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Feelings are the true F-word.

Friday, March 24, 2017

5 Ways To Evaluate The Dry Drunk

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 13, 2016

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People who aren’t drinking are technically sober, but, like our reader’s ex-husband described in a post earlier this week, many have not developed or just lost the ability to put aside selfish needs for the sake of long-term goals, values, and making relationships work. They’re often good at pleasing you in the short run, which makes you feel things are going well, but you must look closely at how they handle frustration and painful emotions before you know whether they’ve overcome the negative impact of alcohol on character. Here are five ways to evaluate the dry drunk before you get too close and find out the hard way that his sobriety is only booze-deep.

1) See How He Handles Hurt

Because drunks are blind slaves to their needs and impulses, a dry drunk still feels entitled to get back at you when he’s hurt or, at least, to find immediate relief the way he once did from booze. What you hope is that, instead of pouting or sulking, he’ll assume that hurt feelings are sometimes unavoidable, suck up his pain, let the bad feelings pass, and continue to act like a decent human being. If he instead acts petulant and feels entitled to have a good time with his buddies or new girlfriend because you’ve let him down, then he still has a drunk’s habits, just without the bar tab.

2) Mind the Money

Thanks to the same impulse control issues, a dry drunk can also have problems saving money; he means to be financially responsible but winds up spending more than he intended on various virgin ways to feel good and stop feeling bad. Ask yourself whether he really can stick to a budget and save money or whether he can’t stop himself from getting you a flashy present when he worries that you’re mad at him or losing interest. If he can’t, then he’s likely to act twice as bad when he’s the one losing interest in you.

3) Assess Kill-building

Since learning new skills or taking on a new challenge is often a frustrating process, it’s one dry drunks often lack the self-discipline and pain threshold to deal with. Note whether he can make himself take on difficult projects, stick to unpleasant routines involving errands or exercise, and do other boring activities for the sake of a good cause. If he has values of his own, he’ll stay busy even when you’re not there. If his motivation is to make you happy, he’ll look busy when you’re around, but not do much more. That speaks poorly for his ability to learn (or relearn) the skills needed to stay sober, like patience and acceptance.

4) Look for Lies

Of the average drunk’s propensity for dishonesty, Stephen King once said that, “Ask an active alcoholic what time it is, and 9 times out of 10 he’ll lie to you.” Similarly, a dry drunk will also lie with ease, usually to avoid conflict, regardless of whether the lie is easily discovered and the consequences are much worse than if he told the truth. Don’t avoid checking on the facts because you want to show him you trust him and build up his confidence; look for honesty as a sign of real sobriety.

5) Track the True Source of Blame

In the absence of morals or values, the main belief held by any addict, aside from the importance of getting high, is the absolute importance of quid pro quo. As such, a dry drunk also feels you should make him feel good if he made a good effort to make you feel good, and any unwillingness to hold up your end of the bargain is the ultimate betrayal. So, whether he’s bored, angry, or hurt (see above), he’ll find reasons to blame you for his bad feelings. Don’t think that expressing such blame will improve your relationship; instead, recognize it as a sign that a good relationship may be impossible, at least until he realizes that he’s got a lot more work to do on his sobriety beyond staying sober.

Hugs and Alcohol

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 27, 2016

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There are many ways to be hurt by an alcoholic partner, even if he’s in recovery, but figuring out who’s responsible for that hurt can be a lot more complicated. That’s because alcoholics, be they sober for ages or still steadily soused, are well-practiced in victimhood, which makes them very good at explaining hurt in terms of what you’re doing to make them unhappy and very bad at taking responsibility for their actions. So if you consort with addicts and want to avoid undeserved blame, you’d better know how to tolerate hurt, tell right from wrong, and stand up for your own convictions. Otherwise, you’ll also end up with a lot of unnecessary heartache.

-Dr. Lastname

I married my recovering alcoholic ex after he’d been sober for three years. We went through hell and back together and I stuck by his side through it all, but our marriage only lasted six months— it took that long for him to tell me he isn’t attracted to me anymore and kick me out. Of course, I smelled the booze on him as he said it, because he’d actually relapsed. I’ve moved on somehow, but still feel angry, especially since I just got off all my anti-depressants. My goal is to figure out how to get over this massive, mind-blowing disappointment.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Signs You Need to Fight Addictive Behavior

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 24, 2015

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Everyone—not just those who, like our reader from earlier this week, are diagnosed OCD or bipolar—struggles with unwanted impulses from time to time. It’s normal to sometimes fight the urge for a second helping of lasagna, and it’s also common, though more problematic, to crave another shot of whiskey. If you find yourself gripped by unusually strong, possibly scary, urges that are sometimes impossible to control, however, and are wondering whether something not-normal is going on, here are five symptoms of mental illness to look out for that may be hindering your ability to fight addictive behavior.

