“Behind Closed Doors”

“Behind Closed Doors”

I was deeply saddened this week to hear of the suicide of Robin Williams, by far one of my favorite actors. Who can forget the nontraditional inspiring college professor in Dead Poets Society who made me to want to stand up and shout “O Captain, My Captain!” Or his endearing role as Mrs. Doubtfire, a divorced father, desperate to spend time with his children who poses as a nanny. Etched into my memory is his tender dialogue with Robert De Nero as a patient resurrected from a coma by a creative and genius doctor whom he portrays in Awakenings. Lastly, in Good Will Hunting, I know I’m not the only who had tears in my eyes (and sometimes still do) in his role as a psychologist when he speaks into Matt Damon’s troubled childhood “It’s not your fault! It’s not your fault! “It’s not your fault!”

Watching various news channels, they talked about his genius, wit, energy, physical humor, acting prowess and philanthropy (it’s reported that he always said “Yes” to the requests of others). Yet behind closed doors Robin Williams was tormented by depression, anxiety, severe mood swings and substance abuse. Like Robin, most of us have a public versus private self. We all have the potential of being amazing in public but when the curtains go down and the audience stops clapping; as Robin, we’re not always comfortable in our own skin… in the quiet… in the dark… behind closed doors.

Research provides the backstory that begins to shed light on the diverse facets of his soul. We begin to get a glimpse into the animating forces that drove his heart felt dramas, the redemptive themes, his manic comedy and his battle with a troubled soul.
• In middle school he was bullied and sought out new routes home to avoid his tormentors.
• He told jokes to his mother to make her laugh and pay attention to him.
• As a child he spent much of his time alone in the family’s large house playing with his 2,000 toy soldiers. He says, “My only companions, my only friends as a child were my imagination.”
• His father traveled a lot for work and when he would come home, Robin found him to be “frightening” and avoided him.
• His mother worked and as an only child, he was attended to by the maids they employed.
• Williams claimed his upbringing left him with “an acute fear of abandonment” and a condition he described as “Love Me Syndrome.”
• When he graduated from high school in 1969, his class voted him “The Most Likely Not to Succeed” and “The Funniest.”

Let me be clear, not all people who commit suicide had dysfunctional childhood homes and not all people who had difficult families harm themselves or others. There can be many factors that contribute to internal conflict where a person experiences depression, anxiety, despair, anger, cynicism and hopelessness. But as is seen in his personal testimony, family of origin played a major role. While each of our families of origin has a lifelong impact upon us, the “training” we received occurs slowly, secretly and without notice… behind closed doors.

Regarding this training ground, it shapes our view of “self” and “other.” Questions like who am I? Who are you? Will you see me and love me? Am I worthy to bring myself to you and ask for help? Who am I as a human being? Am I accepted by God? Do I have a purpose for my life? Based upon his childhood and teen experience, Robin may have been struggling with some or all of these questions… just to name a few.

If our parents did not nurture us or help us wrestle and resolve these questions we can idealistically march into adulthood believing our childhood is “over.” We then think marriage, parenting, careers and accomplishments will make us feel complete. Yet, instead of bliss, relational conflict and life’s realities eventually expose our unresolved inner self. As a result, relationships are damaged, deep pain ensues and addictions, compulsions, obsessive thought patterns, busyness and distractions function as a means of medicating our aching souls.

At How We Love and Relationship 180 (our non-profit counseling center) we are dedicated to exploring and beginning the healing journey in each of our lives. Here, we begin the process of growing up a second time by seeing the roots of unresolved painful patterns. We help to foster emotional and relational healing so we are gradually transformed toward a more secure and confident version of ourselves within healthier relationships. This is God’s heart’s desire for each and every one of us. The counselors at Relationship 180 are all committed to these principles. All of our sessions are private, confidential and of course conducted in our offices behind closed doors.

Our heart goes out to the “little” Robin who was struggling in an adult world. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and those who were close.

