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.
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.
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.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on September 13, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you have your eyes on a very specific prize, second place can feel like a first class ticket to Loserville, even if it’s just a coach ticket to whatever goal you had in the first place. If your drive is making it so hard to appreciate your efforts that it’s really just driving you crazy, here are five ways to deal with that perceived failure.
1) Get Your Goals In Line
Putting aside the performance goals that you don’t really control, like a particular salary, promotion, or degree, ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish. Usually, with goals that are work- or education-related, you’re ultimately trying to find a way to make a living and develop your skills and abilities. The kind of grades you get or job you finally land—the feel-good outcomes—are never completely under your control, so don’t hold yourself accountable for them.
2) Set Effort-Based Standards
Instead of reaching for those feel-good outcomes, measure your success by how much time, effort, and overall feel-bad hard work you put into your goal, like the number of hours you studied and whether you asked for help when you needed it. If you found yourself avoiding the work, ask yourself whether you faced that problem and tried to do something about it. Be objective in grading your efforts, using the same standards as you would for anyone else, and if you find yourself falling short, avoid self-incrimination and aim for self-improvement instead.
3) Fight Negative Thoughts
Unless you’re a massive jerk/Republican presidential nominee, you wouldn’t tell someone who’d tried hard and put in the work that he was a failure, so don’t be that mean to yourself. If you’re a natural-born perfectionist who tends to get down on himself, learn how to talk back to your self-criticism and give yourself positive encouragement, getting help from a positive coach/therapist if necessary. Otherwise, your negative thinking will make your performance worse, cause you undeserved pain, and put you at the mercy of the world’s meanest critic, who happens to live in your head.
4) Get Motivation From Your Good Values
Ditch outcomes-based motivation, looking inward instead to find drive in your own positive ideals, like the importance of being independent, helping others, and doing your share. Yes, you’re also motivated by good results, competition with others, and the ecstasy of the victory lap. When your career goals reflect positive values, however, regardless of whether you’re getting the glory, it’s much harder to feel negative about the outcome of your efforts, even when those outcomes are negative themselves.
5) Reject Failure And Rethink Success
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t listen to old clichés and keep trying the same thing over again and again. Step back, seek advice, and ask yourself whether there’s an obstacle you can’t control, like a skill you can’t acquire or a relationship you can’t make work. If that’s the case, accept your helplessness, don’t take it personally, and try to find another way forward. You may need to compromise or eat some crow, but as long as you’re acting in accordance with your basic values, you’re on the right path to some kind of success you can be proud of.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 30, 2016
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When we’re desperate to push ourselves to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks, drive and doubt can combine to create an inner drill-sergeant: a loud, insulting voice in your head that screams all the insults of a military commander but much less flying spittle. Unfortunately, that balance of drive and doubt can be precarious, so if you push yourself too far you may go from driven to too depressed and full of self-hate to do much of anything. As with a new recruit, you may have no choice over your commander/the kinds of emotions that get you going, but you can learn how to manage those emotions so they don’t cause you to give up and go AWOL.
I’m a 23-year-old man who spent my formative years as this retarded socially awkward mute and at some point after visiting hospitals for work experience I decided I wanted to be a physician really fucking badly. The only problem was I was a moron who spent his formative years playing video games instead of taking the right science classes or getting good grades. I then spend an extra year working my ass off and taking the right classes at night and volunteering in health care during the day. Since the start of the whole ordeal, my academic advisor has been telling me it’s never going to happen and I should go for nursing, and I’m thinking, “fuck you, I’m going to be a doctor!” Then I don’t actually get the grades to get into med school—they’re all a grade below what I need—and in order to fix them I would have to repeat another 1-2 years, which isn’t a possibility. I then think about going to the nearest bar to drink myself to death, but I don’t, so off I go to study psychology with some health studies thrown in. I’m now in the 2nd year of course and need to get interested in becoming a clinical therapist, otherwise I won’t have the motivation to get a good grade. My goal is to figure out how to become interested in becoming a therapist other than gritting my teeth, giving up on my dream/accepting that I’m stupid, and getting on with my shit.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on August 4, 2016
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As illustrated by our reader from earlier this week, it’s hard to trust a partner who leaves you out of the loop sometimes, even if, in almost every other way, you love him or her very much. Before letting either suspicion or your special emotional connection be the key factor in whether or not to stay together, ask yourself these five questions to determine whether or not your spouse is telling the truth and worth taking a chance on.
1) Examine His Honesty Experience
Think back on whether or not he has a solid record of truth-telling, not just by looking at your own history but by seeking out the opinion of family, friends, and, depending on the level of commitment at stake, his exes and even his possible- court records. Ignore anger or hurt in favor of the facts, and give extra weight to crimes, credit card debt, and infidelity. Don’t pay much attention to white lies unless they seem indicative of worse offenses.
