Thursday, June 21, 2012

She's Mad Over Porn? Here's How to Win Her Back

She's mad because you secretly kept going to porn. On a deeper level, she's mad because you let your relationship needs take precedence over hers. You'll win her back gradually as she sees you prioritize her relationship needs, sacrificing yours for her sake and for the good of the relationship.

How you did damage by putting your relationship needs first: As men, we need more than anything to feel her confidence and trust, her approval and acceptance. When she sees you as the man who meets her needs, it's better than winning the lottery. When you're the guy she instinctively looks to look to when she is in need, you feel strong, competent, confident.

You're so driven by this role you play in her life that when you wake up in the morning and don't feel like going to work, you don't mention it. You don't whine. You suck it up and strap on your boots and trod out the door to slay the dragon. You take pride in it. You want to be the guy who takes care of things, not the guy who needs propping up and coddling.

When she expresses appreciation for your efforts--or better yet, when you just catch a look of admiration in her eyes--your heart soars. A year-end bonus from work is nice, but pleasing her is the real bell you're trying to hit as you swing the mallet in the high striker game of life. It's hard to put into words the potency of her appraisal. Nothing in life means more--on an emotional level at least--than how you're doing in her eyes.

Now add this to the mix: You get caught up in porn. You know she'd be upset if she knew. Logically, you may tell yourself that it's not good to keep secrets, but very little in your makeup or history prepares and primes you to open up about this. You know it would hurt her to know. But perhaps even scarier: you know your stock would fall in her eyes. You'd go from the hero to the villian pretty quickly. And maybe you haven't even been the hero lately. It feels like you cannot afford to give yourself one more knock in her eyes.

You might consider telling her. You might decide to tell her. You might even plan it out. But as that dreaded time nears, all you can see are reasons not to. Thoughts of impending disaster bully your good intentions out of focus. And the worst part of the doom you imagine is your loss of esteem in her eyes.

So you do what you're good at doing, as a man. You suck it up and strap on your boots. You determine to take care of this on your own without burdening or disappointing her.

One problem is that porn is addictive and not an easy habit to kick. Another problem is that you're more vulnerable to the pull of a numbing escape like porn when you need emotional support but you feel disconnected and aren't getting support because you're trying to deal with something difficult on your own. The addictive nature of porn keeps drawing you to it and your isolation keeps pushing you to it and over time you get more and more stuck.

You put your need for her admiration ahead of her need for closeness with you, and look where it got you. In a twisted, demonic downward spiral, you are becoming less and less worthy of her admiration. Neither of you get to enjoy the lifeblood that would nourish your emotional vitality.

How you'll win her back by prioritizing her relationship needs: You'll realize that the bar of her admiration and approval is lower than you ever before suspected. You're not going to stop going to work every day, checking the oil in her car, or trying to be a good dad. That part of your relationship--taking care of her in practical ways--was never broken in the first place. (If it is in your marriage, that's another blog post for another time.) But when it comes to her emotional needs, you'll realize that she doesn't need you to perform as much as she needs you to draw close.

So when she gets mad and starts crying about pornography, you don't only use that as motivation to perform ("I'll go to more 12-step meetings and read more books"). You don't only defend your performance ("I swear I haven't even been tempted to look since you caught me"). Before you do those things--or perhaps instead--you walk closer, touch her in some way if she's open to it (but respect her need for distance if she's not), let her know that you see that she's upset, tell her that you want to hear more about what's going on inside her. Your goal is not to fix her feelings (remember, performance is your lifeblood, not hers) it's to be with her while she's feeling them. Feel them with her. Empathize with what she must be going through. Tell her that it's understandable she'd be hurting the way she is, given what she's going through. Let her know you're not going anywhere, that you'll stay and listen and feel with and just be with her, if that's what she wants and needs, for as long as she needs you close by.

Of course, at first she's going to vaccilate back and forth between wanting distance and closeness. But you can let her know you're available and then respond when she does want you close.

As you draw close and stay connected in the midst of her porn pain, you're training at high altitude. Later when her pain is over something else, you'll be better prepared to give her exactly what she needs.

Then you'll come home from work and she'll ask if you remembered to pick up the milk like she asked. When you see her blush and the fallen look on her face, you won't run back out to your truck and drive off to the store, resenting how easily she gets upset and cataloguing in your mind how much you do for her and how little she seems to appreciate it. You won't resent her for withdrawing her approval "over something so miniscule."

