Monthly Archives: February, 2017


the_rage_of_achilles_by_giovanni_battista_tiepoloHidden anger exists inside me
out of sight behind my smile
masked by my unique form of denial.
Positive thoughts
the hand carved train sitting proudly on my desk
with the poster above it
saying, “I think I can, I think I can”
me saying, “Yes I can!”

Affirmations chanted
prayers even
cutesy sayings on the wall
“Be patient…God isn’t finished with me YET!!”

oh, all the things I can find to be grateful for
flourishing houseplants growing along the wall
the tortoise paperweight to remind me
that slow and steady wins the race.

How much anger causes a person to erupt?
Erupting in a flash of lightning.

Price paid willingly coping with decades of abuse
thoughtfully being nice
fear of being just like them
a movie villain with an excuse.

“It’s your fault,” they say.
“If you hadn’t done those things to me,
I’d be a good person.”
Not me,
I’m a good person now.

It costs to be a good person
no random killing people
not even bad people
people who deserve it
abusive assholes
even ordinary drivers
who cut you off on the highway
no rocket launcher in the car.

The list of bad people is endless
how many wrong things can people
do to a person
before they turn into a bad person themselves?

It costs to be a good person
no punching that doctor
cannot slap that nurse
blow up that laboratory
you know, the one that
poured out the urine sample
instead of testing it.

It costs to be a good person
no nasty emails
no letters my truth contained within
find a different way to fight
the wrongness of what others have done to me.

What to do with that rage?
I’ve been thinking of trying this poetry thing
maybe finding some way of venting my fury
that harms no one
leaves me feeling satiated
and maybe even helps another.

Yep, that’s an idea I think I might try
it costs to be a good person.

Feel free to contact me or comment on this poem and the issues involved. Use the comment box below.

Contact me:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.


Compulsive Spending/Debting

spend-401kcalculator-orgA number of years ago, I read Les Meserables, by Victor Hugo. The hero in this novel, Jean ValJean, is sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children. His long odyssey begins with his inability to find a job in 18th Century France. He has a trade as a carpenter, but simply cannot find work. This incredible novel covers all the issues related to the struggles people encounter in trying to live a decent, good and moral life.

While very difficult to face, some people simply do not have enough money to live. Sometimes, jobs are scarce. Sometimes the only employment you have been able to locate pays less money than your family needs to live. Things happen. People get sick and face often horrendous medical expenses. Tragedies occur. The car needs enormous repairs. Your water heater blows up or your propane bill is more than you have.

People do what they have to do to survive. Sometimes this involves spending money you do not have. This is not an addiction, compulsive spending or debting. This is tragedy.

In compulsive spending or debting, buying things and/or borrowing money to do so becomes a drug for you. Remember, in our discussion of addictive diseases, you normally have relatives going back to your great grandparents who have varying addictions like alcoholism or gambling.

Then you find that if you spend money on things you feel better. Now everyone feels some degree of happiness when they buy a new car, dress, shirt or item they desire. It is fun to purchase new things. However, compulsive spenders feel better in a different way than most people. In this series on addiction, we have called this the allergy. You are allergic to the chemical or chemicals in your body produced by your behaviors. In the beginning of most addictions, people feel smarter, more talented, and actually have a faster reaction time to physical events.

This would be wonderful if it were not for the issue of tolerance. Unfortunately, you soon find that you need to purchase more and more items to achieve the same glow. This involves borrowing money and using credit cards, i.e., debting. Hand in hand with tolerance is progression.

Unfortunately for every addict, the amount you need to achieve your high always increases. So you need to continue spending and spending and borrowing more and more, racing to keep up with yourself and your need to feel better. Eventually, you find you need to borrow and spend just to kill the pain of your spending and debting. Against their morals and better judgment, some people begin stealing or embezzling money from their employer.

As your tolerance increases, so do the consequences you experience for your behavior. Spending money you do not have and borrowing money you cannot repay have multiple consequences in every area of your life–emotional, social, family, spiritual and legal. Your family faces stresses that create divorce and or family violence. You are hounded by your creditors day and night and are facing bankruptcy. You do not know where to turn for help and still you are driven by an inner tension to spend and borrow.

As with all addictions, you have mental defenses against your own awareness of your behavior. You deny to yourself and others the extent of your dilemma. You hide your bills and court papers. Maybe you stop answering the telephone and throw away your mail. You use any of a thousand techniques to hide the reality of your situation from yourself. One day, if you are fortunate, your ability to hide from yourself reaches the limit and your house of cards falls down.

I say fortunate because there are solutions to the mess you find yourself in as a result of compulsive spending and debting. There is a twelve step program for you. Debtors Anonymous has as it’s primary purpose: “to live without incurring any unsecured debt one day at a time and to help other compulsive debtors to achieve solvency.”

You can find meetings at: They have face-to-face, phone, and online meetings.