2) Assess His Lies’ True Effect
After getting a complete history of his truths and falsehoods, consider whether you’re bothered more by his lies because of the way they impact your life, finances, or future, or by the way they affect your feelings and inspire paranoia. Look at his worst lies to you and their impact on your relationship, paying more attention to how they damage your security, wealth, and family relationships than how much they piss you off. Define for yourself the kinds of impact you can’t afford to tolerate, even from someone you love.
3) Determine His Ability To Divulge Honest Answers to Direct Questions
One good way to distinguish the liar from the truth-evader is to see how he responds to questions about his hidden dealings, because if he makes up lies to cover up previous lies of omission, you’ve got a problem. If he doesn’t and easily tells the whole truth, then develop your own system for reminding yourself to pin him down on a regular basis. Your system must protect you from any real danger to your security or that of your family in order to be effective.
4) Figure Out His Ability to Own His Dishonesty
If he agrees that his lying is a serious problem, you still have to figure out whether he genuinely agrees or if he’s just going along with you in order to make you happy. If he truly owns his lying, he will take the same steps as an addict in recovery; he’ll talk about it, own up to his slips, and examine triggers that get him into trouble by working with a support group or therapist. What you’re seeing then isn’t just apology, but an honest effort at improvement and reparation and, hopefully, a good result.
5) Given His Dishonesty, Make A Choice
If your safety and security are endangered by staying with your less-than- forthcoming partner, then your only choice is to end it, but if they aren’t, then make your decision by listing whatever you value about the relationship. As we always say, think less about what you like about this relationship than what you want a relationship for in general, i.e., how much you require from a partner for companionship, co-parenting, sex, etc. Then ask yourself whether your current partner’s contribution to those goals outweighs the impact of his truth-impairment, taking into account what you can and can’t expect to change about his behavior. If it is worth it, then learn to ask a lot of questions and become better at forgiveness. If it isn’t, then learn a valuable lesson in what your relationship standards are and you’ll be better at finding someone new who meets them.
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 19, 2016
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Because trust between people who know one another well usually depends on how well they treat one another (and their cars, pets, and fancy coffee makers) over time, we tend to assume that mistrust would not flare up in a close relationship without good reason. Unfortunately, some apparently normal people are sometimes prone to limited bursts of paranoia, so mistrust can also arise spontaneously for reasons that we don’t understand. That’s why it’s important to develop objective methods for assessing the causes of mistrust, whether it’s your own or others’, and whether it’s broken-espresso- machine-related or not.
I love my partner very much— he makes me very happy, and I feel very cherished. Despite that, however, I cannot trust him because there have been a few times that he has neglected to tell me very important things that affected us. He will keep me informed for a week or so, and then neglect it again. If I cannot trust him, can this relationship work? Can someone who behaves like this change? My goal is to figure out whether I can stay with someone I love, even if I can’t take his word. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 7, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re often plagued with uncertainly that’s beyond problematic and into the realm of downright paralyzing, here are five tools you can use to fight crippling self-doubt.
1) Compose Your Personal Code of Conduct
Pretending you’re judging the work or moral conduct of a friend, define standards for deciding whether his or her performance and character are good enough, avoiding the impossible standards of perfection you usually impose upon yourself. Spell out the standards you’re using to making your decision, and make sure to account for you/your friend’s circumstances, shortcomings, etc. when deciding how high those standards should be set.
2) Generate An Internal Judge Judy
Become the judge in your own internal court of perfection, using your new code to consider and rule on whatever nasty accusation your brain throws your way. Don’t hesitate to confer with a friend or therapist, but remember, once you’ve rendered a decision, it carries the weight of the Authority of your Code. As in Judge Judy’s court, all decisions are final.
3) Push Back Against Persistent Doubt
If your inner-Judy disagrees with persistent accusations made by the Prosecuting Center in your brain, use that gavel to talk back. Don’t expect the prosecutor to shut up or go away, but do take the time and effort to state your own opinion and do so with sincerity, confidence, and conviction. Your job is to stand up for yourself and the firm values that you’ve established (and not tolerate any nonsense).
4) Shut Out the Ceaseless Retorts
Having done what you should to discredit your brain’s unfair accusations and criticisms, and knowing that your mental prosecutor never sleeps (which is why your nastiest doubts appear in your nightmares, and why people still show up to Judy’s court in ripped dungarees), don’t give your doubts more attention than necessary. Whenever you recognize an old criticism you have previously reviewed, judged, and declared invalid, ignore it using whatever technique works for you, e.g., meditation, exercise, a distracting binge watch, etc.
