Nashville has been hit pretty hard the last two weeks with an outbreak of tornadoes and now the coronavirus. This is not to suggest we’re special as a city, but these challenges have been pretty acute for a lot of people here. These two major events have illuminated how little control we humans have. We’re just not that important (despite our beliefs otherwise!).

Feeling out of control often leads to anxiety, and these intense feelings result in us grabbing onto anything that will help us to feel better, even if it’s only temporary relief. Unfortunately this often leads to more anxiety because what we grab onto isn’t all that solid. Things like social media feeds, stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer, various op-ed pieces, and all the different versions of news the media outlets are selling (which seem to be increasingly agenda driven, not care driven).

A friend of mine, David, runs a really popular local weather twitter (highly recommend following the account) and website account that reports the weather with care, not agendas (more of this please!). Several months ago David asked me to write a blog post for his community about taking care of weather-related storm anxiety (you can read it here). As I was writing this article, the main theme that I kept coming back to was relationships. Relationships are what keep us grounded during tragic events.

We’re profoundly lonely, fragile, insecure, and limited people. When an outbreak like a virus or tornado strikes, it’s painfully obvious how little power we humans have. We often become lost in our reactions to these feelings of being out of control. And when we are left alone to deal with this powerlessness, it is emotionally debilitating.

As we move into this new reality of having to deal with outbreaks that painfully reveal our powerlessness (tornadoes, viruses, cancer amongst our friends or family), will you pay attention to what reactions you have? It is likely that your reactions are a plea for help, and that help won’t be found in your newsfeed or at the grocery store. The great news is that relationships are built on the foundation of a common goal. Today, that goal is obvious for all of us: A virus.

Help is found in the power of relationships; the comfort of feeling and knowing that you’re not alone in your fears. Perhaps this is time to find a support group, a Bible study at church, attend a 12-step group, call that counselor you’ve been meaning to call for a while, or call a friend that you know will pick up the phone and listen.

What help do you need today?


Married Teens

What were you like when you were 13 years old? How were you as a kid when conflict happened in the family? Where did you go and what did you do to feel safe? What was your role in the family surrounding conflict?

Sometimes when conflict happens, we can become like a teenager again. We freeze up, fight back, run away, blame, stonewall, scream, mope, depress, and cry. I think everyone would agree that a thirteen year old does not do all that great as husband or wife. The reality is we all act like a teenager every now and then. 

What some 13 year olds need is a little bit of TLC, which is probably what you or your spouse needs when the “inner teen” shows up.

Try this: Get a picture of when you were 13, have it printed in a wallet sized print, and put it in your pocket. Do the same for your spouse. The next time you’re in a conflict, grab the picture of your 13-year old self (not your spouses picture!), and hold it up to your spouse. 

Talk to them about what’s going on with you. What does your “teenage self” need in this moment? What don’t “they” need to say or do? 


The Three P’s of Porn Recovery

Last week I wrote about the allure of Porn. As a therapist, I’ve interacted with hundreds of men, women, and teenagers about their sexuality and porn usage. They all desire sexual wellness but struggle to know how to find it. In working with them, there are three things that always show up when someone is wanting health and healing from pornography. Those that engage with these three categories always discover something greater for their lives. They find what they have been searching for. 

The Three P’s of Porn Recovery:

Shame tells us that we need to have life figured on own. This is a flat out lie. We have to have people involved in our recovery story. We need others to support, encourage, hold accountable, challenge, and believe in us (especially when we don’t believe in ourselves). This needs to include (with limitations) someone’s spouse, but not only their spouse.

We need a process to follow that is beyond our ability to set rules and limitations on life. Helpful processes include therapy, 12-step meetings (AA, SA, Al-Anon, ACA), Celebrate Recovery, or a sexual integrity group at a local Church. This process needs to be facilitated by someone who has been down the road for a while. Someone who has already followed and is now leading. A doctor can’t perform surgery on themselves, they need another professional to care for them.

We need a hero to discover. Someone to believe in when we lose our way. A hero that can push through the cold of night, withstand the lonely of day, and resist the enemies who thwart the journey. A hero that has character, value, morals, and integrity. Recovery forces us to face the hero within and the ultimate Hero who can save us from ourselves. There’s a reason that the first three steps in the 12-steps is about admitting powerless and entrusting our lives to God for healing.


Laundry List of Adult Children of Alcoholics

You don’t have to have parents who were alcoholics to develop any (or a lot) of these characteristics. All of us grow up in homes with imperfect parents. We develop coping mechanisms from growing up in these sometimes “crazy” family systems. Many of these coping mechanisms are listed below.

If you identify with these, consider attending a 12-step meet (ACOA or ACA are both good ones) to begin working through these.

The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic

  1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
  2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
  3. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
  4. We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
  5. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
  6. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
  7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
  8. We became addicted to excitement.
  9. We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
  10. We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
  11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
  12. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
  13. Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
  14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

(more on this here: https://adultchildren.org/literature/laundry-list/)

Just One Step

I often get the question, “what can I do to change my relationship with wife/friend/co-worker?” (This usually means – “how can I change the other person?”)

The answer to the first question is really simple: Just take one step.

One small act of kindness.

One gift of a compliment.

One of their favorite candy bars given with a small note of gratitude.

One sacrifice or service.

One smile.

One wink.

One blessing in spite of whatever happened.

One step of forgiveness.

One apology with follow through.

Now, this doesn’t mean that things will turn around immediately, but if you take that one small step every day (yes! every day), and do it faithfully, the relationship will change.

And so will you.