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Archive for the ‘Habits’ Category

Motivating Yourself To Start Doing “Whatever”

SOURCE:  Dr. John Townsend

We all have some “whatever” that we just can’t motivate ourselves to start taking steps towards weight loss, job changes, marriage improvement, self-image growth, budgeting, health, and dating, for example. And there is a big gap between wanting a change, and actually doing the behaviors required to make the changes. But there are things you can do today, actually right now, to translate your “want” to action. By the way, this article isn’t a “path to success”, that’s a different blog. It’s more of a “get motivated to start by some good action steps” procedure. Here are the tips:

Clarify your “why”. Write down and read through several times, why this area of self-improvement is so important to you. Motivation comes from values and desires from deep within our brain, and they are very powerful to change behavior if we understand them. For example, say you want to lose 30 pounds. Your “why” might be because you want to feel better, to have more energy, to be a better mom or dad to your kids, to live a longer and more productive life, or to be able to wear skinny jeans! Whatever the “why” is, it has to be more than a thought, it must involve a feeling that also resonates inside. Keep working on it until you have it clarified.

Visualize the positive outcome. This is basically unpacking the “why” and applying it to the future. Write down a description of how you will experience life without the extra weight. It might be something like “I’ll wrestle with my kids more in the living room because I feel good and have the energy to spare.” Some sort of “video” makes things more real and vivid for us.

Focus at least 3 times a day until you actually “do” a behavior. Research on motivation and change shows us that in some area of life that we often get stuck, or paralyzed, or afraid to do some step. If this has been true for you, give yourself time to think and reflect on the “why,” intentionally focusing on that area. Your brain will enter a state of readiness and be prepared for that step. In the example of weight loss, that might mean signing up for a weight loss class. That’s a commitment and an action.

Let 3 people know. You need people on your team here! Just letting them know about your “why” and what your first step will be, is a tremendous motivator. They become your cheering section, and this will help you with that next action.

Motivation can lead to behavior, and behavior to change. I hope the best for you!

20 Lies Addicts Say to Justify their Addiction

SOURCE:  

Angel came into counseling knowing that something was wrong but not knowing what it was. After being married for seven years, he noticed his wife became more secretive and distant. Money from their savings account was missing and unaccounted for, his wife would disappear frustrated and return weirdly happy, and she seemed to get angry very easily over insignificant matters.

At first, he thought she was having an affair. But after looking at her phone and locations, he ruled that out. So he sought the advice of a therapist. Oftentimes when a spouse is hiding the severity of an addiction, the only evidence of it is the way they talk about it. An addict lies to themselves and others in order to justify continuing in their addiction. Here are some examples of addict speak.

  1. “It’s not that bad.” At the first sign of confrontation, an addict will minimize their addiction by claiming it isn’t that bad. They might even say they were far worse in the past.
  2. “I only use it occasionally.” Instead of flatly denying the abuse of a substance, an addict will admit to far less than what they are doing. The rule of thumb is that an addict admits to less than half of their actual usage.
  3. “I can’t deal with my problems without it.” The irony of this statement is that the addict begins to look for reasons to use their drug of choice. They might even create unnecessary problems to support it.
  4. “I can stop whenever I want to.” To keep from thinking they are addicted, an addict will deceive themselves into believing that they can stop at any time. They might even go for a short period of time to prove it but it is only temporary.
  5. “I’m not like … he/she is worse.” By comparing themselves to others, the addict can minimize the effects of the addiction while highlighting the severity of another person.
  6. “I’m different than …” Again, the addict picks another addict that is strongly disliked and says they are not like them. This comparison might even be accurate but it doesn’t diminish the reality of the addiction.
  7. “Everyone else does it.” This is a larger comparison where the addict claims that everyone they know does the exact same thing and therefore, they can’t have an addiction. It is a type of group think.
  8. “This is my thing, not yours.” Addicts tend to become weirdly possessive of their drug of choice. It is an affair of sorts where they are uniquely connected to the substance.
  9. “Life without it is boring.” This statement is further evidence of a substance affair. The addict sees life a dull and meaningless without the use of the substance.
  10. “I just like how it feels.” True addicts develop a personal relationship with their substance and assign properties to it as if it was a human. The substance can generate feelings within the addict.
  11. “I can’t be social without it.”A common belief is that the addict is unable to engage in society or with family and friends without the use of the substance. The more they use, the worse this becomes.
  12. “If everyone is, I have to too.”The addict will claim that everyone else does it and therefore they have to too as if there were no other options. This is especially true in work environments where substance usage is encouraged.
  13. “I need it to be creative.”This lie actually gives the substance credit for the addict’s creativity instead of the person doing the task.
  14. “I need it to relax.” Instead of dealing with stress and anxiety, the addict covers it up with their substance usage. But the problem that brought on the stress still remains after the substance wears off.
  15. “You are trying to take away my fun.” As soon as the addict receives some resistant from others for using, they resort to believing that everyone is trying to keep them from enjoying life.
  16. “It makes me a better person.” To justify their usage, addicts will say that without the substance they are more angry, frustrated, anxious, depressed, and/or bitter.
  17. “It hasn’t changed me.” The contrast to the previous statement is that the substance doesn’t have any effect on the abuser. In reality, the worse the addiction, the more dramatic the personality changes.
  18. “I’m not hurting you.” After being confronted, an addict will minimize the effects of their addiction by claiming that they are not doing any harm to others.
  19. “I’m still working, so it’s not that  To prove they are not addicted, an addict will use their ability to continue with work as justification. Many addicts are functioning addicts meaning that they are able to function during the day.
  20. “The kids don’t know, so it’s okay.” Another common lie is the belief that kids won’t notice the addiction. Unfortunately, many kids are sneaks and very observant.

After reviewing this list, Angel realized that his wife frequently said all of these statements. So he staged an intervention to confront his wife and get her the help she needed for recovery.

30 Reasons Why People Lie

SOURCE:  Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC/PsychCentral

Rebecca is a middle school English teacher. Previously she worked in a local public school but was frustrated by the number of daily lies from her students. Thinking the private school environment would be better, she switched. But what she found was even more creative lies that her students would tell her.

One day she decided to count the number of deceptions she heard. Much to her surprise, it wasn’t just the students who were deceitful but the administration, other teachers and parents as well. In all, she counted over 50 lies in one day. This lead to generating a list of the different types of deceit. Here is her list of reasons why people lie.

  1. Defensive: The most common reason for lying is to self-protect. There might be a real consequence or a perceived one that a person is trying to defend themselves against.
  2. Vindictive: Some people lie intentionally to cause harm to others because they feel harmed by that person. It is a way of getting back at another person.
  3. Disappointment: In order to avoid disappointing another person or even themselves, a lie might be told. The uncomfortable feeling of disappointment justifies the deception.
  4. Manipulate: An abusive person constantly lies in order to continue their manipulation. If the truth came out, the abused might leave.
  5. Intimidated: Sometimes a lie is done because the person feels intimidated by others. Again, this feeling of inferiority is so uncomfortable that they lie to cover it up.
  6. Attention-seeking: Unfortunately, there are people who lie just to get the attention of other people. The irony is that most of them don’t know what to do with the attention when they do get it.
  7. Curiosity: This is a very childlike behavior that some adults don’t grow out of. Instead, they lie just to see what will happen regardless of the harm it might cause others.
  8. Superior: For those with a larger than life ego and in order to maintain their superiority, they lie to make themselves look better than others.
  9. Avoid: Some lies are done to get out of trouble or avoid any consequences. This is especially true with children.
  10. Cover: Some people wear a mask and pretend to be something they are not. To maintain their appearances, they lie to cover up any attempt at revealing the real person.
  11. Control: Sadly, sometimes it all comes down to control. In an effort to control another person’s behavior, a lie is told.
  12. Procrastinate: Passive-aggressively avoiding responsibilities is procrastination. This lie is more subtle in that the person knows they should be doing something but is intentionally putting it off.
  13. Bored: Some people like drama in their lives. So they lie to stir it up and watch the reactions of other people.
  14. Protect: There are some lies that are done to protect others. In some cases, a lie is told to take on responsibility for things they are not responsible for in an effort to help someone else.
  15. Habit: After a period of time and done constantly enough, bad habits can form. This is true for some lies that are said over and over.
  16. Fun: Some people lie as their form of private entertainment. For them, lying is fun because they like to watch how others respond.
  17. Desire: A person who wants a lie to be the truth has a deep desire to believe their misperception.
  18. Harm: People who want to harm others undecided, lie about who they are and what they are doing. This is a common tactic during the abduction of others.
  19. Sympathy: Similar to attention-seeking, a person is trying to get empathy from others by lying about a past or current event.
  20. Lazy: On occasion, a lie boils down to a person being lazy and not wanting to do the work, so they lie about it.
  21. Indifference: If a point or issue doesn’t matter to a person, they might lie about it and not see anything wrong with their deception.
  22. Perception: Some people believe their own lie. Their perception of reality is not accurate so in their eyes, it’s not a lie.
  23. Elevate: A person might want to elevate themselves to another person’s level high morality, strong work ethic, or perfectionistic standards, so they lie to lift themselves up.
  24. Impress: As a way of trying to impress others and cause a better impression, a person might lie about who they are, what they have done, or where they are going.
  25. Covet: When a person wants what other have, they covet the item or person and lie about their jealousy.
  26. Minimize: As a way of reducing the damage, harm, or consequences that might otherwise occur, a person minimizes the truth in their lie.
  27. Maximize: On the opposite end, a person might exaggerate their lie and make things worse than what it really is.
  28. Suppress: In an effort to cover up a problem, a person might suppress the truth. This lie is intentional.
  29. Deny: Not every person who doesn’t want something to exist by denying the reality, is lying intentionally. Sometimes this is an unintentional.
  30. Hide: A person might hide themselves, others, or things and lie about doing so as a way to avoid accountability. This is commonly done in conjunction with addictive behavior.

For Rebecca, understanding why a person lies helped her to identify the behavior and more accurately address the underlying issues. She took her frustration of experiencing the lies and turned it into a greater awareness of knowledge and discernment.

Nine Lies We Tell Ourselves To Avoid Change

SOURCE:   /PsychCentral

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with change.

On one hand, we want to move forward and grow, which is a fundamental principle of life. On the other hand, the prospect of change (or actual change) can cause us to feel anxious and as if we want to crawl into a hole or escape by another means. Devouring an entire pizza, going back to bed, having a third (or fourth) beer, or simply continuing life on autopilot might suddenly seem more attractive than forging a new path.

Why do we often get in our own way, clinging to habits and situations that no longer benefit us? Can you relate to any of the following myths about change?

