Alcohol Answers

How can I stop abusing & using alcohol?

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with a possible addiction to alcohol. A lot of times addictions are related to unaddressed feelings that alcohol helps distract from. It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done.  Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.”  This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse.  So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary.  He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his.  Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific triggers that lead you to drink.   Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc."  By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging in the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself and that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with this kind of addiction.   As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone who has been able to persevere through difficult circumstances in the past.  Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts.  These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments.  They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to.  Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better.  I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to.  An example of a centering thought would be from a client I had that related to nautical-themed things and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy.  She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.”  To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.”  She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others.  Hopefully, you can come up with something that helps validate your worth and abilities to move forward.       I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this.  Doing so can help take the weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How do I get help? And want help is available, I’m not keen on speaking face to face with someone

Dear Hello,   Thank you for your message and sharing. It seems that the drinking behavior you've been engaging in is causing you harm and damage, also to your family. I appreciate your trust and courage in acknowledging these facts and your willingness in learning to change them.   You mentioned that your primary goal is to change some of the destructive behaviors. This prompted me to be thinking if we should do exploration on what drew us into these behaviors in the first place? As you might already know, we cannot just force our way out of something without understanding why we got into it in the first place, otherwise what we're doing isn't really bringing closure to it, rather we're just trying to suppress it until it comes back to surface again.   Therefore if you truly want closure to these behaviors, we might want to study a bit about them and the functions they serve in your life.   Behavior is what we humans do. Behavior is observable and measurable. Whether it is walking from one place to another or cracking our knuckles, behavior serves some "function" or the other.   The behaviors that you mentioned you wanted to change, are definitely behaviors that have functions.   Applied Behavior Analysis, the research-based approach to modifying behavior, seeks to find the "function" of inappropriate behavior in order to find a replacement behavior to replace it. Every behavior serves some function and provides a consequence (reinforcement) for the behavior.   When we successfully identify the "function" of the behavior we can reinforce an alternate, acceptable behavior that will replace it. When we have that particular "need" or function fulfilled by an alternate means, the maladaptive or unacceptable behavior is less likely to reappear. Let say if someone needs attention, and we give them attention in an appropriate way because of appropriate behavior, we cement the appropriate behavior and make the inappropriate or unwanted behavior less likely to appear.    For instance, we can teach someone to respect our boundaries by responding to them only when they respect our boundaries, and ignore them when they don't.   The reason why I am bringing up functions behind our behaviors is that if we are to change a certain behavior (let say cheating for example), we must understand what motivates us / drives us to cheat. That way if we understand the reward behind the cheating (for example, being listened to, the thrill of getting to know someone of the opposite sex, fulfilling our sexual desires...etc), then we can decide how to develop alternative strategies to meet these needs without engaging in unwanted behaviors.   To begin with, let's understand the 6 primary functions behind every behavior:   1. To obtain a preferred item or activity. (For example, we engage in sexual activities in order to meet our sexual needs.)   2. Escape or avoidance. The behavior helps us to escape from a setting or activity that we don't want. (For example, we lie so that we won't get caught)   3. To get attention from others. (For example, we choose what we wear thinking about how we want others to look at us.)   4. To communicate. (Similar to no.3, when we get upset we raise our voice around so that people will know that we are upset)    5. Self Stimulation, when the behavior itself provides reinforcement. (For example, we engage in gambling because the process in itself gives us thrill and excitement).   6. Control or Power. Some of us feel particularly powerless and a problem behavior may give us a sense of power or control. (For example, we put others down so that we feel superior over them, in order to protect ourselves or have control over the other person).   The next step is to identify the function behind our behaviors:   Antecedent -- Behavior - Consequence   Antecedent: the environment in which the behavior occurs, the circumstances that surround the occurrence of the behavior or people in the environment when the behavior occurs.   Behavior: The behavior, what we actually do, needs to be defined.   Consequence:  Everything that happens after the behavior, including how people respond to the behavior, what happens to us after the behavior.   The clearest evidence of how behavior functions for us is seen in the Antecedent (A) and the Consequence (C.)   The Antecedent is everything that happens immediately before the behavior occurs. It is sometimes also referred to as "the Setting Event" but a setting event may be part of the antecedent, but not the whole.    We would ask "Is there something in the environment that may lead to the behavior (let say we tend to cheat when we feel lonely or neglected by our partner)   "Is there something that happens in that environment that seems to have a causal relationship, like after fighting with our partner, or feeling rejected?   The Consequence part: The term consequence has a very specific meaning, which at the same time is broader than the use of "consequence," as it usually is, to mean "punishment." The consequence is what happens as the result of the behavior.   That consequence is usually the "reward" or "reinforcement" for the behavior. Do we enjoy getting away from our actions? Do we enjoy the secret part in keeping a cheating relationship? Do we enjoy seeing how attractive we are by cheating? It is usually in how the consequence interacts with the antecedent that we can find the function of the behavior.   In drinking behaviors, these questions can help us understand why we drink and what sort of rewards/consequences do we get (or get away with) from drinking. Are we using alcohol to get rid of/avoid certain emotions such as stress or boredom? Are we using alcohol to achieve a certain state of mind such as relaxation or happiness?    This framework might give us something to think about in terms of why we do what we do.   Once we have some answers, then it'll be our choice to decide whether or not we want to change, and how if we do want to change.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

Do you have significant experience counseling family members of addicted persons?

