Denial is one of the biggest obstacles in addiction treatment. Denial prevents those with addictions from seeing the truth about their problem. The disconnect from reality that denial provides prevents addicts from seeing that they need help, and allows them to continue behavior that is hurtful to them and the ones they love.
A case in point is actor Charlie Sheen, former star of the television series Two and a Half Men. Sheen has a long history of alcohol and drug abuse, including numerous attempts at rehab. He has been saturating the media recently with his beliefs about addiction treatment.
In a Today show interview he said that he doesn't need addiction treatment because the Alcoholics Anonymous manual was "written for normal people, people that aren't special, people that don't have tiger blood, you know, Adonis DNA." In a radio interview he described AA as "the work of sissies."
It's extremely common in addiction treatment to hear addicts describe themselves as different from everyone else. Part of the way their mind rationalizes their behavior is with the belief that the typical rules don't apply to them. Hear any of that in Charlie's thoughts?
"I'm tired of pretending that I'm not special."
In my work with addictions I often have alcoholics argue with me over the definition of the term alcoholic and why it doesn't apply to them. They typically want to define alcoholic in such as way that their behaviors can't be labeled as addictive.
Here's Sheen again: "The only thing I'm addicted to is winning," he said. "This bootleg cult, arrogantly referred to as Alcoholics Anonymous, reports a 5 percent success rate. My success rate is 100 percent. Do the math … another one of their mottoes is, 'Don't be special, be one of us.' Newsflash: I am special, and I will never be one of you! I have a disease? Bull (expletive)! I cured it with my brain, with my mind."
Sheen insists that he knows what help he does and doesn't need. This is another component of denial in addictions -- the belief of addicts that they know best what they need.
For Sheen more is going on than just denial. His behavior also gives indication of some mental health issues that may have contributed to his substance abuse or could be a result of it. It is common for those with addictions to have mental health issues in conjunction with their substance abuse.
If you know of someone with similar thoughts and behaviors, get some help from a professional counselor on how to best help them.
Sources -- USA Today, UPI.com
What's alcohol addiction look like? Here's a glimpse into part of a counseling session I had this week with a couple struggling with alcohol addiction in their relationship.
"I think you're an alcoholic," Sue told Tom. He just stared at the wall as she talked. "I don't want to be married to an alcoholic or have my son raised by one."
After Tom's DUI arrest and night in jail last month he stopped drinking, for 4 days. Then after he and Sue came to Guy Stuff for alcohol treatment, with our help and support he stopped drinking for 3 weeks. But over the holidays, and getting around his family, he started drinking again. Tom told me he only had a couple of drinks each day at his parent's house, but Sue said the sizes of his drinks are like 3 drinks to a normal person.
We talked about alcohol addiction and why it's so hard for Tom to consider that he has one. He said that being an alcoholic to him means that he can't drink. "I just like to have a drink," he said.
Here are 3 signs of alcohol addiction:
- Rationalizing. Can you hear it in Tom's statements?
- Denial. Despite spending a night in jail, facing the loss of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and court fines, the potential loss of his license and risk to his job, increased car insurance premiums, the list goes on, Tom denies the reality of his life and simplifies his drinking down to, "I just like to have a drink."
- Dependence. Tom needs a drink. He doesn't have other ways that he manages his stress, uncomfortable feelings, or the thoughts that overwhelm him. So he disconnects from all of it with alcohol.
Alcohol addiction is a common problem among men. Drinking is often hard to see as a real problem until something happens like a DUI arrest. If you think you or someone you love may have an alcohol addiction, look into alcohol treatment like Tom and Sue did before you've got a problem you can't ignore any more.
Part 1 of 2
Erica called the other day and said "my husband checked into rehab for alcohol treatment!" She couldn't believe it.
Erica and Sean began counseling at Guy Stuff about 5 months ago to deal with Sean’s affair. Quickly it became apparent to me that Sean's alcoholism was just as big of an issue as the affair. As I worked with Erica and Sean on the affair, I also helped them see the problem with Sean's alcohol abuse.
It's pretty common that people will come to couples counseling for one issue, such as an affair, but I'll see another issue that's just as important that they couldn't see, like Sean needing alcohol treatment. Sean had been a drinker as long as Erica had known him. Alcohol was such a normal part of their lives that they didn't see it as a problem except for a few extreme situations, like when Sean got sent home from work.