  1. Myth: I need to know and understand every step of the process before I begin to make a change. Truth: We are all walking (or crawling or running) down a winding road in life. There are many blind curves. It’s impossible to know how things will play out beforehand, in part because the decisions you make today will help to determine your options tomorrow. Muster the courage to move forward, and the path ahead will reveal itself as you proceed.
  2. Myth: I’ll start tomorrow. I’ll feel more like it then. Truth: Every time you procrastinate, you reinforce the habit of giving in to short-term gratification, rather than delaying gratification in the service of your desired change. For instance, if your goal is improved physical health, choosing to binge-watch House of Cards and putting off that two-mile walk until tomorrow will feel more pleasurable in the short run. However, the more frequently you make this choice, the more engrained the binge-watching habit becomes. Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. It’s going to take some extra effort to do things differently than you have been doing them. Nevertheless, practice starting today. We can be willing to do something even when we don’t want to.
  3. Myth: I can change other people. Truth: Members of Al-Anon (for family and friends of those with alcohol or drug problems) are taught that “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it”. Other people’s behavior is their responsibility. Your focus is best placed on your own actions and attitudes. Some people may be inspired by your choices and decide to move in a compatible direction. Other people may not, which may mean that some relationships will dwindle or even end. Sometimes we avoid change in order to stay in relationships or situations that have become familiar, even if they are destructive. Change can come at a cost – but so can staying the same.
  4. Myth: I can’t change until other people in my life change. Truth: You are the only one with the authority and ability to alter your patterns and choices. Please do not sell yourself short and hold up your own growth by hoping or demanding that other people do things differently before you are willing to budge. This gives your husband, child, parent, friend, or boss, so much power – this could end up being a life sentence for you, if the other person continues to remain the same. You are capable of making changes, regardless of other people’s behavior.
  5. Myth: I can and will change this habit/behavior when I get a “sign” or have a crisis. A crisis will scare me into making a change. Truth: While sometimes a crisis can give us a wake-up call, it’s not likely that this alone will keep us on a new path. Yes, the fear and anxiety often associated with a crisis might result in an adrenalin rush that could temporarily motivate you, but it’s not feasible to live in such a state over the long run. Significant on-going reasons, social support, and a clearer vision of your desired life (rather than focusing on what you don’t want) are more likely to keep you on a new path.
  6. Myth: I have to hit bottom in order to change. Truth: If you practice being mindful of your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors, you’re more apt to discern where you might be tripping yourself up. You can then choose to alter your course before you’ve gone far afield. There does not have to be a lot of drama, either within yourself or with others, in order for you to make shifts in your habits or life direction.
  7. Myth: If a situation or relationship isn’t going exactly according to my expectations, I have to change it or leave it. Truth: Life can be beautiful even if we don’t get everything we think we need. No person, job, or opportunity will come without its thorns. Be careful that you don’t give up on someone or something because he, she, or it isn’t perfect. Perhaps what you’re being challenged to change is not the situation but rather your attitude.
  8. Myth: I’m too old to change. It’s too late to change. Truth: It’s never too late. I’ve seen people do enormous turnarounds in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond. My grandfather became significantly happier in his 90s, which lasted until his passing just before he turned 102. Change often begins with the belief that it is possible. Start with this premise, remember your past successes and your associated character strengths, and reach out for the help you need. As Stephen Covey said, “We become what we repeatedly do.” Determine who you want to be and what you stand for, and begin to live as if you already are this person. You will falter, make mistakes, and choose unwisely at times, but that’s all part of the growth process.
  9. Myth: This is just the way I am. Truth: While it’s true that about 50% of our happiness set point is genetic, and 10% is thought to be due to circumstances, that leaves 40% that is up to you and your attitudes. Not to underestimate the effort it can take to make shifts in your belief system, communication patterns, ability to tolerate discomfort, and behaviors, but you have more influence in the matter than you may give yourself credit for.

Ultimately, making a change is a courageous act.

Too often we feel that adjusting this or that isn’t worth the effort when by doing so we might contribute to making a significant difference to the bigger picture. To quote Mother Teresa, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Believe that your willingness and decision to grow and transform is part of a bigger picture that encompasses your family, community, or the world – because this is the truth. You may never know all the people you affect in positive ways.

Perfectionism is Ruining Your Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud/Dr. John Townsend

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to become preoccupied with perfection. That’s different from envisioning perfection as a goal.

It’s about whether perfection is a goal, or something that you demand. Believing that you can realistically attain perfection is no different than wandering through the desert, ever-thirsty, toward a mirage that only recedes toward the horizon. A lot of people obsess over perfection. This obsession is a massive waste of time and energy.

Perfectionism is a distraction, a justification for procrastination, an excuse for never getting anything done. When perfectionism is about one’s own striving, it is hostility aimed inward. When it is aimed at others, it is a cold and compassionless hostility toward the world. Perfectionism is a refusal to accept reality, and it is rooted in fear. To the perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough.

For many people, perfectionism originates in childhood, with parental pressure to achieve. This can be motivated by a lot of things, from parents measuring their own status by the achievements of their children, to an egotistical desire to imprint their child with capabilities they wish they had themselves. Whatever the cause, perfectionism often has an opposite effect from what these parents would hope for their children to develop if they want them to become high achievers. Perfectionists are much less likely to take risks because they are afraid of failing, and the willingness to take risks, along with the adaptability to learn from one’s mistakes, are two essential characteristics of high achievers.

Perfectionists fail to accept that the world, and all of the people in it, are flawed. Understanding that concept is something that can fuel compassion, foster empathy, and help you develop healthy structures for continuously improving your own performance.

It’s fair to say that doing something the wrong way, whether at work or in a relationship, feels bad. By contrast, doing something the right way feels good. This is a core concept underlying the self-regulating systems of internal rewards that drive motivation. With a healthy, growth-oriented mindset, navigating these pathways will help us to increase our capacities in the most important areas of our lives.

In order to put that idea to use, we must be willing to make mistakes along the way. Sometimes we will not do things the right way. Someone who accepts that reality would understand that the mistakes we make are learning opportunities, glean what lessons they can from their experiences, and work on improving. The perfectionist fights reality. They do not want the bad feelings that come along with making mistakes. They drastically overestimate the pain that will be caused by those bad feelings. They become paralyzed. They do not grow.

Perfectionism is an incapacitating force. It stops us from connecting with the real, but it also stops us from connecting with others. The inward perfectionist will never feel good enough to be loved or appreciated, the outward perfectionist will always find the flaws in the details, unable to find redeeming virtues that are plainly visible to the rest of us.

Habits are hard to break, but the mechanics of overcoming perfectionism are easy to put into practice. All you have to do is be willing to make a lot of mistakes. Understand that that’s what we’re all doing all the time, continuously messing up, learning, and doing better.

There is a relevant passage from a book called Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. The scene takes place at a tennis academy. It’s a conversation between two players, one of whom is suffering from debilitating perfectionism:

“Suppose I were to give you a key ring with a hundred keys, and I were to tell you that one of those keys will unlock it, and this door we’re imagining opening in onto all you want to be, as a player. How many of the keys would you be willing to try?”

“Well, I’d try every darn one,” Rader tells Lyle.

“Then you are willing to make mistakes, you see. You are saying you will accept 99% error. The paralyzed perfectionist you say you are would stand there before that door. Jingling the keys. Afraid to try the first key.”

Why I Never Drink Alcohol

SOURCE: MICHAEL BROWN/charismamag.com

I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

Forty-six years ago, in 1971, the Lord graciously saved me from a life from sinful destruction, which included very serious drug abuse and some heavy drinking as well. From that day until today, I have never abused drugs again or had a sip of alcohol, other than taking Communion with a taste of wine when that was the only option.

Do I believe that the Scriptures require total abstinence for all believers? No, I do not.

Do I believe that Jesus literally turned water into wine in John 2, even if the wine was not as fermented as today? Yes, I do.

Do I believe that some Christians can drink some alcoholic beverages in moderation without sinning before God? I certainly do.

So, I am not here as anyone’s judge or jury, nor am I trying to force my convictions on anyone else. I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

First, although I loved getting high on drugs and getting drunk before I was saved, I did not enjoy the taste of alcohol. Once I gave up getting drunk, I had no interest in drinking at all. There was no temptation or desire.

Things were very different for my wife Nancy, who was born again in 1974. She really enjoyed the taste of alcohol and also got drunk before she was saved. So, for her, there was no question at all that she should avoid even the taste of alcohol once she was in the Lord. Why play with fire? Drinking only had sinful connections in her life.

Second, the church in which Nancy and I came to faith practiced total abstinence, so this became our practice as well.

I honestly don’t remember the pastor teaching on it in those early, formative years. Instead, we learned it from the other believers, some of whom used to be heavy drinkers before they were saved as well. For them, too, it was quite natural to cut that cord of attachment with the world.

Third, I began preaching in 1973 at the age of 18, so I was quickly looked to as a leader on some level. What kind of example was I setting? If others followed my lead, would they be helped or hurt?

For me, this was another good reason not to drink socially, since so many believers struggled with drinking before they saved, and some continued to struggle after they were saved. Why put another stumbling block before them?

Fourth, I have heard the same sad story many times over the decades, and it gives me real pause.

A former alcoholic sees another brother or sister have a glass of wine with their meal, or they visit your house and see that you have beer in your refrigerator. They then think to themselves, “Well, if it’s OK for them, I guess it’s OK for me,” and they have one drink—just one—and quickly find themselves enslaved again, sometimes for years.

So, your liberty, which might be totally fine between you and the Lord, ends up destroying a precious brother or sister.

Paul addressed this in the context of food sacrificed to idols, but the principle is the same: “and by your knowledge [meaning, the knowledge that food itself doesn’t defile us] shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? When you thus sin against the brothers, wounding their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat, least I cause my brother to stumble” (1 Cor. 8:11-13).

The lesson here is that we should put greater emphasis on helping weaker brothers and sisters than on enjoying our liberty.

Fifth, I minister in many different church cultures, some of which also practice total abstaining, therefore I take the more stringent road as a way of life.

For example, I’ve ministered in Italy and England on 40 different trips, and on my occasions, I’ve had meals with other Christian leaders who enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their meals.

I’ve never seen them drunk, nor have I felt they were doing something wrong. It’s their culture, and this is between them and God. (If this seems to be in violation of my last point, it’s not. I’m sharing my own counsel and convictions, not imposing them on others.)

I’ve also ministered in Asia on more than 40 different trips, most commonly in India, and I’ve never once seen a believer drink alcohol there, nor have I seen it on my few trips to Africa.

Again, for my own life, I’d rather live the same way in both cultures. In that way, if I’m ever asked about my personal practices in the stricter environment, I can say that I never drink at all.

Sixth, we are commanded in Scripture to be sober and vigilant (for example, 1 Pet. 5:8), whereas alcohol can easily lead to sluggishness, impaired judgment, sloppy thinking and acting, and outright drunkenness.

Since I believe in fleeing from that which destroys (see, for example, 2 Tim. 2:22), I run towards sobriety and away from anything that leads to drunkenness.

Seventh, I do not want to be enslaved by any earthly habit. (For decades, I was a chocoholic. By God’s grace, I’ve been totally free that from enslavement, along with other food addictions, for more than three years now—and I emphasize the words “by God’s grace.”)

It’s so easy to become dependent on that one drink just to calm your nerves, that one drink just to take the edge off, that one drink to quiet your fears, that one drink.

Perhaps you’re leaning on that one drink rather than on the Lord? Perhaps you’re becoming dependent on it? Perhaps one drink will lead to two or three or more?

Despite the lies of the flesh and the world, sin never satisfies. Instead, it leads to more sin, then to worse sin, and then it enslaves.

Which direction is your drinking taking you? Are you now getting into alcohol in general? Are you now trying out harder and harder liquor and encouraging your friends to do the same? Are you even having some drinking parties where you glory in your “liberty”? Have you had more to drink than you planned, even getting mildly drunk?

Again, I’m not playing God here, and I’m not sitting as your judge. But if you said yes to any of these last four questions, I can almost guarantee you that you’re on a slippery slope in the wrong direction and that, soon enough, your “liberty” will turn to bondage.

That’s also why I have a personal problem with the whole “beer and Bible” approach to ministry.

On the one hand, I understand that churches want to meet sinners where they are and invite them to study the Word in a comfortable environment. But at what point do these sinners hear the message of repentance, which includes repenting of drunkenness? And how many former alcoholics in the church now stumble and fall because of this environment?

To say it again, I’m only sharing my personal convictions here, and I’m quite familiar with the argument that those who have learned to drink in moderation all their lives will not struggle with getting drunk.

For many, that is true, just like in traditional Jewish culture, where small amounts of wine are incorporated into various meals and rites.

But in a country like America, where there is so much drunkenness and decadence, I’d rather err in the opposite direction and simply have nothing to do with alcohol in this world. And yes, once more, these are simply my own views, which I share because I’m often asked about drinking.

And even in biblical days, where alcoholic beverages may not have been as fermented as today and where most believers certainly did not practice total abstaining, we still have this warning: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1).

The bottom line is that there are far more important things than food and drink, which is why Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

May we all pursue that “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” in a manner fitting as a kingdom of priests before our God.

6 Myths You May Believe About Drinking — Busted

SOURCE:  Joseph Janesz, PhD/ Cleveland Clinic

Get the sober facts from our expert

When it comes to alcohol, the line between myth and fact can be blurry. Chemical dependency specialist Joseph Janesz, PhD, helps clear up the confusion below.

Myth 1: Drinking perks you up at parties

“Throughout the holiday season, many of us struggle with fatigue and excess stress,” he says. “We may look to alcohol at a holiday party to dissipate that fatigue, enhance our energy level and relieve stress.”

But alcohol is a brain depressant. It first acts by shutting off executive functions like judgment, mood control and natural inhibitions. Some people experience this as elation and excitement. But others experience the opposite: sleepiness, lethargy and even a depressed feeling.

The bottom line: Alcohol interferes with normal brain activity, no matter how you feel when you drink.

