ATL 32 | Waking Up To The Authentic You with Sherry Gaba

 

Sherry Gaba, Psychotherapist, Life and Recovery Coach, just released her new book The Marriage & Relationship Junkie where she vulnerably shares her own story and guides people through “kicking their obsession”. Waking Up To The Authentic You discusses how we have to find and claim back the lost parts of ourselves the moment we come out of a dependent or addicted relationship. She elaborates on the phase of breaking-up (which is often hard to do as a Love or Relationship Addict) and guides us through the challenges that happen when you decide to let go of someone you once loved. How can you meet your lost self again and wake up to the authentic YOU? When is it safe to return to dating? What are pivotal moments while going through Love Addiction Recovery? How can we ensure that the passion we feel for someone new stays in the healthy territory? Sherry gives us all the answers and much more!

 

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Welcome back to Addicted to Love everyone! Today I have another wonderful featured expert for all of you. I am talking about Sherry Gaba, Psychotherapist, Life Coach and Certified Recovery Coach, specialising in individual, couples, family and group psychotherapy. She maintains a private practice in Westlake Village, CA, and has more than 20 years of experience as a clinician, specialising in addictions, relationships, co-dependency, trauma, parenting, divorce and single parenting. She is the the host of the Recovery Today Summit and the Editor of Recovery Today Magazine. She is also the author of the award winning book “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a powerful Recovery.”

Sherry is an often requested speaker in person and on global internet webinars and has presented at National conferences and to general audiences on numerous topics. She co-hosts on the KVTA AM radio show “The Brighter Side of Recovery” and was the go-to expert for Dr. Drew Pinsky’s Celebrity Rehab show on VH1 and later on the spin-off, VH1’s Sober House as well as Celebrity Rehab’s Sex Addiction. AND just recently Sherry released her book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie that I have just finished reading and let me tell you it is an awesome piece!

Let me welcome Sherry, thank you so much for being on the show!

You are so welcome! I am really greateful and I love what you are doing in this world.

Thank you! I’d really like to start with you. Maybe start by sharing a little bit about your own story and especially what made you write this book?

 

Sherry’s Story

 

So this book was on my mind for a long time probably at least the last 20 years. I had had multiple relationships, multiple marriages and I felt a lot of shame around it. I had a lot of shame around my divorces and I really wanted to eradicate the stigma around those people in the world that do have multiple relationships or multiple marriages. There are reasons that we make these choices and they are not mistakes they’re just lessons and it can really come from different parts of your life. For me it was early trauma which I’m sure you read about in my book. I was premature and had been in an incubator for three months so I didn’t get that early bonding, early nurturing and it really set me up from day one to become a love addict because I was constantly searching for that love I did not get in those early months and then growing up the way I did my mother wasn’t all that present anyway so it really was trauma based. I was just searching in all the wrong places for that early love that I did not receive. And so it’s just important for people to understand that if they’ve made certain mistakes and keep picking the same type of person over and over again, there are reasons for it.

It's just important for people to understand that if they've made certain mistakes and keep picking the same type of person over and over again, there are reasons for it. Click To Tweet

 

It was so great when I finally was able to like kind of nail it you know and label it. I always knew I was different and I knew that I always had this feeling of emptiness inside. Despite being a part of not belonging, not feeling good enough. And when I realized “oh my god!” You know it was from the get go; our bodies we might not remember things in our brain but our bodies don’t forget that early trauma. Things like early surgeries, your parents get divorced or you have parents that are emotionally unavailable. Maybe they’re addicts or alcoholics themselves, maybe even you were neglected or God forbid you were molested or whatever that early trauma is. It does set you up or not feeling like enough and so you’re always searching outside yourself to fill that empty hole.

 

The Difference Between A Marriage/Relationship Addict and Love Addiction

 

Exactly yeah. And I did read your book and I think it is really great because you were very generous in sharing your story. I was really touched reading your first pages and you’re leading the reader so brilliantly through the theoretical part into the work that we can do to start recovery where you provide exercises and meditations. You also talk about creating authentic partnerships and today in this episode I’d really like to focus on the phase of breaking up because it’s really challenging to do so. But before we do that I’d like to ask some clarifying questions especially because you’re coming from the marriage and relationship addict side and I just remember reading on one of your pages where you’re making a distinction between that and love addiction. So can you lay out the difference in your opinion about that in a nutshell?

