In a Relationship with Alcohol

Drinking in a relationship isn’t always an issue.  Sometimes both people drink responsibly and there aren’t any problems.  When it does become a problem is when one person drinks a lot more than their partner.  It can be very frustrating when the one you love loves to drink and party with their friends every weekend.

I’ve worked with several students who started out in a relationship with both of them drinking a lot at first.  Unfortunately, we all know drinking is very common in college.  You may have even met your boyfriend or girlfriend at a party while drinking.  However, as the relationship progresses and you look towards graduation some students start to feel like their relationship is pulling apart.  I’ve had students tell me they feel like they are moving past the party scene in their lives, but don’t think their boyfriend or girlfriend is.  Every weekend is still devoted to going out to a party and drinking until their partner passes out.  Then they have to take care of them and get them home safe.

This can cause a lot of stress on the relationship.  Most people know that you can’t change someone else.  But what if you change and your partner doesn’t?  What do you do?  You love them.  When you spend time together during the week not drinking you are convinced this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.  But when it comes to them being drunk on Friday and Saturday night again, you aren’t so sure.  It also doesn’t help that arguments start a lot more frequently when one or both people have been drinking.  Then Sunday is spent waiting for them to stop feeling hung over so you can talk about what happened over the weekend.

It is the same old discussion over and over.  They either tell you to get over it and you do, or they realize you are about to walk out on them and they apologize.  They may even agree to drink less or spend one night on the weekend with you alone not drinking.  This may happen a couple of times but as soon as their friends call and persuade them to come to the next party, you are pushed to second place again.  Trust me, it isn’t an easy place to be in a relationship.

The choices aren’t easy.  They never are.  I’m not accusing your boyfriend or girlfriend of being an alcoholic.  But anyone who has grown up with an alcoholic knows the excuses and the repeat pattern of behaviors.  It also happens in relationships well before couples get married.  Often in college it is hard to tell who will be the ones who go on to drink heavily for the rest of their lives and who will stop partying once they graduate and get a full time job.  A lot of young couples in college are hoping their boyfriend or girlfriend is going to be in the latter category.

You may be one of those people hoping your partner may change once college is over so you continue to give them a chance when they put alcohol before you now.  It is hard to know what the future will bring.  For some of you, waiting may pay off.  Your partner may grow up, mature and alcohol won’t be an issue.  For some of you, waiting is going to only make things worse.  You will continue to grow more resentful.  Unless you decide to love them as is and accept the drinking.  Just know they won’t be able to stop because you want them to.  They will need some internal motivation to want to stop on their own.  Some people do grow out of the college party mode and others don’t.

Time will tell.   No one knows what’s going to happen in the future.  However, some patterns become very predictable.  If your partner loves to party and has a huge group of friends who condone that lifestyle, it may be harder for them to settle down.  Unfortunately lots of people continue to drink heavily even when they get into a career and have a family.  Especially if they have someone who is always there to help them clean up their messes.

I know you can love someone so much that you just want to make it work any way you can.  There are truly selfless people out there that handle being second best to alcohol or friends.  Just ask Gene Simmons of the band, KISS.  His wife put up with A LOT for many years.  She finally put her foot down and Gene has changed his ways.  Gene is also in his 60′s and she has been living with him cheating and drinking for almost 30 years.  It can be done, but know that you don’t have to always put someone else first.  There is nothing wrong with admitting that you can’t be with someone who puts alcohol or their friends first.  You do deserve someone who can give you what you need.

It is one of the toughest decisions you will make.  It won’t be easy to know what the best option is.  I know I’ve said this before, but your level of pain tolerance is what is going to ultimately decide for you.  Either your boyfriend or girlfriend does settle down, or they will put you through a lot of pain.  When the pain becomes too much then you’ll know when the relationship has crossed the line of no return.  It really sucks to be put in this position.  You also aren’t stupid for trying to make it work.  The person you love is in there, they just also love alcohol.  Unfortunately things like alcohol and drugs make people blind to priorities.  Only you know whether it is worth it to wait it out or not.  Also know that it isn’t a waste of time to wait.  Whatever happens you will survive it, and this relationship will go on to shape who you become.  Hopefully no matter what, you come out stronger and smarter.  Hang in there!

Pornography and Relationships

When people find out I have training in sex addiction they tend to be more bold and ask me questions about it.  The questions I get most often surround internet pornography.   A lot of the time, the questions are about whether someone needs to tell their partner about it, or how to bring it up in a relationship.

First of all, internet pornography isn’t a problem in all relationships.  Some couples watch it together and use it to enhance their sex life.  Other couples don’t mind that their significant other has his/her own sexual fantasy world outside of their relationship.  However, sometimes it is a problem.  Most of the time it is because the person is using it too much, or is lying about using it at all.  Internet pornography isn’t the root of all evil, it mostly comes down to how you are using it and whether you’ve made it a “secret” part of your life.