Yes. I have experience counseling family members of addicted persons and persons with addictions. Persons living with a person with an addiction often feel shame and guilt. The family member is not responsible for the addiction and is not the person who will solve the addiction. Drug addiction is a chronic, progressive, and sometimes fatal disease. In my opinion, your response is normal for anyone grieving a loss. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ theory on grief provides an understandable process of the stages a person goes through when grieving a loss. Grief is a process that takes time, and support. I recommended family members of a person with an addiction to seek their own professional support, such as individual therapy and family therapy. The person with addiction should seek their own substance use specific therapy and have a period of remission/abstinence prior to engaging in family therapy. It is not the family member’s responsibility to find the “right” treatment program for their loved one but one of collaboration. If the family member is the enabler, they will make the decisions and the person with addiction, if they fail, will not be accountable for their relapse or lapses. There are resources like NAMI family, local support groups focus on the members and setting boundaries, as well as, understanding what addiction is and help one another through their experiences. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a National Helpline 1(800) 662-4357for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Addiction is not a choice. There are stages in recovery and understanding the stages helps guide treatment. The addicted family member should seek individual support and their own treatment, just as the family member. Treating both the addiction and any mental health issues at the same time is often effective for co-occurring disorders because of the ways that these conditions interact with each other. If one disorder is left untreated, it can worsen and negatively affect any progress made to treat the other disorder. Additionally, the two conditions may be related to each other in complex ways, so treating them simultaneously offers the person the best opportunity to address these relationships and figure out how best to manage both disorders daily.
(LCSW, LCAS-A, CADC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

I am wanting to cut right down on alcohol and not stop completely, is this achievable?

Dear Patzy,   Thank you for your message and sharing. It seems that the drinking behavior you've been engaging is causing you harm and damage, also to your family. I appreciate your trust and courage in acknowledging these facts and your willingness in learning to change them.   You mentioned that your primary goal is to change some of the destructive behaviors. This prompted me to be thinking if we should do a exploration on what drew us into these behaviors at the first place? As you might already know, we cannot just force our way out of something without understanding why we got into it at the first place, otherwise what we're doing isn't really bringing closure to it, rather we're just trying to suppress it until it comes back to surface again.   Therefore if you truly want a closure to these behaviors, we might want to study a bit about it and the functions it serve in your life.   Behavior is what we humans do. Behavior is observable and measurable. Whether it is walk from one place to another or to crack our knuckles, behavior serves some "function" or the other.   The behaviors that you mentioned you wanted to change, are definitely behaviors that have functions.   Applied Behavior Analysis, the research based approach to modifying behavior, seeks to find the "function" of an inappropriate behavior in order to find a replacement behavior to replace it. Every behavior serves some function, and provides a consequence (reinforcement) for the behavior.   When we successfully identify the "function" of the behavior we can reinforce an alternate, acceptable behavior that will replace it. When we have that particular "need" or function fulfilled by an alternate means, the mal-adaptive or unacceptable behavior is less likely to reappear. Let say if someone needs attention, and we give them attention in an appropriate way because of appropriate behavior, we cement the appropriate behavior and make the inappropriate or unwanted behavior less likely to appear.    For instance we can teach someone to respect our boundaries by responding to them only when they respect our boundaries, and ignore them when they don't.   The reason why I am bringing up functions behind our behaviors is that if we are to change a certain behavior (let say cheating for example), we must understand what motivates us / drives us to cheat. That way if we understand the reward behind the cheating (for example, being listened to, the thrill of getting to know someone of the opposite sex, fulfilling our sexual desires...etc), then we can decide how to develop alternative strategies to meet these needs without engaging in unwanted behaviors.   To begin with, let's understand the 6 primary functions behind every behaviors:   1. To obtain a preferred item or activity. (For example, we engage in sexual activities in order to meet our sexual needs.)   2. Escape or avoidance. The behavior helps the us to escape from a setting or activity that we don't want. (For example, we lie so that we won't get caught)   3. To get attention from others. (For example, we choose what we wear thinking about how we want others to look at us.)   4. To communicate. (Similar to no.3, we when we get upset we raise our voice around so that people will know that we are upset)    5. Self Stimulation, when the behavior itself provides reinforcement. (For example, we engage in gambling because the process in itself gives us thrill and excitement).   6. Control or Power. Some of us feel particularly powerless and a problem behavior may give us a sense of power or control. (For example, we put others down so that we feel superior over them, in order to protect ourselves or have control over the other person).   The next step is to identify the function behind our behaviors:   Antecedent -- Behavior - Consequence   Antecedent: the environment in which the behavior occurs, the circumstances that surround the occurrence of the behavior or people in the environment when the behavior occurs.   Behavior: The behavior, what we actually do, needs to be defined.   Consequence:  Everything that happens after the behavior, including how people respond to the behavior, what happens to us after the behavior.   The clearest evidence of how a behavior functions for us is seen in the Antecedent (A) and the Consequence (C.)   The Antecedent is everything that happens immediately before the behavior occurs. It is sometimes also referred to as "the Setting Event" but a setting event may be part of the antecedent, but not the whole.    We would ask "Is there something in the environment that may lead to the behavior (let say we tend to cheat when we feel lonely or neglected by our partner)   "Is there something that happens in that environment that seems to have a causal relationship, like after fighting with our partner, or feeling rejected?   The Consequence part: The term consequence has a very specific meaning, which at the same time is broader than the use of "consequence," as it usually is, to mean "punishment." The consequence is what happens as the result of the behavior.   That consequence is usually the "reward" or "reinforcement" for the behavior. Do we enjoy getting away from our actions? Do we enjoy the secret part in keeping a cheating relationship? Do we enjoy seeing how attractive we are by cheating? It is usually in how the consequence interacts with the antecedent that we can find the function of the behavior.   In drinking behaviors, these questions can help us understand why we drink and what sort of rewards / consequences do we get (or get away with) from drinking. Are we using alcohol to get rid / avoid certain emotions such as stress or boredom? Are we using alcohol to achieve a certain state of mind such as relaxation or happiness?    This framework might give us something to think about in terms of why we do what we do.   Once we have some answers, then it'll be our choice to decide whether or not we want to change, and how if we do want to change.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

