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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hoping Mechanism

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 18, 2014

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The human mind is capable of many complex, inscrutable functions, but when it comes to hopeless situations, they’re processed by a part of our brains that hasn’t evolved since we had tails. That’s why, in those moments, our instincts tend to go one of two stupid ways: either you deduce that nothing’s working and never will, or that nothing’s working but definitely will if you try the opposite of whatever you’re doing now. Thus does our lizard brain control our response to foreign policy, midterm elections, and alcoholism. Better to force some human-level reasoning to what’s rarely an either/or situation and respect what you’re able to accomplish with what you control. When your instincts tell you to give up is when you know you need to give a situation more thought.
Dr. Lastname

I’m an alcoholic (with twenty years of sobriety), so when it became clear my daughter also had the disease, I tried to stay focused on doing my best to help her and not start freaking out and blaming her or myself. I think I did OK because my daughter is trying to stay sober and goes to meetings every day (I know, because she’s living at home now), but every eight weeks or so she stops going and, a couple days later, she’s drinking again. We then have a talk and she gets back on the wagon, but it wears me out and I’m losing hope. My goal is to figure out how we can get out of this rut without something horrible happening first.

It’s tough to see your daughter with an illness you know so much about and yet couldn’t prevent; given the season, you must feel like her ghost of Christmas future, if Christmas was less about Jesus and more about just drinking a lot.

On the other hand, it also sounds like you bring a great deal of knowledge and wisdom to the job of helping her. You don’t get outraged when she slips, and, perhaps as a result, she recovers her sobriety pretty quickly. Then, you manage to keep from losing it when she loses her sobriety all over again. At least until now. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Working the Reps

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 24, 2014

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A reputation, good or bad, can go very quickly from being about you to being a part of you; it doesn’t matter if you’ve grown out of it or never grew into it in the first place, getting rid of a reputation is about as easy as removing a limb. Regardless of how unfair or painful your reputation and the lack of acceptance that it can bring, your goal isn’t to retaliate and allow it to direct your life, but to stick to your own moral standards. Your reputation may stay connected to you, but your actions always matter more.
Dr. Lastname

Although our family therapist did his best and our marriage survived, my husband never got over his suspicions and jealousy. It’s true I was abusing pain pills five years ago after our son was a newborn and I feel very guilty about that, but I’ve done everything possible to make it right. Even though I went through rehab and get my urine tested regularly, my husband still isn’t sure I can be trusted. That means he won’t leave me alone with our kid, and when he is there, he’s always resentful and critical, so he’s hell to be around. My goal would be to get through to him if I could but, if not, it’s to split up without losing access to our son.

Trust and sobriety have a lot in common; both can be regained after a lapse, but only with a lot of hard work, patience, and dedication. Unless your husband is as successful at rebuilding his faith in you as you have been at staying sober, the strength of your recovery will beat that of your marriage.

Unfortunately, something’s snapped in his brain that just doesn’t allow him to trust you. If you felt his opinion was the most important thing in the world, his lack of trust could well throw you into relapse, but luckily you have the strength to see it as his problem, not yours. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Anger Banishment

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 10, 2014

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Family members can push us harder than anyone or anything else, probably because the family tree literally roots us in place so we can’t escape. Sometimes you seethe while you suffer, and sometimes worry while you do rescue work. In either case, you can’t gain freedom without shaking up the branches and the way you think about them. Once you ask yourself how much good you can really do, either by fighting or protecting, you’re well on the way to managing your feelings and finding the strength to branch off on your own.
Dr. Lastname

I have returned to a very personal habit that I have never admitted to a counselor since I worry about what they might think. To calm myself, I daydream about getting my hands around my ex-husband’s throat and not letting go. The more detail and the more I replay the scene in my head, the calmer and happier I feel. In reality, my ex-husband is a gold medal, abusive Asshole who always wins, but our sons are teenagers who seem able to stand up to what they regard as verbal abuse and bullying and they’ve been telling a family counselor about it. Meanwhile, my life has been going well and I have a nice boyfriend. I’m not a violent person and my ex is in no danger from me. My goal is to find a new, less violent coping strategy that will promote calm, healthy thoughts and reduce my anger and frustration.