Sure! I mean love addiction is more about being in love with the idea of love. They relate more to the fantasy and romance and the illusion of who you think someone is rather than who they really are. So relationship and marriage addiction kind of takes it one step further and it’s being obsessed with the idea of being in a relationship or a marriage and feeling really empty and lost if not in a relationship or partnered up with another person. Feels almost like the same as a drug addict needing a fix for their drugs, a relationship and marriage addict needs to be in a relationship and they go through the same withdrawal experience, that craving just like the drug addict craves the drugs you’re craving a relationship. So you know for me it was going from relationship to relationship and if I wasn’t in a relationship or partnered up there was this proverbial you know emptiness that I felt just like the addict feels when they’re out of their drugs or alcohol. So it has the same you know biological component. It’s the same chemicals working in your brain and it’s the same feeling of setting you up through that feeling and craving.

 

Yeah right. And then you also make a distinction between co-dependency and love addiction because a lot of people throw this word around like “oh I’m a codependent!” But can you lay this out like make a clear distinction between the two of these things?

Sure. I mean co-dependency is all about needing to control people, places and things. So you can be a co-dependent and a love addict. But you can also be a co-dependent without being a love addict. So you can be a co-dependent in the workplace, you could be a co-dependent in just trying to control other people but that doesn’t mean that you’re an obsessive love addict or relationship addict so they are two different things. So for example me, as a love addict, I was obsessed with my ex-husband. So I was really a love addict. But I was also co-dependent because I was obsessed with controlling his sobriety. I was obsessed with getting him sober. I thought I could control his addiction. So it made me not only a love addict needing a relationship but I was also a co-dependent because I was in this place of control like I really wanted to control him and I thought that I was his higher power and that I could control you know the outcome of his recovery which of course turned out to not be so.

And in co-dependency, There is also an element of enabling an addiction. Is that right?

Right. I mean I did do some enabling. I mean even though you know and I bring this up because even though I’m a therapist and a certified recovery coach, we are humans you know and so the enabling probably was you know there were times that I would pick him up when he was drunk or I would find a rehab for him. I kind of I sometimes gave him cash to put gas in his car. Sometimes he has used that money for alcohol. So yes I did some enabling things that I regret. You know this was just my journey and I had to reach my proverbial bottom. I had to reach a place of brokenness where I no longer could help him and for me it was really getting sick. I got shingles. I lost hair. I got a staph infection, I got kidney stones. I mean it really like affected me physically. And of course emotionally so I had to reach my bottom in order to stop you know enabling and stop this obsessive behavior and I had to really let him go. The funny part is once I finally let him go he actually did get sober. We were just not good for each other so I sent him love and light every day and I prayed for his sobriety but I’m no longer attached, I am very detached now.

 

Love Addiction is a problem “energetically”

 

And you said that love addiction is a problem energetically. What do you mean with that?

I’m a big believer in the Law Of Attraction. So obsessing about what could have been in a relationship, like by thinking about “what if I’m never going to bring in new love?” Then i’m just focusing on what isn’t or what didn’t happen. You also have to acknowledge the things that you are grateful for. Like I’m grateful that I had that experience. I’m grateful that I learned so much from that experience. I’m a much better therapist today, I’m a much better and have much more compassion for the illness. I really get it more than I’ve ever gotten before. I mean here I was working on a national TV show with some of the you know high profile rehabs running family programs. Here I got to actually firsthand experience it up close and personal it just made me a much more empathic person in terms of the disease of addiction.

So you want to you want to be grateful for what you do have in your life not what you don’t have and if you put your partner on a pedestal and make yourself wrong again you’ll keep attracting the same type of person over and over again. And so once I sent letters to my ex and I let him go, was the moment I was able to attract you know positivity into my life. I was not coming from a place of lack or victim or “i’m never going to meet anybody and i’ll never get love ever.” I actually had a very high positive vibration which brought into my life a healthy relationship.