Myth 2: A beer before bed helps you sleep

Drinking a beer before bed may promote your getting to sleep more quickly,” says Dr. Janesz. “However, it interrupts your deep sleep, and you’ll wake later on feeling not rested and ‘hung over.’”

Normally, your body cycles through light and deep phases of sleep. Alcohol inhibits refreshing REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and later on causes “REM rebound,” with nightmares and trouble sleeping.

Repeated alcohol use seriously disturbs sleep and makes it difficult to re-establish a normal sleep pattern. Often, this leads to more drinking or to sedative abuse in the quest for sleep.

Myth 3: An Irish coffee will keep you warm on the slopes

Your body normally stores warm blood in its core to preserve important organ functions. Alcohol artificially dilates blood vessels in your extremities, allowing warm blood to escape from your core into your peripheral circulation, where it cools.

Alcohol intake may make your skin feel warm. Yet it deceptively lowers the core temperature of your body,” says Dr. Janesz.

The result: your body can no longer keep vital organs warm as your overall temperature drops.

Myth 4: A beer is less potent than a cocktail

Whether you’re drinking an ale or a Moscow Mule, you’re typically consuming the same amount of alcohol.

“Any alcohol beverage you consume will have a similar effect on your body and on your ability to function,” says Dr. Janesz.

Myth 5: Coffee can sober you up when you’ve had a few too many

Coffee has no real effect on your blood alcohol level, which is the major factor in determining your level of intoxication.

“Drinking coffee or other caffeine products after having one too many drinks can trick your brain into making you feel energized and more awake or alert,” says Dr. Janesz.

“The alertness can create the perception that you aren’t as drunk or intoxicated as you actually are, and you may decide to have another drink or to drive home.”

Myth 6: Men and women react to alcohol in the same way

Drinking tends to produce higher blood alcohol concentrations in women because they are generally smaller than men. This leads to a greater degree of intoxication.

“Alcohol disperses in water, and women have less water in their bodies than men,” explains Dr. Janesz. “So if a woman and man of the same weight consume the same amount of alcohol, her blood alcohol concentration will usually rise more rapidly than his.”

But while women may reach the “drunk driving” limit — 0.08 percent blood alcohol — sooner, alcohol can impair driving at much lower blood alcohol levels. So “don’t drink and drive” remains sound advice for everyone.

10 Habits to Shape a Kind, Well-Adjusted Child

SOURCE:  Rebecca Eanes/ The Gottman Institute

Parenting is complicated. If we’re not careful, we become too focused on one aspect and let the others fall by the wayside.

Many times, I see parents who are intently focused on discipline, and I’m talking about the traditional use of the word here with regard to modifying behavior. Sometimes we get very caught up in “What do I do when…” or “How do I get my kid to…” and we lose sight of the bigger picture.

The truth is that there are many things that are more important in shaping our children than the methods and techniques we use to modify their behavior.

Below are 10 things that are more important than any parenting method you choose, in no particular order.

1. Your relationship with your child

The relationship that you have with your child is the single biggest influence on them. Your relationship sets an example for how relationships should be throughout the rest of their lives.

If you have a healthy relationship based on respect, empathy, and compassion, you’ve set a standard. They will grow to expect that this is what a relationship looks like and will likely not settle for less.

If, however, your relationship is based on control, coercion, and manipulation, well you see where I’m going with this.

In addition to that, your influence comes from a good relationship. Children are more likely to listen to and cooperate with an adult who they are connected to.

In other words, if you build trust and open communication when they are small, they will come to you when they are not so small. Your attachment helps wire healthy brains, and your responses set the tone for how they respond to you (they’re little mirrors).

2. Your perspective

When you look at your child, who do you see?

Do you see the positives or the negatives?

The way you think about them influences the way you treat them. Your thoughts also influence the way you feel emotionally and physically throughout the day. “He is in the terrible twos” will cause you to look for terrible things, to focus on them, and therefore try to correct them, constantly.

Try to turn these negative thoughts into positive thoughts, like, “He is inquisitive and fun!” Try to see misbehavior as a call for help rather than something that needs squashed immediately. Correction is not needed nearly as often as you might think.

Also watch your tone and language. Lori Petro of TEACH Through Love says, “Be mindful of the language you use to describe your children. They will come to see themselves through that filter you design.” Be careful not to place labels such as “naughty” or “clumsy” on your child. They will come to see themselves the way you see them.

3. Your relationship with your significant other

Your kids are watching and learning. The way you and your partner treat each other sets a standard. Happy parents make happy kids. Read How Your Marriage Affects Your Kids

“The foundation of a happy family is a strong, loving relationship between the two of you. The single, most important thing that you can do for your children is to do everything in your power to have the best possible relationship with your spouse. If they see the two of you getting along and supporting each other, they will mirror you and will likely get along with each other and their friends. Every single ounce of energy that you put into your relationship will come back to you tenfold through your children.”

4. The atmosphere of your home

All of the things mentioned above come together to create the atmosphere of your home.

If you have loving and connected relationships, you likely have a warm atmosphere in your home. If there is discord between you and your spouse, or you and your child, or your child and your other child, then the overall atmosphere will suffer. Have you ever gone to someone’s home and could just feel a negative atmosphere?

You want your home to be a haven, a safe, warm, inviting, and loving place for all family members. Dorothy Parker said, “The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant—and let the air out of the tires.” You don’t have to let the air out until they’re 16 though.

5. How you relate to others

How do you treat the bank teller, the store clerk, the telemarketer? What about your parents and your in-laws? They are watching your example.

Albert Einstein once said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”

6. Your community

Are you involved in your community? Aside from setting an example, there are valuable lessons to be learned from volunteering, supporting a local cause, attending church, or donating items. Seeing a bigger picture, how their acts can influence many lives, will give them a sense of responsibility and reinforce good values.

7. Their school

Whether you choose private school, public school, homeschooling, or unschooling, your choice will have an impact on your child. Choose with care. Peers have a big influence on children, but if our relationship is where it should be, our influence will still be stronger.

8. Your cup

How full is it? You have to take care of you so you can take care of them. If your cup is full, you are more patient, more empathetic, and have more energy.

Not only that, but a child who sees his parents respect themselves learns to have self-respect. Put yourself back on your list.

9. Television, video games, and social media

They are always sending messages to your kids. Now, I let my kids watch TV and play computer games, so I’m not taking a big anti-media stance here, but just be aware of what your kids are getting from what they’re watching.

My son said something out of character for him a while back that came directly from a cartoon character. I knew where he’d gotten it and we had a talk about the differences between cartoon land and the real world. I’m just glad they don’t have a Facebook account yet!

10. Their basic needs

Adequate nutrition, sleep, and exercise are not only essential for the well-being of your child but also influence behavior. Dr. Sears addresses nutrition here. Also read this article, Sleep Better for Better Behavior. Finally, exercise helps children learn to focus their attention, limit anger outburst and improve motor skills.

“If I had my child to raise all over again, I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later. I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging and less tugging.” – Diane Loomans

5 Steps for Handling Life’s Frustrations

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

Many of our biggest mistakes in life can be traced to handling disappointment in unwise ways. In times when we’re emotionally low, it’s easy to slip back into the habits that wreaked havoc on our lives in the past. Sometimes, we just need better coping mechanisms!

Here are five simple steps for dealing with frustrations in your life, based on the Bible.

1.  Ask yourself, “Did I cause it?”

The Bible says, “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7 NIV). Many things in life frustrate us because we brought them on ourselves. We don’t have anybody else to blame.

It’s frustrating to run out of gas on a trip. But if you didn’t stop to get gas before you left, or decided to push your luck, who’s to blame?

2.  Ask yourself, “What can I learn from it?”

Use the irritation as an opportunity to grow in character and become more like Christ.

How does God produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life? He places you in the opposite situation. If God wants to teach you love, he will put you around unlovely people. If God wants to teach you peace, he will put you in a situation of total chaos so you can have inner peace.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . . ” (NIV). There are many bad things in the world, but all things work together and even the negative God can turn into a positive if we will let him.

3.  Thank God in the situation.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks” (NKJV). You don’t have to be thankful for a bad situation. But you can be thankful in a bad situation. That frustration, that irritation, that inconvenience, that interruption, may be a blessing or an opportunity in disguise.

The apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome to preach, but God took him to Rome to be in prison and write the letters that formed the New Testament. Paul was frustrated, but God saw it as an opportunity to make him sit still long enough to write the Bible.

4.  Turn the frustration into a funny, humorous event.

The Bible says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”  (Proverbs 17:22 NIV). A sense of humor is God’s antidote for anger and frustration.

5.  Ask God to fill you with his love.

Why? Because 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, [Love] is not easily angered” (NIV).  Love is self-giving, not self-serving. We get irritated because we think everyone and everything has to revolve around us. Love concentrates on the other person.

Jesus faced constant frustrations in his life, but he always made time for people. We get so preoccupied with our own things; we forget that people are the priority in life.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3 NIV).

The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking

SOURCE:  LESLEY ALDERMAN/The New York Times

Here’s a New Year’s challenge for the mind: Make this the year that you quiet all those negative thoughts swirling around your brain.

All humans have a tendency to be a bit more like Eeyore than Tigger, to ruminate more on bad experiences than positive ones. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that helps us avoid danger and react quickly in a crisis.

But constant negativity can also get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damage our health. And some people are more prone to negative thinking than others. Thinking styles can be genetic or the result of childhood experiences, said Judith Beck, a psychologist and the president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Children may develop negative thinking habits if they have been teased or bullied, or experienced blatant trauma or abuse. Women, overall, are also more likely to ruminate than men, according to a 2013 study.

“We were built to overlearn from negative experiences, but under learn from positive ones,” said Rick Hanson, a psychologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

But with practice you can learn to disrupt and tame negative cycles.

The first step to stopping negative thoughts is a surprising one. Don’t try to stop them. If you are obsessing about a lost promotion or the results of the presidential election, whatever you do, don’t tell yourself, “I have to stop thinking about this.”

“Worry and obsession get worse when you try to control your thoughts,” Dr. Beck said.

Instead, notice that you are in a negative cycle and own it. Tell yourself, “I’m obsessing about my bad review.” Or “I’m obsessing about the election.”

By acknowledging your negative cycle and accepting it, you are on your way to taming your negative thoughts. Acceptance is the basic premise of mindfulness meditation, a practice that helps reduce stress and reactivity. You don’t necessarily have to close your eyes and meditate every day to reap the benefits of mindfulness. You can remind yourself to notice your thoughts in a nonjudgmental manner, without trying to change or alter them right away.

Accepting negative thoughts can also help lessen their weight. Getting mad at yourself for worrying or telling yourself to stop worrying only adds fuel to the negativity fire.

After you’ve accepted a negative thought, force yourself to challenge it.

Let’s go back to the setback at work. Perhaps not getting the promotion made you worry about your overall competence and you were berating yourself about your skills. Ask yourself, “Why would one setback mean that I am incompetent?” Or you might ask, “What have I done in the past that shows I am actually a very competent worker?”

If you’re having trouble challenging your negative thoughts, try this approach. Imagine that your friend is the one who received the bad news. What advice would you give him or her? Now think of how that advice might apply to you.

A study conducted at Ohio State University found that this method — known as Socratic questioning — was a simple way to reduce depressive symptoms in adults. In the study, 55 adults were enrolled in a 16-week course of cognitive therapy sessions. Researchers studied videotapes of the sessions and found that the more frequently therapists used Socratic questioning, the more the patients’ depressive symptoms lessened. The study’s authors theorized that Socratic questioning helped patients examine the validity of their negative thoughts and gain a broader, more realistic perspective on them.

There will be times when your bleak thoughts are actually valid, but your projections about what’s next are not. Consider this scenario: Your partner has left you for someone else. “My partner doesn’t love me anymore,” might be accurate, said Dr. Beck, but “No one else will ever love me,” is probably not.

Now move from a place of inaction to action to counteract the negative thought. If you are worried about feeling unloved, check in with friends and family members. If you are feeling insecure at work, make a list of your accomplishments. Perhaps ask your best friend to write you a letter telling you all the ways in which you are a good, kind person. Reread the letter daily.

Dr. Hanson, author of “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence,” said it may be helpful to ask yourself if you are accomplishing anything by dwelling on your negative thoughts. If you’re ruminating on your financial problems during a run around the track in hopes of finding a solution, then that is useful. But fretting for lap after lap about the president-elect or a foreign crisis is not going to accomplish anything.

