Afraid to Quit Drinking? Here’s the Real Reason Why (Part 1)

afraid to quit drinkingI always joke that I had to go to seminary to learn to drink.

 

In the fall of 2003, I moved across the country to go to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. I was anxious and scared but also thrilled to be starting graduate school. I was starting a theology degree and wanted to dive in. So what did I do? I signed up a a Biblical Greek intensive; I for the next 2 1/2 months, I studied nothing but Greek. All the time.

 

It was as exciting and brutal as it sounds. By the end of the term, I was exhausted and stressed as my perfectionism had been in full swing for months on end. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on the hunt for some way to relax, to not feel so damn wound up all the time.

 

Christmas, 2003. Enter Johnny Walker, stage left. Thus began my long, storied history with alcohol. It took me years and years, but I finally learned to change my relationship with drinking.

 

I tried to cut back so many times. Countless times. And each time, I was discouraged. I thought it was hopeless. But the real story?

 

I was terrified to stop drinking.

Four Ways of Dealing with Urges and Cravings

dealing with urges and cravingsIf you’re in recovery or trying to change a habit that isn’t working for you, you need to find ways of dealing with urges and cravings. That is, you need to become more aware of the thought patterns and feelings that led to you giving in to your desire to engage your habit. Whether it’s shopping, gambling, sex, pornography, eating, or using alcohol or drugs, you’re probably pretty familiar with the desire to engage that habit before actually acting on it; that feeling is called an urge or craving.

 

Cravings are important because they act as precursors to engaging our problematic habit or behavior. Cravings say, “Hey, we need to gamble/smoke/drink/watch porn right now!” We stay stuck in our habits because we listen to that voice without thinking. If we’re to change our habit, we need to find different ways of interacting with the thoughts and feelings associated with our cravings in order to avoid automatically giving in.

Why I’m an Addiction Therapist

addiction therapistAs an addiction therapist, I hear many stories of struggling with food, sex, pornography, or alcohol and other drugs. I recently wrote a short essay as a part of an application to an online training program in harm reduction from the Center for Optimal Living in New York.

 

It briefly tells my story and illuminates my passion for helping those struggling with addiction through compassionate, relationship-focused treatment. I thought I’d share it here with you.

Sex Addiction and Porn Addiction Get a Diagnosis

Sex addiction and porn addiction get a diagnosisIt’s finally happening. After years or research and many studies, sex addiction and porn addiction will this year be officially recognized as mental disorders.

 

Diagnosing an Addiction

At some point in 2018, perhaps as soon as this summer, the World Health Organization (WHO) will release the latest version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The ICD is the definitive diagnostic manual for medical and psychological conditions and disorders everywhere in the world except for the United States.

Stages of Addiction: When Experimentation Becomes an Addiction

What are the stages of addiction? Maybe you’ve been using a substance for a while and you’re wondering if you’re addicted. Perhaps you’re watching a loved one use drugs or gamble and you’re not sure if his use counts as an addiction.

 

Whatever’s going on, knowing more about how drug use and other habitual behaviors with addictive potential (e.g., shopping, gambling, sex, porn) can progress would be really helpful. For the sake of keeping things simple, for the rest of this post I’m just going to refer to any habit that may progress through these stages as “drug use” or “substance use,” with the understanding that we’re also talking about these other habitual behaviors too.

Minding Your Emotions: How to Recognize and Deal with Your Feelings (Part 3)

minding our emotionsGetting to know and understanding ourselves, our stories, and our feelings is such an important part of personal growth. Learning to live with difficult feelings instead of self-medicating, numbing ourselves, or in some other way avoiding vulnerability is the stuff of life. Doing this hard work of being aware of and owning our “stuff” is key to living with meaning and fulfillment.

 

In part 1 of this series, I shared a personal experience to illustrate how important learning to deal with our most painful feelings is important. In part 2, I talked about why some people have trouble identifying and describing what they feel. In this post, I’d like to share with you some strategies for how you can learn to get to know yourself and your feelings a little better.

How to Recognize and Deal with Your Feelings (Part 1)

how to recognize and deal with your feelingsWe’ve all been there. We have an experience that causes intense feelings to rise up in us, drowning out all others. We become momentarily awash in that painful experience, whether it’s anger, shame, anxiety, fear, or all of the above all at once. We feel so much so quickly, often without fully understanding what’s going on with us.

 

I had an experience like that recently. Without getting into the gritty details, I stepped in it with a family member, someone I love and care for deeply. I didn’t communicate clearly about some of my plans, and she was hurt. Of course, I didn’t mean to hurt her, but that’s beside the point. That’s what I was telling myself in between my flashes of anger, which is always a sure sign that I feel shame.