If you or anyone you know shows signs of depression, anxiety, isolation and negative thinking, please intervene. Ask yourself or them directly “In your current emotional state would you intentionally harm yourself or others?” If the answer is “Yes” or you are still uncertain, be an advocate and reach out for help from other sources.

Thanks for listening,

What has two boxes of ice cream to do with How We Love?


We received this fun note on the website from a group who just finished watching the How We Love DVD series. We thought we would share it with you all!

What has two boxes of ice cream to do with How We Love? You may ask

Our life group has just finished watching the How We Love DVD sessions. It was an awesome 6 weeks of discussion, surprising discovery of ourselves, honest and open sharing of our past and struggle, with vulnerability. The series not only revealed areas we need to address, but also brought the group closer together.

This past meeting I brought two boxes of ice cream to the meeting. A box of drumsticks and a box of ice cream bars. I noticed how everyone took his/her time to choose between the two flavors and commented that we could see their personality by the ice cream they chose. “John”, without losing a beat, chimed in that we could figure out their Love Style by the ice cream they picked. “Sally”, while eating hers, asked what happened if she wanted both. As if on cue, ‘vacillator’, everyone shouted. The funny thing was, “Sally” was a vacillator. And when “Julie” asked what happened if she didn’t want any. “Avoider”, all jumped in.

We had a great laugh. I never thought that the series has this much impact on each one of us. On a personal note, I have benefited so much from reading the book and watching the DVD series. The concept has revolutionalized the way I look at myself and help me to mend many relationships. I tried to share this with as many people as I can, as I have felt the life-changing power. Thank you for all you’ve done and may God continue to bless many through your ministry.

Blessings to you all!!

Four Lenses of Diagnosing Problems.

Four Lenses of Diagnosing Problems.

General medicine does not make Christians too nervous. If you have a troubling symptom you go the Internist or Specialist and hope for an accurate diagnosis and plan of treatment that will bring you back to health. Many times this may involve a prescription. If we are told we have a thyroid disorder and need Synthroid, we go fill our prescription and take our dose. If we have high blood pressure we may need medication.

Let’s dive into a controversial subject. When it comes to a Psychiatrist and diagnosis of some psychological disorder and a suggestion for medication we often balk as Christians. Milan and I have had to beg, plead and cajole many clients into seeking this kind of help. Sometimes there is a flat refusal. Why is this? Somehow this kind of help is labeled unspiritual. If we had faith, a close walk with God (whatever exactly that means) and read our bible and prayed we should not be depressed, anxious, have mood swings, compulsions etc.

While all these spiritual disciplines and practices certainly help, sometimes they are not enough. Milan and I like to look at all problems; medical, psychological and spiritual through four lenses.


Most problems we encounter are a mixture of all of these areas. The difficult question is what’s what? For example, years ago I saw a client who was 53 years old. We will call her Sue. The last of Sue’s three children had just moved out to attend college. She was an empty nester after being a stay at home mom for 25 years. She was not sleeping well. She was tired and unmotivated. She was a devout believer for many years and described her relationship with God as “close and life giving” until recently. Now her prayers seem to be “hitting the ceiling” Upon further questioning I learned her best friend had died of breast cancer the previous year. She described this loss as devastating and felt no one but God understood the degree of sorrow she experienced. Her husband was a high level executive and worked long hours. She loved him and the life style he provided, but longed for more emotional and spiritual intimacy in her marriage.

Let’s take these presenting issues and look briefly through our four lenses:

Physical: She is at a menopausal age. Her hormones are changing. Does she exercise?
How is her eating? Does she pay attention to nutrition?