When your negative thoughts are making you feel agitated and overwhelmed, take a deep breath, and then another. Practicing controlled breathing can help lower the stress response and calm anxious thoughts.

Finally, if your thoughts are making you feel seriously distressed and interfering with your ability to work and relax, consider seeing a mental health professional. Therapists who specialize in cognitive therapy, which teaches practical ways to cope with persistent and unwanted thoughts, may be particularly helpful. If the underlying source of your thoughts is clinical depression or intense anxiety, you might want to talk with a professional about the root cause of your negative thinking patterns and discuss medications that can be helpful.

While you are sorting out what approach works best for you, give yourself a break and have compassion for your overwrought thoughts.

“The more you dwell on the negative, the more accustomed your brain becomes to dwelling on the negative,” said Dr. Hanson, who suggests asking yourself, “Are my thoughts helping to build me up, or tear me down?”

8 Signs You Have Not Done Everything You Can to Save Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Every marriage struggles. And in most troubled marriages that are on the brink, one or both spouses often say something like “I’ve done everything I can, and it just isn’t working out.”

While a spouse may feel like they’ve done everything they can, in reality, they may not have. And the stakes are too high to claim you’ve done all you can when you maybe haven’t. Before you call it quits, there are some important questions to ask yourself, as I’ve blogged about before.

But it’s time now to test your heart and your actions to see if you really have done all you can. Here are some signs that you haven’t yet:

1. You’re not willing to see a counselor.

Counseling can be expensive and feel intrusive. But believe it or not, even healthy marriages sometimes need counseling help. Susan and I have seen a marriage counselor to help us through various issues in our marriage and it has really helped us. It’s not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength to admit that another perspective could be helpful. If you have resisted this step, you’ve not done everything you can.

2. You’re not willing to work on or give up your bad habits.

Whether it’s porn, constant criticism, crushing comparisons, toxic words, or other bad habits, these type of patterns are hard to break, and are hurting marriages every day. For the sake of your health, your kids and your long-term prospects as a family, you need to be willing to let go of these things. If you find yourself saying “I can’t” or “I won’t” then you’ve not done everything you can.

3. You’re not willing to give up your hobbies.

Fishing, Facebook, horseback riding, football games, golf, poker, book clubs, etc., all these things can be fine in and of themselves. But if you put these things above your marriage, you are being shortsighted. Don’t make your wife a football widow by being unwilling to turn the game off. One young man used to call golf his mistress in the early years of his marriage and decided to quit for the sake of his marriage. His hobby became an idol, and he knew his marriage was more valuable than his handicap. If you haven’t been willing to sell off your collection, stop your activities, or even pause them for the sake of your marriage, you’ve not done everything you can.

4. You’re not willing to let anyone challenge your assumptions of what your marriage is.

You may think that marriage is just a 50-50 partnership, a contract and if your spouse is not holding up their end of the deal, then you have a right to get out of the marriage. But marriage is actually a 100%-100% give-it-all-you’ve-got relationship.  And as I shared through my blog, 3 Things to Remember Before You Call it Quits in Marriage, is a life-long covenant between God, a husband, and wife.

5. You’re not willing to change the priorities of your life.

Reprioritizing is crucial to navigating choppy waters in marriage. Sometimes you need to step back and reassess where you are, where you’re headed, and what you need to do to get back on the same page. Perhaps you’ve put your job ahead of your spouse. If so, you’ve got some changes to make.

6. You’re not willing to move or change jobs.

Big changes are sometimes necessary for the sake of marriage. Jobs come and go. Houses can be bought, sold or burned to the ground. But ending your marriage will make any of those seemingly drastic changes seem like child’s play. If you aren’t willing to accept drastic changes like moving or changing jobs for the sake of your marriage, you’ve not done everything you can.

7. You’re not willing to admit that you’re part of the problem.

The famous British author G.K. Chesterton was once asked by a journalist of the day what was wrong with the world. His reply letter was brief but poignant: “Dear Sir, I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.” Very rarely is a marriage truly a one-sided problem. If you refuse to acknowledge your own shortcomings and issues, you’ve not done all you can.

8. You’re not willing to listen.

Usually, in a troubled marriage, one or both spouses are exasperated because they don’t feel heard. A bad listener makes for a bad friend, co-worker, or spouse. In every area of your life, being a good listener is critical to healthy relationships. Listening takes effort, but it can do wonders for your marriage. If you haven’t tried to listen better, to learn how to listen better, you’ve not done everything possible to save your marriage.

The bottom line: Don’t give up. There are lots of strategies you can choose to help your ailing marriage. Start by being honest. Have you really done everything you can to save your marriage? 

19 Possible Motives Triggering Your Porn Consumption

SOURCE:  Brad Hambrick

Often triggers and motive are treated as two distinct things, and there are differences. But those differences are more akin to two sides of the same coin than apples and oranges. In this post we’ll examine the things that trigger your sexual sin and the motives attached to those triggers.

As you identify the trigger-motive for your sexual sin, we also want you to begin to see how you are treating your sin like a friend, ally, refuge, etc. These insights are essential for repentance to make sense as a central part of change. Unless we see how our sin seeks to replace God in our life, then our need to be made right with God comes across as if God is unduly hung up about our sexuality.

Your struggle with sexual addiction doesn’t start with your behavior. It begins with what you want, what you live for. – David Powlison in Sexual Addiction (p. 6)

1. Boredom (Sin as My Joy)

When boredom is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin has become our joy. When there is a moment to be filled with something of our choosing, we pursue sin to fill the void rather than God or any of His legitimate pleasures. We begin to lose our appetite for godly pleasure like the child who eats sweets stops wanting healthy food. Even as they feel sluggish from the ups and downs of sugary “treats” they fail to connect this to their diet but go instead for another sugar high as the “obvious” solution.

Sex is not ultimate… Idols begin as good things to which we give too much importance, and few things slide over into idolatry with greater frequency or greater power than sex. We allow a good gift of God to supersede the God who gave it. Sex is good, even great, but it’s not ultimate. –Tim Challies in Sexual Detox (p. 61)

Read Nehemiah 8:9-12. God is a God of great joys and pleasure. Too often we view God as so serious that we believe “fun” must be in His opposite direction. When God called Israel to repentance through Nehemiah and Ezra, He asked them to express their repentance in celebration. If the motive of boredom leads you to sin, then allow this passage to challenge your view of God.

2. Loneliness (Sin as My Friend)

When loneliness is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our “friend.” Sexual sin is always relational whether the relationship is fictional or physical, so it fits loneliness well. It’s as if our sin (a person, a chat room, or a video) calls to us, “Tell me your troubles.” We gladly pull up a chair and unload. As we do, talking to a real person or one who is not part of our sin becomes too risky. We now fear being judged or known by anyone but our “friend.”

It’s a perfect world that I can create. Things always go exactly my way. People do exactly what I want. I’m always on top. Fantasy is a great ego-feeder. –Anonymous testimony in David Powlison’s Pornography: Slaying the Dragon (p. 19)

Read Proverbs 27:6. During sexual sin we write this proverb backwards. We believe, “Faithful are the kisses of any enemy; profuse are the wounds of a friend.” When sin reverses the roles of friend and enemy, it traps us until we return the right labels to the people in our lives. If the motive of loneliness leads you to sexual sin, then prayerfully examine who or what you call “friend.”

3. Stress (Sin as My Comforter)

When stress is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our comforter. We run to it, her, or him. Sin or our adultery partner makes things better (at least as long as it, she, or he remains hidden and keeps us to themselves). Yet the comfort takes on an addictive quality. The stress from which we are relieved is multiplied by the stress it, she, or he creates. This keeps us in a cycle of stress and returning to a primary source of stress for relief.

We crave intimacy at a relational level. We feel lonely. But we also fear intimacy. We’re not sure we can attain it or be vulnerable enough to handle it. –Tim Chester in Closing the Window (p. 47)

Read John 14:25-31. Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as “the Helper” or “the Comforter” (v. 26) and as the source of peace–distinct from the world’s peace which always returns us to fear (v. 27). If a source of comfort doesn’t allow you to be more real with more people, then it isn’t true comfort. It’s a drug that numbs you before it makes you sick. If the motive of stress leads you to sexual sin, then examine whether your “comfort” is real or a form of relational self-medication.

4. Frustration (Sin as My Peace)

When frustration is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our source of peace. Sin is treated as an “oasis.” When this happens we label sin as our “safe place” as compared to the parts of life that are upsetting. This makes sin our friend and anyone or anything that opposes or interferes with our sin our enemy.

Read Romans 16:17-20 and I Thessalonians 5:22-24: Notice each of the passages refer to knowing the God of peace as the alternative to falling into temptations based upon deceitful desires. Where you turn for peace when you are frustrated is the determining variable of your character. Once you declare something or someone as the source of your peace, you will be loyal to and obey it.

5. Fatigue (Sin as My Source of Life)

When fatigue is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our source of life. We turn to sin as our boost to get through the day. The thought of our sin keeps us going when we feel like giving up. The adrenaline of sexual satisfaction (physical or romantic) becomes a drug we use to artificially stimulate ourselves–one we begin to wonder whether we could live without.

Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18: This passage uses many words that can be synonyms for or create fatigue: afflicted (v. 8), perplexed (v. 8), persecuted (v. 9), struck down (v. 9), and wasting away (v. 16). Fatigue can make you feel alone, and sexual sin becomes your life giving companion. Paul says that it’s only Christ who can be the life in us that counters the fatiguing death around us (v. 10-12). To doubt this truth reveals that we are believing (or at least listening attentively to) lies.

6. Hurt (Sin as My Refuge)

When hurt is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our refuge. In our moments of sinful escape we feel protected from life and a growing allegiance develops towards our sin. In actuality, our sexual sin provides as much protection as a child pulling the covers over his/her head. But in our moment of hurt, we appreciate even the pseudo-refuge of sin compared to the perceived absence of any other refuge.

Read Psalm 31: This Psalm alternates between a cry for help and a song of confidence. In this, the Psalm reveals the realness with which Scripture speaks to life. Sexual sin is a pseudo-refuge on demand. Even when we can’t have the sin, we can fantasize about his/her presence. However, the real refuge of God is available through the same type of prayerful-meditative exercise as our fantasy, but it’s actually able to deliver us through the guidance of Scripture, the presence of His Spirit, and the involvement of His people.

7. Betrayal (Sin as My Revenge)

When betrayal is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our revenge. We know how powerful betrayal is (especially sexual betrayal), so we decide to use its power for our purposes to avenge those who have hurt us. Blinded by pain we try to use pain to conquer pain but only multiply pain. We continue this potentially infinite domino train that pummels us with alternating experiences of betrayal’s pain and betraying’s shame in spite of knowing how it perpetuates pain.

Read Romans 12:17-21: It’s so tempting to read this passage as God “holding you back” from sweet relief and satisfaction. But, in reality, it is God “holding you back” from turning another’s betrayal into self-destruction. God is not removing vengeance. God is simply saying He is the only one who can handle its power without being overcome by it. Sin can never conquer sin; any more than oil can remove a stain from your clothes. It is foolish to believe your sexual sin could do what only Christ’s death on the cross could do–bring justice to injustice.

8. Bitterness (Sin as My Justice)

When bitterness is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our justice. If sin as revenge is fast and hot, then sin as justice is slow and cold. No longer are we seeking to hurt another by our actions; now we are merely nursing our wound. If we tried to explain our sin in words, we would have to say we believed our sin had some healing power. But because that seems foolish, we are more prone to just excuse our sin by the sin done to us.

Read Hebrews 12:15-17: In this passage a “root of bitterness” is directly linked to sexual sin (v. 16). When bitterness distorts our perspective we will trade things of great value (our integrity and/or family unity) for things of little value (a sexual release or fantasy briefly brought to life) like Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup.

9. Opportunity (Sin as My Pleasure)

When opportunity is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our pleasure. Often sexual sin requires no more trigger than time alone with a computer, a free moment to text, or an available member of the opposite sex to “talk” (i.e., flirt or allow to carry my burdens). When this is the case, sexual sin has become our default recreation–our preferred hobby. The more our sexual sin seeps into the common parts of life the more pervasive the lifestyle and heart changes necessary to root it out.