On their website, they have a series of 15 questions to see if your problem is compulsive spending or debting. Here are the questions:

  1. Are your debts making your home life unhappy?
  2. Does the pressure of your debts distract you from your daily work?
  3. Are your debts affecting your reputation?
  4. Do your debts cause you to think less of yourself?
  5. Have you ever given false information in order to obtain credit?
  6. Have you ever made unrealistic promises to your creditors?
  7. Does the pressure of your debts make you careless of the welfare of your family?
  8. Do you ever fear that your employer, family or friends will learn the extent of your total indebtedness?
  9. When faced with a difficult financial situation, does the prospect of borrowing give you an inordinate feeling of relief?
  10. Does the pressure of your debts cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
  11. Has the pressure of your debts ever caused you to consider getting drunk?
  12. Have you ever borrowed money without giving adequate consideration to the rate of interest you are required to pay?
  13. Do you usually expect a negative response when you are subject to a credit investigation?
  14. Have you ever developed a strict regimen for paying off your debts, only to break it under pressure?
  15. Do you justify your debts by telling yourself that you are superior to the “other” people, and when you get your “break” you’ll be out of debt overnight?

Coaching is for people who have taken care of their active addictive disease. They are in a 12-step program, have a sponsor, spending plan, and are living a life incompatible with addiction. It’s then time to dream a bit, wish for more, and reach your potential.

Contact me if it’s time for you to dream.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

*photo by





Ode to A Bully

cyber-bullying-122156_640I don’t make friends with people
who try to harm me
not now
not ever
you taught me that.

Born the same year to sisters
who loved each other
we could have been friends
as close as they were
spending all that time together.

You and I side by side
together in cribs
side by side in strollers
playing in the yard
in the house
at the park
in the wading pool.

Playing games together
me oblivious of your bullying
jumping rope
card games
board games

I could not grasp your soul sickness
until I was way grown.
I still don’t understand how you came to be the way
you are.

I didn’t see gaslighting
mean girl
dark spirit in your soul.

I can not to this day
the tricks you played
using other children
to harm me.

I thought the problem was MINE
that I should be somehow better.

If I was
just different
we’d become the friends we had been born to be.

I was wrong.
The sickness belongs to you
with every advantage
whatever accoutrements you might possibly have needed.

What is wrong with you
that you did what did?

What was your motivation?
If envy, what
did you envy?

Was it competition?
Did you think that I
without those advantages
family support
could possibly overshadow you?

Did you fear me and imagine
I was as ugly inside as you
plotting to take whatever
you thought you had from you?

What possibly could have been inside you
that deep to create such evil in your depths?
What pains you today that you remain so defective?
What do I have now that you want to take?

I broke your hold on me
I left you behind
moved away
created a life
without you to torment me.

Obsession must drive you
trying mean girl baby tricks
at your age.
Obsession blinds you
keep trying to pull on that rope
I broke many years ago.

Your tricks no longer work on me
you know so little about me
you cannot set up the game
and be the winner
just a sad mean girl.

We could have been friends
as close as sisters
I am a good friend
a loving person
but you
you are not friend material.

I’m sorry for you
you had your chance
to be in my life
but you are twisted inside
and must be so very lonely.

I don’t make friends with people
who try to harm me
not now
not ever
you taught me that.

Food Addiction

brain-954821_640Issues with food and weight are very complicated. My previous eating disorder article, titled “Problems with Food and Weight”, covered the problems people have with excess weight. Today’s writing will discuss food and eating issues that are similar to addictions.

Remember, there are several principles that are common in all addictions: heredity, the disease model, allergy, tolerance, progression, consequences (physical, emotional, and spiritual), mental defenses against self-awareness, and hitting bottom. I will begin by discussing each of these issues as they relate to food, eating, and weight.

Most people think of heredity as a direct effect. They believe that if your parents had a food, eating or weight problem, you will have a food, eating or weight problem. That is most likely true. The way your body processes food IS related to your genetics. However, addiction is much more complicated. If your parents or grandparents had any addiction, you are at a higher risk for any addiction.

In the disease model, what varies between people is their ‘drug of choice’. Your drug of choice is the substance or behavior that gets you high. If you have alcoholics, addicts, gamblers, food addicts, or even workaholics in your family tree, you might just be a person who responds to some substance or addictive behavior in an unusual way. You might just develop a drug of choice.

In this article, your drug of choice is food. Fortunately, not all food gets people high…just certain foods, mostly foods that have limited nutrition. This means that sugar, processed food and/or large amounts of food would affect you in a manner that is different from other people. It’s also behaviors. Food related behaviors such as binging, starving, vomiting, overexercising, and so on. Those are addictive too.

In the beginning, your reaction to junk foods and food behaviors is soothing and comforting. Like alcohol, your behaviors with food might make you think faster and function better. This is your allergy to food.

Unfortunately, all addictions involve tolerance to your substance. You begin to need more and more junk food to achieve less and less soothing effect.