If it has been kept a secret then it can cause a huge problem in the relationship.  If someone doesn’t own up to their use of internet pornography, and it’s discovered by their partner, it can cause trust issues.  If you are lying about your internet pornography use, then know it is only a matter of time before it blows up in your face.  Most people lie about it because they are ashamed of it or feel they are using it too often and don’t want to admit the frequency.  Either way, if you are too afraid to be open about it, you have a problem.

If it is a problem, you need to figure out why.  Is it because someone told you it was wrong, disrespectful, disgusting or perverted?  If the answer is yes, then you have a couple choices before you.  You can agree with the belief above that it is wrong, disrespectful, disgusting or perverted and work to find more right, respectful, acceptable or better things to do with your time.  You can also learn to change your belief and let go of the shame holding you back.  Neither of these options is easy, but they are necessary to resolve guilty or shameful feelings.

Is it because you believe your partner would reject you or make you stop if he/she knew?  If the answer is yes, then you again have a couple of options.  You can find someone who won’t reject you, or stop before they find out.  The other option is to be open and honest about it and see what happens.  Lying is not an option.

If you are in a relationship where your partner is against internet or any other form of pornography, take a step back and figure out what is more important to you.  Obviously, if you could keep both, you would.  However, if you have to make a choice, weigh the pros and cons.  How much does this person mean to you?  Enough to make a sacrifice?  Would you rather lose this person to keep the pornography that seems to relax and distract you from your stressful life?  Most of the time, the pull to internet pornography is the fantasy.  It gets you out of the real world and helps you to find a release.  Some people find it hard to relax without it.  For some people, they may need to let their relationship go until they find someone who is okay with their internet pornography habit.  They realize they don’t want to quit and don’t feel like lying to cover it up.

Other people will find that their relationship is too important to them.  They would rather find another way to relax besides using pornography.  It isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding to find that you don’t NEED to watch porn to get through the day.  Be honest about the fact that you will most likely miss it.  Hopefully your significant other is giving up some stuff for you as well.  Relationships do require sacrifice most of the time.  Everyone wants their cake and eat it too, but in the real world, this isn’t always possible.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that you need to give it up, be aware that it won’t be easy.  You may slip up.  The tendency is to cover up those slips.  Instead, I would encourage you to be open about your struggle.  Let your partner know you are giving this up for them and it isn’t easy for you.  If you don’t share about it, you’ll build resentment in the relationship.  Then it usually comes out in frustration, and you’ll end up throwing it in their face how much you’ve sacrificed.  Telling your partner about your struggle will help them understand you better.  It can help a relationship to admit to your partner how much they mean to you and that you’re willing to give up something you enjoy to make them happy.  If your partner isn’t understanding of your struggle or thinks it’s disgusting that you like porn so much, then you have a whole other problem on your hands.  For you to continue to be honest, you’ll need to be with someone who loves you and wants to try to understand you.  You also will need to get past any shame you may feel about your use.

It really comes down to what you believe about internet pornography and whether you feel okay with what you’re doing.  Remember, you can change your belief, but you can’t change your partner’s.  You can agree to change your habits to please your partner, or find someone who feels the same way you do.  You do have choices, they just won’t all be easy ones.  If you have shame about your pornography use, it will be helpful to find a way to resolve it.  Find a non-judgmental person to help you process your feelings and help you figure out your choices.  You need to decide whether you will make changes to cut back on or eliminate your use of pornography or whether you will accept who you are and what your doing as is.  If you’ve tried to stop and find that you can’t, even with a great relationship as motivation, find a counselor who understands internet pornography and sex addiction to help you.

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In Love with an Addict

I remember what it was like to be in love with an addict.  In my case he was wanting to quit, and I was going to help him.  Of course I didn’t know how bad it was.  Like most addicts, he minimized or denied most of what he was doing.  I believed him because I’m an honest, trusting person.  I got caught up in a rollarcoaster of happiness and disappointment.  I became addicted to wanting to save him.  Leaving the relationship was nearly impossible at first.  It took several tries, great friendship support and few counseling sessions to get me to finally leave.

I hope to give some good insight to those who may still be struggling in this type of relationship today. First, the hook.  I believe people who are addicts have learned or already have a natural tendency to be excellent liars.  I got into the relationship under false pretenses.  He led me to believe he only smoked occasionally.  This made sense because at first he seemed ambitious and fun to be around.  He had goals, was getting his Master’s Degree and seemed to have a very loving family who lived down south.  I didn’t realize how much I was being manipulated.  I really did believe that he liked me and wanted to be drug free.  I also didn’t realize how long, how often, how much, and how many different types of drugs he was using.  I was sucked in by the lies.