1) Unusual Obsessing

Rumination is a symptom of OCD that locks your brain in a rut and forces you to think, over and over, about something you want, are afraid of, hate, you name it. Normally, you’d distract yourself by thinking of other things, but OCD won’t let you, even though the obsessive thought may scare you or not be what you actually want at all. Don’t assume that these thoughts mean that you’re a weak or bad person deep down; if you literally can’t get someone or something off your mind, then something’s wrong with your mind, not with you, and you need help.

2) Habit Trap

Repeated rituals are what make OCD obsessions feel a little better, i.e., you can shut up the persistent worry that your family will get murdered if you check that the door is locked exactly ten times before bed. When that ritual is texting a crush to make sure he still doesn’t want to see you, however, the potential for humiliation is worse. Ask yourself whether you’re compulsively texting because it gives you temporary relief, before you find yourself dealing with long-term pain and embarrassment.

3) Needless Neediness

Worthlessness and emptiness are common symptoms of depression, which drive someone to date people who aren’t right for them because they can’t deal with the intense pain that comes from being alone. If you find yourself driven to be with partners who either aren’t that interested or worthwhile, consider whether you have other symptoms of depression, like hating yourself and having trouble tolerating your own company.

4) Undeserving Desire

Lust tends to disappear with depression (along with libido altogether), but it can get extra intense during the manic phase of bipolar illness. Sexual excitement can make an otherwise ho-hum relationship addictive, and a hyperactive sex drive can push you to do, say, and wear things that you know are dangerous. If your sexual desire is stronger than usual and causing you to do things that go against your better judgment, then it’s worth seeking help.

5) Mania Masquerade

Mania makes everything intense, not just your sex drive; it can obliterate self-control, not just in terms of your impulses, but of your limbs and other organs. And while that might seem like a terrifying experience you’d want to avoid, mania feels so amazing and empowering that you don’t just become blind to your lack of control, but intoxicated by it; dangers that you might normally avoid become extra attractive. So if your thoughts are racing, your sexual liaisons have become more dangerous, and your friends seem to be freaking out despite your insistence that you feel great, you might be in danger, and they might have a point.

Whether you’re aware of uncontrollable urges or so sick than you can’t even tell what urges are even good for you anymore, it never hurts to ask for help, explore whether mental illness may be part of your problem, and take whatever steps possible towards getting your impulses under control.

Pattern Demolition

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 10, 2015

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Louis CK once said that no good marriage ends in divorce, but it’s also true that really bad relationships seem to go on forever; those connections built on intense neediness and over-responsiveness tend to get stuck in a death spiral as both parties endlessly circle the emotional toilet, never quite flushing their connection away. That’s because, once you care deeply about someone, it’s hard not to become over-attached and treat his or her commitment problems as if they were misunderstandings that might be your fault, even if that someone doesn’t treat you well and isn’t great partnership material. All of this can be avoided if you learn how to withhold commitment until you’re sure a prospective partner has the right qualities, regardless of how intense your need and attraction. Later this week, we’ll explore the five steps of bad relationship recovery, but you can’t recover until you know why it’s good to walk away from your bad relationship in the first place.

-Dr. Lastname

I’ve been in a relationship off and on for almost a year, and the reason for the “offs” is his fear of everything— three times he’s done the same thing and broken up with me for “a possible problem,” or “fear of ___,” or whatever stupid reason, but in the end I always find him and we get back together. I know this is a bad pattern. I mean, it’s pathetic to keep wanting to be with him after how he’s been such an asshole to me for no apparent reason. He chooses to treat me as if I were shit, as if he wants to hurt me badly while pretending it’s nothing. I know I should be mad and write him off as an asshole, but I can’t. I keep justifying his actions, because I know what he’s been through. Anyway, I love him and I hate that I can’t love myself enough to stop looking for him despite all the mean things he’s said and done to me, how he’s treated me like a toy. When I finally did stand up for myself recently and say some really mean things, he didn’t react at all, won’t respond to my apology…I don’t want to keep waiting for him to talk to me and my head knows that it’s stupid, but my heart keeps wanting to reach him. I’m not trying to be a victim—I believe that everything that happens to us is the consequence of our choices—but I need to know how to choose better for myself. My goal is to figure out how to get over this guy and the rut of our unhappy relationship.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

How to MOVE ON.