 

The Law Of Attraction: Where Focus Goes, Energy Flows

The Law Of Attraction: Where Focus Goes, Energy Flows

 

That’s like shifting the perspective and focusing on what is good instead of bad.

Exactly. Exactly. And that really did make a difference in my life. I mean there’s no point to be angry or resentful. You know when I brought my ex-husband back into my life he was actually using the whole time and I didn’t know. I’m thought I am going to get him to a program to stay sober and then go into recovery and get a sponsor. He didn’t do any of those things. And when I found out that he actually had been using the whole time I could have come from a place of anger, resentment and like “OH MY GOD! I tried to help you get your life back and look what you did to me!” I did not do that. I just really realized that’s what addicts do. They lie. And that’s just when it is so freeing when you’re not angry, you’re just you just wish the best and you just have like they say in the Al-Anon you detach with love. And I think by doing that you bring more healthy love in your life.

 

Breaking-Up Is Hard To do

 

Right. So in today’s episode, I wanted to focus on breaking up. And for many people that is something that often is very hard to do and it kind of seems almost impossible. I remember very well that in all my past relationships I knew for years that I wanted to break up but I couldn’t bear to bring these words across my lips. So what is your suggestion? How did you find the courage to break up early on instead of wasting a couple of years of our precious lives?

You know just like when you go to see a therapist and the therapist guides you towards self-esteem or self-actualization or an understanding maybe a trauma affected you or how your family of origin might have been left you or abuse you and how that has shown up in your future relationships. You’re not going to get it until you’re ready. You’re not going to get it until you have that like moment of clarity just like I didn’t get it until I got it. I had to have enough pain. You know like “if there is pain there will be gain.” I mean you know that you’ll only get when you get it, you can’t make somebody get it. You can have all the intellectual knowledge that you’re not in a good relationship or if you’re in a you know an abusive relationship or you’re in a dead end relationship. But it’s not until you really dive deeper into what it is that keeps you stuck, what early trauma keeps you picking the same partners over and over again that aren’t good for you. Or whether the fears you have about being alone where you really dive deep into maybe not having healthy relationships. So it’s really just understanding what is that piece that you are stuck in. What is that piece where you are frozen? You know you’re going to get it when you get it. There’s a proverbial bottom just like an addict has their proverbial bottom.

 

Codependents or love addicts or people that are bad pickers are not going to get it until we really reach that brokenness. You can't just make it happen. Click To Tweet

 

I will say this. If you see red flags, you really need to like listen to that inner voice. We all have that inner voice we all have that inner voice you know inner wisdom, we all have sort of that God voice say universe talking to us. For me I just never listen to it. And so it’s really important to listen to it and get some clarity about it. And now what happens is the fear of being alone or the fear of something not working or like the fear that there aren’t any good men out there or whatever those fears are. I think those fears are greater than your intuition and when you allow the fears to be greater than your intuition you’re probably going to make the wrong decision.

 

I agree with that. And the moment we actually do break up, what can we expect to happen and how can we deal with this?

 

What To Expect When Breaking-Up

 

Well if you’re a love addict you may feel the feelings of withdrawal symptom just like a drug addict feels when they need a fix. So that’s when I was talking about earlier and it’s just agonizing and it feels empty and it can become very obsessive and you can get jealous you can go into this panic. There is this sense of not knowing who you are and the feeling you will never find love again. But the positive side is you have the opportunity to become whole again you know when you meet your lost self, the self that you have sort of closed or hidden from. It’s the time to meet that authentic precious self that you’ve been avoiding. So it’s time for really stepping into self-love, self-care, healing and healthier relationships. So you know this is this goes very deep but when you grow up in a traumatic environment and you don’t really get to know who you are because all of your feelings may be invalidated or you’re considered invisible in your family you’re not getting the love that you need you really don’t even create you don’t develop a sense of self. So once you know once you have this break up and go through this withdrawal it’s just amazing time to actually meet that self that you need are either never known or if you lost or you have repressed. And so what an opportunity it is to really be the authentic you.