Emotional: Sue has experienced a great deal of loss. She is in a major life transition
which is equivalent to a man retiring or losing his job. Who can she go to for
comfort? Is her husband willing to come in and learn to grow in his ability to
see and meet her needs for comfort and connection? How are her other
friendships? How has she dealt with this grief? Alone? Can she bring
her vulnerable need for comfort into relationship? What did she learn about
connection growing up? Is she a avoider, pleaser, vacillator, controller or
victim? How is her love style impacting her? Is she anxious? What is her
level of self awareness? Is she a giver or receiver…can she be in both roles?

Spiritual: Is this a spiritual crisis/transition? Has she ever experienced this downturn in
her prayer life before? What is her church involvement? What is her level of
spiritual maturity? How much has she suffered? How does she integrate
suffering with God’s love? What is her level of vulnerable, real, connection
within her church setting? Where and how is spiritual opposition operating?
Are there demonic strongholds? What lies does she believe?
Are her sleep problems due to hormonal changes? Is her thyroid low?
When was her last physical? Is she depressed? Are her sleep problems due to
depression? Is there a family history of depression? Anxiety? Panic attacks?
What medications is she on? Are her symptoms a side effect of any

This is just a quick overview… the point is all areas are important to investigate. Leaving out one section means I may miss important information. In Sue’s case, what we discovered over time is that she was indeed depressed, but was uneducated about the symptoms of depression. In fact, as I explored Sue’s history, she had suffered post partum depression after the birth of her last child but had never been diagnosed or treated. Her Father had serious alcohol addictions, which may have been his attempt to medicate depression or anxiety.

After three months of treatment and no alleviation of her symptoms I suggested Sue schedule an appointment with my favorite psychiatrist and be evaluated for anti-depressant medication. (I prefer psychiatrist for this kind of evaluation because this is their area of specialty. Out of 20 or more possible choices of medication, a psychiatrist is trained to differienate between all these options and selects the best possible choice of medicine.)

I explained to Sue that depression can be situational and resolve on its own, or it can be clinical…that is caused by imbalances in brain chemistry. Most any condition for which we take pills or vitamins is an attempt to alter some chemical system in out body for the better. Initially, Sue resisted feeling she should be able to trust God more and that would help her feel better but after another month of sleeplessness, indecision, lethargy, frequent crying and anxiety she agreed to make an appointment.

Sue was astounded at the results. She said what I have heard so many clients say when treatment is successful… “The difference in how I feel amazes me. Overall, I feel I have my feet back on the ground and can manage stress so much better. I’m sleeping again and I can make decisions without agonizing. My head feels clearer and every little thing does not make me cry. I was afraid I would not feel like myself on medicine but it’s just the opposite. I feel like myself again.”

I have heard a similar speeches countless times. Sometimes psychology (symptoms of depression) and medicine can make all the difference in helping someone regain their emotional health. To ignore this avenue of help can make suffering unnecessarily prolonged.


Psychological or Biblical?

Psychological or Biblical?

Milan and I encounter this question many times as we teach and speak around the country. Is psychology unbiblical? How can psychology be helpful if it is humanistic and man centered? Just in case you readers are wondering how we integrate all this into our beliefs as Christians ….a note of explanation.

Psychology by definition refers to the study of the human mind and mental states by observations, categorizing and labeling characteristics of human behavior.

Psychology is man’s observation of human behavior and the categorization of these observations into names of illnesses or disorders by lists of symptoms. Medical journals observe and categorize illness in the same way. If you have a certain list of symptoms the Doctor says, “You have a cold or virus.” If your medical symptoms match another list, perhaps you have gall bladder problems. Are medical journals “biblical”? No. Are psychological journals “biblical”? No. Do they contain wisdom to label and diagnoses problems? Yes. Do they give the ultimate solutions on how those problems originated or are solved? (Sin and Salvation) No. Can they be helpful to identify diagnosis and help a person identify exactly where they need to grow? Yes.

Yes, No, Yes, No….did you follow that? Think of it this way. If we look at the world from a Biblical perspective, we know the world is broken because of sin. You are broken. I am broken. All of creation is broken. Roman 8:20-22 says, “For the creation was subjected to futility , not of it’s own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption to the freedom of the glory of the children of God. All creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now.”

