What is a Nice Guy? Nice Guys and Addictions (Part 2 of 2)

nice guys and addictionsIf you didn’t catch my previous post, you might be wondering, “What’s a ‘nice guy’? A “Nice Guy,” according to Dr. Robert Glover as he writes in his book No More Mr. Nice Guy, is a man who seeks the approval of others so that he can feel okay about himself. Nice Guys tend to believe that if they do everything just right, if they’re good and caring toward others, they’ll be happy, get their needs met, and live a problem-free life.

 

But as we discussed in the post, it doesn’t work out that way. In fact, nice guys tend to have a lot of problems. They have problems in their relationships, with sex, setting boundaries, taking care of themselves, and very often, with some form of compulsive behavior or addiction.

 

Why do nice guys and addictions go together like peanut butter and jelly? If you’re a nice guy, understanding the relationship between your nice guy tendencies and your addictive behavior can really help you get to “the root” of your addiction.

 

So let’s dive in.

How to Learn from Relapses

how to learn from relapses

You don’t need to go all Russell Crowe from A Beautiful Mind to learn from relapses. Reflecting on your triggers and the events leading to the relapses with safe people is a good place to start.

In addiction recovery, relapses are inevitable. They’re going to happen. Many who are new to recovery struggle with this. We can hope that our recovery happens in a straight line, especially because relapses are often painful.

 

Whenever we learn to do something new, we don’t do it perfectly to begin with. We make mistakes. Our mistakes, though, can teach us how to improve at what we’re learning to do. This is true with any new skill, from learning to ride a bike to—yep, you guessed it—living an addiction-free life.

 

Relapses are par for the course. In fact, if you’re not relapsing, you’re not learning. Here are just a few of my thoughts about how to learn from relapses.

The Secret about How People Change

how people changeEver wonder how people change?

 

Right now, at this very moment, millions of people are in therapy hoping to get help changing their lives. What’s always fascinated me, however, is how so few people really understand what they’re buying when they sign up to see a therapist. They don’t really understand how people change—and how they can transform their lives with a therapist’s help.

 

Of course, most people aren’t terribly interested in how products or services they buy actually work. They buy because they want the desired results at the end. For instance, very few people who buy a car care to know how the engine works. They just want a car that will reliably get them around.

 

I’ve long thought, though, that psychotherapy is especially shrouded in mystery when it comes to how it actually works. Therapists, for our part, don’t generally do a great job of explaining how we help people change, especially because clients don’t often ask directly.

 

But they do ask indirectly. “What’s the next step?” one client asks me. “How do I know I’ve gotten to the root of my addiction?” another wonders. “What do you do to help?” an inquiring caller asks. I think that if therapists can answer questions like these, at least in part and without graduate-school-like lecture, we can greatly reduce our clients’ anxiety and confusion.

 

I’ve already described the process of change elsewhere, especially as it relates to addiction and recovery. I’d like to describe below one way to think about the degree to which we experience change as we move through that process. Before we begin, I need to credit Marty Farash, LMFT, who as far as I know created this useful way of thinking about the levels of change.

Changing Substance Use: Drug, Set, and Setting

changing substance useWhile most of the folks I talk to want to start changing substance use for themselves or someone else, they’re not sure where to begin. Whether it’s abstinence that you’re after, reducing your use, preparing to quit, or wanting to use more safely, you know that wanting to change is only the first step. Learning how to change your substance use is key.

 

Managing your substance use can help you moderate your use successfully. And implementing the model I’m going to talk about in this post can help you learn to quit. As you’ll see, if you’re struggling with sexual behaviors that are out of control, this model can also help you be aware of what makes you vulnerable to acting out and to observe yourself.

 

And learning to observe yourself is the key to successful change. Most of the harm that results from substance use comes from how, when, where, and how much you use. You need to become interested in your habit, its impact on your life, and why you’re using. So try to be honest with yourself and be willing to try new things.

 

In this first post, I’ll talk about the model of drug, set, and setting. Then I’ll talk in my next post about how to use it to change your drug use. But first, a few words of caution: This way of looking at your substance use can help you change, but it’s not a guarantee. I’m also not a doctor, so please don’t take this as medical advice. Also, many drugs are illegal. I can’t protect you from legal consequences of using, so please don’t take this as legal advice either.

Here’s What I Wish I’d Said on My Recent Podcast Episode

alcohol treatment familiesIn early May, I was in Phoenix for the annual symposium for therapists who treat individuals struggling with problematic sexual behaviors and their partners. I was presenting on harm reduction at the conference on a panel discussing alternative paths of recovery that may not include 12-step recovery groups. I was thrilled to bring harm reduction to the field of sexual addiction and recovery.

