Out With the Bad, in With the Good

 By Nina Atwood

Michael asked if he and his girlfriend have a chance at a healthy love and a life of accomplishment of goals. With multiple addictions between them, and a family history of addictions on both sides, they have many challenges. Here’s my message to them.

Michael: first of all, I want to acknowledge you for sharing your story and for having the self-insight to be concerned about your future (and your future children’s lives). The first step in any process of recovery and growth is, as you know, awareness, and then declaring the truth of your situation.

Second, the most useful way to view this is as a process: of recovery, insight, growth, development of skills, and health. If you view it as an event, you’ll get wrapped around the tree. So, let’s look at your process.

I don’t know what the smoking addiction is that you referred to. If it’s cigarettes, you know that you’re setting yourself up for health issues. If it’s marijuana, here’s what you need to know. Pot use (if it’s regular and frequent, daily or close to that, not the three-times-a-year-because-you’re-at-a-party kind of use) interferes with the part of your brain that gives you that motivated feeling when you get up in the morning. This is why regular pot users often wax eloquent while they’re smoking about all the great plans they have for success, but the next day fail to get into productive action. So, the first thing you must do is kick that habit.

If you’re not already, you should be attending AA meetings 3 to 5 times per week. The way you signed your post says it all: Miserable. Sick in your soul (from painful life experiences, from addiction), you’re struggling to find that part of you that can get excited about life. Regular AA meetings, with a sponsor, will boost your recovery by magnitudes. Make sure you choose a sponsor who is operating in a very healthy fashion in his/her own life (including relationships).

The most important thing you can do in your process is identify goals and begin to pursue them. This will be the hardest part of your recovery, but it’s vital. Having goals and pursuing them daily gives us optimism about life while it triggers our creative juices. We know people are healthy when they joyfully pursue life goals. So begin with one goal: just one. And make it a SMART goal: specific, measurable, achievable, results oriented, and time-based. For example, since you want to have a better career, a SMART goal for you might be to take one college class next semester.

Your bad temper may be an offshoot of poor brain chemistry caused by the addictions. It may be wise for you to seek an evaluation by a psychiatrist for the possibility of anti-depressants. We know that irritability is one of the signs of the kind of depression that is a sort of daily malaise, and it’s important that you treat it, either with anti-depressants or with daily exercise and dietary changes.

Regarding your relationship: clearly, neither of you is ready for the kind of marriage that can provide a stable and lasting foundation for your future children. You have considerable risk of passing along the addictive d.n.a. that seems to be prevalent in both your families. That doesn’t mean you can’t have children; it means that you must be extra vigilant about providing the most stable environment possible prior to having them. I recommend that you table the idea of marriage for now, focus on your own recovery and growth, and let time reveal to you whether you are on the same page about creating a healthy family together. You’re both young enough so that you lose nothing by giving yourselves a couple of more years to see how you evolve as human beings before you make babies.

Entry Filed under: Advice for Men,Dating,Personal Growth,Relationships

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