But the truth was that his drinking had contributed to the affair happening, as well as a number of other problems, and Erica did have a problem with it but she just hadn't been able to voice her feelings in a way that Sean heard.
However, Sean didn't want to deal with his alcohol abuse. As I helped Erica to express her feelings and called out more of the problems with Sean's alcoholism, the more uncomfortable Sean got. So after about 2 months he decided he didn't need counseling any longer.
When Sean quit, Erica was ready to quit too. What's the point in counseling she thought if the person with the problem won't go? When I shared some of the success stories other women had gotten with Guy Stuff in continuing counseling after their men had quit, she decided to continue.
For most women this is where the story ends. Their man refuses to change, so they accept it with the belief that there's nothing they can do about it. Wrong!
In the second part of this article I'll share the rest of Erica's story and show what part she had (and it's a big one) in how this story ends -- "my husband checked into rehab for alcohol treatment!" Don't miss it.
* This is the first article of two sharing the alcohol treatment success story of one couple. In the next article I'll share what Erica did that turned this story around and got Sean into alcohol treatment. Sign-up for our Blog on the right side of this page and be sure you don't miss the rest of this story (you can get notified by email or RSS feed).
Sean loves online gaming. That's not unusual. Lot's of people enjoy multiplayer online games. Few people though, like Sean, realize when they have an online gaming addiction.
To Sean online gaming is just a way for him to unwind from the stress of work and family. It's also an activity he does together with his 11-year-old son.
One of sign's of online gaming addiction is when playing negatively affects other parts of your life. Here are a couple of examples from Sean's life of what that can look like.
Sean routinely has conflicts with his wife over parenting their kids at bedtime. He really looks forward to 9:30 pm when the kids are in bed and he can get online for some "me time." When he's still dealing with getting the kids to bed at 9:40 pm he usually has a tough time controlling his anger.
Sean's been meeting with Guy Stuff for help with anger management and his marriage. During a meeting last week he shared some interesting revelations he's had about what he's starting to see as his online gaming addiction.
He says that a lot of other guys are just like me and are online gaming at night. "It's like going to a bar."
"It's become my social life. We meet up online almost every night. Kill some monsters. Chit-chat about the day. Then realize, hey, I got to get up for work and sign off."
Sean's realized that "some emotional gap is getting filled." It's not just men who are getting emotional needs met online either, it's women too. He says that he's surprised how many of the other players are women. Sean says he's careful not to discuss too much about his personal life, but says many other people do.
What started out as just a fun hobby has become an online gaming addiction. Sean admits about his marriage that "I'm not there to some extent" and now he's beginning to see how his online gaming is part of the reason. "We've found ways to be apart."
If you believe you, or someone you love, might have an online gaming addiction. Reach out to a licensed counselor for some help. Don't let an online gaming addiction become the other woman.
Here's an example of how a gambling addiction starts. This is the real story of one man who came to Guy Stuff Counseling for help with his gambling addiction.
Anthony had never gambled before. Sure, he'd played cards with friends at parties in high school, but never anything serious. Other than occasionally watching the poker tournaments on TV, gambling never had any appeal.
During his first year at college Anthony got invited into other guys' dorm rooms at night to play cards. He found that it was a great way to escape the studying he didn't want to do. As his school demands increased, so did the attraction and enjoyment of playing cards. Soon Anthony was up all night gambling and starting to skip classes. As his desire to gamble grew, he sought out other places to play and discovered online gambling.
When Anthony got kicked out of school, he knew it was partly due to his gambling, but he never thought he had a gambling addiction. He just moved back home, got a job, and started going to the local casinos to gamble. In addition to the 4 Indian casinos within easy driving distance, he found a card room only a mile from his house.
The card rooms made him feel seedy. He knew many of the other guys in there had a gambling problem. After all, they were always in there; every time he went in he saw the same faces. At least he could control it and didn't spend every day there, he thought.
He developed a strategy to keep his gambling addiction a secret from his parents. After the money he'd wasted at school, his dad watched his bank account carefully. He learned if he only withdrew a couple hundred dollars, and did from the local ATM and not at the casinos, his gambling wasn't noticeable by parents.