Christ is the solution. “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life.” Christ’s work on the cross rescues us from sin and brokenness. As we accept the sacrifice of the cross on our behalf as payment for our sin, we are adopted into God’s family and given the Holy Sprit. God then calls us to grow into the likeness of Christ. After salvation, God sees us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Of course our mate has a hard time seeing us seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6). They see us as imperfect and incomplete and lacking in many ways. This is because we are not yet transformed practically into being Christ-like.

How does God show me where I’m not like Him? How does God show me what parts of my being still resemble brokenness rather than holiness? The Bible is certainly the primary source. The more I know God and His character the more I will see the goal; what I am becoming in the process of sanctification. Milan and I see psychology as a secondary source of identifying brokenness.

Milan and I were married for 15 years and very serious about our commitment to Christ and open and willing to grow. We did some changing during those years. We learned a lot about our faith. But we were still very stuck in some tenacious marriage dynamics that were hurtful and no amount of prayer or bible study had changed them. You might say we were still blind as to some areas of brokenness.

God used my studies in attachment theory (psychology) to pinpoint some injuries (sin done to us) and resulting behaviors (our own sin) that were blocking growth in our marriage. I believe it was an answer to our prayers for wisdom that I read these studies. As I read the characteristics of an Avoider and how this imprint occurs I clearly saw my own experience in my family of origin. As I read the adult characteristics of the Avoider, I clearly saw how that brokenness affected my parenting and marriage.

I began to confess. I don’t really know how to bond. I am afraid of my feelings, especially painful feelings. I am too independent. I don’t really know how to need God or others on any deep or vulnerable level. I could go on and on. These confessions turned to prayers. God, help me learn to feel. Help me learn to risk being vulnerable. Help me learn to show my pain to you and others. Help me learn to receive comfort.

There was a giant leap in my growth. God was the source in leading me. God was the source in giving me the Holy Spirit as a guide. God was the source in helping me identify and make these healing changes. He just used a sprinkling of psychology along the way to help my confession and prayers go from vague (help me be the wife and mother you want me to be) to more specific requests I just mentioned above.

Next week, I’m going to talk about one more benefit of psychology and medicine in terms of spiritual growth.


How Does Our Faith Help with Addictions?

How Does Our Faith Help with Addictions?

How do we incorporate God into the healing process? First, we have to know we have a God who understands. One of my favorite verses in the bible is Hebrews 4:13-16.

“And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heaven, Jesus the son of god, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in theme of need.”

We can’t hide from God. He knows our addictions. More importantly he knows the struggles of life on earth. Recently a prisoner cried in group as she told about the absence of any consistent, loving, parental figure in her childhood. Her mom was abused sexually as a child. Her mother loved her but was incapable of being a mother as she was still a child inside an adult body. Her dad committed suicide when she was young. “How could a loving God let all this happen?” she sobbed.

I asked permission to answer her question from my Christian perspective. She consented and I told her gently the following. “This is a broken world. Brokenness does not get made right until heaven. But, my Jesus did not sit on this throne in heaven and look down with disgust at what a mess we have made. MY GOD ENTERED THE MESS. He came into the world, born to a poor family. He was misunderstood. His family thought he was crazy. He was abused physically. He was a wanted man. The Pharisees wanted him dead. He was falsely accused and took the punishment for something he did not do.
He hung naked on a cross enduring the public and private shame.

He was betrayed. He was abandoned. He had an emotional breakdown in the garden of Gethsemane asked for help from his three closest friends who fell asleep. He was hungry. He was tempted. He felt the weight of sickness and pain. He was lonely and rejected by many. My God sympathizes with this prisoner and her pain. He lived on this earth and experienced pain and brokenness firsthand. He is safe to ask for help.
Ultimately, he died for sin. Sin is the root of the whole mess. He offers forgiveness and restoration to broken relationships.