Breaking-Up: The positive side is you have the opportunity to become whole again. When you meet your lost self, the self that you have sort of closed or hidden from. It's the time to meet that authentic precious self that you've been avoiding by… Click To Tweet

 

Right. I was actually so shocked when I came out of Love Addiction recovery. I mean I’m still recovering but the moment I was on a good path, I was really not impressed about who I found out who I was. I was not impressed and I really had to like find these inner pieces of myself and what I stand for what I believe in and what I want to be like. It’s like a whole new construction of yourself. It’s a fun process because you’re kind of getting to know yourself finally.

Yes, people talk about it all the time you know we use these words like you have to love yourself before you love anyone else. The truth is that that is the truth. You know until you find yourself you can’t possibly love somebody else because you just can’t. So even though it’s said often it’s really true. And on the other part it’s really exciting to wake up. I have a whole program called Wake Up Recovery and I work with codependents and love addicts and addicts. It’s a group coaching program and people can find it out at wakeuprecovery.com. It’s all about waking up to the authentic you because that’s really what happened for me. It was like “oh my God he’s not in the picture anymore. Now I’m awake, I no longer sleep walking. I’m here. I’m present, I’m in the moment.” And it’s just incredible. It’s like all of a sudden someone who gets on antidepressants who’s been depressed all their life and all of a sudden they can hear the birds chirp, hope is created and it’s very exciting. But a lot of people are afraid to understand their default position because that’s what they’ve always known but the truth of matter is stepping into the unknown are where all the great possibilities exist and they’re great.

The truth of matter is stepping into the unknown are where all the great possibilities exist and they ARE great! Click To Tweet

 

You also focus on the importance of staying away from the person we’ve just broken up with. Tell us why this is so vital.

 

Why No Contact Is Essential When Breaking-Up

 

Well I mean there’s the no-contact rule. You think about an alcoholic going out and he has a drink, that drink is going to set them up for the next drink and the next drink. I don’t think you can do that. You know I for a while there I was in touch with my ex-husband after he left and I realized it was just constantly sort of having that drink again. You know once you start that connection that you know because what it is really the opposite of addiction is connection. So what I was seeking was this connection, you know healthy or unhealthy, It wasn’t really serving me to be connected to him, it was keeping me from you know really I’m giving my new relationship a chance because I still kept talking to him. So I had to learn the hard way that you really should look for connection in healthy ways not in ex’s because if you don’t let go you can’t let in what is good for you.

You know he would say things like “well you’re my family” and you know often it’s just a lot of manipulation where they’re kind of keeping you sort of dangling in the wind. You know they just want to know that you’re kind of there. But you have a part in this and you’re part is your longing for this connection. It’s about letting it go because you can’t, it’s just not fair to your new life. It’s not for you it’s not fair to new relationships. It’s just it doesn’t serve you. So I felt the most free by completely disconnected.

 

 

Breaking Up: Time to fully disconnect from your Ex. It is just not fair to your new life, your new relationships and your new YOU.

 

 

It’s hard in the beginning but it really results into something beautiful!

What it is and the reason it’s so hard is – and I really want to have great compassion for anybody reading about this – it’s the trauma bond that you have with this person that is hard to describe. Some say that it could be a bond from another lifetime. You know if you believe in reincarnation or whatever; I had somebody (I did a past life regression and of course this is getting a little woo woo) tell me that you know this relationship with him was sort of like a mother-son relationship. That I made an oath that I would never let him go, that I would always be there for him and it was so deep I couldn’t even understand it. So it could be, it could be some kind of connection from another lifetime who knows? It’s really important to cut that cord.

 

Letting Healthy Love In

 

What are some exercises we can do to allow healthy law into our life and eliminate the unhealthy parts.

So you know you want to make a list of important traits you want in a partner. You know the universal laws will create the energy to bring you those things in a partner. Reaffirm your attention to the universe and speak about the ideal partner you would like to attract. Really have faith that the universe will do its part to bring that to you as long as you disconnect from the old. When you put out things like “I’ll never meet anybody at all” you’re actually putting out this negative vibration. So it tells the universe that you are fearful, it tells the universe you are angry or resentful. And so in essence you’re saying I don’t trust you. You’ve got to trust the universe is going to do its best to bring you what you want as long as you create the thoughts that will attract that.

