Vulnerability: The Key to Overcoming Addictions

Vulnerability: The Key to Overcoming Addictions

I think you can see, we are all very prone to addictions because they give us relief when we don’t know how to get it relationally; from God or others. We may be medicating present pain, but often, there is a childhood root to the pain we currently feel. 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. Our childhood home trains us in how to deal with painful feelings. Can we take them to relationships 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 one of the most effective treatments for addiction to alcohol? 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 truth means you are no longer in denial about having an addiction and you are admitting you need to go to a group. You will never beat and 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 was thirty 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. I had never heard people share with this level of honesty and brokenness in church. Over the years 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. Shame is a big part of addictions and shame is only healed when we are loved in our sad, broken places.

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 want too. Call….even if you think you don’t
need too. You are being trained to reach out and ask for help. This is the key to overcoming your addiction. Success is not about being free from the desire to use or act out. Success is reaching out for help to overcome that desire IN THE MOMENT OF NEED.

Let’s go back to our prisoner. She gets out of prison, joins a group, acquires a sponsor and calls her for the first 30 days. She journals about her childhood experiences and learns to grieve her brother’s abuse. She reads these entries to her sponsor and to her husband. Sometimes 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 to travel home. She talks about the difficulty of the day and the 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. There are many groups for different issues. The point is, 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.

What Masters You?

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, 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, even when it is against better judgement.

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? Because, addictions relieve stress and distract us from difficult emotions. If we stop the addictive behavior, negative feelings surface and drive us toward finding relief. To get relief we turn to our addiction.

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 and 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 relationships. If you are a parent, the best way you can prevent your kids from becoming addicts is to comfort them and teach them how to deal with difficult emotions. As adults they will more likely turn to people rather than things when they need relief.

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 and prompts you to turn toward additive behavior? Then ask yourself one more question. Is that a feeling you often felt in childhood? If the answer is “Yes”, then you need to understand the pain you are avoiding is about the present and the past. Next week we will talk about what to do next.



Busy, Busy Busy…the most common addiction….

Addictions of all sorts may be ruining intimacy in your relationship. 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 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 feeling 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 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. There is a level of obsession that is unhealthy..

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.

How We Love Sex…or Don’t – The Secure Connector

How We Love Sex…or Don’t

Here is Where You are Headed… THE SECURE CONNECTOR:

These individuals endorse romantic, affectionate sexual behaviors and are more likely to engage their partner to deepen their bond by pleasuring one another. Secure individuals are more likely to seek and value intimacy and have sex for these reasons. Since secure individuals have a healthy balance between intimacy and autonomy needs, those who are secure are less likely to have sex to please or appease. Confidence makes them less likely to have sex to affirm their self-worth or to cope with negative emotions. Over all, secure individuals are less likely to have sex for unhealthy reasons.

Mothers and fathers who give their child affectionate touch that is tender, soothing, careful and sometimes playful help promote a secure love style. Secure individuals have memories of comfort and readily seek relief within their relationship with their spouse. They have been helped to pay attention to feelings, which is associated with the use of touch to convey affection. Said another way, “Individuals open to feelings are more apt to use touch as a means to establish proximity and emotional closeness.” In contrast, “individuals who are unsure of what emotions they are experiencing are more likely to report a host of negative reactions to touching.” (Attachment Theory and Close Relationships, Simpson and Rholes Editors. Brennan, Wu, Love: p. 411)

Awareness of Self and Others:

• Self-Awareness: Secure individuals have learned to self-reflect and know what they feel and what they need and desire. This fosters good communication when it comes to the sexual relationship. They can ask for what they want, are open to explore and find joy in playfulness.

• Other-Awareness: Respect, self-control and the ability to delay gratification help the secure individual be open to and interested in their spouse’s feelings and needs. Reciprocity helps the sexual relationship flourish, as both are comfortable in the roles of giver and receiver.

Motivation to have Sex:
• To Enhance Romance and Emotional Connection: More often than not, secure individuals are motivated to have sex to promote intimacy and bond with their spouse. This goal is associated with positive feelings about sex.

