Therese J. Borchard writes the daily Beliefnet.com blog Beyond Blue. Her memoir “Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes” is just out, followed by a handsome book of therapy notes called "The Pocket Therapist" in April 2010. Subscribe to Beyond Blue here or visit her at www.ThereseBorchard.com.

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Time to Grow Up

I fully support Katherine’s pacifier habit.

Even though her preschool teachers, grandparents, and dentist say, at age three and a half, it’s definitely time to pull the plug, part of me thinks I should let her suck away on the thing until a clique of fifth grade girls start making fun of her. Because if the binky fairy comes prematurely, my little angel might turn to drugs in high school and date bad boys in college.

I’m taking the philosophy of a book I just read to a ridiculous degree. (I tend to do that.)

In “How to Break Your Addiction to a Person,” author Howard M. Halpern argues that those of us who didn’t get our attachment needs met as an infant and toddler suffer from Attachment Hunger in our adult years that drives us to addictions to other people (or, in my case, to everything I encounter).

“To the degree that your parents gave you gratification in the attachment phase and then, after about the first year and a half, supported your independence, you will have less of a hangover of Attachment Hunger in your adult life,” Halpern writes. “To the degree they failed to be helpful either in the attachment phase or the launching phase, you may have intense residue of needs from the Attachment Hunger level that can compel you to seek and cling to relationships in an addictive way.”

When I first read this, I thought, “Here we go again…. Blame the mama”–the oldest psychology trick in the book, and one I wholeheartedly endorsed until I became a mom.

My mom is one of my mental health heroes. Let me be clear about that. And I’ve never doubted her love for me. But there were years in my childhood–after my dad left–that she was severely depressed, and our roles reversed. Plus I’m one of four girls, all born within three years of each other (I’m a twin). My guess is that I have some major Attachment Hunger issues.

Last night I didn’t sleep because I was obsessing about a friendship I severed last year. Her birthday is coming up, and I want so badly to resume communication and tell her that I am thinking of her. The Infant in me says that I need her to be happy, that a close relationship with her is the difference between drinking Folgers instant coffee in the morning and a Starbucks double espresso, that with her as my buddy I will be able to finally chill out and enjoy the view for awhile.

“That’s your Attachment Hunger,” I told myself, able to identify the craving for contact with my friend as strongly as I craved booze in high school, as much as I covet dark chocolate and cappuccinos (with two extra shots) now. I pictured myself drawing her name on the sketch of a vodka bottle in my journal like I used to do in college, to remind me that Fr. Tim was just a different kind of addiction–a type of self-destruction that would deplete my reserves of self-esteem and leave me feeling even more empty inside.

I was tossing and turning, and growing angrier with every minute that I looked at Eric sleeping peacefully next to me.

“Why can’t my brain run like his?” I asked God.
I further visualized my vodka bottle with my friend’s name on it.

“Remember what Halpern says about ‘Infant Time,'” I said to myself, “when you are ruled by Attachment Hunger, re-experiencing the needs you had as an infant or toddler. My thoughts will try to convince me that giving into my addiction is the only way to serenity–the intense longings will romanticize memories to feed those primitive feelings. I have to be strong. I have to operate in what he calls ‘Adult Time,’ when I can see things in proper perspective.”

I thought about the 18 years I have been sober, and how many times I’ve had to tell the Infant inside of me to grow up, how many times I’ve had to be rescued by fellow recovering addicts from the control that the little baby has over me–the potent messages she sends me when I’m most vulnerable.

“Why do I always have to analyze my thoughts so much?” I asked God. “I know that I’m in Infant Time right now, but knowing that doesn’t keep me from hurting and missing my friend. Why do I have to feel things so deeply?”

I began to cry, as I lay there in bed listening to Eric snore. Tears, the first ones I’ve cried in months, ran down my face as I made sure to breathe out my mouth (so that the nose congestion of a cry wouldn’t wake up Eric). I didn’t want to have to explain: She’s just a friend. Why can’t I just make the break and move on?

“Binky!” I heard Katherine scream just then. I rushed to her bed and found a pacifier lodged between her mattress and bed rail.

“Shhh, it’s okay,” I whispered to her, and put it back in her mouth. “Hang on to it another day if you want,” I thought. “You’ll have your own attachment hunger issues soon enough.”

Originally pubished on “Beyond Blue” at beliefnet.com/beyondblue. Reprinted with permission of Beliefnet.com. For more, visit beliefnet.com/beyondblue.com.

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