Amber Smith is a well-known model, actress, and reality star. Her experiences on the ground-breaking television shows Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, Sober House and Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew have exposed addiction as the disease that doesn’t discriminate. The wealth of knowledge she has received working with some of the best addictionologists in the world, as well as her own personal struggle with addiction, serve as a harrowing yet highly educational cautionary tale.
As a love addict, Amber answered some questions about her personal experiences and love addiction in our society:
Question: Tell us about yourself, what is your background?
AS: I am the only child of an English teacher and a professional football player. It was very much the "quarterback marrying the prom queen" scenario.
At 16, I flew over-seas to become a professional model after being spotted by a model scout in Tampa, FL. Six years later I became a so-called "over-night success". I spent many years overseas broke and lonely – they call it "paying your dues"- before I finally hit. I moved to New York and went on to shoot over 300 magazine covers (British Elle, Fr. Vogue, American Playboy, German Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, etc..) I was a Sports Illustrated wwimwear model – that was a huge credit for me! After quite a run as a model, I moved to Los Angeles and began to act. I’ve appeared in over 20 films – L.A. Confidential, American Beauty, Howard Stern’s Private Parts to name a few.
I had very few relationships though. I was always working and had a hefty prescription painkiller habit to boot. My career was great but my health, my mental health rather, was fragile.
Eventually, I ended up on "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" (a reality show dealing with addictions) where I sought help for my painkiller addiction. It was during treatment that Dr. Drew mentioned that some of the things I was describing in regards to my love life – or the strange course it typically ran- sounded like "Love Addiction". I was stunned at that bizarre ‘title’ but he told me about it was more than accurate!
I am so glad I found out what I was going through was a full-blown intimacy disorder – I don’t know if I could have continued that way – it was unbearable.
Question: What was your experience like writing your chapter in "Love Addict"?
AS: I simply sat down with the author Ethlie Anne Vare and told my story to her over lunch. Ethlie is a terrific writer, very funny, and easy to talk too. Not only can she can relate but she truly has compassion for it. She has written a great book that is much needed and very timely.
It’s very embarrassing subject matter – there is a lot of shame involved, but once you get it up and out, some of the shame is relieved. As I continue to tell my story, my shame continues to be reduced, which is very healing.
Question: How do you define love addiction?
AS: Well, it’s not "love" – that is for sure! A huge part of love addiction is being attached (obsessed, rather) with someone ’emotional unavailable’. The person the love addict focuses on is a pathological runner/avoider, and the term for them is called the "Love Avoidant."
Love avoidants will bury themselves in another addiction to avoid intimacy with the love addict. They will also cheat to distract from intimacy.
Once the love addict’s object of affection leaves them (which they eventually do – and they tend to leave very early on in the relationship), then the love addict begins to obsessively pine for their lost love and plan on how to get the love avoidant back – they sometimes even plan revenge if they don’t come back.
This all may sound like childish games, but love addiction is quite dangerous – the pain from obsessing over someone that is ’emotionally unavailable’ becomes unbearable. It has been reported than 10% of love addicts contemplate suicide. And many ‘crimes of passion’ come from obsessed love addicts.
It all stems from childhood and the missing or very-distanced parent, most likely the parent of the opposite sex. Mom/Dad was gone physically and/or emotionally, and not accessible to the child.
I wont go on too long about how it manifests as Love Addiction/Avoidance in the adult – that is all in the book- but basically, Love Addicts get stuck "loving" over the unavailable similar to how they pined for missing the missing parent as children. Unfortunately, the root of this disorder is buried deeply in the subconscious, and many Love Addicts turn to their own secondary addictions to get relief from the emotional pain.
Some of the actions like pining over a lost loved one, planning revenge, obsessing, etc. are felt by many people who do not have an intimacy disorder. That is just part of life, being human and interacting in relationships. But, unlike the Love Addict, they eventually get over their ex lovers in months (not years) and still relatively function through a failed affair. The love addict not only stops functioning in one or more areas of their lives, but this disorder gets worse and becomes very emotionally painful.
It’s a very serious disorder that is at the heart of much of the alcohol and drug abuse that we see, as most who suffer don’t know they are numbing an intimacy disorder that needs treatment.
Question: Why do you think that love addiction is so prevalent? Does technology play a role?
AS: I don’t know about sex addiction personally, but I imagine that technology is a candy store for sex addicts. For the love addict in full obsession-mode, the Internet and other technologies would be great resources to track your ‘beloved’ or gain information on them, however, in these cases, it is the person who is abusing technology, not the other way around.
Question: What does the future look like for you?
AS: Well, I identify as a love addict as you know from my story in Love Addict. I have been in treatment for love addiction since 2009 – but I am still attracting emotionally unavailable men – its like bees to honey with me. Even though I am not recovered enough to be attracted to someone healthy yet, I am still miles ahead of the game. Now I am aware of what the problem is, and I now know when I have a trigger for my love addiction in front of me and see the signs when someone is a love avoidant. It is very, very hard for me to move on – it’s like walking away from a new crush – but the end result is so painful that I must. I remember that to engage in this ‘dance’ is to re-traumatize myself – "It’s Daddy who leaves you, and you pining for your abandoning father again."
Question: Why do you think it’s important to educate people about love addiction? Do you think it’s on the rise?
AS: I told my story not because I like to think about my painful past with this disorder, but because people will be able to relate and get help. This disorder does not get better on its own. The truth is: though the love avoidant is normally the one everyone tags as ’emotionally unavailable’ it is also the love addict that had no ability to connect. Love addicts attach to the ‘unavailable’ because they subconsciously do not have the ability to be in a relationship. However, their conscious mind is not aware of what is in their subconscious mind, and they suffer greatly over their many failed affairs, not understanding why similar scenarios continue to happen when they desperately think that hey want to have a relationship.
I highly recommend the 12 Step programs that deal with love addiction or an SLA program that deals with both sex and love addiction, as well as therapy with someone well-versed in love addiction.
Even doing a search on the Internet about love addiction will bring great awareness and that will be a huge first step. Addicts have to become aware that they have this disorder first and foremost.
There are also great books, like Ethlie Anne Vare’s "Love Addict" (that discuss what addicts are dealing with and how to heal from it.
I am just happy that there is a way to heal this, although the healing does not happen overnight. Even with three years of love addiction recovery, I have a ways to go, but I have made a lot of progress event in the last year.
I believe as long as I stay in recovery, watch for signs that my romantic prospects may be love avoidants, work on myself and making myself happy, and continue to try and heal my original wound, then I feel I wont have to wait another three years before entering a healthy relationship.