5) Self-Respect is Your Standard
Keep in mind that your primary goal is not to quell your self-doubts but to meet life goals despite them, which can include educating yourself, working your dream job, building friendships, finding the right partner, and possibly raising kids. If you’re able to do those things while dealing with the pain of self-doubts and the extra work required to manage and deal with them, then you deserve respect and should consider yourself a success, no doubt about it. On to the next case on the docket.
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 27, 2016
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Like pooping our pants, biting our enemies, and enjoying Disney Channel shows, self-doubt is a regrettable aspect of childhood we’re supposed to grow out of. If, however, years of learning, practicing, and getting older don’t keep persistent self-doubt from pestering you on into adulthood, it’s usually taken as a sign of low self-esteem and possible failure in normal maturation. In actuality, it can also be a trait that, for reasons we don’t understand, afflicts mature people who have worked hard, gained skills, and deserve much more confidence than they ever experience. We don’t think these traits can be changed by treatment, prayer, or, as always, anything short of lobotomy, but we have many ideas on how you can manage self-doubt almost as well as you do your bowels.
I am constantly plagued by negative self-talk. Most days I lack confidence in nearly everything I do. No matter what it never seems to be enough for me. How can I let go of the constant self-judgment and self-criticism? These mental habits sabotage my day–stirring anxiety, panic, and impulsiveness. My goal is to change this internal negativity into something positive, nourishing, and/or helpful. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 19, 2016
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All of us have insecurities about our looks, but some people, like our reader from earlier this week, have insecurities that can be crippling, overwhelming, and totally undeserved. If you can’t help but obsess over perceived flaws in your appearance, here are five ways to suppress those horribly negative thoughts about your body.
1) Busy Your Brain
The more absorbing the activity, the less opportunity you’ll have to examine your body, think about its shortcomings, and come up with ideas about what you did wrong. If it’s work, you’ll also get paid, and if it’s exercise, you’ll get healthy and improve your body in other ways. In any case, it’s do-it-yourself therapy that’s far cheaper than the conventional kind with other incidental rewards.
2) Stay Social
Socializing with close friends keeps you busy and distracted while also giving you comfort and social feedback that contradicts your sense of repulsiveness. Through those friends you may actually find other people who like to be with you and even look at you. It won’t stop the thoughts, but it is a good distraction from them that also gives you ammunition to contradict them.
3) Train Your Thoughts
Therapists can give you fact-based ideas to use to contradict your negative thoughts with positive truths. When the negative thoughts creep in, repeat these truths to yourself in order to repel or even prevent those negative thoughts from invading your beliefs and devaluing what you should be proud of.
4) Prioritize Peace of Mind
If you want something less strenuous than exercise to keep your brain busy, you can learn how to meditate, shut off your mind and, if possible, hypnotize yourself into a relaxed state. Become expert on the various techniques for inducing relaxation and pursue whichever ones seem to best suit your style. Then do them regularly, no matter what your state of mind.
5) Observe Self-Censorship
Prevent yourself from indulging your negative thoughts out loud and talk about your body with nothing but respect, even when you’re letting others know about the negative thoughts you’re having. Never repeat those negative thoughts in a tone of affirmative belief. Make it clear you’re not looking for reassurance and that you won’t let your body-part-abhorrence change the way you behave or how you socialize, just that this is what goes through your mind and you’re doing what you can to keep it under control and away from your day-to-day life.
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2016
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Maybe it’s an extension of normal perfectionism, but obsessing over perceived physical imperfections is an affliction that sometimes happens to very good people. Unfortunately, doctors have neither been able to find the reason behind nor the cure for these obsessive thoughts, but if you’re one of those unfortunate people, you aren’t totally without hope. Though feelings of ugliness are painful and hard to bear, there are ways to remind yourself that they aren’t the truth, and that your future never need be as ugly as the thoughts in your head.
My concern has to do with feeling ugly. I often feel quite not-OK with how I look, specifically my face, and it causes me unease and unhappiness. I also feel I was very unhealthy and underweight in my late teens (from eating very little and working way too hard at school), and that I could/should look better/like my handsome brother, and often just feel kind of this general malaise and shittiness when it comes to my appearance. I can’t imagine ever even wanting to date somebody given how almost guilty and unhappy my looks make me feel. Every mention of attractiveness and even the sight of a pretty girl quickly triggers a twinge of sadness and a kind of sigh and a drive to ruminate, which I’m finding it hard to deal with now and I’m and worried about coping with it in the future when life gets much harder. Right now I live with my parents and am quite comfortable, but I don’t know how I’m going to function when I’m on my own struggling in the real world. I can’t imagine happily meeting friends for brunch and not getting weighed down by the whole, “I look gross as hell and it’s probably my fault and things might very well suck forever and I might be screwed” train of thought. My goal is to be less affected by my feelings about how I look and have some sense of hope about the future.
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