The reality is that often we dislike the shame and consequences of sin, but we still like the sin itself… That’s because porn is pleasurable. Let’s be honest about that. If we pretend otherwise, we’ll never fight it successfully. People like watching porn—otherwise they wouldn’t watch. The Bible talks about the pleasures of sin. They’re temporary. They’re dangerous. They’re empty pleasures, compared with the glory of God. But they are pleasures, nonetheless. –Tim Chester in Closing the Window (p. 15)

Read Philippians 3:17-21: Paul is addressing those whose “god is their belly” (v. 19). These are people whose basic appetites, the mundane parts of their life, were at odds with God. Paul wept at the thought of people in this condition (v. 18). Chances are they had become so comfortable serving their appetites that it would seem odd that Paul was crying for them and “radical” to change. If mere opportunity has become a primary trigger for you sin, let this passage shock you awake!

10. Rejection (Sin as My Comfort) 

When rejection is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our comfort. Our culture has made things done from a “fear of rejection” seem neutral–as if the defensive motive negated the badness of sin, or as if we become the victim of our own sin when we fear rejection. The problem with a fear of rejection is it makes us foolish. Only the fear of the Lord can make us wise (Prov. 1:7). When we react from a fear of rejection, we naturally seek the comfort of people rather than the comfort of God.

Once we understand that the primary goal of sexually addictive behavior is to avoid relational pain—essentially, to control life—we can begin to uncover the core problem (20)… Several tiers below the surface is a pervasive, integral force that demands the right to avoid pain and experience self-fulfillment. This self-centered energy is the very essence of what the Bible calls ‘sin.’ –Harry Schaumburg in False Intimacy (p. 24)

Read Proverbs 29:25: Scripture calls the “fear of rejection” the “fear of man.” It’s not innocent because it replaces God as the One for whose approval we live. It is the values, character, and preferences of the one we fear that influence our decisions, emotions, morality, and instinctive responses. If rejection is your primary motive for sexual sin, allow this passage to challenge the orientation of your life.

11. Failure (Sin as My Success)

When failure is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our success. In the fantasy world of sexual sin (porn, romance media, or adultery), you always win. You get the girl. You are the beauty who is rescued. No part of real life can compete with the early success rate of sin. Sin pays up front and costs in the back. Real success costs up front and pays in the back. In healthy marriages, sacrifice is a primary part of the joy. As you give into sexual sin as a form of success, it will drive you to desire the kinds of successes that destroy a family. Even if the adultery relationship is made permanent, it will then become “real” enough that it will no longer play by your preferred rules of success.

Read Matthew 21:28-32: Why would the second son say, “I go, sir” and not do the assigned task (v. 30)? One potential reason is the fear of failure. Doubtless he would then view his father as upset with him and feel closer to someone who only asked of him what he wanted to do (i.e., porn, romantic media, or adultery partner). Using sexual sin as cheap success results in harming real relationships, lying, defensiveness towards being “judged,” and retreating to unhealthy or fictitious relationships. Rather than grading others by how they make you feel, repent of your fear of failure.

12. Success (Sin as My Reward)

When success is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our reward. Has your sexual sin become what you do when you need a break or what you have “earned” after completing something difficult? Has your sexual sin become the carrot you dangle in front of yourself in order to maintain motivation? When sin becomes our reward we feel cheated by repentance. God and anyone who speaks on His behalf becomes a kill-joy.

Read Hebrews 11:23-28: Moses faced a choice between which reward he believed would be most satisfying: the treasure of Egypt or the privilege of being God’s servant (v. 26). Sexual sin gives us a similar reward choice: easy treasure or humble servant. Unless Christ is our hero and God our admired Father, then the choice seems like a no-brainer in the direction of destruction.

13. Entitlement (Sin as My Deserved)

When entitlement is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes what we deserve. When you are confronted with your sexual sin, do you think or say, “How else am I going to get what I need… deserve… earned?” Can you see how sexual sin has become your measure for a “good day” and whether someone is “for” or “against” you? Are you willing to allow anyone other than Christ who died for the sin you are trying to squeeze life out of to be the measure of “good” in your life?

Read Jeremiah 6:15 and 8:12: The people of God had lost their ability to blush at sin. Why? One possible explanation (that can explain our inability to blush even if it doesn’t apply to them), is they believed they deserved their sin. When this happens, we believe we know better than God. We believe the unique features of our life trump the timeless truths of God’s created order. Our confidence to debate robs us of the humility necessary to blush.

14. Desire to Please (Sin as My Affirmation)

When the desire to please is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our affirmation. It’s easy to please a porn star or an adultery partner. They have a vested interest in being pleased. The entire relationship is based upon commerce (“the customer is always right”) or convenience (“if I am not pleasing to you, you have somewhere else to return”) rather than commitment (“I choose you unconditionally and faithfully in good times and in bad”). Too often sexual sin becomes a place of escape when we don’t feel like we can make everyone/anyone happy.

Read Ephesians 4:25-32: Notice the type of relational interaction described in these verses is incompatible with an overly strong desire to please others. We cannot live the life God called us to (regardless of whether we are sinning sexually or not) if our driving desire is the affirmation of others. Our conversation must be gracious and good for building up (v. 29), but that assumes we are willing to speak into areas of weakness with those we love.

15. Time of Day (Sin as Pacifier)

When time of day is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our pacifier. Do you use your sexual sin to help you sleep, get the day started, serve as a pick-me-up, fight boredom, or kill dead time? What are the common times of day or week when you struggle with sexual sin? When has your sexual sin become routine?

Read I Timothy 4:7-10: When you use sin as a pacifier you are training yourself for ungodliness (contra. v. 7). Often, because these occurrences happen during down times or transitions of our day, we view these occurrences of sin as less bad. We view them more like a child who is still sucking his/her fingers rather than a child who is defying a parent’s direct instruction. If disciplining ourselves for godliness means anything, it must be relevant when we feel undisciplined.

16. Location (Sin as My Escape)

When location is our trigger for sexual sin, then sin becomes our escape. The fantasy nature of all sexual sin makes it a perfect escape from an unpleasant location. We can “be there” and “not be there” at the same time. We get credit for attendance (or at least avoid the discredit of absence) without having to attend. We can mentally be with our lover while enduring the boring meeting, stressful kids, uninteresting spouse, lonely apartment, or other unpleasant setting.

Read Psalm 32: Notice the Psalm begins talking about an unpleasant place or time (v. 1-5). But rather than escaping, David ran to God (v. 7) and found the joy you are seeking through escape into sexual sin (v. 10-11). When we escape through sexual fantasy, we use our fantasy as a substitute God. We are, in effect, praying to and meditating on our sin during a time of hardship seeking deliverance.

17. Negative Self-Thoughts (Sin as My Silencer)

When negative self-thoughts are our trigger for sin, then sin becomes our silencer. In sexual fantasy (porn, romance media, or adultery partner), we are always desired and see ourselves through the eyes of the one desiring us. We give ourselves to them not just physically but also imaginatively. Because we know the relationship is short-lived we are willing to do this. If the relationship were permanent the power of silencing-effect would be diluted over the expanse of time and contradicted by our growing number of failures in his/her presence.

Read Psalm 103: Sin (or even a healthy human relationship) will never do  what only God can do. The ultimate “Peace, be still” to our negative self-thoughts is Christ’s death on the cross–affirming we were as bad as we thought, but replacing our deficiency with His righteousness. Sexual sin provides fantasy righteousness. It provides the kind of covering mocked in the classic children’s book The Emperor’s New Clothes.

18. Public (Sin as My Carnival)

When public is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our carnival. We walk through life like a kid at an amusement park; gawking at every person we see like a new ride or romantic adventure, making a clownish sexual innuendo out of every comment, or treating everything present as if it existed to entertain us and stimulate us sexually. Our private thoughts of fantasy become fueled by a hyper-sexualized interpretation of our surroundings.

The act of looking at porn is itself part of the succor it purports to offer. I can search for women who are available to me. I can choose between them like some sovereign being. It offers a sense of control. –Tim Chester in Closing the Window (p. 50)

Read Romans 1:24-25: Can you hear in the description of sex as my carnival what it means to have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (v. 25)”? God will give us over to this kind of lustful heart (v. 24). This is why a radical amputation of sin is a necessary and wise response to prevent sexual sin from becoming our carnival (Matt 5:27-30).

19. Weakness (Sin as My Power)

When weakness is our trigger to sexual sin, then sin becomes our power. The stimulation (both the physical and chemical changes associated with arousal) of sexual sin gives a façade of strength. Having another person delight in you also provides a veneer of significance. As with most of these motives/triggers, sex becomes a means to an end. Sex is no longer an expression of love but an attempt to gain something. That is always a recipe for dysfunctional, unsatisfying sex.

My pastor has preached that the primary issue in adultery is that you want someone else to worship you and serve you, to be at your beck and call. That resonated with me. I could see that theme in my fantasies. –Anonymous testimony in David Powlison’s Pornography: Slaying the Dragon (p. 15)

Read 2 Corinthians 11:30: Are you willing to boast (verbally put on public display) your weakness as a way to make Christ more known and live in more authentic relationships? That is the only freedom that will allow you to enduringly enjoy what you are seeking in sexual sin. If that sounds backwards to you, read what Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:20-25) and ask yourself if your “wisdom” is getting you closer or farther from where you want to be.

Identifying Your Triggers

List and rank the top five motives/triggers for your sexual sin.

  1. __________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________
  3. __________________________________________________
  4. __________________________________________________
  5. __________________________________________________

Porn is always about a symptom of deeper issues. It’s about lust, but it’s also about anger, intimacy, control, fear, escape, and so on. Many of these problems will show up in other areas of a person’s life. –Tim Chester in Closing the Window (p. 109)

For some people the motive for their sexual sin will be very self-evident. Maybe you could quickly pick out the motive-triggers that deceive you into believing sin is “worth it” or will “work out” this time. For others, it requires reflection in the moment of temptation to discern what is luring them. If this is you, here’s a journaling tool from the False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery seminar that is designed to help you understand your motives.

When we understand the motive for our sin, it allows us to hear the empty promises sin makes so we can turn to our loving Heavenly Father who is willing and able to fulfill those promises. I hope this post has helped you see the emptiness of sin so that you are prepared to embrace the fullness of God in the gospel.

The Emotional & Relational Cost of Addiction

SOURCE:  Chip Dodd

According to recent statistics gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 23.5 million Americans over the age of 12 cast about in daily life addicted to alcohol and/or illegal drugs.

That number does not include the millions of other Americans who are addicted to prescribed medications. Most people began taking prescribed drugs to mediate a physical or mental-emotional problem; then, the drugs became the primary problem, most notably narcotics and anti-anxiety medications. Even more, that 23.5 million people addicted to alcohol and/or illegal drugs does not include the millions of people involved in process-behavioral addictions to sex/pornography, gambling, food, and work. Many other subtler addictions that exact a cost upon society are denied or simply not recognized. They also add significantly to the millions not counted.

Speaking only about the 23.5 million addicts (saying “only” about 23.5 million anything seems absurd to me, but I want to remain specific) impact upon themselves and others, statistics indicate that for every one person addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, 3 to 4 other people in relationship with the addict experience life damaging effects. Any person who is relationally connected with an addict for an extended period of time will suffer some of the characteristics of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Predominantly family members directly suffer the emotional and relational, if not the physical and financial, impact of addiction. The impact of addiction upon this group centers on trauma, which, at core, suppresses the capacity for emotional and relational development. Think of the impact on children alone.

“Addiction temporarily allows one to avoid the vulnerability and insecurity of depending on others and God for relational fulfillment.”

Trauma basically means that a person will suffer some form of reaction that requires they hide their vulnerability to emotional expression and relational capacity for intimacy. They develop a distortion, distress, and distrust with their own sense of worth and acceptance of belonging and mattering. More simply put, they believe they have to perform to have worth or acceptance. They have to earn love, and rarely allow themselves truly to trust love when it is given. These characteristics, likewise, reside inside every addict at the core of their own emotional and relational makeup.

