After fellow teen idol Chris Brown beat her like a drum, then fobbed off a self-excusing apology, Rihanna has returned to her lover, likening his violence to a sibling rivalry between competitive kids. Her case actually illuminates addiction in a way a cocaine habit can't.

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, March 1, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Rihanna Returns to Man Who Maimed Her - What this tells us about addiction

After fellow teen idol Chris Brown beat her like a drum, then fobbed off a self-excusing apology, Rihanna has returned to her lover, likening his violence to a sibling rivalry between competitive kids. Her case actually illuminates addiction in a way a cocaine habit can't.

When I said that love was the worst addiction - the hardest to quit - I got a bit defensive. But here's the proof; three weeks after he beat her, Rihanna returned to her lover's side and started excusing the violence that may leave her permanently scarred.

The logic behind this is pure addiction - she feels better with him, even as she perceives the terrific negatives the relationship produces (in Rihanna's case, she can see these downsides to "love" in the mirror).

When people don't feel complete in themselves, they pursue attachments that make them whole, temporarily, while kicking back at them with blows that disable their reputation, self-image, and ability to cope with life. You can become habituated to drugs, but they don't actively try to woo you the way a lover does. You may downplay the negatives of substance addictions, but they don't have a personal interest in winning you back.

Now that you believe me that love is addictive, what does this say about addiction?

Addiction is not a disease. People seek addictions, they don't suffer from diseases. The whole problem with the disease approach to addiction is that it imagines people have been overcome by some mysterious onslaught on their nervous systems. But, actually, addicts are actively trying to find some kind of misguided satisfaction - in Rihanna's case, love.

Interventions are bullshit. Try to persuade Rihanna she's making a mistake in taking Brown back (as I'm sure her friends and family have tried to do). They can argue until they are blue in the face (as I'm sure has occurred). Rihanna has to shift her perceptions of herself and her world so that life without Brown is more appealing to her than life with her brutalizer. Screaming this is the case at her is not therapy.

We'll never cure addiction with a shot in the arm. What, exactly, would you vaccinate Rihanna with and against - what is your inoculation against love? Showing her nonstop pictures of women beaten by their lovers (like the one she saw in her own bathroom)? Self-esteem shots? Love repellant pills? Saltpeter?

Actually, the Rihanna-Chris Brown case offers all of you disease adherents a chance to finally get over your addictions to addiction - come on over and learn about love, about life, about human motivation - about addiction. I have faith that your diseased points of view aren't genetic, inbred, and progressive. Yes, I love you!