I just ate a black and white cookie the size of a dinner plate. But I’m finding it difficult to feel too guilty about it here in Las Vegas, where I have come to make a speech. In the conference ballroom where I just spoke about love were some 300 addiction counselors. Outside the ballroom were some 300,000 men and women bent on self destruction now—many carrying drinks as they ambled from one casino to the next, pulled at one-armed bandits, smoked cigarettes, or shoveled in the mounds on their buffet trays. I’ve had my share of addictions; I’m utterly respectful of the problems of partyland. But what struck me most about the milling crowd was the ever-present force of romance—the hidden addiction.
In less than an hour, I saw three brides dressed in white flowing gowns, couples embracing, and parents wheeling baby carriages while holding hands; even the cover of the Welcome to Las Vegas magazine in my hotel room displayed a handsome woman crooning above the caption “The obsession is back.”
We don’t tend to think of romantic love as an addiction. But it has all the qualities of an addiction, including intense focus on a particular other, the belief that this individual is special, elation when things are going well, mood swings into despair when things go poorly, the distortion of reality, the willingness to do insane things to win him or her, sexual possessiveness, relapse, craving and obsession. Someone is camping in your head.