These people suffer the compulsion of trying to find a full life without knowing how to risk feeling all that is required to live a vibrant relational life. Symptoms of this core “need” for control can extend into myriad complicating results, such as stress illnesses, anxiety disorders, and depression. Addiction predicts the continuation of the next addiction and/or many other life-stifling consequences. Addiction is, tragically, a form of relationship, a self-cure for pain. It temporarily allows one to avoid the vulnerability and insecurity of depending on others and God for relational fulfillment. These counterfeit cures and fulfillments take control over the emotional vulnerability and insecurity required to live ably and fully in true relationship with others and God.

By multiplying the minimal number of 3 people impacted by addiction times the number of addicts estimated by SAMHSA, that number is 70.5 million people harmed emotionally and relationally by people trapped in their own emotional and relational maelstrom of addiction. By adding the 23.5 million to the 70.5 million, one can see the power of addiction and its devastating consequences. That number is 94 million people suffering emotional and relational distortions, distress, and distrust, all connected to one common denominator of addiction to alcohol and/or drug addiction alone. That number is greatly expanded by all the other addictions and their impact.

“Addiction and its impact is America’s number one internal problem.”

No matter how much we attempt to address our personal, family, community, and national problems without addressing addiction and its impact, we will fail. Addiction and its impact is America’s number one internal problem. Actually, it may be America’s epidemic. Ironically, one of the main characteristics of addiction is denial—will-bound blindness to what is literally, objectively occurring within the addict, and within the people associated with addiction.

We are a nation of people addicted, and a nation of people in denial. It becomes an ongoing repetition of retracing a circle. We cannot see the damage of addiction because of denial, which protects us from the emotional vulnerability of trauma, which exacerbates the “need” for relief from stress, which influences addiction, about which we are in denial. And on it goes.

We must see and feel beyond denial. We must see and feel our way into living with the capacity for full relationship, which requires the vulnerability of receiving and offering love, even the love that does not tolerate the denial of addiction and its impact. Unless we do, we perpetuate the problem.

Our society has four pillars of character and relational development: family, vocation, community, and faith. The four pillars today rest upon the sand foundation of addiction. No matter what we do to shore up the leaning pillars with a thousand different programs, we will crash unless we see and feel our way to a great national awakening of individuals addressing our foundational devastation.

Prescription Drug Abuse Among Older Adults May Be Difficult To Detect

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Joy Mali/Lifehack

Prescription drug abuse may not be as noticeable as other forms of substance abuse, but it still has very dangerous consequences. Even though a doctor may have prescribed a drug, it is still a chemical substance that can cause mental, physical, and emotional issues if incorrect or more frequent doses are taken.

Addiction does happen among seniors, and it is often undetected because caregivers and loved ones do not know the signs of prescription drug abuse among this age group.

What are the most commonly abused drugs?

Senior drug abuse typically falls into a few categories of medication that are frequently prescribed to seniors for various health conditions. Opioids are the most commonly abused type of prescription drug, and oxycodone, Vicodin, morphine, Percocet, and fentanyl are all addictive. Opioids are prescribed for seniors who are dealing with pain from surgery, arthritis, or other conditions.

Another common type of abused drug are stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall. Older adults are prescribed stimulants for narcolepsy and other disorders. Other frequently abused prescription drugs are benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin. Benzodiazepines are regularly prescribed for conditions such as anxiety and insomnia, yet they can be extremely habit forming.

What are the dangers of prescription drug abuse?

Drug abuse is particularly harmful to seniors because of their fragile health. Often, a medicine that is supposed to cure a minor health issue can eventually be abused, causing a potentially fatal health problem. The number of opioid-related deaths among seniors has increased sharply in the last ten years because it is easy to accidentally overdose on this type of medication. If a senior becomes dependent on benzodiazepines, they may have seizures once they stop taking the medication. Other forms of drug abuse can cause heart problems, organ failure and strokes.

How is senior drug dependency detected?

One of the main issues with the prescription drug abuse epidemic among seniors is that older adults do not show typical signs of drug dependency. If any behavior changes are observed, do not assume that they are merely caused by older age. It is important to seek medical help if an elderly loved one exhibits the following signs:

  • Trouble walking or poor balance
  • Repeatedly losing or misplacing medication
  • Demanding narcotic prescriptions for minor health problems
  • Sudden lack of hygiene and poor personal appearance
  • Seeming sleepy and disoriented
  • Poor vision with inability to read prescription instructions
  • Sudden weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Drastic personality alterations or extreme mood swings
  • No longer interested in socialization

Should seniors attend a treatment center?

Older people can become addicted to prescription medication just like anyone else and should receive treatment just like anyone else. Modern medical care makes it possible for seniors to live happy and healthy lives. It is therefore imperative for an older person to get the help they need to recover. At a prescription drug treatment center, they can receive assistance detoxing from the drug and learn how to cope with addiction. If medication is still required for a medical condition, a person can talk to their doctor about other, less addictive options.

Wrapping Up:

With more research illustrating the prevalence of substance abuse among senior citizens and the effectiveness of targeted treatment options, there is hope for families of aging loved ones concerned for their elderly loved one’s health and safety. Caregivers should be aware of the risk factors and potential warning signs to address suspected substance abuse as soon as it’s recognized so that treatment interventions can be discussed with clinicians as soon as possible.

Seven Things to Do After You Look at Pornography

SOURCE:  Paul Maxwell/Desiring God

A lot of Christian advice about porn addicts is unhelpful — meaning, it doesn’t contribute to real progress in repentance, healing, restoration, and recovery. Most of all, it fails to address the issues that underlie porn use. Often, Christian advice either has its head in the clouds of theology and biblical references, or is a list of superficial how-tos, and gets knocked beneath the sand of real life — of failure, and the struggle to hope.

How is the gospel relevant to failing and trying again? And failing and trying again? And failing and trying again?

We too often allow unattainable ideals to dictate what we allow ourselves to say — the issues we allow ourselves to address with the congregation, with the struggler, with the mirror. Are we allowed to talk about what Christ can do (and what we can do) right after pornographic indulgence? Or do we look to the clouds and hope for the best? “Why think about how God meets you in the midst of failure? You shouldn’t even be in an ‘after pornography’ situation.” But often many are and because God can and does act in the moment of regret.

It is often in the moment after the closed door, the darkness, the screen-light, the hidden act — after pornography indulgence — that Satan spins his most eloquent web: menacing patterns of thinking; bargaining with a disapproving and distant God; twisting us in on ourselves in self-hatred. It is in the moment after pornography indulgence that Satan does his finest work. It is in this moment that we need God to do his finest saving.

Here are some specific ways to search for grace the moment after the dark act of pornography indulgence:

1. Know your Enemy.

As soon as you indulge, you either plunge into self-hatred, or into self-avoidance.

Satan is satisfied either way.  Both paths believe his accusations (Matthew 16:23;2 Corinthians 7:10).

Recognize that you have a powerful personal agent who is singularly focused on your destruction (Job 1:7; Ephesians 2:2; Jude 1:19). Every experience you have — your thoughts, your hatreds, your impulses, your emotions, your plans, your ideas — must take into account that Satan is at work. The sooner you forget that, the easier it is to believe hidden, subversive, subtle, destructive lies. When Jesus tells the Pharisees that their father is the devil — the great liar — it is of course no surprise that they don’t know that. Satan wants them to forget that he is their father, because evil gains power when it is forgotten (John 8:44).

Don’t forget: After you indulge, you are still mid-battle with a tenacious, evil person bent on stealing your life, and he has not yet gotten it.

2. Fight self-hatred.

There is no question: Pornography is the twisted manipulation of innocence for the raw crave of erotic appetite. To have a grieved conscience is a good thing. But when Judas realized “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” it is not surprising that “he departed, and he went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:4–5).

It’s a common feeling: to want to punish ourselves for betraying the innocent. In twisting innocence, we twist ourselves. It is not a surprise that suicide rates are high among pornography users. “I’m not as good as Christian preachers and bloggers want me to be.” To warp human dignity, in the end, only warps the user more — psychologically deforming to self-hating; contorting into self-disgust. We abhor, criticize, despise, and detest ourselves. Wallowing in self-deprecation and feeling like paying penance to God for sin is a sad and ironclad torture. It is false, and it is a wicked oppression. But grace does have a word on this.

It is no wonder David uses such deeply physical metaphors when he pleads with God for grace over sexual sin: “blot out my transgressions,” “wash me,” “cleanse me,” “in sin did my mother conceive me,” “purge me,” “wash me” (again), “blot out my iniquities,” “create in me a clean heart.” (Psalm 51:1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10). It’s a simple, roaring plea: “It’s in me. Get it OUT!” “Stop me.” “I hate it.” “I hate me.” “Bleach me.” God gives us a liturgy of sorrow and hope stretched out in the same howl. Fight, with David. Scream that, with David. Replace the groan of human self-hatred with an unbroken war cry of divine love.

If you are tempted to wallow, don’t let your (good) intuitive hatred of sin lead you to hate yourself. Be patient with yourself, because God is patient. He is fighting for your life (Genesis 32:24; John 10:10). He has not forgotten you. He has not left you. Keep fighting with him. Keep gasping for the air of divine life — the Life-Giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

3. Fight the haze.

Right after indulgence, a haze kicks in.  Jesus knows.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Purity is a feast on luminescent virtue. What is impurity? It is feasting that becomes self-isolated, avoiding of God and man and self, numbed, dazed, deadened, desensitized. Sexual impurity induces a spiritual cataract. Again, the feeling is common — browser history cleared, slogging through the rest of the day, lumbering from task to task, from person to person — meaningless, personless, passionless. This experience is integrated into the fabric of pornography indulgence.

There’s usually nothing to be done, if we’re honest, except ride the wave — the muddle, the daze. Keep praying (Ephesians 6:18). Keep gasping for air. Stay awake. Keep breathing. Morning mercies can be the emotional reset button we need when we spend our daily emotional cache on pornography (Lamentations 3:22–24). The lamenter is gasping. He prays what he cannot do. “The Lord is my portion . . . therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24). Really? Will you hope in him? Prayer is an act of hope. The prayer is the lamenter’s portion of the Lord’s work. Keep taking a step forward. Keep taking a breath. Without repeated indulgence, the haze will eventually wear off.

4. Guard others.

Pornography is a training session in the skill of using others for personal pleasure. Just be aware that you are now inclined to use people in close relationship the same way you use those in pornography — with selfish motive, with neglectful attitude, unrepentantly.

Pornography puts relational blinders on us — it deeply impedes our ability to love others well. So, the best course of action is to walk as if we have physical blinders on: Tread slowly, and assume that we are currently very vulnerable and prone to treat those around us as subhuman. After indulgence, it is vital to keep in mind that those not on the screen deserve the respect and dignity that we just failed to show those on the screen.

Pornography soothes its users into a drama, a character, a story with a script and lines and actions: one person for pleasing, one person for being pleased; one person making sacrifices, another receiving sacrifices; one subhuman, one god. It takes self-control to remember that pornography is a false story — to fight the false drama which pornography gives to us, we must actively think less of ourselves and more of others: to remember human dignity, the love of Christ for those around us, our not-God-ness. The Spirit works in us to keep the flesh from ruling us (Galatians 5:17) — the Keeper protects others from the consequences of our thinking that we are God.

5. Confess to a friend.

Confess sin to a friend who will not excuse you, but equally as important, who will not crush you. Sometimes, when looking for help to get up after pornography indulgence (Proverbs 24:16), others only push back down. Find the friend that gives hope that heals when they hear confession. The purpose of confession is “that you may be healed” and “pray for one another” (James 5:16). Of course, the value of “the prayer of a righteous person” is that it “has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). Power to do what? To “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confession to a friend (most appropriately, a same-gender friend) is not a barrier between the sinner and Christ, but a means of fixing brokenness. The wise sinner confesses to those who will not “crush the afflicted at the gate” (Proverbs 22:22) nor “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Consider attending a regular Samson Society meeting in your area.

6. Use your clarity for good.

Yes, there might be a haze after indulgence. But there can also be a flood of clarity — the hindsight of regret.

“When Judas . . . saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind” (Matthew 27:3). Judas’s clarity took him down a wrong path. But you can use your clarity to get back on the right one. Likewise, Paul writes about Israel’s rebellion, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:6). Sometimes, we desire evil anyway. And in that case, we serve as an example to ourselves.