Just take a moment. This week take several quiet times with God. Come just as you are weak and broken. Tell God you cannot overcome your addiction without His help. Tell him about your childhood pain. Tell him about the feelings you are so afraid to feel. The feelings you don’t know what to do with. The feelings you medicate. The feelings you need to distract yourself from. Name them. Pray for a group and a mentor.

Ask for patience as healing is always a slow miracle; rarely a fast one. Thank Him for entering the mess, for understanding the pain and struggle of living in this world. Picture him with the exact feelings you just named. Picture a scene in his life where he felt your feeling. Thank him for being a God who was willing to suffer so he could understand. Now picture Jesus comforting you. Tenderly. Lovingly. Patiently. Now see God being a refuge for you. Picture some sort of shelter. See yourself there. Use these pictures when you feel compulsions to use a cheap substitute for the real thing.


Vulnerability: The Key to Overcoming Addictions

TWO MORE DAYS until our FREE event Saddleback Church! Join us Saturday 6/21 9:00am – 12:00pm in Lake Forest, California!
Register at howwelove.com. or CLICK HERE

Vulnerability: The Key to Overcoming Addictions

I think you can see, we are all very prone to addictions and they give us the relief that we do not know how to get relationally from God or others. We may be medicating present pain, but often, there is a childhood root to the pain in our present. For example one of my prison ladies said this week that her most prevalent childhood feeling was “overwhelmed” and “confused”. These feelings were mainly centered on a mean, abusive older brother from whom she was never protected as both parents worked. He often took his anger out on her. She currently works for a controlling, intrusive woman who is unpredictable and unreasonable. She leaves work feeling overwhelmed, confused and used. Her battle starts on the drive home. I’ll just have one drink before I go home. Soon, she is on her way to the nearest bar for a drink before she goes home to the kids. One too many DUI’s landed her in jail. The alcohol gets rid of the bad feelings but her kids pay a big price. Until our group time this incarcerated woman did not realize the feelings she was battling and needing to medicate had been present for a long time before she ever got this job. Her boss just acted as a trigger to stir up an old yucky pot.

Addictions are about getting rid of bad feelings and feeling good. At least for a while. There is always a negative consequence. If the unpleasant feelings have a childhood root the well of pain that is stirred up, is deeper. Our childhood home trains us what to do with painful feelings. Can we take them to relationship or are we left to find a solution on our own?

The healthy solution? Painful feelings need to be acknowledged, tolerated and processed within a safe relationship. Sounds easy, but most of us did not have childhood experiences that equipped us with the skills we need to do this. Today we will talk about getting help from people. Next week we will think about getting help from God.

Why is Alcoholics Anonymous the most effective treatment for addictions? It has a higher success rate than any other program. Personally, I think there are three reasons.
1. You have to admit you are powerless over your addiction and that you need a “higher power” (Jesus and the Holy spirit in my opinion). Facing this means you are no longer in denial that you have an addiction (you are admitting you need to go to a group). You will never beat an addiction until you admit you have an addiction and you need help.
2. There is honesty and vulnerability. The first time I went to an AA meeting twenty years ago, I went to fulfill a school requirement and I left the meeting with a heavy heart because I knew this is what the church should be doing and I had never heard people share with this level of honesty and brokenness in church. Twenty years later churches have made progress but have a long way to go. You won’t beat and addiction without honesty and vulnerability and showing others the weak broken places inside you.
3. You have a sponsor. This is the most critical part. It is where you learn that you need someone further down the road as a mentor and you call your sponsor when you are in trouble and are overwhelmed with negative feelings and want to run to your addiction. In most AA groups you must choose a sponsor (ask someone to be your sponsor) and then your sponsor will require you call them for 30 days in a row. I can just feel some of you recoiling at that. This is training in connection. Call…even if you don’t need too. Call….even if you don’t want too. You are being trained to reach out and ask for help. It is what will give you the ability to beat your addiction. Success in not about being free from the desire to use. Success is reaching out for help to overcome that desire IN THE MOMENT OF NEED.
So our prisoner gets out, joins a group, gets a sponsor and calls for 30 days. She is journaling about her childhood experiences and grieving her brother’s abuse. She reads these entries to her sponsor and to her husband. Some times she cries. At other times she is angry. She is cleaning out the wound. Eventually, it will be less of a trigger.