You won't do any of that because you'll realize that she's not trying to deprive you of your emotional lifeblood. She's just feeling deprived of hers. She spoke (about the milk) and when you forgot to pick it up she was afraid that perhaps what she says isn't always heard or taken seriously by you. She starts to worry that maybe she's not a priority.

And you can help her in the midst of the relationship need she's having right then. You'll walk right up close to her and touch her if she's open to it. You'll empathize, "Did I just blow that?" She'll start to cry and even she will be surprised at the strong emotions that flood her because of the forgotten milk. Of course, those strong feelings are not over the milk, they're over feeling unimportant or forgotten, and both of you will be starting to understand that. It's not nearly as much about your performance as it is about her need to feel connected to you.

You'll empathize. "Oh, Honey that really hit you hard, didn't it. You get wondering if I even listen to you. If what you say even matters to me. If you matter to me. I can understand why that feels so threatening to you. Come here." As she softens, perhaps sobs, you'll hold her tight. You won't say, "Don't cry" and you won't rush through this part of it because you'll know how important it is. You're so important to her that when something threatens her connection with you it feels unbearable. If anything is worthy of strong feelings and tears, it's the importance of your relationship. You'll be content to just have that time with her, both of you feeling the depth of how high the stakes are, how important each of you are to the other. You'll be letter her feel and letting yourself feel with her, feel for her, and it's no longer something you'll feel the need to rush through or run from.

When the time's right, not to fix her sadness but to share your real feelings, you'll pull back and look her in the eye and say something like, "You matter so much to me. It hurts me to see you feeling like you don't. I don't ever want you to feel that way. But I know sometimes you will and I accept that. Thanks for letting me know that you were."

As you consider this all now it may sound like you'll have to become a detective, expertly watching for every little clue that something deeper is going on so that you can figure out what it is. Well, guess what: there's always something deeper going on, but it's not rocket science. Your wife always has a need to feel like the two of you are together, a team. That you're involved in each others' lives, hearts, and minds. That you want to hear what's going on inside her and are willing to share what's going on inside you. If she's upset, 85% of the time it will be because she feels the threat of an unexpected, undesirable distance or disconnect. Assume that's what it is and empathize with her over that. Trust me, if you get it wrong now and then, she'll forgive you.

Some magical things will happen when your woman sees that you're putting her emotional needs first in this way. First, a deep level of trust is gradually restored. She comes to understand that your need for admiration will never get in the way of her need for connection. Or if it starts to, she trusts that you'll correct course once you realize what's happening. She knows on a deep level that if you struggle with porn, you'll be open about it. Why wouldn't you? There's been this fundamental shift in the very core dynamic that fed the secrecy!

Secondly, your acceptance of and shared immersion in her emotions help acclimate you to emotions in general. It will become easier to see and talk about your own. You'll more readily discuss what's going on inside and reach out to her for support when you're in need. And all of us, even men, have those times when we're in need emotionally. No longer will porn have such a potent pull in those moments of emotional vulnerability. You'll getting your emotional needs met, not just numbed.

Finally, and this one's the real treat, the cherry on top: you will have developed a new emotional lifeblood. You will treasure closeness with her. The emotional connection and openness you cherish will feed and enliven you in a way you've never experienced before. To be real with this woman who means the most to you, to have her be real with you, and have no barriers between the two of you... this intimacy in your relationship will awaken parts of your soul you didn't even know existed and escort your life into a new and rewarding dimension. And here's one of the coolest, most mind-blowing parts of the whole thing: when she looks at you then, even with all of your weaknesses and past mistakes, when she looks deep into your eyes with such openness and presence that all pretence and faking is impossible... and then you see a deeper sense of admiration and approval than you've ever seen before... you will realize at that moment that the initial seeming sacrifice of your own emotional needs is now returning to you a hundred fold.

That will be a great moment.

[I say that will be a great moment, but it may seem that, given how hard things are now, you will never get there. Don't let hopelessness defeat you! We specialize in helping individuals and couples through rough patches. Call me on my cell phone now (801-564-7566). I've started providing 20-30 minute phone consultations at no charge. You're not alone and you don't have to do it on your own. Wherever you are now, there is a path to a better life. Please trust me, it's true. Our conversation may lead me to recommend a therapist in your part of the country. Sometimes I pass along a fitting book or a helpful website. Some of the people who call end up reading one of my books or become clients at our clinic. Some just thank me for my time and encouragement. Regardless of where the conversation takes us, in all the years I've been doing this no one has ever said that they were sorry they made the call.]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Willpower Boost #4: Mediate Inner Conflict

[IMPORTANT NOTE: This is an extremely powerful technique I'm providing you for free. In exchange, I don't just want you to read this, I want you to try it out. I want it to help you. I don't just want it to help you, I want you to come back and comment (using an alias if you'd like) about how it went so that your story can help others. Thank you.]