Thus begins the progression into active addiction. People increase the amount of junk food they eat. Then they begin binging. Eventually, people binge more and more often. Eventually, people are very tragic with food. They binge and purge in a frantic attempt to get high and not suffer severe weight gain. Or they simply binge and binge until they become sick or pass out. People have died binging as their stomach bursts. This is no different from the cocaine addict who frantically snorts or shoots cocaine almost every hour as the high wears off.

Enter the consequences of food addiction. Physical consequences are very easy to see. Food addicts wear their consequences as weight on their bodies. People grow heavier and heavier as their weight balloons out of control. But there are other unseen physical consequences. Malnutrition is common. An active addict stuffs themselves with nonnutritive foods leaving no room for the basic nutrition needed to function in life. Then there are the physical illnesses related to excess weight or underweight: diabetes, heart disease, gout, and back problems to name only a few.

Emotional consequences are many: guilt, shame, remorse, pre-occupation with food instead of your life, low self-esteem, isolation, and loneliness. And the spiritual consequences of your relationship with food are the same as any addiction. You place your faith in your ‘drug of choice’ instead of God and the religion of your heart.

Like all addicts, you defend yourself against the reality of your downhill spiral. You may assert that you can diet anytime you want. You might use humor like some sad, but delightful people I have known. Dying from uncontrolled diabetes, binging on junk food and asserting in a funny tone of voice that they must, for example, eat enough to maintain their weight. Defenses are as creative as the people who use them. The point is that you might weigh three or four hundred pounds and still be telling yourself that you do not have a problem.

Hitting bottom is different from person to person. When you hit your bottom, you become unable to deny to yourself that you have this problem. The evidence around you breaks through all the techniques you use to hide from yourself. Sadly, hitting bottom is excruciatingly painful. Most frequently, what breaks through your defenses is some sort of humiliating and degrading type of experience. For alcoholics, it can be being arrested for drunk driving. For a food addict, this can include not being able to wear your clothes or being at a public function and breaking the chair you wish to sit in.

Some people hit bottom over and over again. They live out the rest of their lives at this space, unable to change or take action on their own behalf. This is unnecessary.

There are many different versions of recovery for people who have a food addiction. Overeaters Anonymous offers one version. Take this questionnaire from them to help you decide if this is the appropriate solution for you.

___Do you eat when you’re not hungry?

___Do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason?

___Do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating?

___Do you give too much time and thought to food?

___Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone?

___Do you plan these secret binges ahead of time?

___Do you eat sensibly before others and make up for it alone?

___Is your weight affecting the way you live your life?

___Have you tried to diet for a week (or longer), only to fall short of your goal?

___Do you resent others telling you to “use a little willpower” to stop overeating?

___Despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet “on your own” whenever you wish?

___Do you crave to eat at a definite time, day or night, other than mealtime?

___Do you eat to escape from worries or trouble?

___Have you ever been treated for obesity or a food-related condition?

___Does your eating behavior make you or others unhappy?

Have you answered yes to three or more of these questions? If so, it is probable that you have or are well on your way to having a compulsive overeating problem. Overeaters Anonymous believes that the way to arrest this progressive disease is to practice the Twelve-Step recovery program.

There are other 12-recovery programs for food addiction. These are, with links to their websites: ABA – Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous, CEA – Compulsive Eaters Anonymous, EDA – Eating Disorders Anonymous, FA – Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, FAA – Food Addicts Anonymous, GSA – GreySheeters Anonymous, O.A. H.O.W.

12-Step Recovery wellness is for food addicts who are actively involved in one of the many and varied 12-step programs. This means you regularly attend meetings, have a sponsor, have worked all the way through the 12-steps, and are actively involved in your recovery program. This is a coaching approach specifically designed for food addicts in recovery who have inner nudges to achieve more in your lives.

If you have responses to this post, or just want to share your thoughts, please comment in the reply box below. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.

Contact me to follow that inner nudge calling you to live more richly:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.


Problems with Food and Weight

waage-1452608621kndYou can have a weight problem and NOT have a medical disorder, a diagnosable mental condition, or an addiction. Chances are good that you could change one or more of your behaviors and achieve your goals with life coaching.

Some people simply eat too much food or too much of the wrong kinds of foods and gain weight. For you, the solution is to go on a healthy diet and increase your exercise. You can obtain a healthy diet from your medical professional, a dietician or nutritionist. Life coaching can help you make your choices as well as keep your motivation high.

Many people find that they can simply increase their exercise by walking or riding a bicycle instead of driving. Maybe you’d like to take a dance class, join a health club, or plan for a marathon. This too is about your drive to reach your goals. Life coaching is all about your goals.