No question

Thank-you for reaching out to better help for assistance. I look forward to assisting you. Sounds like you are saying that you have a serious drug addiction and that you are destroying your life every weekend. You stated that you have a good career, beautiful girlfriend and family that cares for you. You state that no one know how bad your addiction is besides your girlfriend. You stated that your addictions are alcohol and cocaine.  You state you have developed a form of torettes or tics when you think of something embarrassing. Yes, addictions are serious and hard to control and stop but you can do it. The most important step is that you are reaching out for help and that you are saying that you have a problem and that it is affecting your life. You are the one that has to decide you are sick and tired of how things are going and that you want to stop using alcohol and cocaine. These type of substances are very addicting and take time to get off and stop. The urge to use is very great. Our brains release dopamine chemical that is a reward. When this dopamine is released it makes the person feel good and happy. They might realize they don't like using but they like that dopamine and feeling and you have to really want to stop using. You could think of going to a substance abuse counselor for treatment. This would probably be a good idea so someone can monitor your progress. Also AA is a good program to go to for support. I would apply the cognitive behavioral therapy/ CBT  therapy. This therapy challenges your thoughts and beliefs to get the best possible outcome for yourself.  I would apply the ABC Method or CBT skill. A= the activating event, B= your thoughts and beliefs, C= the outcome or consequence. The key is to challenge your B or thoughts and beliefs to get the best C or outcome and consequence for yourself.  Your activating event is your usage of alcohol and cocaine and wanting to stop. When you have this urge or desire you do not want to be implusive and go from A to C and not think about it. You want to apply the B and challenge your thoughts and beliefs. Think and ask yourself is this the right thing for me to do or the wrong thing for me to do. Ask yourself will using help or hurt me?  Than you need to divert your activities to something else like going for a walk , talking to someone or doing something else. After about 1 hour your desire to use should decrease. You will need to do this everytime you have the desire to use alcohol and cocaine. You may make a mistake but get back on challenging your thoughts and beliefs. It may take a month or so but you soon will change your habits, if you stick with this and your desire to use alcohol and cocaine will decrease. I hope this helped you and I wish you the best. I look forward to hearing from you.
(LPC, NCC, MS)
Answered on 10/18/2021