 

While I was there, I spoke further with Jackie Pack, the facilitator of our panel. She invited me onto her podcast Thanks for Sharing to talk more about harm reduction. A couple of weeks ago, Jackie graciously hosted me and we talked about harm reduction, its benefits and rationale, and how it can help those struggling with addictive behavior and those who love them.

 

We covered a lot of ground, but there are some things we didn’t get to or that I wish I’d said more clearly. Here’s the rundown.

Addiction and the Impact of Trauma

addiction impact of traumaIf you’ve read other blog posts I’ve written, you’ve probably learned by now that I think that people use substance and sexual behaviors in problematic ways because use these addictive behaviors often solve emotional problems. They help people feel better, or, as is often the case, to feel less.

 

For instance, problematic addictive behaviors can give people a break from their relentless, shame-driven inner critic. They can help chronically depressed people feel more expansive and alive. They can help people detach from feelings that are too painful to experience. The list goes on and on.

 

People use substances and sexual behaviors such as pornography and masturbation to address whatever personal vulnerabilities they have when nothing else seems to work. Often, they’ve learned through early direct exposure or modeling that porn, substances, or another addictive behavior can help.

 

But what causes these personal vulnerabilities in the first place (and we’ve all got issues, OK?)? Trauma.

How Alternative Addiction Treatment Can Work for You

Koorosh Rassekh, MMFT, is a licensed therapist and founder of Evo Health and Wellness in Venice Beach, California. His mission is to break the stigma around mental health and create a world of healthier people, families, and communities.

 

I recently connected with Koorosh and invited him to share about how he helps his clients change their addictive behavior. Read more about my collaboration with him about sex and porn addiction here.

 

1) Evo’s website states that you respects “where you are and where you want to go.” What does this mean for how you think about and treat addictions?

 

Taking inspiration from one of my mentors and one of Evo’s key advisors, Dr. Gabor Maté, I would say that Evo understands that addiction is never the primary issue. It is a secondary response to something deeper happening for a person – trauma, marginalization, the impact of being different, bullying culture, rape culture, etc. When people suffer, they turn to whatever is available to address their suffering. With substances, people often use as a coping mechanism, and this coping mechanism becomes a problem within itself.

Making the Most of “Dry January” (Especially If You Keep Drinking)

dry januaryPerhaps you’ve seen articles and posts floating around on social media this time of year about Dry January. If you haven’t, Dry January is a one-month challenge to abstain from alcohol created by Alcohol Change in 2012. About 4 million people participated in 2018, and maybe you’re trying to decide if participating this year is right for you.

 

After all, January is a time of resolutions for the coming year. Many people use Dry January as a way to help them reevaluate their drinking, especially as drinking typically peaks during the last few weeks of the year around Christmas and New Year’s.

 

There are plenty of articles out there like this one to help you figure out if you want to participate in Dry January or not. If you do decide to keep drinking, here are some other ways to participate so that you can make the most of your Dry January.

If You’re Looking for Substance Abuse Treatment in Ventura County, Read This

substance abuse treatment venturaIf you love someone who is struggling with a drug addiction or a substance use disorder, chances are you’re in crisis mode. Most likely, something has happened—again—that’s prompted you to seek out addiction counseling for your loved one or family member—again.

 

You’re scared for your loved one. Probably, you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and lot a little resentful. “Why does this keep happening?” you say to yourself. “He needs to really work his program this time. He didn’t work hard enough last time.”

 

Meanwhile, you wonder if you’re codependent. At least, that’s what most of what you’ve read says. You struggle with the line between supportive love and destructive caretaking. So much of what you do seems to alienate your loved one. And he’s not getting any better. After all, this has happened before. Will this time be different?

 

The good news is that yes, this time can be different.

Create Your Optimal Use Plan

optimal use planThe New Year is right around the corner. Many make resolutions to change their relationship with alcohol or a substance, resolving to use it less or not at all.

 

Maybe you’re working on this already. If changing your pattern of using or drinking is important to you, perhaps it’s time to consider creating what’s called an optimal use plan.

 

An optimal use plan is a hypothetical plan or vision that you can create on your own, with the help of a loved one, or ideally a therapist. It’s a “working plan” that will help you name your goals for your drinking or using and includes strategies for how to achieve them.

 

So how do you create one? Let’s dive in.