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 25, 2015

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What to say when you can’t let go!

Not surprisingly, ending an important relationship—be it with a person or even a job—usually stirs up negative feelings because the circumstances requiring the relationship to end are rarely pleasant, agreeable to all parties, or completely without alternatives and drawbacks. The way to make the best of moving on is to do your own assessment of whether it’s necessary and whether you lived up to your obligations and kept your promises before walking away. Then prepare a statement of your thoughts about the ending, omitting any mention of anger, doubt, or guilt.

Moving on is hard. Don’t make it harder by expressing all you feel. Make it easier for yourself and others by celebrating the positive and accepting what can’t be helped.

Life is Unfair.

Breaking up with a boyfriend after not getting along for far too long

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • you can’t make the fighting go away by talking about issues with him, a shrink, or anyone else
  • major, possible steps to make things better between you two, like cutting back on your hours at work or moving house, aren’t likely to be worth the hassle
  • his good character traits and ability to function as a partner don’t outweigh the bad chemistry

Script: “You know how much I value our relationship and the many good things about you as a person, but after everything we’ve tried, I can’t see a way to stop the fighting, and I think it’s better for both of us to admit defeat and move on.”

Leaving a hated boss on not-hateful terms

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • you’ve done everything possible to make the relationship work well enough to make working there bearable.
  • there’s no possible way to stay at the company under different management
  • you’ve got a better opportunity or can survive unemployment

Script: “I’ve learned a great deal from this job and your leadership, and I’m sure what you’ve taught me will be of great help in my new position [without mentioning that what you’ve learned is how to survive a bad boss].”

Breaking up with a girlfriend who expects commitment you can’t deliver

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • her good character traits and ability to function as a partner don’t outweigh your belief you can’t give her what she needs in the foreseeable future
  • you aren’t just panicking in the face of a possible (and terrifying) life-long commitment
  • you will be strong enough to resist the urge to still see her occasionally and string her along

Script: “I know how happy we are together, but you’re looking for the kind of commitment that, sadly, I can’t provide, and I’d rather end things now before you get more invested and a separation would be even more painful.”

Distancing yourself from an alcoholic parent or sibling

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • providing him or her with close support doesn’t have enough positive impact on his or her health and welfare to justify the amount of pain and distress the relationship causes you
  • you have made every reasonable attempt to get him or her to consider getting sober
  • there is nothing you can do to change him or her, period

Script: There is no script at first you because you just have to distance yourself without declaring that you’re doing it or apologizing for it. Then, if he or she’s upset, say, “I know we’ve had so many good times together, but I need to focus more on my own well-being now by spending more time with kids/job/baking hobby, and I look forward to you getting more involved in those aspects of my life once you become sober and more independent.”

Distancing yourself from a friend who has gradually become someone you don’t like

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • there’s nothing positive or helpful you haven’t already said
  • you’ve been a good friend and done your share; otherwise, try to even the scales
  • s/he’s not going to change and that whatever you like about this friendship does not outweigh the dislike

Script: Again, forego an announcement in favor of just returning calls and messages less and gradually fading away. If challenged, say, “I think you’ve been a great friend, but chemistry sometimes changes, no matter what you or I might want, and I think right now we’re both better off spending more time apart.”

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Disorder Form, Part 1

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 10, 2015

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Despite all of our attempts to make our lives secure—wearing protective gear, creating a savings account, building a Y2K+X shelter—we’re all subject to nature’s whims. Most of the time, we’re just scrambling to maintain life’s delicate balance between order and chaos. Of course, there are certain, non-weather related natural disasters that can create disorder; namely, those we’re naturally related to. That’s why, in particularly unstable families, any interaction must be planned with a map of the likely fallout and that Y2K+X shelter stocked to the gills. Later this week, we’ll see how shaking things up can sometimes make the family balance stronger.
Dr. Lastname

Even though most of my family are crazy and a pain in the ass to be around, I still love them and have found a way to keep them in my life without letting their bullshit make me miserable. I’m worried though that, if they come to my wedding, then our relationship is going to fall apart. I can’t not invite them, because they know it’s happening and will show up with or without an invitation, but if they do show up, it’s going to be a shitshow. My father is a nice guy but a mean drunk, and there’s no way he’ll be sober. My oldest sister is a compulsive klepto who would probably disappear the wedding gifts, and another sister is well along in following our father’s staggering footsteps (my brother moved far away to get away from them, and I can’t blame him). I’ve told my fiancée I don’t want to spoil the event for her parents, who are very nice, but I’m afraid of what my family will do to create chaos and ruin what we’ve paid for. My goal is to have a wedding that doesn’t blow up on me and hurt innocent bystanders like my wife and her family.