I really need a counselor, but my financial situation is not supportive

Dear Mawenya,   Thank you for your message.   Changing an addictive behavior takes time and determination, as it is a process, not a goal.   There are two main aspects of working with addictive behaviors, and you have mentioned them both already: physical and mental.   There is surely a physical aspect when it comes to substance use therefore I would certainly recommend checking in with a chemical dependency counselor regarding the physiological aspect of detoxing and quitting. There needs to be a systematic step in this process otherwise we are just simply suppressing, not necessarily quitting.   To supplement the physical process of quitting, we also need to pave the ground mentally to accept that this is a process that requires time and patience, and it would be wise to also include relapse in this process. That is when being free from shame is crucial. We will have a relapse and we will fail (eventually everyone does in whatever we do in life), the matter is how to pick ourselves up again without blaming ourselves or shaming ourselves for our mistakes/failures. That takes a constant practice of self-compassion, acceptance and develop a mindset to be patient with ourselves and be non-judgmental with ourselves.   When people first become sober, they tend to be highly motivated. Their new life is exciting, and the world appears full of possibilities. As time passes, the newness of recovery fades away. Even when the sober life is so much more rewarding than the life of the addict the individual can begin to take things for granted. Eventually their motivation to stay sober begins to wane, and the risk of relapse increases. This is why one of the biggest challenges in recovery from addiction is to stay motivated.   It is sometimes said in a negative way that certain people lack motivation. This type of criticism is often not a true reflection of what is happening because even the person who sits around all day can be motivated. The problem is not so much that they lack motivation, but that they are motivated to do what other people would consider to be the wrong things. In simple terms, motivation can be described as the driving force behind action.   It is possible to distinguish two type of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. If people do things because they feel that it is good or right, then this would be referred to as intrinsic motivation. When people do things because of external pressure or influence, this is referred to as extrinsic motivation.   Sobriety is a Process and Not an Event   The idea that people just give up their addiction, and automatically live happily ever after, is a myth. This is because there will have been a reason why the individual fell into addiction in the first place; that reason will probably still be there when they get sober. The usual motivation for why people turn to substance abuse is an inability to cope with life– they will have been relying on ineffective coping strategies. If this individual just gives up alcohol or drugs without making any other changes, then they will just be back where they started. More work is needed so that this person is not only able to escape their addiction but also build a good life. This is why it is sometimes said that recovery is a process and not an event. As you have mentioned through your words, the individual who passes through rehab does not graduate. The journey is only just beginning.   Achieving Emotional Sobriety and Serenity   From my experience, those individuals who build a successful life away from addiction need to develop emotional sobriety. This means that they have developed the ability to deal with their emotions in a positive way. An emotionally sober person no longer needs to run away and hide from life in a bottle or drug induced haze. Instead, they are ready and willing to deal with life on life’s terms. They are willing to feel their feelings. This is where self-compassion comes into play. If we are unable to be compassionate towards ourselves, rather treat ourselves with harshness and sabotage our self-worth when we fail, you can imagine we will have a hard time developing emotional sobriety.   Another quality that people can develop in sobriety is serenity. This is closely related to emotional sobriety but can take much longer to develop. Serenity is the goal of the 12 Step program, but it can be achieved by people who walk other paths in recovery. It is a stage of development where the individual is able to handle anything that happens in their life without too much inner turmoil.   People develop serenity by constantly facing the challenges that come their way. As they deal with each unique problem, they develop new coping strategies. These coping strategies are like tools that they have to add to their toolbox. Eventually, the individual reaches a stage where they have tools to deal with almost every eventuality. They have developed serenity and life becomes easier. When the person reaches this stage of sobriety they have the ability to feel happy no matter what is happening in the outside world.   The Reasons People Lose Motivation in Long-term Recovery   There are many possible reasons for why people lose motivation after they have been sober for a few months or years. These are some of the most prominent:   * Memory can be treacherous for people who are recovering from an addiction. This is because the memory of how painful things were in addiction can diminish over time, and the individual can start to spend a great deal of time thinking about the times they felt good because of alcohol or drugs. This is known as romancing the drug or drink, and it can cause people to lose their motivation to stay sober.   * When people enter recovery with expectations that are unrealistic, it can lead to disappointment, and this saps motivation. The individual did not make a mess of their life overnight, so they will not be able to repair the damage overnight either. By giving up alcohol or drugs, they will be taking a significant step towards a better life, but there will be more work that needs to be done.   * Those individuals who were highly enthusiastic in early recovery can run out of steam. This is particularly likely to happen if they the individual went through a period of pink cloud syndrome. This occurs when people become so high on life in recovery that they lose touch with reality. Staying sober becomes easy, and the individual begins to take their sobriety for granted. When the pink cloud ends, people can come back down to earth with a bang. They can become disillusioned with life in recovery.   * Some people just lose their way in recovery. They get caught up in life and they forget to keep on doing the things that is helping them to build a successful recovery.   Dangers of Relapse and Dry Drunk Syndrome   Losing motivation in recovery is dangerous because it means that the individual can become stuck. This means that they may be in danger of a relapse back to their addiction because life in recovery is no longer satisfying. Even if the individual does not relapse they can still develop dry drunk syndrome. The dry drunk sees their sobriety as being similar to a prison sentence. They are not happy in recovery, and their behavior can be just as maladaptive as when they were in the midst of their addiction. The dry drunk has not emotional sobriety so they are unable to find real happiness. Such individuals are usually full of anger and resentment.   How to Stay Motivated in Long-term Sobriety   Staying motivated in long-term sobriety takes effort. These are some of the most successful strategies those in recovery employ:   * Helping other people in recovery is one of the most effective ways to stay motivated. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say that you have to give it away to keep it, and this is what helping others is about. It reminds people in recovery about where they have come from, and what they would be going back to if they ever relapsed. By helping other people stay sober, the individual is strengthening their own recovery.   * Staying involved in the addiction recovery community can also keep people motivated. The individual may decide to join a recovery fellowship or become involve with an online community. There are now plenty of resources that people can turn to that will keep them connected with the world of recovery.   * Journaling has helped many people stay motivated in recovery. It means that the individual is always reflecting on their experiences and can more clearly see their progress. If people feel that they are starting to lose interest in recovery, they can read back on earlier journal entries and re-energize their motivation.   * Some rehabs offer booster sessions, and these can be a great resource for clients who wish to revamp their motivation.   * Maintaining a recovery blog can help people stay motivated in long-term sobriety. It is also a chance for people to help others and build up a network of online recovery friends. By regularly posting about their experiences in recovery, the individual is encouraged to reflect on their progress and think about their aspiration. It can be a type of journal. If people do not like writing, they could have an audio blog (_podcast_) or a video blog (_vlog_).   * Some people who use a recovery program such as the 12 Steps find that this helps keeps them motivated. The work of the steps is never finished, and having a program that has already worked for many people may mean that the individual is less likely to lose their way.   * Finding a spiritual path in recovery can help the individual maintain their motivation to stay sober. This could include meditation training such as mindfulness or body and mind regimes such as yoga.   * Some individuals have expectations of recovery that are too low. This means that they are prepared to settle for less than what is actually possible. It is important that people have goals in their sobriety and that they work towards achieving these.   If you are interested in addressing issues with substance use, I would certainly recommend that you seek help with a professional chemical dependency counselor in your region. They are the experts in working with substance use and addictions, and they would have the tools and the accountability that you are looking for to change your substance use. If you are worried about cost, I would definitely recommend calling your insurance provider since often they have a list of providers in their network that can provide treatment at an affordable cost. This is also up to how ready you are to begin this process / how urgent do you feel that you need to treat this behavior. We all have our own timing and only you know when it is best to begin this process yourself :)   The last and final step in overcoming the shame of addiction is to forgive yourself. Choose to forgive yourself for every wrong step you took that led you into your addiction and kept you in it. Most likely, you were doing the very best you could with the knowledge and tools you had at the time.   Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can you be intimate with your husband when they keep hurting you?