Anthony tried going back to school again at the local junior college, but found that missing classes and assignments didn't work there either. As he grew more and more unhappy with himself, and worried about what he would do with his life, he spent more and more time gambling. The money he was losing grew also. It didn't even seem inappropriate to him to be playing for a pot of $2,900 when he only made $10 an hour working part time at Home Depot.
One night, after getting kicked out by his girlfriend, he lost $400 in a half hour. Afterwards, as he walked out to his car and saw it packed full of everything he owned, and thought about having no money, no place to live, and no hope, he realized he had a gambling problem.
Anthony got his parents support and came to Guy Stuff for counseling. We've been working on his gambling addiction by helping him discover the reasons why he gambled. One of the things he's learned is that he used gambling to occupy his time and avoid things. As a result of our work, Anthony went back to school earlier this month and he's learning to use new ways to deal with the stressors in his life.
Part 3 of 3
"You might be a workaholic if..." could easily be a Jeff Foxworthy comedy line. Just like his famous line, "You might be a redneck if..."
In my counseling men a regular occurrence is hearing guys talk about how much they work and how hard it is to stop thinking about work. Just this week a guy who owns 10 different businesses said his mind races in bed at night. Another guy came to his counseling meeting dead tired after working a double shift all night.
Are either of these guys' workaholics or are they just hard workers? The difference between being a workaholic and not isn't so much about how many hours you work as it is the attitude you have about work.
Are you a workaholic? Find out by taking the short Work Addiction Risk Test by psychologist Bryan E. Robinson published in the Wall Street Journal. Click here to find out are you a workaholic.
What did you learn from the test? I was reminded of a few areas in my life that I can improve. Don't get too wrapped up in the term workaholic. Just see what you can learn about how you can live your life in a more healthy way for you and your loved ones. Below are some other articles on this blog that can help:
* This is the third article of three on the topic of understanding men, their stress management, and being a workaholic. You can read the first two articles by clicking the links above. Sign-up for our blog on the right side of this page and start getting notified of valuable articles like these (you can get notified by email or RSS feed).
Q: I plan to quit my sports gambling addiction, which meets with various levels of disapproval from friends and family. Some are more able to express that they are glad I'm quitting than others. I consider that their weakness and judgmentalness, if that is a word.
My motivation for counseling is to learn something that would help me understand myself better and to change. I am figuring out who I am as a man at the ripe old age of 43. I'm trying to answer that, to analyze the sequence of thoughts and feelings that make up this gambling cycle and see where I can change some of them in addition to changing the behavior itself.
I have never tried to quit my compulsive sports gambling before. I've been at it for most of the last 22 years, going hard core most of that time, especially in football season. My only winning month has been September, and my only winning year was 1999.
Where do I start?
A: Sounds like you're off to a good start already. Here are a few positives I hear:
- It's good that you recognize that your decision to quit is going to meet with varying levels of disapproval. That's some good insight on your part to recognize that other people's reactions have more to do with them than you. This is a really important part of your recovery because recognizing the influence of others is a big factor in dealing with a sports gambling addiction.
- It's also good that you see that there's a cycle to your problem gambling. You're exactly right that you need to understand the thoughts and feelings that feed this cycle.
Here are three things to do going forward from here:
- Get Some Support. Don't try to do this alone and don't try to do it with just willpower. If you do, the odds are really, really high that you'll fail - again. Get involved with Gamblers Anonymous and get a professional counselor.
- Make Yourself Accountable. Put some systems in place, such as attending a GA group or meeting with an addictions counselor to help you stay committed on and on track with your goal.
- Find Some Expertise. Get connected with someone who's been through this before and knows what it takes to succeed. A professional counselor, who work's with men struggling with addictions, particularly a compulsive problem gambling addiction, is the best source of expertise.
You're off to a good start -- keep it going.
--Kurt Smith, Marriage Counselor
Do you have a question you'd like to Ask a Marriage Counselor? Click here to submit it and I'll answer it in an up coming post. Be sure to Sign Up by Email or RSS Feed in the column to the right so you'll get my answer as soon as it's published.
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Q: Someone smelled alcohol on me at work and I was suspended. My anger and frustrations are affecting my marriage and work. What do I do?
A: First, you're not alone. I've helped quite a few other men who've struggled with alcohol and it's affect on their work. One guy is a doctor and he was suspended by his licensing board last year, but after getting treatment was able to go back to work. Another guy had to go to counseling for a while before his company would let him come back to work. Be hopeful -- most guys are able to keep their jobs if they will get help.