Fantasy can be a powerful tool; it’s what fuels imagination, keeps our spirits up in dark times, and makes LARPing possible. It lets us escape the everyday and find freedom, even if it’s only in our heads. Unless, however, it’s a strangle-the-bastard fantasy like yours, which keeps you bound both to your ex and the fear and anger he inspires.

You probably felt weak when you were married to your ex, partly because of his bullying manner and worry about the kids, but getting yourself away from him made you strong. You left him, moved on, and provided the kids with a stable foundation that apparently gives them good perspective on his nastiness. You liberated yourself in a very real sense. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Panic Glutton

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 23, 2014

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Sadly, there’s a simple equation when it comes to confronting someone about drug use; the more you panic during the confrontation, the more they panic and then seek chemical relief by using more drugs. So, whether you’re trying to get through to others, or taking up the topic with yourself, it’s best not to focus on negative emotions. Instead, ask yourself to create your own definition of drug abuse, based on what you think would compromise your safety or ability to keep your promises and be who you want to be. Then compare your behavior with your standards and, if it doesn’t measure up, consider a positive way forward. Your confrontations will be less dramatic, but your conclusions and efforts will have stronger roots, more staying power, and the relief won’t be so chemical.
Dr. Lastname

My twenty-year-old son did well for a couple months after his last detox, but then I got a call from his girlfriend that he’s taking the same tranquilizers again that he was addicted to before. I asked him about it and he denied it, but I believe his girlfriend and now I don’t know what to do…tell him to get help, take him to the emergency room, have an intervention, or what? If he admits it at all, I know he’ll say that his anxiety is unbearable and he just can’t stand it without medicating himself. My goal is to get him real help.

Most people know that the first of the Twelve Steps is to admit your lack of power over addiction, but few realize that this applies as much to the loved ones of addicts as to addicts themselves.

As the parent of a young son, you may feel you have additional power and responsibility, but you also have additional handicaps, such as the huge cost of treatment, its notorious ineffectiveness, and the difficulty of winning cooperation from a defiant child. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Help Reviews

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 20, 2014

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We often warn readers about the dangers of being too helpful, but for every person who gives without thinking, there are plenty of others who want to help someone they love but are too paralyzed to act. Whether someone you love rejects your help or asks for it, your ability to be helpful doesn’t depend entirely on their motivation or yours, but also on the nature of their problem and what kind of help, if any, is likely to be effective. So don’t make it your business to push or provide help until you know more about their problem. Then you’ll have a better idea of how to focus your efforts and limit your responsibility to providing what will actually work. That way you can find the right balance of helping, which involves doing the most good with the least harm to everyone involved.
Dr. Lastname

My sister got arrested last weekend for dealing drugs, and even though I wasn’t surprised, it brought back all my angry, helpless memories of the many times when we were growing up that she would get into trouble and then get into treatment, tell everybody she was feeling better and going straight, and then fuck up again. This time she’ll probably go away for 10 years and the state will take custody of her kids. My parents are devastated and wonder where they went wrong, and I’m also thinking hard about whether I was a good brother. A few months ago, after she stole from our parents, I told her I’d never trust her again and I wonder whether that caused her to give up hope. I can’t stop thinking about her and I can’t sleep or focus. My goal is to figure out how to get over these feelings so I don’t ruin my life as well.

When people we love do bad things, we usually give them two options: punishment or help, with help sometimes coming in the form of punishment, and vice versa. Even when intentions are good, good is not what necessarily results.

Unfortunately, some lack the ability to respond to either; neither additional help nor punishment will give them the self-control, moral compass, or whatever it takes to stop themselves from doing bad things. What they do deserve, and won’t get, is better genetic luck, and what their families deserve is protection from their bad behavior. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Fault to the System

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 13, 2014

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Ironically, the two simplest ways to make a problem worse are also entirely contradictory; you can give the problem too much attention, or pretend it doesn’t exist. That means the ideal, middle ground is finding the courage to admit you have a problem, particularly if it’s stigmatized, then summoning the additional courage to put it out of your mind after doing your best to manage it. It’s not a simple process, but it is the best way to ensure that you both face your problem and not let it take over your life.
Dr. Lastname

I was just told recently that I have ADD. Lately, I’ve been wondering if my brain has other irregularities (I’m pretty sure it does, I can barely do basic f*cking math). I try to bring it up to my relatives, if I maybe have other learning disabilities, but they say it’s genes or it’s just my ADD. I end up feeling like a hypochondriac or just plain crazy. I guess my point is, how do I go about trying to convince my relatives that maybe there is more to know and get their support? Although even asking that is making me feel like a hypochondriacal nut-job.