I'm so sorry to hear that you're going through all of that; that must be a daily struggle for you. I can't even imagine what it must be like--especially after 15 years together--to have to feel like you have to hold the family together like that when your husband isn't willing to put forth the same effort. Often in families where one partner has a problem with alcohol use or another addiction, it is very common for other family members to feel as though they have to make excuses for the person's behaviors, might feel responsible for the person's behaviors, or might even feel immense guilt and shame because of the person's behaviors--when those feelings really belong to the substance user.    If your husband is truly unwilling to make changes, it might definitely be worth your while to consider what the next 15 years might look like if you choose to remain in the situation with him. Although I am certain you care for him and probably even still feel love for him, can your own emotional health tolerate another 15 years of the same behaviors? If not, it might be worth thinking about an exit plan--both for your own sake, as well as for the sake of the children.    It might also be of benefit to you to consider getting involved in Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous. These are 12-step organizations with peer support groups (these are not psychotherapy/counseling groups), who can give you the additional needed emotional support while you are trying to figure this situation out and the long-term ramifications it may have for both you and your children. Al-Anon has information on it's website to help you better understand how it can help (https://al-anon.org/newcomers/how-can-i-help-my/alcoholic-spouse-or-partner/), as does Codependents Anonymous (https://coda.org/meeting-materials/patterns-and-characteristics-2011/). Both organizations offer meetings in person, as well as online and via telephone.   It might also be worth considering what attracted you to your husband in this first place. Often, individuals who tolerate these sorts of behaviors can have difficulty meeting their own emotional needs and end up attracted to others, who they perceive need their help or assistance in some way--definitely something, with which a competent psychotherapist can help you to explore.   Whatever you decide to ultimately do, I sincerely hope that you will consider how continuing to tolerate these sorts of behaviors will ultimately impact you and your children and that you will make yourself a priority--even if your husband chooses not to do so. Wishing you all the very best.
(MS, LPC-S, NCC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

I believe I need help with not blaming myself and being shameful

Hi, there. Thanks for reaching out to us at Better Help. My name is Stacey Shine and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor. I read over your question and am hopeful I can help. I worked specifically with the addiction population for several years. It sounds like you have given your son all the resources he needs to be successful in his recovery. I wish it was as easy as handing out the tools he will need. Unfortunately, addiction is very complicated. Many people view addiction as a disease and one that takes constant care to manage but there is no magic medication that can make it go away. Your son has to make that choice to become clean and live a sober lifestyle on his own. Recovery comes for people at all different times and it may be that he has not reached his "rock bottom" just yet. Addiction requites a lot of discipline and focus to manage. There are programs such as AA that work for a large number of people who are trying to manage addiction. Typically, these programs are successful due to how easily you can work the steps, it encourages a community environment. Your son may not be at that place where he is ready for all of those things. I think it is important for you to not beat yourself up as a parent for anything that you have done. He is making a choice to choose substances. Often times, those is recovery talk about their family members enabling them by making it easy to stay in that lifestyle even if hidden well. I think you making the choice to cut off finances and other things may be the step needed for him to realize the path he is on. It may not be tomorrow but eventually, that decision may be one that is life saving.  I know that being a parent of someone struggling with addiction is something that can overrtake you. I would suggest surrounding yourself with a support system and be honest with them about your struggles. Model the thing that he needs most which is to accept help from others. I hope that this was helpful. Best of luck to you and your son.
(MS, LPC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

Why is it that amputees tend to isolate themselves and drink to find a little happiness?

