Love Junkie by Rachel Resnick

Love Junkie by Rachel Resnick
Love Junkie: A Memoir
by Rachel Resnick
Bloomsbury USA, 256 pp.
CLR [rating:4]

Addicted to Love

In a world where addictions are rampant and there are 12-step programs for drugs, alcohol, gambling and overeating, it shouldn’t seem surprising that there is in fact a 12-step program for those addicted to love.

Rachel Resnick may well have been one of Robert Palmer’s back up girls in the hit 80s song “Addicted to Love”. Those women exuding sex, dressed in slinky black dresses, bright red lipstick and slicked back hair were indistinguishable from each other, but in her memoir, “Love Junkie,” Resnick steps out of the shadows and places her addictions to love and sex front and center.

Following a string of horrendous relationships, exacerbated by a broken home, rampant neglect, emotional abuse and the death of her mother when Resnick was only 14, she wakes up one morning in her forties after yet another destructive relationship and realizes that maybe her problems come from within. With her newly found discovery that she is indeed a “love junkie” Resnick lays herself bare in this memoir and asks the world to watch and observe and try not to flinch.

Born in Jerusalem to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Resnick’s memoir switches back and forth between her current day love life and her childhood upbringing as she is in turns moved from city to city in the US. With her alcoholic mother losing custody of her and her half brother when Resnick is only 12, she moves in with her father and ultra-Orthodox stepmother only to be sent away to boarding schools, uncaring relatives, strangers and neighbors.

Resnick’s intense need and passion for love begins so young that it’s heartbreaking to read of her first childhood crush when she is just six years old. When she finally screws up the courage to tell a boy in her neighborhood that she likes him, his response is to punch her in the stomach. This is when Resnick says, “Looking back, this was the first time I had a crush where I was able to knit love and pain together in a way I knew so well from my family. It felt like home.”

And when the boy screams at Resnick, “Don’t ever come near me again! EVER!”, Resnick interprets the passion and intensity of his words to mean he’s passionate about her and clearly wants the opposite of what he’s stating. It’s a pattern she will continue into adulthood, only now it’s with grown men (who act like boys) and includes sex, and an intense need for a child that overtakes her entire life and culminates in a miscarriage.

It takes an enormous amount of courage for Resnick to put her life story on the page. Her writing is as stripped, raw and intense as her emotions, and at times you don’t want to read further. But you do, anyway, with a kind of abject horror.

The two main men that parade through her life, who ultimately woo, use and abuse her are truly the type of guys your mother would warn you to stay far away from. Unfortunately, for Resnick, these appear to be exactly the type of men her mother fell for too. Resnick’s “beaus” include Spencer (with whom she suffered the miscarriage), who had scored bit parts “in a few cult indie films and a scattering of thuggish music videos; a seasoned street fighter… who wrote a sex advice column in the guise of a woman.” Spencer would ultimately go on to break into Resnick’s home and destroy the entire hard drive of her computer, which, Resnick notes, “The computer is a living extension of my brain, an expression of my soul, a museum of my fragmented life…to attack it is to attack me. To destroy it is to destroy me.”

Then there’s Eddie, who on his first date with Resnick reveals he’s an ex-con, having robbed convenience stores and a porno theater, still lives with his ex, and that he has a 12-year-old daughter with a woman who was only 14 when she became pregnant. Still, Resnick doesn’t heed the warning bells, instead romanticizing his persona. “…I felt Eddie was a true outlaw. I sensed he could offer entrée into a world of abandon, unlike anything I’d known…”

The litanies of abuses that Eddie inflicts on Rachel before she finally ends the relationship are vast. So it doesn’t really come as a surprise to the reader that after weaning herself off abusive men, Resnick finds herself attracted to a woman, and lands up entering a non-abusive, supportive relationship with her. Whether that relationship leads her into further relationships with women, or men, is not clear. What is clear though, is that Resnick has found a way to exorcise her demons, live with herself and slowly come to terms with her childhood.

However, reconciling her life and her relationships (particularly with her father and brother) is a slow, painful process that is not tied up in neat little bows at the end of the memoir. This is real life. It’s Resnick’s life to be sure, but there are elements of despair, hope and the need for love, recognition and acceptance that are part of all of our lives.

That Resnick has managed to lead a successful life as a writer (she published her first novel – “Go West Young F*cked Up Chick” in 2000 – has written a slew of articles for the mainstream media and runs creative writing workshops), is a testament to her facing her demons head on and undertaking a 12-step program for those addicted to love, sex, romance and fantasy. She still retains the passion, intensity and willfulness that have been present since her childhood, but by the end of her memoir she’s working to channel these in positive ways. Ultimately these are the traits that make her a great writer.

Read this book with someone or something to hug.

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