So recognize the story you keep saying over and over again not trusting universal laws. And remember that what you put out the universe expands. You’re expanding all the energy in that story. So rewrite the story that you are worthy and deserving and that you are going to allow the universe to bring you exactly what it is that you desire. What are those traits? And of course nobody’s going to be perfect. But what are the most important things for you? I would say that if you keep attracting these high intensity relationships, take a look at look what it is that’s missing inside of you that you need this high intensity. You know the new relationship that I’m in, well it’s been about seven months now, is very slow, very steady, very calm, There’s a flow, there is ease there’s no ups and downs, there’s no drama. You know that for me is healthy love but sometimes people find that boring. Me I needed those high intensity relationships because that’s all I knew. I only knew about drama and trauma and fixing and the ups and downs and once I realized I don’t want that anymore, that’s when I really did attract something healthy.

 

And you’re also pointing out something important because I think that we can not just put our wishes out into the universe without having done the work that needs healing before we actually can attract something new.

Yeah. The wishes are one thing but then you also have to have discernment and clarity. Like what is it that I want to attract? I mean I made a conscious decision. I did not want any more drama. I did not want any more ups and downs, I did not want to have that insane obsessive feeling because that really isn’t love. That’s love addiction for me.

 

Yes I agree.

 

It doesn’t mean you can’t be attracted, you know you’re going to be attracted, and you have to have chemistry. I mean I’m at a point in my life where I know what is merely a childhood fantasy. It doesn’t work for me because it generally leads you into a very unhealthy space.

 

Finding A Safe Moment To Return To Dating

 

And what are the signs that indicate that one is ready and it is kind of safe for us to return to the dating field?

 

You know when you learn to live on your own and you no longer feel the need that someone else must complete you or someone else must complete you to feel whole, you need to create your own life and be happy with or without a partner.

 

Right. And this goes hand in hand with my next question because once we feel attracted to a new person and obviously I consider this to be my next partner there are for me, in my experience there are some pivotal moments where I have to be ultra-careful. Like. What are these moments?

 

If I start to feel obsessive or insecure, jealous, fearful, I know something is off. I knew my present relationship was healthy because it was slow and steady. There were no ups and downs there. It wasn’t obsessive. There was never drama. It’s flowed. It’s nurturing it’s supportive, it’s intimate. And there’s healthy communication and we resolve issues. We don’t just like let issues go by. We really resolve them as uncomfortable as it can be. I think that for me is what a healthy whole relationship looks like.

I wanted to go back a little bit about being on my own. You know I spent about 4 years. You know I joined a canoe club, I went canoeing I joined a 12 step program. At Al-Anon I made new friends. I really just changed everything in my life and created a new life. Whoever I was going to bring in my life was going to be an add on to my life not my life. And I do love having a partner just like my best friend. But I do also feel like if it’s just your best friends then there’s something weird about that.

 

No you’re right. I think at some point also the sexual chemistry totally goes away because there’s nothing sparkly about the other person anymore.

 

When To Have Sex In A New Relationship

 

Exactly. There’s no mystery and that’s pretty much what happened. I mean in my relationship I became mother, it just had no sexiness to it.

 

I think we’ve all been there at some point or another. Yeah. And when it comes to sex, I find this particularly important step where we have to be super careful not to fall head over heels because our brain chemicals make it already hard. Any tips on this subject such as when to have sex or how to go about it?

 

Well I am still amazed like in my practice a lot of the time I’m amazed how fast people do hook up, I mean I don’t understand it because I don’t even think that’s very appealing really. I mean really true whole lovemaking is a process of knowing someone it’s intimacy. And so I believe when it comes to a new relationship, I think it’s important to wait to have sex, I mean to really know your new partner. Do you feel safe, do you feel secure, and is it supportive and honest? Does it flow or is it filled with high intensity feelings of drama’s ups and downs. Because if so perhaps it’s best to just move on from this person as a potential partner or sexual partner because it’s really the old it’s the old way. That high intensity is what you know let’s find something new and something safe something nurturing. Maybe someone who reads this might think “oh my god that sounds so boring!” but really it isn’t. That’s really true love in my opinion.

Do you feel safe, do you feel secure, and is it supportive and honest? Click To Tweet

 

And that’s something I think we really have to learn because of the old imprint that we carry around. I think we have to experiment with that and at least allow that in.