Hello, and thank you for writing. I am certainly hearing that you have been through a lot, and I am glad that you reached out. To address your first question, I can't speak for amputees in general, but it definitely sounds like you see your own isolation and drinking as a way of finding some happiness. I also see that you describe yourself as an alcoholic, so I am wondering if you always view your drinking positively. I think anyone who is experiencing pain, be it emotional or physical, looks for ways to help themselves feel better. I also think that sometimes, the solutions we find become less helpful over time, or have unanticipated consequences. I am curious about your perspective. I hear you say that you think of yourself as normal for you rather than normal for others. You also say that you like your life as it is. It may be that you have found a system which completely works for you and fully meets your needs, which would be great! I also know that if we sit in it long enough, a bad situation becomes what feels normal, and sometimes even what feels safe. I find myself wondering if there are any ways in which your isolationist lifestyle doesn't totally work for you, or if there are things you sometimes feel are missing. I am hearing quite a bit of tension between you and your family in what you describe. It sounds like at times it matters to you what they think of you, while at other times, you may brush it off. You mention that they see you as worthless, and I am wondering how you perceive your own worth.  The kinds of experiences you allude to have a tendency to leave their marks, and I am getting the impression that you are in touch with that. It can be helpful to talk through these things with someone who can listen without judgment and assist you in considering your full range of options for dealing with them. If you're open to it, I'd love the opportunity to hear more of your thoughts. Either way, I wish you good luck.   Warmly,   Kate
(MA, LPC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

I can’t afford this. Need help with alcoholism.

Hello,   I commend you in wanting to recover from alcoholism. Thanks for reaching out with your question. It is not easy admitting we need help, and you are showing courage in reaching our for help. I am sorry to hear that you are unemployed. You are right that coping skills and managing stress and anxiety helps to reduce the need for alcohol to remedy problems. Have you tried reaching out to an Alcohol Anonymous support group or engaging in one or two sessions to help establish some goals to work on? Thanks for reaching our with your question. Alcohol Anonymous groups are locally in most areas and are great supportive groups. These groups are also important because you will be among those who understand your struggles and can offer hope in difficult times. The sponsor system is essential and provides a guide to help during the challenges of recovery. Some important things to remember is that changing people, places, and things will be so key. This is important because people, places, or things may trigger old habits that may lead to posssibly drinking. This is especially true about environments also.  One significant part of recovery is family support. Have you informed family members that you are trying to stop driking and are interested in professional help. Resarch supports that family involvment in recovery increases chances of sobriety. Who in your family is an asset to your sobriety and are willing to help you and attend family groups that help family members understand alcohol addiction. Have you tried stop drinking in the past? What was helpful? What do you think was a challenge and how are you preparing to overcome these challenges this time around?  Recovery is a large task to navigate on your own. Counseling services can help you establish goals and work on other areas that you may feel have been impacted by your history of drinking.   I hope this summary is helpful, and again I commend you for stepping out on your journey of recovery. Have faith in yourself, and believe that you can have recovery. Take care, stay safe, and be well!   Meridith Graham, LISW-CP
(MSW, LISW-CP, CCTP)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How do I stop overthinking and questioning everything?