Lance felt worn down by the battle that raged within him. He'd periodically indulged in pornography since he was a teenager, but over the last couple of years the obsession had been growing and the indiscretions had become more frequent. Now it felt like he was under a constant barrage. He didn't give in to temptation every week. Nonetheless, every day he suffered in some way because of pornography. If he wasn't being battered by the guilt and irritability of the post-orgasm hangover, he was looking down on himself for having this as an ongoing problem. Either that or being tortured by the urges and cravings that pulled him, relentlessly once they started, toward his next indulgence.

We talked about the stress of owning and running a retail business, the challenges he and his wife faced with their teenage children, the potent draw of porn, the shame he felt when he'd lapse, his desire to be strong for his family, and his goals for the future. As we explored all of these, I could tell that every area we discussed evoked strong feelings in Lance. I got the feeling that being in his head must be like living in a chaotic courtroom with prosecutors and defenders grabbing for power and shouting over each other.

I shared the image of that intense, noisy courtroom with him. "Fortunately, there's also a part of you who's a wise judge. Perhaps up to now he's been sitting quietly at his bench, patiently listening to everything going on. Now it's time for him to step in and mediate. He can demand that all these other parts of you speak one at a time. He can listen compassionately to their perspective and take their vote on a plan. But he will also be firm with them and keep them in their place. After taking all input and trying to see the big picture, he will be the one to determine the most fitting course of action."

We first let the part of him that likes to go to porn have a turn speaking. He visualized this part of him as having tattoos and a nose ring. The name he came up with for this part of him was Raunch.

"Ask Raunch why he keeps coming around," I said. "Ask him what his job is."

"Somebody has to lighten up and make sure we have a little fun around here," Raunch said to the judge. (I think of the judge not as a part of Lance, but as his deeper, true, Wise Self.) "Everything else you do is for everyone else," Raunch continued. "I mean look at you:. You don't really like that shirt, you keep wearing it because you don't want to buy new clothes. Those car stereo speakers you got for your birthday are still in a box in the basement. You say no every time Brian invites you to go fishing. And you've had a toothache for three months but you still haven't scheduled an appointment with the dentist. If it wasn't for me, you'd never do anything for yourself!"

I encouraged Lance: "See if you, your Wise Self, can respond to Raunch in a firm but compassionate way. What would you say?"

"Wow. Thank you for bringing this imbalance to my attention. I appreciate it. I can see now why you've been so insistent when I've been trying to get you to go away. Thank you for not giving up. Those are all important things. And I'm sure there are so many others. Please keep letting me know when you see that I'm getting out of balance. But your solution to all of this, to view porn, really doesn't meet a need. In fact it doesn't help in any way at all, other than providing an escape and an instant high. But that's followed by days and weeks of suffering. The gratification is not worth the pain that comes afterward, and you know that."

"I never knew that," Raunch said. "I never thought much about it anyway. It's not my job to think about that stuff. I leave that for you to deal with. All I know is that all work and no play makes Lance a dull boy, and I'm trying to spice things up. Life is for living, not sacrificing and suffering."

By now Lance didn't need any coaching from me to keep the dialogue going. "Life is for living, and part of living is sacrifice," Lance said to Raunch. "I'm not afraid of suffering, but I do thank you for alerting me to the fact that I do need more balance in my life. Moving forward, I will take your perspective into account. I can arrange things more to your liking. I'll start by calling up Brian and planning our next fishing trip. Plus I'll get Brandon (Lance's 17-year-old son) to help me cut the holes for those speakers. He owes us money for his last traffic ticket anyway."

"You know," Lance said to me, "As I'm getting to know this part of me, I see that the name Raunch doesn't really fit. I think the name Dreamer would fit better."

As Lance listened in a compassionate but firm way, the inner tugs and pulls started to become more understandable. I could foresee that this awareness would help him shift from a state of inner conflict to one of greater integration, peace, balance, and inner cooperation.

"You've done a remarkable job of remaining patient, calm, and wise even though dreamer first showed up in his most extreme form, and even seemed like Raunch. But you don't usually respond so well to Dreamer. Is there another part of you that usually steps in and reacts to Dreamer--maybe locks horns with him?