She knows her most vulnerable time is the way home from work. She has agreed to call her sponsor as soon as she gets in the car on her way home from work. She talks about the difficulty of the day and interactions with her boss. She admits her craving for a drink but chooses the comfort of connection instead. Her kids are thrilled to see her on time and sober.

I can hear a lot of you saying, “But my addiction is not alcohol”. It does not matter. It is the principles that are important here. I don’t think you would be kicked out of an AA meeting if you said, “Hi, I’m Kay and my addiction isn’t alcohol but it is food”. There are many groups for different issues. You absolutely cannot do it alone. So make a choice today to find a group and a sponsor. Next week, I’ll discuss the spiritual part of healing.

Thanks for listening,

What Masters You?

Upcoming Event at Saddleback Church!

Do you want to improve your emotional IQ in your family and workplace?
Are you wasting time in needless conflict?
Do you find yourself overacting to stress in your life at work and home?
Do you feel like people are constantly pushing your buttons?

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, please join us at Saddleback Church on June 21st as we present a FREE workshop entitled: Reduce Stress to Build Better Relationships Click on the events tab for more information and registration details. We’d love to see you there!

Happy Father’s Day!!
To help celebrate our fabulous dads, all of our How We Love our Kids material as as well as our Comfort Circle Bookmarks will be on sale until the end of the month! These make great gifts for dads of all ages!!

What Masters You?

There is a great verse in the bible we should all be aware of. It is found in I Corinthians 6:12. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me but I will not be mastered by anything. Paul is speaking here of Christ’s work on the cross freeing us from being judged by the law. The encouragement here is to choose what is profitable which I cannot do if something has mastery over me. Addictions, since they are meeting real needs always get to the point of having mastery over us. The addiction controls us no matter how we may tell ourselves this isn’t so.

Compulsion is the word often used to describe this behavior. It means:

A FORCE that makes somebody do something.
COMPELLING…an act of compelling or the state of being compelled.
PSYCHOLOGICAL FORCE, usually an irrational force that makes somebody do something, often unwillingly.

Do you have mastery over your behavior, or does it have mastery over you? Do you tell yourself, I’m not going to do such and such only to give in with rationalizations later?
Why are we compulsive?


If you have an addiction it is meeting some need. What is that need? What is it that you don’t want to face, don’t want to deal with? What feelings are you medicating?

I work in a prison ministry and have he opportunity to meet with a group of ladies who are incarcerated. Many of them are in there for some sort of addictive behavior and they have been caught one too many times. They see the destructive costs. They have poor health, many have lost their children and relationships due to their addictions. Almost all vow to change and not let these addictions rule them any longer. I have one over-riding thing I lovingly try to drum into their heads over and over least they forget it. This is what I say:


This is why Milan and I make such a big deal about learning to get comfort and relief from your spouse. Learn to give comfort to your kids so they aren’t as tempted to find relief non-relationally.

If you don’t know how to get relief from people you are very vulnerable to addictive behaviors because addictions do what God intended relationships to do. They are a cheap substitute for the real thing. Do you have an addiction you long to be free of? Here is the first step to freedom. Determine what feeling you are trying to get rid of when you turn to your addictive behavior. Are you lonely? Bored? Overwhelmed? Depressed? Sad? Ashamed? Insecure? Inadequate? Anxious? What is the feeling that stresses you?
Then ask yourself one more question. Is that a feeling you often felt in childhood? If the answer is “Yes”, then you have an even bigger well of pain you are medicating away. Next week we will talk about what to do next.


