It’s really a beautiful moment when you find yourself at such a vulnerable point in life that you truly believe there’s no going back, and that all you have left is what’s right in front of you. I can’t really place the moment when it all began for me, nor can I pinpoint the exact one when it ended, but I can tell you neither one was pleasant. And even though this experience was the first official sign of my addiction, looking back on the times that came before, it’s not hard to put the pattern together. But don’t let me get ahead of myself.

Like most addictions, mine was one that involved being dependent on something else. But unlike the rest, my addiction wasn’t a substance or an activity, but rather a state of being. You see, I grew up with an older brother and sister who made fun of me until about—well, they still do. My dad was really never home, though I did see him quite a bit, it was never just casual father-son time. Mom, on the other hand, was always there for me. Anything and everything a little boy needs from his parents, my mom managed to make sure I had. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had tons of friends at school; some people might even say I was a leader among my classmates, but from age four to twelve, what kid doesn’t? I was never what onlookers would consider lonely; people surrounded me all of my life. Intimacy, though, was lacking considerably. And my self-esteem had been beaten into the ground by my older siblings.

Fast-forward a few years to the first few months of my sophomore year in high school. My first real relationship, and already we were both making huge mistakes. At a point when two people are supposed to be charming each other into love and happiness, this girl treated my feelings like Mike Tyson’s punching bag, which didn’t exactly boost my already low self-esteem. Not having had enough, a couple of months into our relationship the punches started to be thrown from both sides. Still, my oblivious little mind refused to understand. I was stuck in a simplified version of the water cycle in which I was the sun and the clouds, absorbing every blow she threw at me, and then throwing right back at her tenfold.

The months flew past at increasing speeds, and to be fair, not all of them were terrible. In fact, many of my best memories and proudest experiences were because of her, but if I’m being honest, the bad outweighed the good. Throughout what was probably a two or three-year-long relationship, we broke up and got back together such an amazing number of times that I lost track. However, I can clearly remember the smell of my tears running down my face and onto my pillows and the feeling that life had once again been taken from my hands and brought upon some other boy. I can even still picture the look on my wet face as I peered into the rearview mirror, thinking, what if I just drove off the road and crashed into a tree. Never did I consider suicide in any other form, but veering off the road and transferring my pain onto family and friends always fascinated me. Have you started asking yourself where my parents were all this time? Well, divorce meant I was left to live with Dad for the remainder of my high school years, and he was busy trying to make a living for all of our futures, so I was pretty much my own father figure in the formative years I call my teens.

Luckily, I never did let go of the steering wheel long enough. Instead, I battled through a bipolar range of emotions and with a shit ton of determination, managed to give the both of us long-term happiness by breaking up. Of course, was I to divulge the details of that occurrence, you would learn many other disturbing things about me, like the fact that I followed in my father’s footsteps of being a cheating son-of-a-bitch. But that’s beside the point (kind of). The fact is that I ended it and learned the most important life lesson to date: unlike Christopher McCandless, I believe happiness is not only real when shared. Happiness comes from within and can only be shared when it is stable enough in one’s life. This girl taught me so many things, some on purpose, some unconsciously, but my number one fear is entering another relationship that even resembles that one. I don’t want to feel as though my life is incomplete without another person’s input. And believe me when I tell you, that is one feeling you can’t get rid of easily. It is as bad as any other drug being sold on the black market these days or any market for that matter. Codependency: measuring one’s worth based on another’s support and reliance. Side effects may include: suicidal, angry, or psychopathic thoughts.