Then there is our modern lifestyle. We work long hours, so we don’t cook the healthier simple foods. Instead, we eat on the run. The foods we eat are loaded with empty calories: Sugar, white flour, and fat. Healthier foods are labor intensive and often require an hour or two to prepare. This is a very difficult activity after a long hard day working on your job. There are several solutions to this. Your answers depend on your values and personal decisions. A life coach helps you hear yourself and make those decisions in a self-enhancing way.

Our modern lifestyle contributes to health and weight problems. People a multitude of labor saving devices. And technology. I love this. Machines, appliances, computers, phones, tablets, and more. It does seem as if our lives are easier than they were 150 years ago. We shop online and no longer walk from store to store. We have appliances to do a lot of the activities that keep our lives functional.

Unfortunately, there have been what are called unintended consequences. One is that we simply use less energy in our day. And we consume fewer calories. Less activity, the same calorie consumption leads to less physical fitness and weight gain.

Then, we are often expected to do much more sedentary work. These days more people are doing work that involves using our minds rather than their bodies. We are less active and we have less time for the physical activities needed by our bodies. This is a real dilemma most people face daily.

It might seem like you just inhale food and calories from the air, gaining weight. But there are many behaviors in most people’s life that defeat their desire to be trim and healthy. And this requires behavior changes.

Our lives are busier and it’s more difficult to set your priorities. Pre-packaged, unhealthy foods abound in the grocery. And fast food is available almost on every corner. People work hard and eat at their desks.

Other people are thought to have an allergy to certain food or the chemicals in foods. A gazillion books have been written about the problems with sugar, white flour, and processed foods. They are not healthy, cause massive weight gain and, in some people, create a craving for more.

There are some excellent workbooks out there on behavior change. Charts and graphs to complete where you examine your behavior. And organized programs to help you do just that. The one catch is that these programs decide for you where you begin and which behaviors you should change.

Unfortunately, each worksheet, every program, and all the choices require time and effort. The effort of self-examination and the effort of participating in the program. And the important effort of the behavior change you need to make. Life coaching starts where you are. In a life coaching relationship, you select the behaviors you see as problematic and make your own plans to change them. You progress at your own pace. You put your effort where you feel it will do the most good.

Then there is the difficulty people have due to chronic dieting. Some researchers have proposed that there is a normal weight setpoint for each person. This means that the weight you are right now might be the weight that is normal for your body. When you lose weight below that setpoint, your body objects and fights back. Some feel this is related to the days when food was less available. Our bodies are magnificent and have adapted to life cycles of starvation and abundance. During abundance, our bodies pile on the weight to prepare for the coming cycle of starvation. Only life is not like that for most people today.

Years ago there was a research project conducted with people who volunteered to stay in a hospital setting and eat what was prescribed. The first part of this experiment had the volunteers on a strict diet calculated to cause each person to loose 10% of their body weight.

Once this part of the research was finished, food was supplied without limits. The volunteers could eat whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and as much as they wanted. At first, they chose the highest calorie foods. And they ate and ate, much like binge eaters until they gained weight. Only they didn’t just gain back that 10% of the weight they lost. They also gained an additional 10% above the weight they started with. This is an example what our bodies think about starvation diets and weight loss.

Some researchers have suggested you can change your setpoint with aerobic exercise. And that is a good idea for a multitude of reasons. Only one of which is your weight setpoint. Aerobic exercise is good for weight, as an antidote to stress, for depression as well. general overall fitness, well-being, and even fatigue.

Other authorities in the field of eating disorders have pointed to the fashion industry and media. They suggest that unreal and idealized images of beauty put invisible pressures on people to live up to an impossible and unhealthy standard. I remember reading about a fashion shoot for a jeans ad. It took something like 5 people to put the jeans on her. These jeans were deliberately several sizes too small for her. They immersed them in water and then demanded that she lean back, stay still and stiff like a board while staff forced the jeans on her. This was given as an example of an advertising campaign with unreal images. These images are thought to create a desire in some to become thinner than their body needs. Maybe even excessively so. Life coaching can help you create your vision of a healthy, normal weight with a satisfying life. And then life coaching can help you identify the steps you wish to take toward those goals.

The catch here is, once more, behavior change. Everything we want in life requires some effort. The choice is where you want to put your energy. What do you think is the most important behavior for you to change? How much personal power do you want in life? What is your chosen life?

Life coaching is helpful for people who want to eat healthier, increase their exercise, and change their lifestyle. Life coaching is great for people who look to empower themselves. In life coaching, you set your goals based on the deeper desires you hold. You hold the power. Make the choices. Decide which behaviors and actions you want to explore. We work together as you move forward along the path to your dreams of a healthier, happier you.

If you have responses to my columns, have questions, or just want to share your thoughts, write your comment in the reply box below. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.

Contact me for an appointment to begin reaching for the dreams within you.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.


Relationship Skills for Survivors of Abuse and Trauma

I was madly in love with my late husband for the 27 years we were together. He was an outrageous person, yet he taught me most of what I know about helping people with their relationships.

