their own value system; and not willing to negotiate a more respectful
relationship…they did decide to divorce.
The real reason for their divorce was…
But they divorced each other because each had decided (unconsciously) there was
nothing more to learn about themselves from the other. Robert was not willing to deal
with his emotional charge on his relationship with his father. Evette was not prepared
to deal with her emotional charge on her decision to not pursue a legal career. If they
had, they could have rebuilt their relationship into one which allowed each to evolve
themselves by using their addictions and sub-dictions as learning tools for their own
Betty had one of the most common addictions today!
Betty started out by explaining her presence in my office, “My doctor sent me…he said
lose some weight or you’re gonna die sooner rather than later!” She said this with a half
smile and sideways glance…as if looking away would erase her fear.
Betty was a woman whose physical health was in serious jeopardy due to her food
addiction. She was close to 400 pounds. Her joints and organs were deteriorating
rapidly. She was not a tall woman and struggled to fit in my office chair with its rigid arm
A transformation is the only option.
She said she wanted to lose weight. I explained to her she couldn’t lose weight because
the laws of nature do not allow it. She looked at me with a confused stare.
I said, “You can’t lose anything. Albert Einstein proved matter and energy are constant
and can’t be created or destroyed, only transformed from one form into another.”
She still looked bewildered, so I added, “I think you really seek to transform some of
your weight into another form. I think you are really seeking to transform some of your
weight into either a new form of mass or a new form of energy.”
“Yes!” she said with a half smile as her new awareness lit up her face. We went on to
identify various ways she could transform some of her weight into either another form
of matter, like surgically removed body fat or another form of energy, like an hour long
walk, swim or run three times a week.
Swim for an hour daily three days a week.
She eventually chose the latter. Betty began to diligently swim for an hour a day, three
days a week. In addition she also became more careful in the quality and quantity of
her nutritional intake. Betty was creating a new lifestyle in keeping with her new level of
Within 12 months Betty had transformed 60 pounds of her mass into a new lifestyle of
eating and swimming. She was very proud of her progress and accomplishments and
could feel the
difference in her health and flexibility. But of course there were costs.
Some of her friends were inconvenienced by her new “addiction” which they felt left
her with less time for them. She also had less time for her cats and her gardening
which was a source of frustration at times. But because she was willing to transform
her addiction into another form closer to her new higher value of her health, she moved
“Drugs are merely the most obvious form of addiction in our society.
Drug addiction is one of the things that undermines traditional
– Christopher Lasch, historian
Betty’s sub-diction appears.
As she moved past the anniversary of her new lifestyle Betty’s weight transformation
plateaued and then stopped. Her weight settled at about three hundred and twenty
pounds. This confused her and frustrated her. When we discussed it, what emerged
was her sub-diction. Here was the gist of our discussion.
“Why do you think your weight has settled to where it is?” I asked her one day.
“I am not sure Ken…but what I have been noticing is I am becoming more fearful as I
transform my weight more.” Betty responded.
“Fearful of what?” I asked.
“I think it is fear of being attractive again!” She responded thoughtfully.
“Why be afraid of looking attractive?” I said.
‘Ken, I am realizing if I look more attractive I will attract the attention of men again and I
don’t want that anymore.” She said carefully.
“Why don’t you want the attention of men again in your life Betty?”
“Ken, I have a good job, several close friends, my cats, my garden and my home. I
don’t want the demands of an intimate relationship with one person anymore. I tired that
before! I am quite satisfied with my life as it is!”
Betty’s perfection addiction!
So Betty’s sub-diction was an intimate relationship. And she was not prepared to
subvert her higher values for one. So there was no mistake in her addiction or sub-
diction. They were perfect for her. Betty continued her healthier life style to ensure her
health while also maintaining her independence, friendships, cats, garden and home.
So she had settled at the perfect weight for her given her highest values.
There are no mistakes in nature only learning opportunities. Betty realized she had
been using her addiction to food as a tool to ensure she maintained the independent
lifestyle she valued so highly. This situation applies to all our addictions whether they
are noticeable to others or not. And, it applies to everyone at all places and time.
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to
remake the world…as in being able to remake ourselves.” – Mahatma
Gandhi, social activist
So, everyone is an addict in some form. Since we can’t create or destroy anything, we
can only transform one addiction into another. Stop trying to eliminate your addiction.
Find out how it serves you, appreciate it for helping you survive to this point in your life.
Then, transform it into a new addiction more closely connected to your value system.
“The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one
often comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.”
– Henry Ward Beecher, social reformer
Next time we will look at making your addictions work for you!
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
1. Your addiction is often not noticed by yourself or others.
2. Your addiction will unconsciously serve your highest values.
3. Your addiction is always paired with your sub-diction.
4. The addiction you are running towards for pleasure is
counterbalanced by a sub-diction you are running away from
due to the pain.
5. Marriage conflict is often tied to submerged addictions and sub-
dictions in both partners.
6. Food is a very common addiction today and serves whoever has it.
7. Once you resolve your addiction and sub-diction you move on to a
new one to continue your evolution.