After a few months I became familiar with his mood swings.  When he was depressed he would tell me how much he needed me and that I was the reason he wanted to do better in his life.  It is easy to see through all that crap now, but at the time I needed to hear that from someone.  I realize now that if my self-esteem had been stronger, I probably wouldn’t have fell so hard for his lines.  When he was happy, it was so great to be around him.  He would stay drug free for a week, maybe two and I would get my hopes up.  Then the depression and the admission that he had yet again slipped back into old habits.  Little did I know how much he was using behind my back as well.  He was good at hiding it.  I was also naive and didn’t realize all the signs I would notice today.

I see very clearly now how my weaknesses, not just his, played into this whole relationship.  For a long time I blamed him for everything.  I didn’t want to admit that I was co-dependent.  I was finally able to admit the reason I stayed around so long is because I felt empty without him to worry about.  He became my life.  If you asked how I was doing, it would depend on how he was doing.  If he was having a good day or week, so was I.  My purpose in life was to help him.  I realize now, that I have a lot to give the world, whether I’m in a relationship or not.  I also know very well that no one can save anyone else.  I was trying to control his life, and he led me to believe for awhile that I could.  However, all along, he was in control of his destiny and I was just along for the ride.

Being in a relationship with an addict is an allusion.  There is no relationship because addicts are selfish and their partners are usually too selfless.  There is no equality, honesty, trust, or real love.  He was using me, and because of reasons stated above, I was using him.  He may have had moments when he honestly wanted to quit, but they were fleeting.  He wasn’t ready, and I couldn’t make him ready.  He needed to be able to quit for himself, not for me.  That was one of my many mistakes and misguided beliefs.  Sometimes, love doesn’t conquer all.  He needed to love himself before he could love me, and I needed to do the same thing.  We were both missing something.  He looked to drugs to fill the void, and I looked to him.  It didn’t work.  This relationship taught me a lot.  I lived and I learned!

If you are going through something like this, know that you aren’t stupid and you aren’t alone.  It is easy to fall in love with someone when it seems at first that they need you so much, but remember that you can’t rescue them.  You can support them if they decide to change, but you can’t make them change.  You can throw their drugs or alcohol away.  You can hide their porn or lock up their money so they can’t gamble.  They will still find away to get what they want if they want it.  Their addiction comes first.  No matter what you want to believe, they can never put you first if they have an addiction.

It is also true that a person in a relationship with an addict usually puts the addict first and becomes dependent on saving them.  The most important thing to learn is to put yourself first.  You are important too.  That was a big lesson for me to learn.  I know now that I can only control and save myself.  You are just spinning your wheels if you’re focusing all your effort on someone else.  Taking care of yourself isn’t being selfish, its being responsible.  I couldn’t be in a healthy relationship if I didn’t take care of myself.  I would drive my husband crazy.  The best gift you can give your partner is to be a confident, well adjusted person.  Life is a balance.  I found I can take better care of others if I’ve first taken care of myself.  Just because I focused on myself didn’t mean I couldn’t be there for others.

I hope you will remember that as well.  If you want to save anyone in this world, save yourself.  Then you will be able to help the people who really want help.  You know how I know when someone really wants help?  They are willing to go see a professional.  If they think they can do it themselves or have convinced you that they only need you, they are lying about wanting to really change.  I know it won’t be easy to leave, but it may be the only thing that will get them to change.  If they always have you to rescue them, it may make things worse.   I also know some people will never change.  Please focus your energy on what you can control, and try to let go of needing to save anyone else except yourself.  For more information, please see this website:  Co-dependents Anonymous  or see books listed on my page: Great Books on Sex and Relationships.

LGBT Pride

The month of June is now celebrated as LGBT Pride Month.  Chicago has its annual Pride Parade the last Sunday of June.  This date was chosen to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village that started the LGBT movement.  I’ve been wanting to add a category about LGBT relationships on my blog since I started it.  I work with several students who identify as Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual.  I have yet to meet any students who identify as Transgender, but I know they are out there and may read my blog at some point.  I’ve been hesitant to write about LGBT issues only because I don’t have any experience myself being a heterosexual.  I have learned a lot from the people I work with and feel I could write about their experiences with some confidence.  However, I don’t want to misrepresent this population in any way because I have a lot of respect for those who have come out in our culture, which still has many biases towards this population.  I will do my best and am open for any corrective criticism from the LGBT population who may read this blog so I can make the proper corrections if I am wrong in anything I say or represent in my posts.

I thought commemorating the Stonewall Riots was a good way to start my posts focused on LGBT relationships on my blog.  For those gay and straight people out there who are unaware of why Gay Pride Month is in June I will give you a little background.  In the 1950′s and 60′s our government was very anti-homosexual.  Police often raided known gay bars and it was extremely dangerous to be openly gay.  On June 28, 1969 police went to raid the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.  The police lost control and a riot ensued.  More protests continued from the residents of Greenwich Village the next night.  Facing a few obstacles, gays and lesbians finally formed a cohesive community in which they fought for their rights.  The first Gay Pride Marches took place on June 28, 1970 in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots.  Today Gay Pride events are held at the end of June every year for the same reason all over the world.