"I get so frustrated," Lance admitted. "I feel like throw up my hands--at myself! 'Come on! What's your problem?! What are you thinking?! You know that going to porn makes everything worse!' That part of me hates it when Dreamer has come in and run the show for awhile. He wants to take back over with a vengeance and never give up control again. He sets new goals about being spiritual. He calls me a hypocrite for teaching Sunday School when I don't live the Gospel. He say's I'm a miserable father and lame example to my children. Sometimes he's even told me my wife would better off without me."

"What should we call that part of you?"

"He's Freaker. He considers the fact that I'm not perfect reason enough to freak out. The fact that I go to porn--well that just sends him over the brink, apoplectic.

"As Wise Lance," I suggested, "Ask Freaker what he's trying to accomplish."

Lance sat for a moment, then tears formed in his eyes. "Freaker just wants to be good. He knows what leads to happiness. He wants a peaceful, calm life. Dreamer's actions have hurt Irene and the kids. His heart has been absolutely crushed by that. He loves them so much. He wants porn and all its consequences out of my life. So he's been trying to annihilate Dreamer. He is the part of me who loves the fact that I was on my high school Seminary Council. He loved it when he heard from a neighbor lady back then that any mother would trust their daughter on a date with me. He can't believe how far I've come from that and is very troubled by it. Freaked out by it, even. He thinks life should be so simple: live righteously and thus be happy. And he never wanted his life complicated by sin in this way."

"He's not really a freak, is he. More a guardian of virtue."

"Yeah, I think that's what I'll call him. Guardian. That certainly allows him more of the dignity he deserves."

Lance's inner conflict was starting to calm. He was fleshing out the parts of him that were behind the voices that used to get lost in the din of inner chaos and turmoil.

It may take awhile to get to know the parts within you that keep the familiar tug-of-war going. You might get bogged down trying to even hear these inner voices, let alone sort them out on your own. This is why therapy is often so valuable: it amplifies previously unheard whispers and shines the light on former blind spots. Feeling stuck may be part of addiction, but things don't have to remain that way. Recovery is characterized by feeling freed up and by a sense of expansion as knowledge grows and hope starts to thrive. We can help you get on the path of recovery and stay on it even when the going gets tough. I hope that you'll call today and get the process started in your life. My cell phone number is 801-564-7566. Please leave a message if I don't answer--I'm the only one who listens to those voicemail messages, so you can trust that what you say will remain confidential. I know it takes courage to pick up the phone and dial, but it may end up being one of the most important calls you'll ever make. Whether you do decide to get in touch or keep working on your own, I wish you the very best. You deserve it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In a Porn Rut?

At the end of our phone conversation, Gloria concluded that while her boyfriend, Robert, may not be addicted, he'd certainly fallen into a bad rut with porn. Here were the signs:
  • Robert had sex with an inanimate object--his computer--more often than he had sex with Gloria, even though she was interested and available. In fact, the day before she called me, he'd viewed porn online two times. That was twice as much as they'd made love the entire week.
  • Robert was becoming more and more irritable. He had sometimes displayed a temper in the past, but had typically been kind and thoughtful to Gloria, his friends, his sister, and their aging father. He seemed to be under a dark cloud.
  • Robert's vitality had been waning. He was spending more time at an aspect of his business that paid the bills but did not challenge his mind or engage him. It required only that he show up, and so that's what he did--barely. He had let go of aspects of the business that made less money but gave him more satisfaction and engaged his mind.
  • Robert still said all the right words--he told Gloria he loved her and couldn't live without her. But when she came home from work he often seemed distracted. When Gloria would go to find him in the house and try to connect, he seemed more vacant and aloof.
  • Even one day when Gloria had called to let him know she was on her way home, she had walked in to find him shuffling into the next room with his laptop in hand and his elbows barely holding up his pants. This experience gave Gloria the distinct impression that looking at porn online had become a higher priority to Robert than she was. 
Gloria concluded that whether or not Robert was willing to continue the status quo, she was not. She confronted him about his behavior. She made the continuation of their relationship contingent on him getting out of his porn rut.

I hope Robert does whatever it takes to get out. From all I can tell, He and Gloria have so many of the other ingredients that make for a strong and secure relationship, if he'll subtract the porn. He may need some help along the way. From Gloria's description, it sounds as though he may be suffering from a clinically significant level of depression. I'm not sure whether his lack of energy and initiative came first and made him more vulnerable to the porn rut, or whether all the porn has drained his drive. Either way, it's not just his relationship that will get better--his entire life will start looking up once he's back out of the porn rut.