It is true that what is easy to say is not always easy to do. Sometimes, when coming from a position of already going through something, it is easy to simply repeat what was done without the deeper understanding of how to help another person go through their own process. Giving up power or control is the basis of many issues that we all go through. We do not like to think of the world as a place we cannot influence to better ourselves. In fact, we are taught to do everything we can to continue to shape and change our reality for the better. We set up ways to defend ourselves unconsciously from anything we do not think we are ready to deal with. These are termed "defense mechanisms" and there are many of them. These defense mechanisms are put in place to protect ourselves in the moment, but they continue to stay activated and end up doing more harm than good if not examined. We are safeguarded from an aspect of reality we are not ready to handle until we have the skills and confidence to challenge that. Without getting there on our own, an outside voice telling your mind to give up those safeguards is going to be met with a lot of resistance. Your mind does not feel ready to Let Go and Let God. Intellectualizing helps to distance ourselves from our emotions. You may have this unconscious defense mechanism set up, because a part of you does not feel ready to give up that control. Maybe you don’t yet feel confident in yourself or the process of “letting go”. To challenge this, work with your defenses, not against them. First, accept your resistance for what it is and that it once and maybe now has a purpose. It is telling you that some part of you is not ready. Is there something you are not ready to face? In recovery, we start to realize that drugs and alcohol kept us away from something in reality we did not want to face. Unfortunately, whatever that is does not go away. Drugs and alcohol are their own type of defense mechanism. Instead of dealing with a particular trauma, guilt, depressions, anxiety, or other aspect of life drugs and alcohol allow a person to escape reality for a moment. When that use becomes long-term there is no actual coping skills gained to start dealing with that reality. In recovery, those forms of escape leave us high and dry to deal with reality on our own. Next, begin increasing self-awareness. Therapy is a great way to do this, work with your therapist to gain more self-awareness. Find a counselor that challenges your thoughts and helps you find your motivation and work towards your goals. Keep a daily journal of struggles, successes and goals. Writing things out helps to clarify those questions that keep coming up. It physically tiring to keep writing all those thoughts and questions that go through our head and the answers to them. Journaling and writing disrupts the process. Meditation can also improve your ability to listen without judgement and anxiety . Mindful meditation is a skill that not only improves insight and awareness but also helps quiet the mind. When we feel calm and relaxed, our mind does not kick into overdrive so easily and frustration and judgment are not as easy to come to. Start developing healthier coping skills that work for you. The most important thing I can say about coping skills is to figure out what they are before you need them. Think about them now, not while feeling frustrated, lonely, angry, or stressed. Coping skills that are healthy include walking, being outside, reading a book, talking to a supportive friend, exercise, hobbies, writing, journaling, singing, taking a bath, etc. Determine what helps you calm down and feel ready to take on the next challenge. Write out goals you have for yourself and check back on them often. Many times we are trying to achieve something (like hearing a story and believing it without question) but we do not know why we are doing it or what we will get out of it when we do it. By writing out and daily checking in with the goals we set for ourselves, we increase the motivation to work on them, even the ones that are not easy or fun to do every day. Actively question and challenge your own thoughts. If you hear yourself pondering and questioning and feeling frustrated, challenge your beliefs. Ask yourself what underlying belief you hold that leads to that frustration. Allow yourself to be frustrated and accept that you are frustrated by a part of life that you cannot change. Eventually you will get to the place where the resistance stops being useful and you are able to let go of it and feel confident that you now have the skills to move forward, working towards goals, and feeling better. You may find that what you were originally trying to hear was not very good advice for you. Maybe it is said in a way that feels judgmental and not supportive, just the way you are feeling frustrated hearing it. The good news is that by working in these areas you have a better headspace to allow other people to give advice while having the awareness and insight to decide what works best for you.
Answered on 10/18/2021

Been trying to stop drinking but habits and crutches keep stopping me. What are the first steps?

Hello and thank you for your question! You have not provided with specific information that can help me give you a more specific response. That being said, I will be as thorough as possible to assist you. First, per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Alcohol misuse Alcohol misuse describes alcohol consumption that puts individuals at increased risk for adverse health and social consequences. It is defined as excess daily consumption (more than 4 drinks per day for men or more than 3 drinks per day for women), or excess total consumption (more than 14 drinks per week for men or more than 7 drinks per week for women), or both. Alcohol misuse is a pattern of drinking that results in harm to one’s health, interpersonal relationships or ability to work. Alcohol dependence, also known as alcohol addiction and alcoholism, is a chronic disease and is associated with experiencing withdrawal symptoms, loss of control, or alcohol tolerance. This, is a general definition, but you can see the description and assess if this resonates with you in any way. Consider, if by drinking alcohol, you are encountering difficulties, physical, emotional, relational, and connected with your functioning. The second point I will bring, is that I would encourage you to consider the interest you are presenting in terms of your choices. Change or decisions connected to change, ideally, should come from you. I can completely understand the notion of "promising" other, significant others in your life, but usually this does not help your process. This, because the commitment or the motor of the change process should come from you; this, of course, could be supported by others- friends or family members. However, your choice should be yours. From the limited information you are presenting, I think it would be worth considering if you are open and interested in exploring what is occurring or how are you feeling and the possible connections to other instances or situations in your life. For example, you mention the connection between drinking and work stress. In all fairness, it is possible to get to the root of your concerns and to discover and understand where this is coming from. A mental health professional is prepared to assist people with concerns such as yours. At the minimum, you will be able to clarify how you are feeling and at the same time you will be able to acquire coping skills to deal and manage with your emotions, ideas and behaviors. This, if you consider this is a positive step for you. Hope this helps in terms of your question or concern. Good luck in your process and take care!
Answered on 10/18/2021

Marriage issues

It sounds like you are caught in a codependent cycle. The alcohol is the third party in your relationship, and for now, it seems he is more interested in that than you. There's no reason to feel guilty, he is choosing it himself. He may be what is called "Gaslighting" you, where he gets you to doubt the reality you know to be true. It sounds like he is possibly going to need substance abuse treatment and counseling to help him with his addiction. You need to find a safe place to take your twins and see if he is agreeable to getting help, otherwise, nothing will change. If you have a women's shelter nearby you might contact them as well. I'd start by building up your self-esteem and helping you understand the cycle of abuse so as to overcome your guilt--which he wants you to feel. Think about whether you want your children to grow up in a family where there is the constant presence of fear and violence. That's no way for you or them to live. If you can, find the book "CoDependent No More" by Claudia Black, it's a good overview of substance abuse dynamics. Talk to others, your family, pastor, friends, see what options they suggest. Also look for someone who can be supportive of you, you need to surround yourself with people who believe in you. When you married, you had dreams about this relationship. What has changed? We all change over time, but it sounds like you are disillusioned, like you have lost your dreams. What needs to happen to make new dreams? Can you do it with your husband as he is now? If not, what would have to change? What is the smallest thing your husband would need to change that would tell you you can safely stay in this marriage? Sometimes people marry thinking they can change their partner, but the reality is that nobody changes unless they are uncomfortable, and it sounds as though your husband is not uncomfortable yet. I want you to not give up hope for yourself and your twins. Things can and will get better.
(LCPC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