Being a white heterosexual person in this country I realize that I am very privileged.  Although our country has come a long way in the last 40 years, there is still a lot of hate and ignorance out there when it comes to race and sexual orientation.  I grew up watching tv and seeing a lot of people who look like me, and since I am heterosexual I have witnessed couples on tv who are attracted to the opposite sex like I am.  If I was homosexual I would not have had this privilege.  Many of the LGBT students I talk to at Aurora University have come out.  Most of them feel accepted by the students on campus.  However, most of them admit having memories of when they didn’t feel accepted and felt very alone.  Some of them pretended to be straight in order to fit in.  Some of them were still questioning their sexual orientation but always felt something was different about them.  As a young kid, especially in junior high and high school, most people aspire to fit in and be part of group.  To realize you are different is torture at this age.  Most students will admit having to rely on themselves because there wasn’t anyone to confide or talk to.  This can be dangerous for some people because it leads to substance abuse or depression.  According to the Pride Institute, up to 33% of the lesbian and gay population have difficulty controlling their drug or alcohol use.  This percentage is higher for transgender individuals.  They also report that LGBT people are 2-4 times more likely to experience depression and anxiety than heterosexuals.

Also, because this population is often more autonomous, out of a need to be, they also struggle with relationship issues more often.  A lot of LGBT people admit that they have never learned how to have a healthy homosexual relationship because they never were able to witness one growing up.  Today there are more examples of homosexual relationships in the media, but it is still vastly underrepresented in our culture.  Unless you live in San Francisco, New York, Miami, Chicago or other big cities it is hard to find a community of LGBT people to help young homosexuals learn about relationships.  Many do not know how to manage a healthy sex life or have healthy intimacy in a relationship.  I can’t pretend to have all the answers.  I know some relationship issues are universal and I’m sure LGBT people can find some advice on any of my postings.  However, I also hope to pull out some specific issues concerning the LGBT population when it comes to relationships and write about it here on my blog.  I may ask some people to guest post, and if you are reading this and would like to contribute, please let me know.  For now I will simply link you to a blog that I know is very good written by Brandon Lacy Campos, My Feet Only Walk Forward.  I also recommend reading One Gay At A Time.  Not that either of these blogs provide relationship advice like mine, but they are very good at being honest about being gay in this culture and managing dating, relationship and other life issues.  I will try to add bits of wisdom on this blog as well.  Please be patient as I’m still learning how to provide counseling advice and relationship insights for the LGBT community to give it the honor and respect it deserves.

Weiner Addiction

Okay, I couldn’t pass up the headline from the last couple of days about Representative Anthony Weiner.  What is interesting to me about this story is that Rep. Weiner stated that his wife knew about his online behavior before they were married but was under the assumption that he stopped once they got married.  However, the whole world knows now that he did NOT stop the behavior.

As a counselor I hear about this a lot.  Students or former clients of mine have admitted that they went on porn sites or sent and received naked pictures of themselves to people when they were single.  They also admit to thinking they would be able to stop the behavior once they were in a committed relationship, but find they can’t stop.  Some come into counseling because they are worried their partner will find out.  Some people come into counseling because their partner did find out, and in an attempt to save their relationship they agree to see me.

A lot of people I see are surprised that they weren’t able to control their urges to go into sex chat rooms, look at porn, or send naked pictures of themselves.  They almost always admit that they love their current partner and don’t want the relationship to end.  They almost all admit as well that they wouldn’t be happy if they found out their partner was going into chat rooms, sending naked pictures or going on porn sites behind their back.  They realize they can stop for a while but at some point the urge comes back to continue the old behavior.  I explain to them that this usually happens because of a couple different reasons.

One, it is a stress reliever.  Flirting online with someone creates a fantasy world.  It is an escape that helps a lot of people deal with stress.  When you are single it isn’t hurting anyone else and it is a good way to unwind without using alcohol or drugs.  It also helps single people feel less lonely.  This is why it is hard for people to understand why someone would continue this once they are in a good relationship.  They shouldn’t feel as lonely or sexually frustrated, and most of the time they don’t, but the escape is still a stress reliever.  Talking to your partner can be helpful, but sometimes a relationship adds stress.  Sometimes people avoid talking to their partner about their stress and pretend everything is fine.  When this happens it is then easy to turn to sex on the internet as a form of relaxation like you did in the past.