If you can relate to Robert or Gloria, I hope you'll decide right now that today is the day to start turning things around. Let him know how you feel. Tell her about your struggle. Working together you can make things different and better. And when you hit bumps along the way, that's what we're here for. My confidential cell phone number is 801-564-7566. We get calls from folks in your situation every day and we know how to help. It's our passion! If you've intended to call before but never quite gotten around to it, don't let another day pass. A rut is no place to stay when a better life--the life you deserve--is waiting for you on the other side.

Monday, June 11, 2012

True Salve for the Raw Soul

Sometimes I feel lousy--emotionally all jagged and out of sorts. It's hard to even be around people, let alone talk to them. To actually speak to someone about how I'm feeling in such moments? That's the last think I want to do. To open up to the one person in my life I most want to impress and reassure--my wife? Now that just feels all wrong!
And yet, when I read this passage from an obscure 19th century text, I sense that this writer tapped a deep well of wisdom:

"When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile... if he can meet mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings; when the mind is going to despair, it needs a solace of affection and kindness." This author writes, further, that “It is the duty of a husband to love, cherish, and nourish his wife, and cleave unto her and none else; he ought to honor her as himself, and he ought to regard her feelings with tenderness, for she is his flesh, and his bone, designed to be an help unto him, both in temporal, and spiritual things; one into whose bosom he can pour all his complaints without reserve, who is willing (being designed) to take part of his burden, to soothe and encourage his feelings by her gentle voice."

Porn's pull can feel irresistible during our down times--when we are borne down with trouble, perplexed with care and difficulty, when the mind is going to despair. The escape of sexual fantasy can seem like the very thing that will hit the spot in such moments. To reach out instead can feel like a bad idea. We can barely imagine pouring into the bosom of our one-and-only all our complaints without reserve in the hopes that the solace of her affection and kindness will calm down our soul and soothe our feelings. The idea that she'd be willing to take part of our burden and soothe and encourage our feelings by her gentle voice--wow! How would that be?! I ask you, does the emotional intimacy and forthright way of relating described in the above passage sound possible? Appealing? Scary? Gratifying for sure, if only you could manage to pull it off?

When we crave, a part of our brain lies to us, telling us that porn itself is the way to touch an intimate (albeit anonymous!) other, in the ultimate, tender way described above. The brain is rightfully registering, "that's exactly what I need" and wrongfully concluding, "I'm gonna get it by way of these pictures."

Our brains have linked sex to intimacy, and rightfully so. But porn pretends to offer sex but delivers absolutely no intimacy, which empties the equation not only of all its deeper meaning but also of its capacity to satisfy us in a way that is lasting and settling to the soul. No wonder we crave it more and more over time. Porn is to the soul what liquor is to the alcoholic's body: empty calories that quench a craving and tell us we just consumed exactly everything we really need.

We don't see people healing a porn addiction by having hotter sex with their real-life partner. But we do see couples becoming more emotionally intimate as partners--that we see all the time. Then that opens the door to better sex, because sex has become so much more than scratching an itch or quenching a thirst. Reaching and touching have become amazing realizations of, full manifestations of, the deep feelings and sense of connection each partner has toward the other.

Next time your soul is raw, take the risk and reach out for the true salve. Connecting emotionally with your partner is a process that will take time, but someday you'll look back on it as the very thing that contributed as much or more to your happiness than any thing else in your life.

Whether you've already arrived at that destination, are well on your way, or just starting on this journey, please call and let me know how it's going. I genuinely care about you and your progress! My confidential cell phone number is 801-564-7566. I'd love to hear from you and be able to cheer you on as you make climb. Sometimes I'm in session or with the family, so if I don't answer please leave a message and I'll call you back soon. Some of the calls I get turn into one-time, half-hour chats. Others turn into the beginning of a counseling partnership. I relish both kinds because I love nothing more than watching people find their way to freedom from addiction! It is, to quote the luggage salesman in "Joe Versus the Volcano," the central preoccupation of my life.

Willpower Boost #3: Live by Choice

Here's a dynamic that can perpetuate addiction: You spend a lot of time and energy trying to satisfy others, accomodate their preferences, meet their needs. Or perhaps you respond more to an internal sense of how you should be living, the right things to do, the worthwhile ways of spending your time.