Loving relationships for adults who were abused as children require a greater degree of personal responsibility. Today’s article in this series uses my experiences to show you how to apply these ideas to your relationships.

This third article in this Relationship Skills Series shows you how to put up one boundary between your relationship and your history. Then you and your loved one can discuss the issues that are bothering you.

People who have experienced abuse or traumas often have pain inside them that can destroy important loving relationships. Read an article that describes what you can do about it

Everyone who has experienced a trauma has flashbacks. Read an article that explains what flashbacks are and how they affect your relationships.

You deserve to be loved and to love others! Today’s article is designed to help you put a real barrier between your old experiences and your current loving experiences.

Is your passion the result of true love or are you in an addictive relationship? Read the differences to help you assess your relationship.

Sometimes, we often unknowingly hurt the person we love the most. This is frequently true for people who have experienced abuse or trauma. In this article, I explain this process and show you how to stop it.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Save Your Best Behavior for The One You Love

victorian-coupleThis is the final posting in my series on relationship skills for people who experienced abuse or trauma in their lives. The table of contents for the series can be found here: Relationship Skills for Survivors of Abuse and Trauma

One night, many years ago, David (my late husband) and I were fighting about something. I don’t even remember what it was. I can still see the living room, and easily remember how full of rage and frustration I felt.

He carefully told me that he couldn’t talk about this subject right now, and walked away from me. Well, that did it! I followed him around the house harping on him. I told him plainly how unfair it was that he would be the person to decide what and when we talked about things.

Sounds reasonable, right?

I was so angry. This reminded me of all the unbalanced relationships I had experienced in my life. And if we only look at this from my point of view, well, I’d be RIGHT.

He may have told me several times how unable to dialogue he was. I didn’t hear him. In my rageful state, I didn’t care to hear him. Finally, he stopped, turned around and shook me.

You might be fooled into thinking that this is an article about his abusive behavior. It is not. It is about my abusive behavior.

How can this be? After all, he is the one who shook me!

In the wonderful world of our fantasies, all people would have grown up loved and nourished, in safety and without abuse. At the very least, our imagination leads us to believe that everyone but us grew up without these problems. That, of course, is not the case.

David was like me. He was severely abused in childhood. Also, he was the man I loved. He deserved the same care and concern I expected for myself.

I watched this repeatedly in relationship coaching sessions with clients. They’d be thoughtful, considerate, giving and emotionally generous with strangers, co-workers, bosses and others.

Then they would come home and completely let go of their self control. Indulge in thoughtless actions. Ignore their partner. Disregard their partner’s needs entirely. Make plans without consulting the one they loved. Speak rudely to them.

It was as if they believed they were supposed to be able to completely let go around their partner. It’s not true.

It is difficult to balance an article like this with the reality of authentic abusive relationships. What makes my story and my marriage to David NOT an abusive relationship? I think the difference may come from what happened next.

At the time, I was so upset. Sure that I had married an abusive man; I began to think rapidly of where I could go. I heard echoes of all the books and talks I had heard on the topic of abuse in a family. Instead, I went into the other room and cried.

Later, I do not remember how much later, we talked about this. He heard me out, all my upset and listened carefully to what I had to say. And here is what he told me.

“Laura, I walked away from you because I felt violent,” David said. (Remember I followed him, battering him with my words and making sure he heard what I had to say.)

Then he continued with a deeper understanding of how his violent childhood and early childhood living had affected him.

He was struggling, he told me, to live a normal life with me. But he didn’t have many skills. Where he grew up, all arguments were solved by the biggest, baddest, and strongest individual. All confrontations were solved with violence.

Then he explained that when he said, “I can’t talk about this right now,” that is exactly what he meant.

He didn’t mean what I heard which was, “I hold all the control, and decide when you get to talk.”

He didn’t mean, “I don’t care about your feelings. I’ll talk to you in my own good time.”

Or any of the other stories I made up in my head in my rage.

Then he asked me to never, ever push him past his point of self-control like that. And he made a commitment to let me know when he was again able to dialogue. Then we would talk about the issues.

I did. He did. And we did. For the rest of our marriage, that is how we solved problems. Sometimes, it was me who needed time to get clarity. Other times, it was David. Over the years, the time it took us to calm down, think clearly and be able to talk shortened radically.

I thought deeply about what he told me. I felt ashamed that in my selfish need to talk right now, I had violated him. I had considered my needs, wants and wishes above his. And I had totally forgotten that he was as hurt inside as I was.

I had never, ever thought of myself as abusive. After all, I am a NICE person! I am the victim, the fragile one. However, the reaction I often had against my sense of self as victim led me to behave abusively. This does not excuse David from his bad behavior. Not one bit.

It is simply that if we were ever going to be able to live together successfully, we both would have to grow and change.