Contemplating your brain can be just as useless as contemplating your navel; although the latter is usually a euphemism for useless, time-wasting self-involvement, aimlessly exploring any body part is a huge waste of time.

Obsessing over a disability can make you feel helpless and inadequate, so before trying to learn more about your brain, ask yourself why you want to know. If you need to know more about your brain problems in order to manage them better, more power to you. Otherwise, accept the ways your brain is broken and find a work-around. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Marital Dis

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 25, 2013

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If you truly want to believe in the old saying, “There’s someone for everyone,” you have to add the caveat, “assuming that many of those people aren’t exactly right for each other.” Some people think they’ve found “the one,” but then can’t see their partner’s faults because of the wishful optimism of love. Others sour on their spouses because of the tired pessimism of long-married irritability So if it comes time to make a tough decision about a marriage, be sure to ask yourself what continuing your partnership is likely to do to your finances, parenting, and security given what’s happened so far and what you now know about the character of your significant other. Once you figure out whether your someone is actually Mr. Wrong or Mrs. Will-Suffice, you’ll have a much better idea of whether you should hire a therapist to help you get along or a lawyer to preserve your assets.
Dr. Lastname

Please Note: There will be no new post on Thursday due to American Thanksgiving. As always, we are grateful for our families and your misery. We’ll be back next week.

I’m living a nightmare and feel totally helpless. I thought my wife had overcome the drug habit she was struggling with before we got married (otherwise I wouldn’t have married her). Normally, she’s the sweetest person in the world. Recently, she went back being the evil witch I remember her being when she was on drugs, blaming me for everything and threatening to take me to court for abusing her. When I asked whether she was on drugs again, she said I was a crazy asshole. Two hours later she said she was sorry, that I was right, but she felt ashamed of using drugs and was taking it out on me. She said treatment just didn’t work for her. My goal is to get her to get help so she goes back to being the amazing woman I love.

There’s a reason that “addict” is a term you live with forever. That’s not to say it has to be a horrible stigma—college graduate and Torontonian also qualify as life-long labels—but no matter how much you wish addiction would be behind you or someone you love for good, it’s always there.

You thought your wife had overcome her drug habit because you loved her sweet, kind side and wanted to think ugly, addict side wasn’t real. She’s not a bad person, but she has a bad side and a bad disease that she doesn’t seem ready or willing to deal with. Even when she’s being kind, her evil side is always going to be there, and she’s doing nothing to stop it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Family Valued

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 28, 2013

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It’s easy to disagree with a stranger—if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have road rage, Judge Judy or the internet—but it’s both difficult and painful when you find yourself unable to find common ground with someone you love. Whenever you feel pressured by someone you love to do something you hate, whether they’re motivated by destructive needs or idealistic ones, don’t feel obliged to end the pressure by changing their minds. Instead, accept the pain of unbridgeable differences and protect yourself from unnecessary conflict. Then, when you take action, you will have the confidence and optimism of someone who does not have to explain or persuade, even if the person you can’t relate to is a relative.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve always known my father can be a little weird, but he’s generally a decent guy and I know he loves my kids. The trouble is, he’s got it in his head that my wife is an evil person who has serial affairs and doesn’t really care about our kids, and that I can’t see it because she’s got me fooled. Whenever he visits, he gives her dirty looks and takes every opportunity to whisper about how insincere she looks and how badly she manages the kids and, of course, my wife picks up on it, which is what he wants. I can’t impose him on my wife, the tension is not good for the kids, and I can’t get him to see that he’s wrong, because he feels he’s on a mission from God. My goal is to find a way to persuade him to stop so that we can spend time together as a family.