 

 

Waiting To Have Sex Allows To Build Real Connection, Trust And Intimacy.

 

 

Well and also I think you know let’s go back to like evolution. I mean men want to conquer. And if you’re going to be sleeping with somebody right away they sure think they’ve already conquered you. I mean I’m not saying that this is always the case. I think when you sleep with them right away I think the whole evolutionary thing is kind of done. And then all of a sudden you think you’re in love because you slept with them or you think you really liked them or they owe you something. I think it’s really all about slowing everything down. There’s no rush. When I was young I had to sleep around because that’s how I felt people showed love, that’s how people showed me attention and validation. But it has to come from a healthy place not from hooking up with somebody. I feel really strongly about this.

 

I hear you I mean I’m getting to this point also. Because even like from a protection point of view I want to protect myself because I know if I hook up too fast I’m going to be hijacked by my brain chemicals and that makes it already hard to keep a clear mind. So how can we make sure that the passion for a new partner stays within the healthy territory?

 

Well if you’re both comfortable with your sexual desires or needs; how often you are agreeable and sexual requests. When for example one person likes watching porno and the other one doesn’t. That’s something you’re going to have to figure out but if you both like watching it great, you kind of have to be the same. Or if you’re watching porn and you’re not having sex with your partner because you’re too busy watching porno, there is probably a problem there. What is it you both are comfortable with? If your needs conflict and you’re asked to do something that you’re uncomfortable with then you really need to communicate with your partner and you may realize that you’re not a match perhaps in that way. If your partner doesn’t respect that it’s probably time to rethink the sexual relationship.

 

It’s a a very important question and you know you are on the same wavelength when you want the same things. There’s no like judgement. You know if you are okay with whatever this you know sexual position is or whatever it is, If you’re okay you’re both okay with it. Great. But if one of you feels really uncomfortable and you’re doing something that is not of value to you or you feel like it goes against your sexual principles and when you kind of rethink. But giving into somebody else’s desires when it goes against who you are is not healthy for us.

Giving into somebody else's desires when it goes against who you are is not healthy for us. Click To Tweet

 

Yes, right. I agree. So tell us a little bit about you know how our listeners can work with you? What are you currently working on? And where can they find you.

 

Well I’d love for them to pick up The Marriage and Relationship Junkie that’s on Amazon. I also have a Website sherrygaba.com. So if they’re interested in any kind of coaching or if they are local I have a private practice here in Southern California in Westlake Village. But I also do coaching on skype or zoom whenever is convenient. I also have this other program called Wake Up Recovery which is for addicts, alcoholics and codependents and love addicts and anybody that sort of wants to try to bridge the gap between addiction and codependency. That want to use the law of attraction principles to get to the next level in their recovery when they get stuck. It’s nineteen dollars a month where they get audio interviews, they get meditation’s, they get a 10 week course and they get life coaching. It’s not a lot for people who can not afford coaching. I want to offer this to everybody.

Amazing! I really want to thank you for sharing your work, for doing such amazing work and for taking the time to come on the show.

You are so welcome and thank you for doing everything you are doing as well.

Thank you!

 

 

Important Links:

 

About Sherry Gaba:

Sherry Gaba is a Psychotherapist, Life Coach and Certified Recovery Coach, specialising in individual, couples, family and group psychotherapy. She maintains a private practice in Westlake Village, CA, and has more than 20 years of experience as a clinician, specialising in addictions, relationships, co-dependency, trauma, parenting, divorce and single parenting. She is the the host of the Recovery Today Summit and the Editor of Recovery Today Magazine. She is also the author of the award winning book “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a powerful Recovery.”

Sherry is an often requested speaker in person and on global internet webinars and has presented at National conferences and to general audiences on numerous topics. She co-hosts on the KVTA AM radio show “The Brighter Side of Recovery” and was the go-to expert for Dr. Drew Pinsky’s Celebrity Rehab show on VH1 and later on the spin-off, VH1’s Sober House as well as Celebrity Rehab’s Sex Addiction. AND just recently Sherry released her book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie that I have just finished reading and let me tell you it is an awesome piece!

Sherry Gaba

Sherry Gaba

 

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