Second, it is an adrenaline rush.  Taking a risk and sending a naked picture to someone can get the blood pumping.  It can be a turn-on to send a naked picture to your boyfriend or girlfriend, but you lose some of the risk and excitement involved.  In yesterday’s post I talked about it being very tempting to be able to get away with something.  I think it is even more of an adrenaline rush to send naked pictures, sneak into chat rooms or porn sites while hiding it from your partner.  This can become very addicting in the sense of the rush you feel when you get away with something you shouldn’t.  Something that was exciting when you were single is even more exciting now that you are in a relationship.  Some people avoid taking risks, but others can easily become addicted to it.

So, what do I tell the people who come in to see me that are going through what Representative Weiner is going through?  I reinforce to them that at first it is going to be easy to resist.  If you watched Rep. Weiner on television you know that he is horribly embarrassed at this moment and feeling deeply regretful.  Those feelings will carry people going through the same thing a few months and they won’t be tempted at all to send any naked pictures.  At some point though, the feelings of embarrassment and regret will fade.  Most people in this position will be tempted again when their partner’s guard is down and their stress is back up.  It could be months or a year down the road, but at some point they will be tempted again.  Having awareness about the patterns of behavior is a huge step to avoid future temptations.

When temptation does arises, I encourage people in this position to have other ways to reduce stress.  If you are a natural risk taker, find ways to take risks that don’t put your relationship in jeopardy.  You have to replace the behavior with something else or your brain will betray you to get what it needs.  I also recommend finding ways to connect to your partner and being able to communicate to them when you are feeling stressed.  If you have been tempted to hide problems from your partner in the past, I recommend being more open in the relationship.  Both partners need to be aware that this problem won’t just disappear.  It will get easier in time, but there may be times when it is hard to resist.  If your partner is willing to forgive you and stay in the relationship it is very helpful if they understand that it is easier to resist temptation if you can talk through those rough moments with them.  Working through it together can help you get through them without falling back into old habits.  Some people have had their partner keep them accountable by checking the history on their computer or opening up their phone and phone bill to them if needed.  Admitting that you can’t always control your urges is so helpful.  When you think you can handle everything on your own is when most people get into trouble.

As a disclaimer, I am not stating the Representative Anthony Weiner has a sex addiction.  I am not diagnosing him.  I also haven’t diagnosed many of my former clients with a sex addiction just because they struggled with sex online.  Just like some people don’t have an eating disorder, but they definitely have issues with eating, I believe it is the same way with sex.  You can have sexual behaviors that definitely harm your health or relationship, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have an addiction.  I only want to make a point that a lot of people who start something when it seemed harmless as a single person have a hard time stopping later when they thought it would be easy.  I think awareness is the key so I’m using Representative Weiner’s story as an example of why this behavior happens even if a person is in a great relationship.

Pain, Pain Go Away!!

Sometimes pain is like rain, it just keeps on coming…when it rains, it pours!  Our lives can be like this at times.  Sometimes we will have a drought with no pain for awhile.  It lulls us into complacency and denial.  We think life is great and we’ve finally found a way to be happy.  Then the forecast changes and the outlook sucks for an undetermined amount of time.

Why is life so hard?  I’ve asked myself this question many times.  It is hard for me to comprehend why we have to go through what we go through.  I have to admit, some of us will go through more than others.  Fair?  Nope.  Reality?  Yep.  I’ve asked God many times why I’m facing certain challenges or forced to wait so long for something I want.  The best answer I’ve been able to find is that it usually does make me stronger, wiser, and better able to relate to other people who are in pain.  I can look back at my painful memories and it helps me to know how to encourage other people through their pain.

As a counselor, I sometimes feel guilty if I haven’t had a certain experience, yet I’m trying to help someone else through it.  Thank God I don’t have to experience everything to be an effective counselor.   A good friend of mine just had a baby.  A couple weeks after he was born the doctor heard a heart murmur.  A routine check-up quickly became an ongoing nightmare of tests and surgery with many  more tests and surgeries to come in the future.  They found that her son had a hole in his heart and his aorta was not functioning properly.  Being in the hospital watching your child suffer and go through so much when they are so small and vulnerable is like being in hell.  I don’t have to be a mother to empathize with and support my friend.  You realize who your real friends are when tragedy strikes.

It is hard to be there for others while they are going through pain, but that is usually when people need their friends most.  There isn’t anything I can say that will make my friend’s son better, but just knowing that I care and can give her a hug may help her get through those dark moments.  It may also be helpful for me to run errands or make a meal for her while she is so focused on her son right now.  There are plenty of things people can do for others while they are in pain, even if you don’t really know what its like to feel their pain.

However, I do realize now that my own painful experiences have made me a more compassionate and empathetic person.  I believe this is why 12 step programs are so effective to helping people stop addictive behaviors.  Someone is there who understands the pain of recovering from addiction.  They can help guide others through it.  The person helping also may begin to feel a sense of purpose for the pain they had to go through.  Pain can be a  powerful connection for people.  Misery does love company.  Many great songs, poems, books, plays, movies and art are written and created out of extreme places of pain.  They become so popular because so many people can relate in some way to another persons pain.  It helps me to process my pain by listening to music or reading a book.  It seems wrong, but it helps me to know I’m not the only one who wins the bad lotteries in life.