Addictions…Do you have one? – update!

A reader suggests another addiction…..

A reader emailed and said, “Cell phones (devises) should be added to the list of addictions.” Amen to that!! I have worked with couples who fight about one partner who cannot resist looking at their cell phone every time it pings. BIG distraction to relationships. And Moms of kids….even babies know you are not present when you are on a cell phone or computer. So let’s add this to the list.

Upcoming Event at Saddleback Church!

Do you want to improve your emotional IQ in your family and workplace?
Are you wasting time in needless conflict? Do you find yourself overacting to stress in your life at work and home? Do you feel like people are constantly pushing your buttons?

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, please join us at Saddleback Church on June 21st as we present a FREE workshop entitled: Reduce Stress to Build Better Relationships
Click on the events tab for more information and registration details. We’d love to see you there!



Busy, Busy Busy…the most common addiction….

Addictions of all sorts may be ruining intimacy in your relationships so this month we are going to be talking about the subject of these unhealthy but common behaviors. Now before you read this and say, “This doesn’t apply to me,” consider the most prevalent addiction I encounter in my work as a therapist….busyness. We often keep ourselves too busy to process anything and we use activity as a way of soothing and avoiding the pain that would break through and come to our awareness if we slowed down or had a moment of quiet.

Let me define addictions in a way you may not have heard before. Addictions are anything that we use or turn to over and over to meet a legitimate need in an unhealthy way. MOST OFTEN THE NEED IS FOR RELIEF OR DISTRASCTION FROM SOMETHING PAINFUL. Don’t miss the words; legitimate needs. Living in a broken world means we all will suffer and need relief. The question is, “How do we get relief?” Do we most often seek a spouse, friends or family member and seek relief by processing our pain with a person or do we turn to non-relational ways of getting our needs met? Addictions always meet needs in non-relational ways (with one exception) and we will talk about that at the bottom of the list. Let’s look at some of the favorites and what purpose they may serve.

Addictions get rid of some painful feelings we don’t want. We might think of them as unhealthy stress relievers. Perhaps we feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, bored, trapped, etc. We turn to one of the following things to get rid of these bad feelings.

1. Keeping busy: Using activity and over-extending ourselves to keep pain out of awareness.

2. Work: Using work to avoid problems at home, or putting great effort toward success to keep from feeling insecure or inadequate. Workaholics have families that suffer from their absence.

3. Perfectionism: Were you expecting this to show up in a list of addictions? Perfectionism is about controlling your world to avoid any feeling of failure, inadequacy or criticism. A perfectionist sooths by creating order.

4. Alcohol, drugs, including misuse of prescription medications. These substances can be soothe or enliven depending on whether the substance is a stimulant or a depressant. Substances help one escape, mood alter and relieve anxiety, depression, shame, insecurity of any painful feeling.

5. Sex: Using sex as an escape and mood altering activity. Most often includes pornography addiction. This is also an adrenalin based addiction that enlivens and distracts.

6. Computer Relationships: This is the woman’s version of a sex addiction. Women are looking for romance, understanding, communication etc, and the email/phone relationship can be just as addicting as a pornography addiction. The computer has somewhat replaced “Romance Novel” and I have worked with several woman that used these books as a total escape, neglecting kids and responsibilities to go off into this fantasy world.

7. Gambling: This is an adrenalin based addiction that is distracting and mood lifting. It promises but does not always deliver instant gratification, a quick fix and the illusion of powerful control.

8. Food and eating: Often when we overeat food becomes the soothing mommy and relieves some unpleasant feeling. Anorexia is also a food addiction requiring the absence of eating and the control this requires gives an illusion of power and control for other areas of life that cannot be controlled. Perfectionism is often a related issue for the anorexic.