• Playfulness and Pleasure: Secure connectors have sex to bring pleasure to one another and enjoy being playful with one another.

Dealing with negative emotions and resolving conflict:
Conflict resolution is a skill learned in childhood and is carried into the adult relationship. Sexual differences and problems can be more easily tolerated without “taking it personally” and negotiation skills help resolve differences.

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from our new How We Love Sex…or Don’t series. The seminar explores the differences in all of the Love Styles and helps to promote God’s design for sex. Please visit for more information or to order the new series.




In this workshop we discuss the five love styles and the common sexual problems each faces. If a couple cannot open up emotionally and spiritually the sexual relationship will reflect that difficulty. A lot of us bare our bodies in a sexual encounter without ever having exposed much of our soul. We attempt to enjoy physical intimacy while struggling with emotional intimacy. In many cases, we don’t even know how to uncover our soul and be vulnerable with our clothes on.

As a couple learns how to cultivate a deep emotional bond and a spiritual connection they bring those parts of their relationship into every sexual encounter. Of all of God’s creation, sex has been the most distorted, spoiled and desecrated from God’s original design and intent. In fact we are so saturated with the world’s view it’s difficult to keep God’s perspective in mind.

Whats New?

• This new 6 hour workshop contains: 8 sexions (Milan loves this word) approximately 40-45 minutes each.
• The latest research on the female sexual response cycle providing new insight regarding the common female problem of “low desire”.
• A new and informative Ted Talk that offers a new look at pornography.
• How to negotiate a mutually satisfying sex life.
• 34 questions for couples to foster discussion about sex.
• Fast food sex vs banquet sex.
• Learning to be fully present during sex
• A new syllabus with the DVD that contains discussion questions for couples at the end of each session.
• Higher quality filming and DVD production.

We are passionate about the contents of this seminar because we watch the “lights go on” as people understand for the first time how to bring healing to their relationships. We consistently hear feedback from attendees that this workshop gave new insights and helped open up discussion that was beneficial to a couple’s sex life. The workshop comes in DVD, CD and audio download formats. Click here to view or purchase product!

Thank you for your support and congratulations to all of you who are working hard to grow!

Therapist Training – July 11th in Mission Viejo

Hello All,

Kay and I are teaching our six hour therapist workshop in two weeks in Mission Viejo, CA and we wanted you to know about it! Here is what it’s all about:
• This course equips Psychologists, MFTs, LCSWs, interns and Pastoral Counselors to use attachment theory as a framework for couple’s therapy. Presenting issues that bring couples into therapy can frequently be dissected to reveal how attachment injuries give rise to the presenting symptoms.
• A review of attachment theory and research contrasts five common injurious attachment styles that block intimacy and further an insecure attachment. By teaching participants the interplay of the couples’ attachment styles and the common core pattern of interaction they produce, the therapist is equipped to target root issues rather than focusing on the surface symptoms.
• Specific therapeutic interventions are demonstrated, giving therapists the tools required to achieve treatment goals. This course teaches current peer reviewed research in the field of adult attachment and then goes beyond theory to practical application that creates a structure and map for effective couples’ therapy.

Register at on the “events” page. You can also call the offices of Relationship 180 at (949)830-2846 for further information.

Psychologists, therapists and interns will earn 6 C.E. credits that meet the requirements of the American Psychological Association and the California Board of Behavioral Science Examiners.

If you or anyone you know might find this workshop beneficial to their counseling practice or ministry, please pass this information along.

Thanks and blessings,
Milan Yerkovich

Prices increase on July 1st, 2015 so please register before then!!!

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 8

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 8

This topic has prompted several of you come up with some really great questions. Additionally, I can be confusing and quite unclear at times prompting more questions. When this happens I play the “nut loose behind the keyboard” card. Me! Either way, it’s fun to hear from you and have a dialogue.