Please help me turn my life around

You have reached out and that is a very good thing which credits you with courage and integrity. Because you have made the decision to seek help things are turning around for you and starting now your recovery and life begins anew. Feeling lonely is a very human experience that we all must deal with and we do so by attempting to make connections with not only other people, but substances like drugs and alcohol. Whatever the reasons we tell ourselves are the causes of our continued use of drugs and alcohol the real reasons begin to loose their significance as the reality of addiction takes its hold on us. There comes a point when we realize that we are no longer using the drugs and alcohol, but now it is controlling us and we have lost the will and ability to stop using on our own. The substances we once relied upon to help us cope become the controlling issue that now controls us. In the world of Recovery where the 12 Steps are used the very first step is essential. It is the recognition that we are not in control anymore and it’s the drugs and/or alcohol that is in control. We then find ourselves in a life or death struggle where the addiction takes on a life of its own it seems and it will use every emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual trick it can to keep itself alive and thriving. The good news is we are not in this war alone. Millions have gone before us and are presently enjoying sober, sane and serene living. It was and remains to be an everyday struggle where we must choose everyday a life of complete honesty and surrender. It is not easy. But the alternative is death. To choose life and to choose sobriety and sanity is done not on our own. On our own we stay using and stay a drunk. For sobriety and sanity to be gained we will need to not only reach out once, but begins to live in a reality of reaching out and being helped and in ourselves helping others in this journey. It can and is done! Without sobriety and sanity we are doomed to live a life of desperation and all the human ills that come along with the addicted life like shame, guilt, regret and resentment will be our daily lot. When you are ready to admit you are powerless over the addictions and need help in order to live forward then help is here and always ready to begin with you. It will not be easy. The real things of life never are, but it will be life and the worth of life Iglesia without saying. So right now, today, you decide. Will it be death, which is a certainty with addictions, or will it be life at whatever the cost?
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can I begin to trust myself? My instincts, my gut feeling, etc.

Hi Sasa, I'm so sorry to hear about the sexual assault that you suffered, and for another second time in March. A traumatic incident like that ... can really make a negative impression in a lot of areas in your personality and your life. If you haven't processed this traumatic incident, it's normal that you are experiencing anxiety and depression. However, I would like to know if you have always felt anxious and depressed...or if you started to feel this way after the sexual assault. Usually if you are anxious, then you will be depressed, that's how it goes, why? because if I have been feeling so anxious for a long time, I may start feeling like.... this is too much.... I'm tired of feeling this way, thus, the depression shows up, the go hand in hand. The fact that you lose interest in doing activities that at first you felt excited about them...it may be because of the depression that you are experiencing. There's nothing wrong if you put yourself first, I need to take care of myself first, in order for me to be able to see for other people. I wonder... what makes you think that you may let people down...I wonder if this your own perception, ...or maybe you would like to analyze the expectations that people have for you and vice versa. When you are saying: "I tend to overthink everything" this is part of the symptoms of anxiety.... doubting about myself constantly.... but also, it maybe due to past trauma or the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that you may be experiencing. Feeling insecure about yourself.... It may be because of the sexual assault... or I wonder when did you start feeling this way... "I sound uneducated or stupid whenever I say anything" .... it seems to me that this is your perception. I wonder if you have a history of having being bullied...? or if you had a stressful incident that made you feel this way.... If you were bullied at some point in your life, it's very common to feel insecure about yourself, feeling socially anxious, taking things personally, feeling on the spot, doubting yourself constantly, and also it can create anxiety and depression. The fact that you are now in college, you are concerned about yourself, you have plans for your life, makes me think that you are an interesting and fun person. Again... this might be because you had a difficult or painful experience that made you feel this way....? People have hurt you and made you believe it's your fault...I would like to know more about it. You have the right to experience your own emotions and feelings. You want to feel confident about allowing yourself to experience those emotions. so what to do now? Attend therapy, this would be a great idea. Focus on your own journey so that you can work on yourself. Sometimes, it's important to go back to some past chapters in our lives so that we can understand what we need to understand, clean our past so that the past doesn't keep coming back to the present and spoil the present. Sasa you deserve to be happy, live the life that you want and deserve, and see your dreams come true. Attending therapy can help you a lot. Give yourself the opportunity to be happy. I'm here for you, I can help you! we can work together :)
(PhD, LMHC, CHT, CST, CERTIFIED, EMDR.)
Answered on 10/18/2021