Of course there's absolutely nothing wrong with being generous and trying to do the right thing, in and of themselves. However, you may be among those who find that if you operate with these guiding principles always at the forefront day after day, you burn out. If so, it might help to ease off those efforts, relax, and enjoy yourself in a balanced way, in a way that complements your usual effort and selflessness.

But what if you're not in the habit of allowing yourself that balance? At some point your resolve may weaken to keep living the way you "should." You may get sick of doing for others and find yourself more and more focused on yourself. You may find that you care less and less about what's right and become more and more focused on what would feel good.

You may find that you can't sustain your efforts to deny yourself forever, and at some point the pendulum swings. You become selfish to an extreme, throw off the usual restraints, and even thoroughly flout your own conscience.

If this cycle sounds familiar, please recognize this: the problem isn't just in that final collapse. It's also in the buildup before the collapse. As men with similar struggles establish a life of recovery, we see them do something very important: Give themselves permision to choose between doing for others and doing for themselves.

Charles, for example, was focused 99% of the time on doing for others and meeting their needs. His sisters-in-law raved about what a dream husband he was, always the first to change his kids' diapers and entertain all the cousins at family gatherings.

Everyone at his law firm came to him with difficult problems. He'd put aside his own work to help them navigate a tough case, even if that meant staying at work past midnight sometimes to get everything done. It was not uncommon for him to mediate problems between partners at the firm. Charles was the glue that held things together.

His siblings and parents often looked to Charles as well. If someone needed extra money to pay their bills, they'd call Charles. When one sister started a project the rest of the family thought was crazy, she knew she could count on Charles to take her seriously. He even pitched in some funds to help with start-up.

Nothing wrong with any of this, except that Charles could only sustain it 99% of the time. Then there was that blasted other 1%. Those were the times when he found himself burned out--exhausted and depleted. Sometimes, in the middle of a day like that, a judge would postpone a hearing or there'd be some other unexpected change in his schedule, leaving him with a couple hours of time where he was not accountable to anyone.

Charles had the freedom to sneak out and ride his bike or fly a remote control airplane, if he'd been so inclined. But he just wasn't very good at doing things for himself. In fact, he was quite clumsy about it. Instead of doing something along those lines, Charles would drive downtown and pick up a prostitute.

He hated this habit and had tried to kick it from the day it had started twelve years ago. However, he didn't have much luck until five years ago, when he started to take better care of himself in his everyday life.

He still pitched in around the house and put the kids and his wife first, most of the time. But sometimes he admitted, "I'm exhausted," and walked into the bedroom first thing after getting home from work, and laid down for a nap. This was very hard for him to do, because he knew his wife, Carrie, wouldn't be happy about it. At least at the time. But as he pushed through that discomfort and more often did what he felt like doing, he found that she got over her upset pretty quickly. In fact, she knew he was tired because of everything he was doing for their family. Most of the time she appreciated him and supported his efforts to take care of himself.

It was hardest for Charles to feel like he was letting Carrie down. It was not quite as difficult, but still a stretch, to say no to one of his partners when she brought an inner-office conflict to him, expecting him to jump in and help resolve it. Instead he listened, nodded, and expressed his confidence: "Go back and keep trying. I'm sure that you and Sherm will find a way to work it out between the two of you." And they did. At least she never complained of the matter to Charles again.

He crossed a final hurdle the next time a family member approached him for financial help. His big brother was upside-down on a truck he'd purchased a couple of years earlier, and had fallen behind on payments. Could he get a little help? Or better yet, did Charles need a new truck? He empathized with his difficult situation, expressed full faith that he'd find a way to work it out, but declined to give him money or take on the truck and the payments. It was so freeing to walk away from that interaction feeling love for his brother without feeling like he'd taken on his burdens. He accepted that his brother may resent the lack of help, but even that burden would not be his to bear, but his brother's.

It's very freeing to live by choice rather than out of pressure or to meet expectations or in an effort to keep up appearances. We free ourselves from the buildup of resentment and feelings of rebelliousness that can put us at greater risk for relapse. When we choose how we're going to live and take responsibility for those choices even in the face of pressure, we more fully emancipate from all of the controlling factors in our life--even our addiction. Here's why: as my mentor, Craig Berthold, taught me: our addictions often serve as vehicles of emancipation. Once we emancipate legitiately and courageously, we no longer need those old illegitimate and ineffective vehicles. Once we can say to everyone in our life: "I love you and I want you to be happy... but I am no longer going to let you control my life. I get to choose--I have to choose!--how I am going to live. And now that I am, I love you more than ever, because I no longer resent you and the power I used to give you over me!"