Question #1: In response to Part 6, “can you distinguish between someone who chronically over shares information (TMI) and a secure connector who is open and honest?” Great question! The secure connector is attuned to his audience and is appropriately open and honest, usually in response to an inquiry within the dialogue. The secure person is attentive to the listener and is aware of body language that would indicate disinterest. They will easily take note when the person next to them is yawning and staring out the airplane window. Additionally, information sharing and gathering will be a gradual process of getting to know one another and it will be quite reciprocal versus unilateral disclosure.

The TMI folk on the other hand just start talking whether or not they are invited to do so and will often reveal information that is inappropriate to the amount of time they’ve known you. They are neither attuned nor attentive to verbal and non- verbal cues indicating disinterest on the part of the listener. Enraptured by their own story and the perception that they have a listening ear, they drone on and on.

Question #2: “I thought that taking issue with a significant other’s injury was a sign of loyalty. I don’t like hearing that perhaps feeling as I do means I’m relationally immature.” Here is an example of me not being clear … i.e. the nut loose behind the keyboard. When I was talking about unquestioning loyalty being an insecure trait, I was thinking of the following case. A husband had an argument with his brother and told his wife he wasn’t talking to him anymore. Because of his choice he told her that she was to cut off her relationship with their sister-in-law (SIL). Wow! As it turns out, she was close to her SIL and the two were planning to take the kids to the beach the very next day. Should the wife blindly take up the husband’s offense? Some would knuckle under the pressure but I don’t think that’s healthy. Frankly if I were her, I’d empathize with him and politely remind him that his persistent sibling rivalry which created constant ups and downs in the relationship would not be the roller coaster I’d be willing to ride.

To your point, certainly it makes sense that someone who hurts a significant other is a person of whom I will take notice. Clarification and possible repair will be my goal. If that’s not possible protection and care for my significant other will become my priority.

Thanks for your questions as they help all of us grow and learn.

Thanks for listening.
Milan for Milan & Kay

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 7

Having experienced a severe Gall Bladder attack on April 1st, I was told by the ER Doctor that it should be removed ASAP due to the discovery of multiple gall stones which could dislodge at any time. I said “Gall Darn!” and followed their instruction. I’m two weeks post op and feel great.

An internal organ once “safe” within my safety pyramid of life, over time became a liability which needed to be removed so it could not harm me again. A dislodged gall stone would be a real bummer at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and potentially life threatening during my trip to Rwanda next month where third world medical care would most likely be insufficient.

This can also be true with friends and family as well. A person who once was a friend and ally may over time become increasingly hurtful and unsafe. If constructive conversations do not seem to have any positive impact on improving their negative behavior, it might be prudent to demote them a category within the pyramid or perhaps remove them altogether from your pyramid as a means of self-protection.

I’ll never forget a cute young couple who came into my office for counseling some years ago. On their wedding day, they were both as happy and excited as they could possibly be. Over time, as he would travel for work he began to “party” more and more with his business partners and clients. This wild lifestyle eventually led to more dangerous drugs and multiple encounters with prostitutes and call girls. Eventually he was found out by his wife and confronted. He was remorseful and, for a season, tried to face his demons and take greater responsibility to control his choices and lifestyle.

For quite a few months, it appeared that progress was being made and their marriage was being restored. And then it happened again… and again. Finally, he admitted that he would rather have the excitement of his reckless lifestyle than remain faithful to his wedding vows. It became clear to the wife that she needed to have this man out of her world in order to experience sanity, safety and peace.

While sad, this kind of a story is all too common. Each of us has to examine the people in our lives and ask the following question. While no one is perfect, generally is this person trending toward being an asset or a liability? Sometimes we just have to say “gall darn” and hit the eject button.

Thanks for listening.
Milan for Milan & Kay


The next local event for Milan and Kay is the Therapist Training in July. Please check our website under Events for details and registration information.

We hope you are enjoying the new How To Turn Stress into Opportunities for Emotional Connection series. Just a reminder that this is the last week that it will be offered at the introductory prices.

We are also about to introduce the new and improved How We Love Sex..or Don’t series. Milan and Kay worked very hard on updating the content and then rerecorded the series in January. It is almost finished being edited and will be available in the store shortly.