The best way to handle pain is to try to stay balanced.  There is a time to feel to feel sorry for yourself, but there is also a time to pick your head up and keep moving forward.  Its okay to be sad and to cry.  Its also okay to have a good time and pretend things are okay for a few hours or a day.  Don’t sit in pain too long and don’t avoid pain for too long either.  Neither of those things is good to do for a prolonged period of time.  It is also okay to depend on others.  It is humbling to ask for help, but sometimes this is the best thing for us.  Pain has a way of cutting through what you want and forcing you to see what you need.  Letting someone else take over can be a valuable lesson that again helps us to be more thankful.  I know now that lots of beautiful things can come out of painful experiences.  Like a rainbow forms when the sun finally peaks back out after a storm.  If you are going through extreme pain now, hopefully someday soon you will be in a better place.  Maybe you will be able to see the reason for all the pain in time.  Until then, deal with it in the best way you know how and know that you aren’t alone.  Life does have its ups and downs.  I do believe what has gone down, eventually will go back up!

Addicted to Love

I’m just kidding right?  Are people actually addicted to love?  Well…yes, but it’s complicated.  “A love addict is someone who chooses people to love who cannot or will not love them back”, from the book “Facing Love Addiction” by Pia Mellody.  This book does a great job explaining what love addiction is and how to recover from it.  I will be summarizing some of the concepts Pia Mellody presents in her book.

Love Addicts are dealing with two different fears.  The first one is very obvious, the fear of being abandoned or left.  This causes them to hold onto the relationship with an iron grip.  The unconscious fear that is also involved is the fear of real intimacy.  When Love Addicts reach a certain level of closeness, they panic and will do something to create distance in the relationship.  This is often because in childhood they were abandoned in some way and never reached a level of closeness with a caregiver.

This leads to a dilemma in relationships.  Love Addicts crave closeness but are unable to tolerate healthy intimacy.  This leads them to often unconsciously choose a partner that is unable to be intimate with them.  This person is called a Love Avoidant.

A Love Avoidant is the opposite of a Love Addict in their fears.  A Love Avoidant is afraid of intimacy.  Their unconscious fear is abandonment.  This is often because a Love Avoidant grew up in a home where they were enmeshed with a caregiver.  This means the caregiver sucked the emotional energy from them instead of giving to them.  They also feel abandoned because they were too busy taking care of the parent and no one was there to take care of them.  They now are afraid of getting too close to someone because they might lose control but yet still want to feel loved.

You can see why there is an attraction to each other.  This is how the cycle works.  In this scenario the Love Addict will be female, the Love Avoidant will be male.

1.  The Love Addict enters the relationship because she is attracted to the seduction and apparent “power”  of the Love Avoidant.  The Love Avoidant enters the relationship because he will feel guilty if he says no.

2.  The Love Addict feels high as the fantasy of finding “the one” is triggered.  She feels relief from the pain of loneliness, emptiness, and not mattering to her partner.  The Love Avoidant attempts to be relational behind a wall of seduction to avoid feeling vulnerable and to make the partner feel loved and special.

3.  The Love Addict shows more neediness and denies reality of the Love Avoidant’s walls.  The Love Avoidant feels engulfed anyway and puts up a wall of resentment or anger and becomes critical of his partner.

4.  The Love Addict develops awareness of her partner’s walls and behavior outside the relationship and her denial crumbles.  The Love Avoidant uses resentment or the sense of being a victim to gain the emotional distance he needs from his partner.

5.  The Love Addict enters withdrawal and obsesses about how to get the Love Avoidant to return or how to get even.  The Love Avoidant continues to seek intensity outside the relationship in order to feel “alive” and have a life of his own.

6.  The Love Addict compulsively acts out obsessive plans to get her partner to return.  If that doesn’t work she will try to leave.  The Love Avoidant returns to the relationship out of guilt or out of fear of being left.

7.  The cycle repeats for both sides.

A Love Addict who feels the seductive pursuit of the Love Avoidant experiences an emotional “high”.  When the Love Addict gets too close it creates fear in the Love Avoidant.  When he bolts and runs,  it creates fear in the Love Addict.  Then the Love Addict chases the Love Avoidant out of fear the Love Avoidant starts to feel powerful or in control.  This may cause him to start pursuing the Love Addict again.  If the Love Addict stops chasing this will trigger fear in the Love Avoidant and he will return at this point.  The moment the one being chased turns and they’re facing each other, they’re both experiencing positive energy at the same time.  It is what keeps them together.  As the relationship continues, that time of mutual positive energy gets shorter and shorter until it’s reduced to a split second before they’re back to fighting again and creating negative energy.