Whatever you decide to do about inviting your family to your wedding, it’s clear that you accept them for who they are, but that acceptance is dependent on certain factors, i.e., where they are, and for how long. When it comes to family, especially awful relatives, better living through boundaries is often the rule.

Even if you’re not interested in punishing, hiding, or changing them, and you can talk about them honestly with your wife-to-be (who is not asking you to disown them), you’re also not interested in inflicting them on the public or your new in-laws. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Instability Insurance, Pt. 1

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 3, 2015

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Dear Readers,

As you might have noticed, the site’s been going through some changes in the past week or so as we prepare for the release of our book, F*ck Feelings (see pre-order links to the right, it makes an excellent Labor Day gift).

This week, we debut our biggest change—instead of doing two cases per post, we’re going to do two per week. New posts will still go up on Mondays and Thursdays, but those posts will contain just one case, and it’ll be the Monday case and the Thursday case that have a unique and insightful connection, as opposed to two cases within each entry.

We hope you approve of these changes, and we appreciate your patience as we revamp the site and drag it from the WordPress dark ages.

In conclusion, please enjoy FF 2.0, and also, please buy our book. These A/C-bolstered electric bills aren’t going to pay for themselves.
-Dr. Lastname

 

When people are under stress, they sometimes become different people. While nobody aside from Bruce Banner experiences a physical transformation, stress does make some people repeatedly do things they know they shouldn’t. If stress sucks you into a bad habit, learn to accept your loss of control, put shame aside and have faith that the real you is still there and will come back from your mental-Hulk state. Next time, we’ll discuss the strange flipside of stress-induced compulsion.
-Dr. Lastname

I pride myself on being a pretty independent woman, so when I realized I had to give up on a relationship that was going nowhere with a guy I liked, I barely let it phase me. Six months later, however, I fell hard for someone else and, when he dumped me, it seriously messed me up and made me miserable. That’s when I was horrified to find myself calling my previous, going-nowhere boyfriend again. Since then, I can’t seem to stop calling him, even though I feel the same old vague emptiness after we spend time together. I’ve never seen myself as weak, but I feel like an addict every time I get sad and find myself picking up the phone. My goal is to figure out what went wrong with me to make me become someone who can’t stop calling someone whom I know will leave me feeling worse.

 

Experiencing the urge to do something destructive, be it calling a crappy ex, eating your weight in Oreos, or returning to the vodka trough, isn’t always a sign of overall weakness, weirdness, or creepiness. More often, it’s a sign that a part of your brain is possessed, and Oreo-loving demons don’t get up and leave on their own.

That’s because these compulsions often have a life of their own, and sometimes independent people who are proud of their self-control find themselves struggling with the urge to do something they really don’t want to do, whether it’s drinking, eating, or over-connecting. Nobody’s immune to bad habits, not even good people. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Action Blues

Posted by fxckfeelings on

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Most of the time, you don’t want to try to pay attention to two things at once—the TV and the oven, the road and your texts, your kid and your moody pet alligator, etc.—but other times, it’s more dangerous not to. It’s a problem for those people who pay too much attention to the reaction they have to other people and ignore their own actions, as well as those who pay too much attention to their own actions and ignore how it impacts others. If you’re a single-minded person and want to avoid being blind-sided, learn how to divide your attention and pay it at the same time. That’s the only way to be mindful of relationships and your own priorities (and hopefully oncoming traffic).
Dr. Lastname

I like to be close to people and I tend to fall in love really easily, so, while my relationships are often intense and fulfilling, they never last very long and never end well. Anyway, my life has been going reasonably well, and I’ve been dating a girl I really like who I think would be a good wife, but my roommate is also my best friend and, since he’s started dating someone, he’s stopped being around very much. Neither one of us is gay, and we’ve never technically hooked up, but we’ve always been really comfortable with each other physically, and our bond is really close. Maybe that’s why I really resent his relationship and find myself being very angry at him for no reason and jealous that someone else has his attention. I really don’t think I’m gay, and I love my girlfriend, but I’m freaked out about my feelings. My goal is to figure them out and get back to having a happy relationship with my best friend.

For those who are prone to powerful emotional reactions, having strong feelings can be a lot like getting blackout drunk; you’re very certain where you are now and what you think about it, but can’t seem to remember how you got there. You lose the part where you keep falling into intense relationships and only focus on the fallout when they come apart.