How We Love Workshop – This weekend in Mission Viejo, CA

How We Love Workshop – This weekend in Mission Viejo, CA

Are you tired of arguing with your spouse over the same old issues? Do you dream of a marriage with less conflict and more intimacy? Are there relationships in your life that you would love to improve? Are you struggling under a load of resentment? Let us help you! We have been helping people just like you for over 25 years! Our most common reaction to this six hour workshop is, “Why haven’t I ever heard this before?” We help individuals discover their love style (Attachment Style) and explain the predictable core patterns that occur when each partner’s love styles collide. Once a couple has a clear explanation for their predictable dance that causes the same problems to arise again and again, we then give a road map for growth and tools to end harmful patterns and create deeper intimacy in your marriage. This material all comes together at the end of the day when Milan and Kay work with a volunteer couple live on stage.

Hosted by Relationship 180. To register, please go to:
Friday: 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am -12:30 pm

Cost: $59.00 per person Scholarships available in cases of need.

Location: Mission Hills Church 24162 Alicia Parkway Mission Viejo, CA 92691

Please register online by clicking here.

How We Love Product Information

We hope you are enjoying the new Series: Turning Stress in Opportunities for Emotional Connection! The introductory price will last through May and then return to normal pricing.

Blessings from all of us at How We Love!!

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 6

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 6

Adults from the enmeshed home will often find themselves in unhealthy and often dangerous relationships. They are lacking the navigational skills necessary to protect themselves (and others) because they dive in too deep and too fast. When she was young, Joni Erickson Tada dove into shallow water, thinking it was deep. She fractured her neck and became a paraplegic. Though she was able to turn her tragedy into a powerful ministry, it is tragic nonetheless.

We too can become injured when we fail to test the waters in relationships. The characteristics which make us vulnerable to injury and relational trauma are as follows.
• Becoming your BFF overnight and over trusting another person. Assuming that a smile and attentiveness is a sign of safety.
• TMI: Divulging too much information indiscriminately. If you or others tell too much too quickly, view that as a danger sign and back off. It shows that a person has no filters and is relationally immature. While they may be nice to have as an acquaintance or occasional friend, they are not safe.
• Wanting to know more information that is appropriate. When I hear of people sharing intimate details about their personal sex lives with others I know that this person is not be safe because they do not have any boundaries. All lines are blurred and there is no respect for allowing there to be a private world of love between a husband and wife.
• Gossip! When I hear people talking about others and sharing information that has no business being shared, I walk in the other direction.
• Offering opinions without being asked. The other day, a fairly famous person said to me, “ You know what you need to do?” I sighed and out of curiosity said “What?” They went on for five minutes before I said, “I’ve gotta go now.” As I walked away I thought to myself, “You don’t know me and you never asked me one question. How can you tell me what I ‘need’ to do?”
• Forming judgments prematurely without knowing all of the facts. When a person starts asserting final conclusions and judgments too quickly in a conversation, I am immediately suspect as to how much I can trust this person.
• Taking sides in relational dynamics where taking sides is not even necessary. I frequently hear people say, “I broke off relationship with these people because they hurt my best friend.” Really? When an individual takes up other’s offenses because of relational skirmishes, I know I’m not dealing with a person with much depth. Will I view them as safe? No.
• Talking incessantly without asking any questions. There is a great scene from the movie Beaches where Bet Midler says, “I’m tired of talking about me, why don’t you talk about me?” I’m out the door.

Here are some areas to work on so you may become more mature and relationally successful.

Thanks for listening.
Milan for Milan & Kay

Upcoming Events:

Relationship 180 is hosting a How We Love Workshop on May 15-16 at Mission Hills Church in Mission Viejo, Ca. We would love to see you there. For more information or to register for this event please click here!

Our new series: Turning Stress into Opportunities for Emotional Connection is now available in our store. For a limited time, it is on sale at an introductory price. We hope you enjoy it begin to ease your stress in relationally healthy ways!