As Piper might say, “Don’t waste your regret.” Use it for God’s glory and your joy. Set up boundaries. Use the clarity that will surely fade before the next moment of temptation to build structures that will prevent this again. Go back and forth all you’d like on what structures are dumb and ineffective, and which are sustainable preventative measures — the basic truth is this: If you don’t have any formal structures set up to prevent you from looking at pornography in the future, it will absolutely, with 100% certainty, happen again. If you have no structures, you have no place to be picky — choose something.

Here are some actions to choose from:

  • Get Covenant Eyes or X3Watch for all your devices.
  • Don’t let a single unaccountable browser app remain on your iPhone.
  • Delete in-browser apps that allow backdoor access to unaccountable internet use.
  • Get a friend to lock the app download function on your phone so that your native browser is not an option, and you can’t download Google Chrome (the Covenant Eyes/X3 app will function as the browser).
  • Delete pictures you have saved.
  • Tell a friend about the backdoors and cheat-codes you have in your back pocket. If you don’t plan at all, you’re planning to fail. Nowhere is this truer than in the practical fight against pornography indulgence.

7. Know your God.

Remember this: God loves you so, so much. He is unsettled by us (Genesis 6:6), and brokenhearted with us, and powerfully for you (Psalm 34:17–19).

The haze can block us from God: “The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand” (Psalm 92:6). But even when we cannot see him, even when we fail to obey him, let us pray: God, frustrate our plans to disobey (Nehemiah 4:15), and “no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). More than anything: “God, help us to cast all our anxieties on you, because you care for us” (1 Peter 5:6–7).

He does not abandon the sinner. He does not depart from the indulger. Wait in his love. “Build yourselves up . . . in the Holy Spirit”: “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 1:20–21). Know the difference between the God-mask Satan would wear to deceive you: disgusted, distant, unavailable, disinterested, and remember the face of your real God: loving, patient, working, unsurprised, unrelenting, unwavering in his grasp on you.

He won’t let you go.

Are You “Legally Addicted”?

SOURCE:  Andrea Atkins/Grandparents.com

Opioids and the Rising Death Rate of Middle-Aged Women

If you think drug overdoses are the scourge of inner city “junkies,” think again.

Americans all over the country are becoming addicted to opioids, a class of drug that is killing them in record numbers. In fact, there has been a 450 percent increase in the number of deaths among women since 1999, a statistic attributed to opioid use.

How did this happen? Read on.

What Are Opiates?

If you take Oxycodone, Percoset, or Fentanyl—drugs all classified as opioid pain killers—the experience is “identical to taking heroin,” according to Andrew Kolodny, M.D., founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, and a senior scientist at the Brandeis Heller School for Social Policy and Management. And that’s just what hundreds of thousands of Americans are doing every day—legally. They are taking a pain-killer that is addictive and that can potentially harm them if they find they can’t live without it.

“The U.S. is in the midst of a severe epidemic of opioid addiction,” Dr. Kolodny says. “Use of these drugs has increased very rapidly over the past 20 years—in fact, there’s been a 900 percent increase since 1997; that’s referring to both prescription opioids and heroin.”

There are 2.1 million people suffering substance use disorders related to opioid pain relievers, according to a report to Congress by Nora Volkow, M.D., director the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “There is an ongoing epidemic of prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths in this country,” she says.

Reasons for the Rise in Addiction

There are two prongs to this problem, Dr. Kolodny says: Younger Americans in their teens to early 30s encounter the drug when they have a sports injury or have their wisdom teeth removed. They wind up liking the effects of the pills, but can’t get more of them. Soon, they switch to heroin, which is much more available in places where it previously didn’t exist. They become addicted, and soon entire communities are mourning their death from drug overdoses.

But the other population suffering from addiction to these drugs is older Americans. “That group is almost entirely developing addiction through medical use,” Dr. Kolodny says. “When they get addicted, they don’t need to switch to heroin or look for drugs on the black market. They don’t have difficulty finding people who will keep them on a primary supply because they are complaining of pain and their doctors refer them to pain specialists, who keep on increasing the dose. The death rate is much higher in the older group than it is in the younger group.”

And the group that has seen the highest rise in death rates is middle aged women. “That is the group that is more likely to visit doctors and more likely to complain about a chronic pain problem,” Dr. Kolodny adds.

Middle-Age Women Are Most at Risk

According to Dr. Volkow, “Women are more likely to have chronic pain and be prescribed prescription pain relievers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men.” Evidence suggests, she adds, that for some reason, women may be more likely than men to take these drugs without a prescription to combat pain but also to treat other problems like anxiety or tension. “But there may be other factors (that make women more vulnerable to the pernicious effects of the drugs) having to do with [biological] differences between men and women. We know, for example, that women, in general, have a higher percent body fat and lower percent of body water. Body fat and water content can affect the volume distribution of certain drugs, such as opioids, and with chronic use, can lead to an increased load of drug in the fatty tissues, and potentially have a toxic effect.”

How Did This Happen?

Opioids can be an important and effective drug if used correctly, Dr. Volkow says. So how did we get to a place where doctors are the starting point for the worst addiction crisis in American history? Dr. Kolodny lays blame at the feet of a “multi-faceted campaign by pharmaceutical companies that caused (doctors) to prescribe these drugs.”

In the 1990s, he explains, a powerful marketing campaign got under way to urge doctors to prescribe opioids for pain relief. “The messaging was very compelling.”

The messaging said that people needn’t suffer pain, and that opioids did not cause addiction, except in very rare cases. The marketing material acknowledged that opioids would make patients feel sick if they suddenly stopped using the drug, calling it a “benign state” that shouldn’t be confused with addiction. “They told us that opioids are a way to improve patients’ quality of life,” Dr. Kolodny says.

“But it’s not true that patients can be easily tapered off these drugs,” he adds. “It’s not true that it’s a benign state. It’s not true that addiction is rare. One of the reasons these drugs are so addictive is because of the physiological dependence. Patients feel real panic when they stop taking the drugs…it all led to the crisis that we’re dealing with today. It’s so severe that it’s having an impact on life expectancy in the United States, especially among women.”

Dr. Volkow also faults education among physicians who have been poorly trained in pain management. Some physicians, she says, “may find prescribing opioids to be the easiest and least expensive course for addressing pain.”

The Addiction Born of Pain and Societal Problems

Heather Healey, LCSW-C, Director of the Employee Assistance Program Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, says that aside from doctors pushing opioids, our society conspires to lead people—especially women—to addictive behavior by failing to provide the support they need. Employers expect them to get back to work quickly after an injury. Insurance companies pay for medications, but not for alternative treatments like yoga, meditation, or physical therapy. And we have come to believe in our doctors as infallible.

“Everyone is put on narcotics,” says Healey, an addiction expert. “There is a time and a place for narcotics…but we don’t challenge our doctors, we just follow orders,” she says. “We’ve gotten so desensitized to taking medication. We think it’s an easy solution. But we’ve become numb to the risks associated with it.”

How Opioids Can Hurt You

Opioids attach to receptors in the brain, spinal cord, GI tract and other organs and reduce the perception of pain in the body, Dr. Volkow says. One of the main dangers of opioids is the user’s quick progression to “tolerance” of the medication.

“With time, your body gets acclimated to the effects of the drugs. You override acclimation by taking more,” explains Healey. “That’s the vicious cycle, and depending on how long you use it, it is the exact same drug effect that’s used with anesthesia. It’s how you cannot feel pain from a knife slicing you open during surgery, but you keep breathing while the operation goes on. Opioids cause respiratory depression. We don’t think about breathing on a day-to-day basis, but the number one cause of death in opioid use is respiratory depression. It causes your breathing to stop. It puts the back of your brain to sleep and literally puts your breathing to sleep.”

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

The first step to reducing this problem across the country is to reduce the availability of opioids and limit their use. But Dr. Volkow points out while efforts have begun to make that happen, the availability of heroin has been increasing, but experts are not sure whether increased supply or increased demand is to blame. Either way, people have reported choosing heroin because it is cheaper, more available, and provides an even better high, she adds. “In a recent survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction, almost all—94 percent—said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were ‘far more expensive and harder to obtain.’”

Still, if you or someone you know is battling these drugs, you can get help.

  • Recognize when you are addicted: “If you are in the cycle of taking medication and finding yourself needing to increase the dose because you’re managing chronic pain, that is a signal that you need to talk to someone who is an addiction expert to help you find ways to manage pain other than a pill,” Healey says. If you have been on your pills for more than two months, you’re moving into a dangerous situation, and should seek help from someone other than the doctor who prescribed them to you, she added.
  • Seek help through your workplace: If you’re employed, check out your Employee Assistance Program to get an evaluation and understand the options that are available to you. Or, you can contact the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration to get started or call 1-800-622-HELP 24 hours a day.
  • Seek alternative treatments: Such drugs as Methadone, Buprenorphine and Naltrexone can be effective ways to wean heroin or opioid users away from the drug (when part of an addiction treatment program), according to Dr. Volkow.
  • Understand that addiction is a chronic disease: You don’t go for treatment once, but rather you must commit for a long haul and be ready to face a long road to recovery.

Avoid the Opioid Trap to Begin With

If you have chronic pain and your doctor prescribes opioids, ask about other options. “Many people don’t think of medication as a drug of abuse,” Healey says. “They think of it as a drug of use when they are following doctor’s orders.” But the Centers for Disease Control have recently issued new guidelines for treating pain, recommending that doctors start with the lowest pain relief possible.

You Can Change the Way You Think

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” 

(2 Corinthians 10:5b NCV).

Here’s the secret to temptation: Don’t fight it. Just refocus. Whatever you resist persists.

Did you know that in the Bible, not once are you told to resist temptation? We are told to resist the Devil, and that’s a whole different issue. But the key to overcoming temptation is not to push back. It’s to change your focus.

Whatever gets your attention gets you. The battle for sin always starts in the mind. That’s why the Bible says in Psalm 119:6, “Thinking about your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing” (CEV). Why? Because if you’re thinking about God’s truth, you’re not thinking about the less important stuff.

It’s true in every single area of life — good or bad. If you focus on godly things, it’s going to pull you that direction. If you focus on the stuff that’s at the movies and in magazines, it’s going to pull you that direction. Whatever you focus on gets your attention. Whatever gets your attention is going to get you.

The key is to just change your mind.

Temptation always follows a predictable pattern: attention, arousal, and action. Your mind gets hooked, your mind kicks in, and then you act on it.

So you don’t fight a temptation; you just turn your mind to something else. “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV).

The thing is, we’re not very good at capturing every thought and turning it to Christ, because it takes lots of practice. You can’t always control your circumstances, and you can’t even always control the way you feel. But you can control what you think about. That’s always your choice.

And if you change the way you think, it changes the way you feel, and that will change the way you act.

Motivation For Change: The Stages Of Change Model

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by A. TOM HORVATH, PH.D., ABPP, KAUSHIK MISRA, PH.D., AMY K. EPNER, PH.D., AND GALEN MORGAN COOPER, PH.D.

Let’s face it. Recovery from addiction is not an easy task. In fact, change of any sort is usually somewhat stressful and uncomfortable. Whether or not someone attempts natural recovery or gets help, “something” must change. In other words, “something” must cause them to move away from addiction and toward recovery. That “something” is the motivation to change.

Throughout this topic on addiction, we have stressed that recovery is fundamentally about the motivation to change. At some point in every addicted person’s life, there comes a moment when they realize they need to change. The difference between those who successfully make the needed changes, and those who do not, comes down to motivation. Since motivation is so critical to recovery, it is important for therapists and therapy participants alike to understand the motivation for change. This includes understanding the degree of motivation; the type of motivation; as well as understanding various ways to increase motivation. Once sufficiently motivated, people can and do change.

Most of us recognize that change is not an event that suddenly occurs. Rather, it is a process that gradually unfolds over time. As this process begins to unfold, a person’s motivation changes. The most popular framework for discussing motivation to change is the Stages of Change Model developed by James Prochaska, Ph.D. and Carlo DiClimente, Ph.D. Their work began during the late 1970s when they became interested in the way people change. They developed, tested, and refined the Stages of Change Model. This model is one of the most widely used and accepted models within the field of addiction treatment.

In Changing for Good (1994), Prochaska and DiClemente describe the six stages of change:

Stage #1: Pre-Contemplation

People at this stage may be aware of the costs of their addiction. However, they do not see them as significant as compared to the benefits. Of course, others may view this situation differently. Characteristics of this stage are a lack of interest in change, and having no plan or intention to change. We might describe this person as unaware.