9. Shopping: Provides distraction, instant gratification, control (I can have what I want when I want it). Often a shopper fees deprived in some way, usually emotionally.

10. Stealing: Also and adrenalin based activity that provides distraction and instant gratification.

11. Computer: Games, chat rooms, face book. Gives the user distractions and takes them into a fantasy world on some level. Even face book is an illusion of many friends and yet does not require personal contact fact to face.

12. Exercise: This is obviously a great activity we should all be doing. It becomes addictive when it is compulsive, extreme and cannot be missed.

13. Relationships: This is the only addiction that is relational in that people are used as the source of distracting and enlivening. When one relationship is problematic instead of dealing with those problems, a new relationship is pursued. The feeling of “intense love” is the cure for everything. These folks are in love with a fantasy of love that is not based in reality. They have a high need for attention and affirmation; a bolstering up of an insecure core. The key feature is a total preoccupation with the relationship to the point that it interferes with other important relationships and responsibilities. The feeling is that I will die without this person.

14. Affairs: This is a relationship addiction that includes secrecy and sex. I have worked with men and woman who are addicted to affairs. If you have had two or more affairs this is probably your addiction. Boredom and problems in a primary relationship provide the justification to seek happiness elsewhere. The adrenalin rush of secrecy is highly enlivening, distracting and proves to the addict that he or she must not be the problem since this other person find them so amazing.

Wow! That is quite a list. And I know the list is not exhaustive. Next week we will look at the nature of compulsions and how they play into addictions. Then we will spend the last two weeks on solutions.


Do you want to improve your emotional IQ in your family and workplace? Are you wasting time in needless conflict? Do you find yourself overacting to stress in your life at work and home? Do you feel like people are constantly pushing your buttons?

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, please join us at Saddleback Church on June 21st as we present a free workshop entitled:
Reduce Stress to Build Better Relationships

Click on the events tab for more information and registration details. We’d love to see you there!

Update and Upcoming Event!

Hi Family,
Thanks for your love support and prayers for our family. Brayden’s surgery 3/3/14 was successful. The fibrous / fatty mass was removed and the spinal cord released. On Wednesday 3/5/14 he was released from the hospital and Kelly, Blake and Brayden came to our house for the recovery phase. Brayden is healthy, smiling and his 5 inch incision is healing well. Our house is a mess and if our washing machine could talk it would say… “Really??? I thought we were through this phase!”
While some kids have urological /bladder problems that can develop sooner or later in development, it appears by the power of his little fire hose that at least for now his bladder and urination is of gold medal caliber. Who would have thought “I’m happy to have a baby pee all over me.”

They will probably be with us for another week and then head back to their apartment where they will get back to life as usual. I invite you to into their journey and continue to covet your prayers. Follow along at http://braydenisbrave.wordpress.com. Kelly’s journey will warm your heart and strengthen your faith.

Thank you to all of you HWL’rs! Your personal support, love, encouragement, stories and prayers from all over the world have lifted Kelly and Blake to another level of encouragement. Recent comments from Kelly:
• “Dad! I can’t believe it! We had a thousand people look at our blog on the first day! How many people read your blog?” (Answer: “I don’t know… I never check… ask your Mom or Mary.)
• “Daddy! The encouragement and personal stories people are sending are amazing.”
• “Dad, did you know that some of the people reading the blog call themselves HWL’rs? (Answer: “No I didn’t. Cool!”)
• “Dad, did you know how many countries get the blog? It’s amazing! (Answer: “No I didn’t. Cool!) ( Are you beginning to see a pattern here?)

Kay and I will be speaking at Christ The King Church in Bellingham, WA this Friday night March 14th from 6:00 -8:30 PM and Saturday morning March 15th from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM. We will be teaching our How We Love our Kids workshop. You are welcome to join us and walk ins are welcome!!! The address is 4173 Meridian Street, Bellingham, WA 98226.
Thanks for your support and love,