Here’s an old AA story for you: A man falls in a well (I told you it was old; who gets water from a well any more?). He’s trapped down there in the cold and dark. He calls out for help. A priest passes by, hears his cries, leans over into the well and asks, “What’s the matter, son?” Imagine a dramatic boomy echo on the dialog. “I’m stuck in this damn well!” yells the man. “That’s no call for bad language,” says the priest, “but I’ll pray for you.” And off he goes. The guy is getting steamed.
Next, a social worker passes by. “What’s the matter, friend?” “What does it look like? I’m at the bottom of this well.” “Aha! I’ve got just what you need,” says the social worker. She tosses a blanket and a length of rope down the well, and walks off with a smile. The guy is really pissed off now.
Along comes a doctor. “Do you have a problem, sir?” “Fucking A I have a problem! I’m stuck in a well.” “Are you anxious? Worried? Can’t relax?” ”Whadda you think?” “This should fix you up,” says the doc, and tosses a prescription for tranquilizers into the hole.
It’s getting darker. It’s getting colder. The man considers hanging himself with the stupid rope, but there’s nothing to attach it to. Finally, a new face appears at the rim of the well. It’s a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous. “Looks like you’re stuck in a well,” he calls down to the man. “Brilliant deduction,” says the trapped man, now thoroughly disillusioned and angry at the world. Unexpectedly, the AA member jumps down into the well.
“Are you insane? Now we’re both at the bottom of a goddam well!” shouts the man. “Maybe so,” says the sober alcoholic. “But I’ve been down this well before. And I know the way out.”
The point of the story — and I’m sure you’re a step ahead of me on this — is that no one can help you the way someone can who’s been where you’ve been. Professionalism and expertise are great, but there’s nothing that compares to the deep identification you feel with someone’s who’s struggled your struggle. It’s so easy not to take advice from someone, even good advice, when you can get up in their grill yelling “You don’t know what it’s like!”… and be correct.
This is one reason 12-steps programs have no leaders, no facilitators, no administrators, and millions of success stories. It’s why Weight Watchers counselors have lost a lot of weight, and why the best treatment centers are started by former addicts and alcoholics, even if they do have lousy credit.
Which brings me to Broken Heart RX, from whom I recently received a press release. According to the publicist, “Broken Heart RX is the first ever break-up, love addiction and emotional trauma support system that includes a proprietary blend nutraceutical supplement, a 30-day email support program and a referral network of experts created to help guide people to recovery. No one wants to feel crippled by a broken heart and now they don’t have to.”
Indeed, in shades of the Schick-Schadel weekend recovery program for alcoholics, Broken Heart RX will, for the low low price of $34.95, provide you with a 30-day supply of their vitamin supplement, a month of “inspirational emails,” a 10-mninute phone consultation and a referral to a local therapist “if desired.”
Ten minutes? Have you ever talked anyone out of their fetal position on the floor in ten minutes?
To be fair, 35 bucks isn’t going to break anyone’s piggy-bank and the nutritional supplement — full of St. John’s Wort, magnesium and amino acids — won’t hurt you and might even help stabilize your mood. But the only way a 10-minute phone call is going to anything towards curing love addiction is using the time to recommend my book, Susan Peabody’s Addiction to Love bulletin board, and few years in 12-step meetings.
I say this as someone who has tried every prayer, every prescription, every rope and blanket. There’s no shortcut out of the well.