The intensity of your post-entanglement emotions not only blinds you to the pattern of needy behavior and faulty decision-making that repeatedly puts you in these situations, but to the more important reality of how he or your current girlfriend fits into your future partnership plans.

So, instead of focusing on your anger and jealousy, give serious consideration to what you really want from your roommate; better to take a moment to assess your priorities than follow your feelings to another destructive conclusion. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Accident Prevention Reassurance

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 27, 2015

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Obviously, accidents are, well, accidental, but if we purposefully avoid identifying relative responsibility, then we risk putting ourselves and others through them again. After all, if we don’t take responsibility for accidents that are not largely accidental, we miss an opportunity to prevent them. And if we do take responsibility for accidents that are entirely accidental, we compound the misery unnecessarily, which may make more accidents happen. So, instead of getting swept up in shame or guilt, add up the facts and seek second opinions. Accidents happen, but if you don’t learn from them you’re deliberately setting yourself up for more mistakes.
Dr. Lastname

My sister drinks because she says it’s the only way to make her anxiety go away—her anti-depressants don’t do it—but she’s been hospitalized three times now because of blackouts caused by drinking and taking extra medication. She gets mad when they try to keep her at the hospital for observation because she always says that she didn’t want to kill herself, she was just trying to get some relief for depression and screwed up by drinking, and being at the hospital makes her more depressed and then she signs out as quickly as possible. She’s mad at me and the rest of the family for insisting that she has a problem with alcohol and needs help, because she thinks we’re just freaking out over a few stupid mistakes and we’re doing this because we like to make her feel worse. My goal is to find her the help she needs.

As you already know, the only problem your sister will admit to having is the one she has with you and your insane overreacting, and maybe also one with your family, who should love her the most but are making her difficult life even more excruciating. You almost can’t blame her for turning to the bottle.

What’s hard for you to accept, of course, is that you can’t get through because, from what you’ve described, her mind is focused entirely on the way she feels in the moment, and in most moments, it’s lousy.

She might have even felt suicidal at the time she almost died, but since she doesn’t afterwards, what was a suicide attempt is now, in her estimation, a silly mistake. As such, she’s not lying, she’s just incapable of seeing the big picture. Shrinks call people whose depressed and angry feelings distort things this way “borderline personality disorders” and, when their distortion is as severe are your sister’s, there’s nothing much that can help them, at least not for the time being.

So don’t try to argue or tell her how much she needs help. Instead, simply trust yourself and act according to what you see and believe. You can’t promise her that she’ll feel better if she stops drinking, particularly not at first. You can promise her, however, that treatment and sobriety can help her think more positively, act more carefully, and reduce the risk of accidental overdose and death if she truly wishes to build a better life.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Disturb Your Enthusiasm

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 2, 2015

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People often try to drum up motivation in the disheartened by repeating the old saying about how even the longest journey begins with a single step. Remember, however, that, whatever your destination, you must also find the right way to get there; there are bad ways to do good things and vice versa, but if your goal or method is off, you’re going to end up stuck. In other words, don’t set out for righteousness in ill-fitting shoes or take a speed-hybrid on the road to ruin. Instead of assuming that the quality of your motivation determines the effectiveness of your methods, evaluate them on their own merit. That’s the true first step you have to take before the journey even begins.
Dr. Lastname

I’m well established as a leader in my department with an impeccable sales record, so I was shook up when our VP suddenly told me he wanted to redistribute some of my accounts to a guy who’s junior to me, and then later promoted him over me to senior administration. While I’ve always gotten along well with my co-workers, I’ve also felt that I’ve been treated a little differently at work because I’m a woman (and one of few), but I’d never been able to put my finger on any specific discrimination until now. I met briefly with someone in HR to ask about this guy’s promotion over me, and he immediately got defensive and accused me of being difficult. Realizing that even approaching the subject of possible sexism would probably make things worse, I instead put together a detailed report for the VP on how taking me away from my regular accounts may decrease sales, but that did nothing but reinforce my “difficult” reputation. I’m clearly being discriminated against, but I’m more helpless and angrier than ever. My simple goal is to be treated fairly.

Getting fair treatment is always a dangerous goal, particularly when you have very good reason to believe you’ve been treated unfairly; even in battles over basic rights, victories are rare, hard-won and sometimes require involvement by the Supreme Court.

No matter how black and white your dispute may seem, you still have little control over how others treat and react to you; most administrators regard accusations of unfairness as a personal insult and potential legal attack. Sometimes, love wins, but more often, fear does. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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