I was terribly sorry I had injured him. When I looked at it, I had injured him every bit as badly with my thoughtlessness as he had when he shook me. We forgave each other. And it was equal. This is the way loving people treat each other.

Actions like mine are common in people who were abused or traumatized. Instead, it is critically important for you to make the one you love the most precious person in your life. They deserve your care and concern, good manners, thoughtful actions and love.

We forget that the other person is as real as we are. We know we hurt, we are sure they don’t. It is almost as if they don’t exist. In our need to stop our upset, we treat the one we love as if they were cardboard cutouts. Our behavior is subtle, and so it is not obvious to us that we are part of the problem.

Before you get completely irate with me, this does not mean that you become phony, or a doormat. It simply means that if you love someone, you treat them like you do. You treat the person you love like they are someone you love. Not like you’d treat strangers.

If you have responses to my writing, have questions, or just want to share your thoughts, please share in the comments below.

I’d love to hear what you are thinking.

Contact me to learn how to treat the one you love like you really love them.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

Or use the form on the Contact Mee page.

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.



Compulsive Gambling

anonymous_-_gamblers_c-_1900This is part four of a series of writings on addiction. You can find the listing of those articles near the bottom of this page: My Writings.

Compulsive gambling is different from alcoholism or drug addiction. There is no obvious substance involved. Gambling can be an entertaining normal behavior for many people. For the high-risk individual, however, it becomes problematic and addictive.

Most compulsive gamblers begin their addiction with an early win similar to a drug addict’s first high. This reinforces your fantasy of the easy life without effort and begins your progression into addictive behaviors. Like all addictions, gambling involves an allergic disease, tolerance, progression, ever increasing social consequences and denial.

Researchers have theorized that gambling involves an internal addiction to your fight or flight hormones produced by the fear, anxiety, drama, and excitement surrounding gambling. There is also the addiction cycle of dopamine pleasure and reward going on in your brain.

Your addiction leaves you feeling outrageously wonderful at first. That is the fantasy.

Your reality is quite different. You will loose more than you win. This is a truth about gambling. Your chances of winning enough to fulfill your fantasies are very slim. You may win periodically, just enough to keep you a prisoner of your dreams.

Tolerance and progression soon rear their ugly heads. You need more to reach your high: higher stakes, more games of chance or longer and longer spells of gambling. You are trapped in a compulsive spiral that goes faster and faster until you are destitute.

For gambling, progression involves ever-increasing social, personal, physical and legal consequences. Movies have been made about the gambler who dramatically borrows money from criminals who then chase him or her throughout the movie. I am sure that happens…some of the time. Near the end of your gambling progression as you get to your lowest bottom.

Before that, you betray your spouse and children by depriving them of food, shelter and a normal life. You loose your home, cars, life savings, job, and take everything your family needs to survive.

You betray yourself by indulging in behavior that is far removed from everything you value. You become a person you despise. This involves the social consequences.

Like all addictions, you are the last person to know. Periodically, you have a vague recognition that you are in a very dark place in your life. However, you quickly dampen that thought with fantasies of future wins. You dream that these illusions will make up to you and everyone else for your destructive behaviors.

If you wonder about your gambling, take this quiz published by Gamblers Anonymous.

___Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?

___Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?

___ Did gambling affect your reputation?

___Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?

___Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?

___Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?

___After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?

___After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?

___Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?

___Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?

___Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?

___Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?

___ Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?

___Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?

___Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?

___Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?

___Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?

___Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?

___Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?

___Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

Most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least seven of these questions. You might want to visit some meetings of Gamblers Anonymous.

It only gets worse. People progress further and further until their life is a nightmare. Visit the Gamblers Anonymous website: and look for a meeting near you.

Twelve-Step Recovery Wellness is life coaching for compulsive gamblers in active recovery. Active recovery means you stopped gambling or visiting places where gambling takes place. You have integrated meetings of gamblers anonymous into your life, have a sponsor and do service for your fellowship. You have gone through your 12-steps of recovery at least once. You live your recovery program.

Now the rest of your life is an open possibility. You have dreams, wishes, hopes and desires for a profession, a relationship, family, a hobby, or any of the multitude ideas that call out to people to be realized. I’d love to help you achieve those dreams.

Contact me when you are ready to begin working on the rest of your life.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Painting by Anonymous (Auction house Zezula, Brno) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Drug Addiction

This is part three of a series of writings on addiction. You can find the listing of those articles near the bottom of this page: My Writings.

256px-recovery_fair_2010Today we will continue our discussion of addictions by examining drug addiction. The different drugs a person can choose to abuse range from street drugs like cocaine or heroin to prescription drugs like valium, xanax, ativan, klonopin, oxycodone, methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone and more.

I believe in the disease concept and the ideal of total abstinence from all drugs. I also believe in Narcotics Anonymous’ powerful concept of “one addict helping another.”