Even though a lot of people consider not being able to leave someone as normal or being in love, it is actually a very dysfunctional form of obsession.   Many people feel the right partner will complete a missing part of them, finally making them feel whole.  This is a fantasy.  You have to learn to love, protect, and care for yourself.  You can realize your own sense of self-worth and feel complete on your own.  A healthy relationship is not based on needing someone and feeling worthy only because this person “loves” you.  A healthy relationship allows each person to nurture the other in a way that promotes their personal growth and taking responsibility for themselves to increase their self-esteem.  When you love yourself  and increase your self-confidence it will drive out the fears that cause unhealthy patterns.  I will write more in another post about how to work on self love.

If this post described you, I recommend reading “Facing Love Addiction” by Pia Mellody for more information.

When Sex becomes Addiction

I’ve read that addiction is a state of mind that permeates one’s life.  It’s like you are running frantically to stay one step ahead of fearful feelings.  Like someone scurrying through life to avoid getting drenched by a dark rain cloud that is in constant pursuit.  To start recovery means to stop running, sit still, and get drenched in the rain.

An addict does everything possible to avoid pain.  Addictions are a way to fill an emptiness or a hole that is left from feeling unloved.  Sex becomes a way to connect to someone.  At first it seems like a perfect way to fill the void.  A lot of addicts at first have a fantasy that if they just meet the right person all their problems will just go away.  Usually the problems compound in relationships.  Sex addicts feel ashamed and therefore put up a wall between themselves and others.  They continue to feel alone even in the most intimate situations with other people.  They may keep pursuing different sexual partners to find that fulfillment but keep coming up empty.  Even though they want to stop having meaningless sexual encounters, the compulsion to continue the behavior is very strong.

Many sex addicts also use alcohol and drugs  as part of the sexual ritual.  Alcohol and drugs can give a sex addict courage to meet their next sexual conquest, remove inhibitions or heighten romantic delusions.  For many sex addicts, sex without drugs or alcohol is almost impossible.  It helps them relax and not really think about what they are doing.  Other sex addicts use alcohol and drugs to numb the pain afterward when the reality of the sexual encounter hits them.

Addiction to sex is much deeper than really loving to have sex.  Addiction produces shameful feelings.  If you engage in something you love you usually feel really good afterward.   Sex addicts have the same characteristics as other addicts.  They have tried to stop their behavior and can’t.  They have withdrawal symptoms when they don’t engage in their addictive ritual.  They feel very shameful about their actions.  It is negatively affecting their work, school, or social life.   Here are some questions to think about if you are concerned you may be a sex addict.

Do you feel compelled to have frequent sex either with a partner or by masturbating?

Are you confused by your sexual behavior?

Do your sexual fantasies or obsessions about romantic involvements interfere with your concentration or your abilities?

Do your sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy, coercion, or violence?

Has your sexual behavior ever made you feel hopeless or suicidal?

Do sex and romance usually involve alcohol, drugs, or compulsive eating or not eating?

Do you have trouble just being friends with men or women because you think about being sexual with them?

Do you usually feel remorse or shame after having a sexual encounter?

Do you feel anxious, depressed or irritable when you try to stop your sexual behaviors?

If you answered yes to several or all of these questions you may want to learn more about sex addiction.   The websites below have a lot of useful information.  There is no cure from sex addiction.  A person who is no longer engaging in their addiction is in recovery.  Recovery is the process of standing in the rain and dealing with pain.   Without help many people are “white knuckling” their recovery.  Facing the pain alone without the guidance of how to get through it is an almost impossible task.  There are counselors specifically trained in sex addiction that can guide you through the beginning of the recovery process if you feel you are struggling with this type of addiction.

www.sexhelp.com

www.sexaddictioncounselor.com

Confidence in Social Situations

Alcohol and marijuana seem to be everywhere on college campuses.  Many times I find that the use of these substances started back in high school.   Many students then continue the same pattern in college.  Some students may not feel comfortable hanging out with others without engaging in some extracurricular activity.  Most studies would say that students use these extracurricular activities to lower their inhibitions and be more social.  College is all about socialization.  Many students who admitted to using alcohol or marijuana as a freshman in college stated they used it to feel more confident when meeting new people.  What happens is this becomes a way of life and everyone around you now sees you as someone who drinks or smokes at every party.

I have counseled some students who are now labeled, “the party girl or guy” in their circle of friends.  They have considered stopping their drinking or smoking habits, but feel obligated to keep their status with their friends.  It isn’t so easy to go to a party and say no to the drugs or alcohol offered.  Especially if you never have declined these activities in the past.