Stage#2: Contemplation

People in the contemplation stage have become aware of problems associated with their behavior. However, they are ambivalent about whether or not it is worthwhile to change. Characteristics of this stage are: exploring the potential to change; desiring change but lacking the confidence and commitment to change behavior; and having the intention to change at some unspecified time in the future. We might describe this person as aware and open to change.

Between stage 2 and 3: A decision is made. People conclude that the negatives of their behavior outweigh the positives. They choose to change their behavior. They make a commitment to change. This decision represents an event, not a process.

Stage #3: Preparation

At this stage people accept responsibility to change their behavior. They evaluate and select techniques for behavioral change. Characteristics of this stage include: developing a plan to make the needed changes; building confidence and commitment to change; and having the intention to change within one month. We might describe this person as willing to change and anticipating of the benefits of change.

Stage #4: Action

At this stage people engage in self-directed behavioral change efforts while gaining new insights and developing new skills. Although these change efforts are self-directed, outside help may be sought. This might include rehab or therapy. Characteristics of this stage include: consciously choosing new behavior; learning to overcome the tendencies toward unwanted behavior; and engaging in change actions for less than six months. We might describe this person as enthusiastically embracing change and gaining momentum.

Stage #5: Maintenance

People in the maintenance stage have mastered the ability to sustain new behavior with minimal effort. They have established new behavioral patterns and self-control. Characteristics of this stage include: remaining alert to high-risk situations; maintaining a focus on relapse prevention; and behavioral change that has been sustained six months. We might describe this person as persevering and consolidating their change efforts. They are integrating change into the way they live their life.

Stage #6: Termination

At the termination stage people have adopted a new self-image consistent with desired behavior and lifestyle. They do not react to temptation in any situation. Characteristics of this stage include: confidence; enjoying self-control; and appreciation of a healthier and happier life. The relapse prevention plan has evolved into the pursuit of a meaningful and healthy lifestyle. As such, relapse into the former way of life becomes almost unthinkable.

Habitual Sins & Failures — The Ones That Won’t Go Away

SOURCE:  /Ligonier Ministries

How Should Christians Handle Besetting Sins?

One of the great Christian classics is a devotional booklet written by Saint Thomas à Kempis called  The Imitation of Christ.

In that book he talks about the struggle that so many Christians have with habits that are sinful.

He says that the struggle for sanctification is often so difficult and the victories that we achieve seem to be so few and far between, that even in the lives of the greatest saints, there were few who were able to overcome habitual patterns. We’re talking about people who overeat and have these kinds of temptations, not those who are enslaved to gross and heinous sin. Now Thomas à Kempis’s words are not sacred Scripture, but he gives us wisdom from the life of a great saint.

The author of Hebrews says that we are called to resist the sin that so easily besets us and that we are admonished and exhorted simply to try harder to overcome these sins. You say, How do we escape these pockets of sin that we have such great struggles with, that we have an honest and heartfelt desire not to commit? If the desire not to do it is really honest and penetrates the heart, we’re 90 percent home. In fact, we shouldn’t be locked into something.

The reason we continue with these pockets of repeated sins is because we have a heartfelt desire to continue them, not because we have a heartfelt desire to stop them. I wonder how honest our commitment is to quit. There’s a tendency for us to kid ourselves about this anytime we embrace a pet sin. We need to face the fact that we commit the sin because we want to do that sin more than we want to obey Christ at that moment. That doesn’t mean that we have no desire to escape from it, but the level of our desire vacillates. It’s easy to go on a diet after a banquet; it’s hard to stay on a diet if you haven’t eaten all day. That’s what happens particularly with habitual sins that involve physical or sensual appetites. The ebb and flow of the desire is augmented and diminished. It increases and fades. Our resolve to repent is great when our appetites have been satiated, but when they’re not, we have a growing attraction to practice whatever the particular sins may be.

I think what we have to do is first of all be honest about the fact that we really have a conflict of interest between what we want to do and what God wants us to do. I think we have to feed our souls with the Word of God so that we can get what God wants us to do clear in our mind and then build a strong desire to obey.

Are You Rewarding or Bribing Your Child?

SOURCE:  /Focus on the Family

I can picture the scene in my mind like it was yesterday. Chubby legs kicking. Back stiffened straight. Child wailing, “No, Mommy! No get into the cart!”

Exasperated, I wondered if this trip to the grocery store was in vain. However, I needed to get food for dinner, and this was my only opportunity. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that a lollipop was buried in the bottom of my purse.

Holding my daughter on my hip with one arm, I frantically searched until I found it. Then I said, “If you get in the cart, you can have this lollipop.”

Instantly she complied. I won the battle, but I knew this was a losing strategy.

While rewards and bribes are sometimes seen as being interchangeable, they teach opposite lessons to our children.

What’s the difference?

A bribe is offered as a means to cajole or influence a child. Typically, it is given in the midst of a tantrum or other bad behavior. Deanna McClannahan, a licensed professional counselor at Focus on the Family, advises against doing this. “Bribing is giving a child a reward for unwanted behavior,” she warns. “In turn this teaches the child that if he screams for 20 minutes, he will get a piece of candy. Next time he wants something, you have taught him to scream.”

In contrast, a reward is something that is given in recognition of a child’s effort, service or achievement. It is parent initiated and directed, and given in recognition of a child’s effort. “Giving a child a reward for positive behavior reinforces what you want your child to do more of,” McClannahan says. She emphasizes that if a child is rewarded for positive behavior, he will be better motivated to repeat it.

As parents, we want our 2-year-old to feel a bit of our delight when she helps clean up all the toys or behaves appropriately at the store. A small, appropriate reward serves to encourage a child’s future obedience.

How to reward

Children under 3 live in the moment. McClannahan says, “Younger children do not have the ability to connect long-term rewards and consequences to current actions.” For this reason, McClannahan encourages parents of young children to reward as soon as possible. “It can be appropriate to wait until you get home,” she says, “but not OK to wait until the end of the week.”

Rather than just saying, “You did a good job,” let them know exactly what they did well: “I like how you remembered to pick up your dolls and put them in the toy box.” This type of praise reinforces the behavior you want to encourage and gives your children further instruction about your expectations.

For young children, rewards can be simple. A high-five or compliment (positive attention) is sometimes all the reward a child needs. But reading a favorite book together or giving him a small treat can also serve as a positive incentive.

A lesson learned

Two children at the grocery store may each receive a lollipop. However the method in which they were given their treat has the power to teach two vastly different lessons. If it is given as a bribe, it will encourage poor behavior. The child learns that if she fusses, screams or pouts, she will be pacified with something that brings her pleasure.

On the other hand, giving the lollipop as a reward after good behavior teaches our children the joy of doing what is right. This encourages them to continue making good decisions, which is what good parenting does — trains a child in the way he should go.

6 Awful Relationship Habits and How to Break Them

SOURCE:  Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D/Psychology Today

Habits can be hard to break, especially when they’ve developed over the course of a long-term relationship. You know when your relationship is suffering from the effects of bad habits when you feel like something is off, or missing, in your time with your partner. You can’t quite put your finger on it, and there may be no one really to blame, but you know that things have changed.

A bad relationship habit is one that continues to occur even though it causes you or your partner distress. It may develop independent of the personalities, beliefs, or values of each individual, or it may reflect good intentions gone wrong in the way you two interact. You want to be positive, you want to be loving, but you can’t quite seem to pull it off. When alone, you build up your resolve to change, but when you’re back with your partner, that resolve melts and you’re back where you started.

Not all relationship habits are bad. The good ones allow you and your partner to function more effectively as a twosome or as part of a larger family or group. Just as your personal habits allow you to get out of bed and start your day with a minimum of mental effort, these habits being stability and predictability to your life. Knowing that your partner hates purple, for example, means that you don’t have to stop and ponder whether to buy a purple shirt you see on sale. And knowing your partner’s habits is itself a good relationship habit. It signifies that you have a pretty good understanding of your partner, even if you don’t agree with all those preferences. (And sometimes you may wish to change those habits if they’re detracting from your partner’s well-being, but that’s a different story.)

Bad relationship habits, by contrast, work against your relationship—and if they’re bad enough, they can destroy it. Here are six to watch out for, along with suggestions for counteracting each one:

1. Wait for your partner to initiate shows of affection.

The tendency to believe that you need to be approached first by your partner in displays of affection is more prevalent in women, as shown by research on who is more likely to initiate a relationship. If you hold to this belief, though, it will lead you to the habit of always waiting to be approached by your partner even after your relationship is well-established. Not only can this habit keep you from fulfilling your own needs (whether in a new or long-term relationship) but it can send the wrong signals to your partner that you’re “just not that into” him or her.

To counteract this bad habit, do what researchers do to prompt subjects to feel more in control of their destinies: Recall times when you were in control and the outcome was positive. This doesn’t have to involve relationships; it can be any time that you took action and the result benefited you. This can be enough to prompt you to feel that it’s OK to exercise control in your relationship as well. The results will probably surprise you in that your partner may very well be delighted that you’re willing to start the romantic ball rolling.

2. Argue about the same things all the time.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in arguments, especially ones that keep repeating. You might be able to predict, with depressing accuracy, the result of a disagreement with your partner over one or another weekly chore or duty. Before you slide into the routine set of complaints about having to clean the bathroom yet again, try to find a time when you can both talk calmly about the recurring problem and come up with a plan to end it. As is true for changing your own bad habits (such as giving into a daily craving for a donut), you can set up a schedule of small change comparable to going for one day, then two days, etc. without the donut. If you both decide this is fair, it will eventually produce a desired outcome of making those arguments go away.

Of course, if your partner uses the occasion to bring up a habit of yours that’s been a source of contention, be ready to make similar changes in return. Increasing your sense of personal control has the added benefit of making it easier for you to change your own bad habits. A review of six studies involving nearly 2,300 people (Galla & Duckworth, 2015) showed that people who feel a greater sense of self-control have a variety of beneficial life outcomes, including being able to overcome bad habits.

3. Take your partner for granted.

This is a very easy habit to slide into if you’ve been in a relationship for a long time. In a way, taking your partner for granted is a good sign because it shows that you and your partner feel you can rely on each other. It’s nice to know, in a way, that your partner will be able to tolerate your occasional bursts of anger or irritation, and that you can dress however you feel like around the house when no one else is there. It’s also comforting to feel that your partner will help you when you get into a jam. On the other hand, taking someone for granted also includes maybe not saying “thank you” as much as you should because you’ve come to expect favorable treatment. Take the time to recognize what your partner contributes to your life and let him or her know how much it means to you.

4. Be too serious.

You may find that you laugh with friends or colleagues outside the home more than you do when you’re with your partner. The preoccupation of having a home and family can lead people to forget that sometimes things happen that are just plain funny. You might see a Facebook post or text that makes you laugh, but when you’re in the middle of your habitual routine, you may feel that you don’t have the time to spare to take a break. However, research shows that having a laugh together may be just the boost your relationship needs. If all else fails, go to a romantic comedy together just to be able to share some silly time.

5. Not have a meal together.

The fast pace of life, particularly when we have to balance home and work roles, can lead couples to get into the habit of catching their meals on the go. Daily schedules being what they are, you and your partner may just barely see each other as you pass in the hallway. If you’re not living with your partner, it may seem impossible to schedule a time to go out or cook a meal together. Yet, having that meal together may remedy some of the other bad habits, such as taking each other for granted or being too serious. To break this habit, commit to at least one shared meal per week, or on whatever regular basis you can arrange. During that meal, get rid of your phone, play some relaxing music, and enjoy each other’s company. If your partner has cooked the meal, be sure to say “thank you,” and express that you liked it.

6. Spend too much time plugged into your devices.

MIT Professor Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation (link is external) argues that we’re losing the ability to talk to each other in a face-to-face setting. Being on your devices while you’re apart may be a way of maintaining connection through texts and status updates, but when you’re with your partner, the devices offer nothing but distraction. That you can’t get through a meal without having your phone next to you may be a symptom of a larger problem in your relationship and if that’s the case, the other suggestions above (laughing together, avoiding repeat arguments, showing affection) can be vital ways to turn things around.

Reference

Galla, B. M., & Duckworth, A. L. (2015). More than resisting temptation: Beneficial habits mediate the relationship between self-control and positive life outcomes. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 109(3), 508-525. doi:10.1037/pspp0000026

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