Some people think that your ‘drug of choice’ divides people into different categories. This is related to the effects of each individual drug. Unlike alcoholism, where the consequences of drinking lots of beer are the same as drinking lots of vodka, the social aspects of your ‘drug of choice’ will vary from criminal behavior to spending your life in dispensing clinics and doctor’s offices.

If we just look at your addiction, however, all addiction is the same. There are common themes. These are the disease model, heredity, allergy, tolerance, progression, social consequences, denial, and twelve step programs. We discussed these in the introductory article for this series. I’ll just briefly review them now.

The disease model says that if you are addicted to drugs of any sort, you have an allergy to all drugs [including alcohol] that manifests itself in an abnormal reaction to any drug. This is a very important concept. Addicts and alcoholics have cross-tolerance. Cross-tolerance means that if you are easily addicted to one class of drugs, you are high risk for addiction to any other class of drugs or addictive behavior. This means that recovery involves total abstinence from all drugs including alcohol. This is also the danger of drug replacement therapy.

In the beginning, your reaction will be abnormally pleasurable; but that experience is short-lived. You will rapidly build up a tolerance and need more of your drug of choice to achieve the same high. As you seek your fantasy high, you will progress into worse and worse social consequences. Narcotics Anonymous literature says the end result is “jails, institutions or death”.

Unfortunately, you will lie to yourself and deny this, maintaining a fantasy that all is well with you. You will maintain this illusion even as you flirt will very dangerous and illegal behaviors. Eventually, you will hit a bottom of utter degradation and despair. If you are lucky, this is when you call for help.

My hope in writing these articles is to increase your awareness in such a way as to raise that bottom place for you. Maybe you will call for help in your life sooner.

If you have any doubt about your involvement with drugs of any kind, take the following test published by Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. [copyright ã 1983, 1988]

___Do you ever use alone?

___Have you ever substituted one drug for another, thinking that one particular drug was the problem?

___Have you ever manipulated or lied to a doctor to obtain prescription drugs?

___Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to obtain drugs?

___Do you regularly use a drug when you wake up or when you go to bed?
___Have you ever taken one drug to overcome the effects of another?

___Do you avoid people or places that do not approve of you using drugs?

___Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?

___Has your job or school performance ever suffered from the effects of your drug use?

___Have you ever been arrested as a result of using drugs?

___Have you ever lied about what or how much you use?

___Do you put the purchase of drugs ahead of your financial responsibilities?

___Have you ever tried to stop or control your using?

___Have you ever been in a jail, hospital, or drug rehabilitation center because of your using?

___Does using interfere with your sleeping or eating?

___Does the thought of running out of drugs terrify you?

___Do you feel it is impossible for you to live without drugs?

___Do you ever question your own sanity?

___Is your drug use making life at home unhappy?

___Have you ever thought you couldn’t fit in or have a good time without drugs?

___Have you ever felt defensive, guilty, or ashamed about your using?

___Do you think a lot about drugs?

___Have you had irrational or indefinable fears?

___Has using affected your sexual relationships?

___Have you ever taken drugs you didn’t prefer?

___Have you ever used drugs because of emotional pain or stress?

___Have you ever overdosed on any drugs?

___Do you continue to use despite negative consequences?

___Do you think you might have a drug problem?

According to NA, the actual number of questions you answer is not as important as how you feel as you answer them. If these questions make you angry or uncomfortable about your use of any drugs, you might want to visit some meetings of Narcotics Anonymous.

You can find online, telephone and local meetings by going to

This has been a writing about recovery from drug addiction.

Life coaching for drug addicts begins after that recovery. It’s for people who live a 12-step way of life and feel an inner nudge to reach for more in their lives.

Contact me if you’ve worked to build a life clean from drugs and now want to start reaching for your dreams.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Photo by Portland Prevention (Flickr: Recovery Fair 2010) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Is It Love or Is It Addiction?

This is part seven of a series of articles on relationships specifically written for people who have experienced abuse or trauma in their lives. You can view the entire list of articles here: Relationship Skills for Survivors of Abuse and Trauma

victorian-couple-rvin0064When I was 26 years old, I fell madly in ‘love’ with the man I will name Sam. This is not his real name. I have never dated anyone named Sam.

At the time, I thought him to be the great love of my life. I romanticized about him constantly. Addictive in nature, I indulged in that gooey type of fantasy as I mentally built our future. I wished, hoped and dreamed of us. It seemed like I breathed in his essence.

I felt lots of emotional torment. I wanted to see him and be with him constantly. Even when there was no outward upset, inside me there was lots of drama and excitement. It felt like being with Sam would make me whole and complete…fill me up emotionally and fix me somehow.

That’s addiction. It is not real. Nor is it an authentic relationship. It does not involve genuine intimacy.

When we `broke up’, I was heartbroken. I mourned and grieved and felt totally devastated for a long time. This was so absolutely painful; it became a springboard to personal growth. The pattern of my lifetime emotional growth began at that time. I didn’t think this at that time, but the motivation to grow was Sam’s priceless gift to me.