Second, the anger and frustrations you have in your marriage and work are a sign that some other things are going on for you besides the alcohol. Most often the use of alcohol is way we medicate ourselves to help deal with some other issues. Anger management classes would probably really help you.
Lastly, your first step needs to be your being proactive in dealing with your work suspension. Men who respond to this with the attitude that it's a wake-up call and an opportunity have the best outcomes. This means following any instructions or recommendations your employer makes; getting a professional counselor to assess you and make treatment recommendations; developing an action plan and implementing it.
--Kurt Smith, Marriage Counselor
Okay, so you haven't pulled a Tiger Woods and spent too much time with other women. How about too much time with your PlayStation or Wii?
You might want to learn something from British tennis star Andy Murray, the No. 4 ranked player in the world. See if you can see yourself, or your partner, in any of this report on Murray.
ComputerAndVideoGames.com reports that Murray was dumped over his video game obsession:
Tennis star Andy Murray was dumped by his girlfriend for spending seven hours a day playing Modern Warfare 2, it's been claimed.
According to The Sun, Murray's ex Kim Sears, 21, pulled the plug on their relationship because his PlayStation 3 sessions "drove her mad".
"He would spend all his time glued to [PS3]. In the end she just got fed up with it. She wanted more out of the relationship," a 'source' told the paper.
The 22-year-old's PlayStation "obsession" has been a problem in the past, it seems, with his former coach, Brad Gilbert stating: "He plays video games seven hours a day."
Here's a description from a wife frustrated with video games in her marriage:
He gets home at 4:45 and plays until 2a.m. easy and if he gets bored he just pick up another game. He plays wow, day of defeat, moon-gate, battle field, and guitar hero. He has weekends off and they are dedicated to gaming no matter what. I have attempted to discuss it, but he gets angry and I feel like a nag. I hate feeling that way. I hate talking to him just to find out that for the last 10 minutes he has been raiding and has totally missed everything I said.
Guys, if playing video games is part of your life, take warning and make sure it doesn't create marriage problems. If you're having difficulty discussing the issue with your partner, get some counseling help.
Is this a real problem for marriages?
Hey guys. Here's a friendly reminder from the relationship clean-up department; also known as counseling for men. Think twice about the behaviors you choose, especially this time of year. We hear from men everyday desperate for help in putting their marriages and lives back together after they've messed up, so here's a list of 3 of the most common risky behaviors where guys slip up.
WARNING: Every January we see a spike in the requests we get for help with these 3 struggles, so let this be a warning from your potential "Ghost of Christmas Future" and take heed.
Anger. Anger management expert W. Doyle Gentry, Ph.D., whose work was featured in the movie Anger Management, reports that most domestic violence incidents occur between Thanksgiving and January 15.
Not surprisingly, a regular occurrence this time of year at "Guy Stuff" Counseling is for us to hear from a number of men who need counseling because of a domestic violence arrest. And many times domestic violence occurs when anger gets combined with alcohol.
Also be aware that increased contact with family can be stressful, and when mixed the stress that already comes with the holidays, can create a volatile mixture for many of us.
Affairs. Tiger Woods' Thanksgiving holiday this year ought to be warning enough for all of us.
If you're not having an affair, good; but nevertheless be careful with these circumstances -- holiday parties (drinking + lowered inhibitions + everyone's feeling good = look out!); feeling lonely (the holidays can be a lonely time for many of us, even though we may be married and surrounded by family); social networking (it's the easiest way to hook up now days).
If you're in the middle of an affair, be careful not to use it to escape the holidays. By its very nature, an affair is a form of escape. But I've worked with guys who've gotten themselves through uncomfortable family time by knowing "she" is waiting afterwards. Don't rob your family of experiencing all of you this year.
Alcohol. What I call the socially accepted medicine of choice in America. Be very careful, this one can increase the risk of the other two occurring (anger and affair). Alcohol is hard to say no to this time of year, but it also increases our likelihood to make other mistakes. Telling ourselves that we've got control of our drinking is one of the most common signs of a problem.
If you want to know if alcohol abuse might be a problem for you, try asking someone who knows you and isn't afraid to tell you the truth (Be open to the idea that you might have a hard time finding someone who isn't afraid to tell you the truth).
What do you think of these risks? Would you add another? Leave a comment.