If you’re a parent, you‘ve been told that it’s important that you and your spouse are in agreement and present a united front. In reality, the wish to overcome and erase disagreement, be it between parents or families in general, causes lots more trouble than disagreement itself.

Your father should know by now that, by openly expressing hostility towards your wife, he does nothing but cut himself off from both you and his grandchildren, hurting everyone and reducing whatever positive and protective influence he wants to have. He is cutting off his family to spite his fact-less assertion. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Family Mood

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 26, 2013

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Dealing with a loved one who is fucking up his life or with his family who are the captive victims of his behavior is a lot like being held hostage and being your own hostage negotiator; it’s hard not to become both helpless and emotionally pushy. If you are careful to remember what you don’t control, however, you can give good, strong advice without feeling guilty about not doing enough or causing conflict by voicing blame. You may first need to get coaching from experts, particularly those who’ve been through the process themselves, before you can negotiate well, but, once you’ve picked up the skill, you’ll be as helpful as possible. You can certainly free yourself, and you might do much to help your captor, as well.
Dr. Lastname

My 30-year-old daughter got married late last year to the father of her baby and they bought a house, have jobs and seemed to be doing well. I was concerned about the brevity of his previous marriage, his jealousy, his attitude to money and a niggling voice in my head, but I tried to be positive and support her choice. I put her unhappiness down to post natal depression until she admitted that he has huge debts, is a liar and a bully, and she suspects be is having an affair. He has spent all her money so she can’t afford a lawyer. Now his mother is getting involved—she covers up for him and called his last wife “evil,” but we have discovered that her experience was similar and that he has a long trail of debt, infidelity and general chaos. I am willing to give my daughter and grandchild a home but am going through my own divorce so it’s tough. My soon-to-be ex is worried but subject to the demands of his new partner so most of it falls on me, and we’ve already lent them money. How do I give support without taking over when my daughter seems overwhelmed and doesn’t take my advice?

Unfortunately, your daughter suffers from a very specific colorblindness—the kind that impairs the ability to see red flags—and now she feels very stuck in a situation that only she could not see coming.

Even as you swoop in to guide her through the aftermath, that doesn’t have to mean that you’re taking control of her life, though her dependence on your resources means you’ll have a strong influence. You can be a good teacher and firm manager and also respect her independence and choices; she’s not totally blind, so your guidance need not be absolute. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Magical Drinking

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 6, 2013

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When it comes to drinking, or really any addiction, it’s hard to stop without a “good reason,” especially if you think there’s a better reason not to quit. Then there’s the expectation that, if you really need to stop, the good reason fairy will visit you in the middle of the night to let you know (usually while you’re sleeping in a stranger’s bed, in a dark alley, or a puddle of puke). In reality, it’s up to the drinker to decide if s/he has to stop, and rational thinking about drinking doesn’t require a degree in addictionology. All you need is discipline to gather facts, courage to look at them, and determination to use good reasoning to do what you think is best for yourself.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve lived alone since my daughter left for college (my wife died years before) and I wonder if I’m drinking too much. I’m good enough at my job, but the head of our office doesn’t respect me and I wonder if I’ll have to move on. I’ve always had a tendency to get depressed and I see a therapist, but my antidepressant medication doesn’t seem to be working. I don’t sleep well. I’m not sure drinking is doing any harm and it certainly eases the pain, but I do get completely drunk every night, and it’s become the highlight of my day. I’ve got no friends currently, but I’ve never been a sociable guy so it doesn’t interfere with my social life, and since I’m alone, I get no complaints from friends or family. No harm done. I’m healthy and my hangover isn’t bad, so I wonder whether my drinking is worth worrying about, or whether I should just focus on getting help for my depression.

To paraphrase the old koan, if a person falls into excessive drinking without anyone around to become concerned, does it make that person a drunk? Nobody can ask the tree if it thinks it made a sound, but since you’re a person, you’re not just able, but the only one qualified, to answer the question.

You might be persuaded that you’re drinking too much if a therapist suggested you were using it to escape painful feelings, or if a spouse complained, but then later on you might decide that there’s nothing wrong with escaping when life sucks and your spouse has no right to complain because her nagging drives you to it. Outside opinion is as easy to ignore as the sound of one hand clapping. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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