Finally, I began to date others and learn from each experience. Then I met David, the real first love of my life. We were together for 27 years until he passed away. While this was a better relationship in that David loved me back, I made sacrifices to keep him happy that were not healthy for me. We were married for 10 years when he fell off a cliff. He was severely and dramatically physically injured.

That relationship started out healthy for us but became addictive to me over time. In the caretaker role, I resorted to old behaviors to cope. It took me years to find my footing after the died.

The Fantasy

An addictive fantasy has roses, music, and starry skies sweeping you off your feet. Most addictive relationships begin with a view of romance more like the movies than real life. You will never argue, disagree, or have the human failings of normal people. People do not fart, belch, need showers or have bad breath. They don’t cheat on you, spend too much money or have emotional problems. You see one another as an ideal. This is the person of your secret dreams.

It was a rude shock when I realized many months later that I did not even know what `Sam’ actually looked like. On the other hand, I was always aware of David’s failings. He was definitely aware of mine! An authentic relationship knows your partner for the person they are.


Obsession means that the relationship is like a narcotic. In the beginning, it makes you feel fantastic. High, even. The world glows, the sun shines, and rainbows are everywhere. To some extent, all new relationships begin like that. The new relationship glow that says all will forever be well. For relationship addicts, that glow fills some inner deep hole inside themselves. And the relationship changes to a drug that “fixes” you rather than authentic intimacy.

With Sam, I was constantly mentally thinking about him, imagining our time together, reviewing past times we enjoyed together and planning new interactions with him. I had difficulty thinking of anything else. At work and with other people, he was the center of my mind.

Lack of Self-Control

In all addictions, there is the compulsion that requires you act on your addictive needs to get your analgesic. In an addictive relationship, you find yourself compelled to take actions you might sense will harm you. Make embarrassing phone calls or cancel important plans just to be with them.

With Sam, I stayed up extremely late in order to spend time with him. Because of my early morning employment, I regularly operated on about 3 hours of sleep. When we broke up, I drove by his living space, called him, called his sister’s house and totally embarrassed myself. I couldn’t stop myself without great effort.

Giving That Harms You

In an addictive relationship, the person has become a drug to you instead of a person. Because of this, most people will do just about anything to keep their opiate partner near them, healthy, and paying the necessary attention. Some people call this co-dependency and that is an accurate label. So are the labels relationship addiction and love addiction.

While our relationship didn’t start out that way, I became relationship addicted again in the actions of taking care of my late husband, David. He was severely injured and in excruciating pain. I bought him anything he wanted. I spent money I didn’t have just to make him smile. When he took actions that justified leaving him, I stayed and took care of him anyway. I gave him time and energy I needed for myself. By the time he died, I was an exhausted shell of a person.

Inability to End the Relationship

Just like a person who is addicted to a substance, giving up your relationship seems totally out of the question. It feels like it might be similar to cutting off your own arm…without anesthesia. Most people need extra help to do so.

In my case, Bob left me and David passed away. Could I have found the strength to do so on my own? I’ll never know. I will know that the fantasies and obsessions remained with me for a long time while I worked to move on and heal myself.


In addictive relationships, you often have mad, passionate sex. Exciting and enticing, the sex makes it seem there is a great amount of intimacy. However, this is only sex. Unfortunately, sex in this real world can only, at best, take up a small portion of your life.

Genuine intimacy occurs when two people stand slightly apart from one another and connect. True intimacy involves communication. This doesn’t happen in your hearts and flowers fantasy. You need a valid knowledge of your partner’s being to dialogue.


There is more than one type of honesty in relationships: literal honesty and emotional honesty. With addictive relationships, you often have lots of drama with the obvious lack of literal honesty.

More importantly, emotional honesty is absent. You both want so badly to fulfill your fantasies that you lie to one another. You tell each other whatever you think the object of your desires wants to hear. You both say anything and everything to hold on to the fantasy.

This leaves out the total possibility of ever knowing who your partner is, how they feel, what they want and their genuine needs. In this way, real intimacy is impossible.

When I met `Sam’, I didn’t hear him when he said to me, “I love you as much as I am capable of loving anyone.” A few breaths later, he confided, “I am not capable being in a relationship.” I only heard that second sentence in retrospect. All the drama and excitement that followed started with my unwillingness to realize he didn’t match my fantasies one iota! That’s addiction.

Realistic Expectations

In an addictive relationship, you have unrealistic expectations. Many of these are not conscious. People think that the object of their obsession can solve all their emotional problems and fix what is wrong in his or her life. It seems as though they can fill you up and make up for all your life’s disappointments and injuries.

This is not the case. Real love is deep and satisfying. It provides a respite from life’s woes and a safe place to cocoon. Real love is rich and worthwhile, but it doesn’t fix everything in your life. You both still have all your problems.

Contact me to reach for new and intimate relationships.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.