It can be intimidating to reinvent yourself.  To have to explain to your girlfriend or boyfriend why you are making  a change.  Your friends may even feel like you are trying to blow them off or that you look down on them now.  So the pressure to stay in the same situation is intense.  Only you know why you do what you do.  If you know you don’t need alcohol or marijuana to relax and have a good time, be courageous and show others they can do the same.  Sometimes it only takes one person to say no before others will have courage also.

Confidence is the key to saying no.  If you’re single and going to parties to find someone to date, be self assured enough to know that you don’t need alcohol or marijuana to be outgoing and social.  There are students who go to parties and stay sober.  They are able to meet people and have fun just the same.  There are many reasons you can say no.  One, you may not want to spend the money on it.  Two, you know it is illegal (underage drinking and smoking marijuana) and you don’t want to risk having it on your record when applying for a job in the future.  Three, you can say you don’t enjoy it anymore and that you would rather not suffer from hangovers in the morning.  Four, you can say it is interfering with your grades and you want to be able to stay off of academic probation.  Five, you can admit that it changes your personality and you don’t like the choices you make under the influence.

Other students may not be bold enough to say no.  There are other ways to cut back on alcohol at parties.  You can sip your drink and then go to the bathroom to pour most of it down the drain.  If you have a glass you can fill it with water or pop.  No one may notice what you are drinking after a couple of hours.  You can also switch back and forth between non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks to slow down the amount you consume.  You can volunteer to be the designated driver for others at the party.  As for marijuana you can share the love and pass it on to someone else.

We all have things we don’t like about ourselves.  Alcohol and marijuana may help you to numb out those things or make you not care for the moment that they exist.  But they do exist and instead of ignoring things you may not like about yourself or your life, you may just want to work on  making positive changes.  If you don’t like that you are shy or nervous around others, work on those things to improve your confidence in social situations.  If you have a hard time relaxing and letting go of the stress of classes, you can find ways to learn to relax without the help of alcohol or drugs.  You want someone to date you for who you are all the time, not just at times when you are drunk or high.

It is also easy to turn to drugs and alcohol to escape the reality of your life for a little while.  But then you never really learn how to cope with the stress of college.  College is stressful and the urge to escape can be great.  I’m encouraging you to fight that urge now because LIFE is stressful.  If you don’t learn how to deal with things now, it won’t get easier when you have a full time job, a house and a family to take care of.  Unfortunately, things can and will get harder.  If you only need a little alcohol and marijuana to relax now, you will need more later.  It will be easier to walk away now then it will be in ten years.  Figure out how to be yourself and deal with relationships and stress the right way now instead of having a lot of regrets later.

For more information please see these websites below:

http://collegedrinkingprevention.gov

http://niaaa.nih.gov

http://marijuanaaddictiontreatment.org

Internet porn…good, bad or addicting?

Is internet porn bad for you?  Depends…for some people I would guess it is just something they do occasionally to relax and unwind.  For others, it is a world they can’t seem to get away from.  I also know that it isn’t a problem unless you can’t afford it, affects your work/school, affects your relationship or all of the above.

If you are single, it may not seem like an issue at all.  From my counseling experience I find it becomes an issue when single people get into serious relationships.   Their partner becomes upset when they look into the computer history and see just how often this little habit is being used.  I have had people (yes, some women watch internet porn) tell me they thought when they got into a serious relationship and were having regular sex that they wouldn’t want to look at porn on the internet as often.  But people have reported that even right after having sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend they still have the urge to get online to look at porn.  It is a different kind of high that uses fantasy.  Some people aren’t satisfied with having regular sex anymore.  Much to the dismay of the person they just had sex with.  It sucks to feel “not good enough”.  That is how many significant others feel when they find out their partner uses internet porn.  Maybe you will get lucky and find someone who wants to look at porn with you, but most of the time, it causes jealousy issues.

It can become an addiction that not only affects relationships, but work.  Some people  risk looking at porn sites at work and have lost their job because of it.  I’ve also worked with people who have used the company credit card to pay for their addiction.  An addiction to porn is like any other addiction, it comes FIRST.  I’ve even had some people tell me they can’t have the password to log into the computer at home or they will be tempted to get on porn sites.

It’s all fun and games until you want to stop and can’t.  What tends to happen is that what excited you in the beginning is now boring you.  Many people have to look for different, crazier things to get the same “high” effect they got the first time they looked at porn.  This has been leading people to develop obsessions with violent sex, beastiality, child porn, and any other kind of fetish you could think of.  I have people I’ve talked to that are ashamed of some of the things that now turn them on because what used to work doesn’t any more.

I feel like I could write about this forever and not cover everything that I’ve learned.  This is just a little information.  I will continue to write about this topic weekly to help people better understand what addiction to porn really means.   If you struggle in this area, there are people who can help you stop.  If it is still seems harmless to you, I’m glad, but be aware of the potential dangers of becoming addicted.