Category Archives: 12-Step Recovery Wellness

The Only Way Out Is Through!


Smoking as an Addiction

One in a series on addictions. You can see my different writings on the topic here.


I had my first cigarette when I was eight or nine years old and was addicted to smoking from the age of 14 on up. I used to smoke three packs of cigarettes per day. I have quit smoking 5 times, once for fourteen years. I quit this last time fifteen years ago.

In my fantasies, I enjoyed smoking. In reality, I coughed in the mornings and all day long. As the cost of cigarettes increased I resented the money I spent. As an addict, I gave up the power of choice and spent money on cigarettes that I actually wanted for other areas of my life. I burned holes in my clothes, and I was forever chasing the elusive pleasure of that first cigarette.

Frequently you hear smokers talk about wanting to quit smoking. I personally do not know one smoker who actually wants to continue smoking. If you are a person for whom smoking is simply a bad habit, you simply need to find the smoking cessation program that matches your usual and natural way of doing things.

There are many approaches to quitting smoking. You can purchase over the counter products, go to your physician for assistance with prescription medications, use programs at your local medical group, contact the American Heart Association, or Google the American Cancer Society. All these approaches have value and work for people.

If, however, when you honestly want to stop smoking, you find that you cannot, we will talk about the addiction model as it applies to your inability to quit.

If you are addicted to smoking, you will find that the normal approaches to quitting will not work for you long term. You can quit. And quit again. And then quit once more. The problem is staying cigarette free. For the true addict, there will always be one more tempting situation. And eventually, once more justification to pick up smoking again.

The disease model, instead, suggests that you have a high risk for addiction to the chemical nicotine based upon your personal heredity. Instead of a bad habit, you have an allergy to the nicotine that causes you to feel better when you smoke. This is an abnormal reaction compared to many other smokers. Some people have a bad habit, others are addicted.

The story of how I started smoking after fifteen years of not smoking illustrates many aspects of addiction. My late husband was in hospice care at home. This means I stayed home to take care of him twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. My windows were open to the cool spring and summer air California air. Open windows unknowingly left me vulnerable to the second-hand smoke of my neighbor. My neighbor, who only smoked outdoors on her property directly underneath my windows. This exposed me to the chemicals related to addiction.

I began to think of smoking. Dream about smoking. My hand would lift up as if I had a cigarette in it.

Enter the fact of tolerance.  Her second-hand smoke was impacting me as if I was smoking myself. And tolerance meant that after a time, I needed more and more of my drug of choice to reach the same effect. Eventually, I gave in and bought cigarettes for myself which led to the progression of consequences.

One day, I began coughing, choking, and having trouble breathing. Finally, I was smoking like I did when I quit the last time.

And social consequences: People don’t like it when you smoke around them and they are rather vocal about it. You cannot smoke in their homes, at work, or even most places. You are required to stand outside in the rain, sleet, snow and heat.

Now there is denial. Denial is a mental defense against reality. It’s both the way you protect yourself from harm and the way you prevent yourself from solving your problems. For me, this took a form of defiance.

“I can smoke if I want to”, I thought.

“There are worse things I could be doing!

“After all, I have just lost my husband!”

I justified my behavior.

And then there was the flying in the face of all evidence to the contrary, “I can handle this. I can smoke and quit.”

Finishing with the whistling in the dark defense, “One day I’ll quit.”

These days there are 12-step programs for most addictive behaviors. Smoking is one of these. You can visit Nicotine Anonymous. They have face-to-face, internet and telephone meetings available to anyone. They have a program for living without cigarettes.

Once you’ve learned to live without your drug of choice, Recovery Wellness Coaching can help. This type of coaching will help you focus on the rest of your life, your goals, dreams, and plans.

Contact me to grow your life:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

Available by Skype and Conference Call.

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

Violence Addiction

narrative-794978_640I spent years researching the actions of perpetrators to understand enough to help my clients answer the “WHY” question. Anyone who has ever been victimized by a perpetrator of violence asks the “Why” question: “Why did they do that to me?”

The tragic but freeing answer is that it wasn’t really done to you. It wasn’t personal. There were really no traits in you that caused this violence to be done to you. You, as victim, could have been any available person. There really are no personality, physical or behavioral traits specific to you that caused you to be a victim. You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and crossed the path of someone who needed to hurt you.

As I researched these subjects, I decided that there is a continuum of violence addiction. You can visualize this as knots in a long string that stretches across the room. Smaller knots are on the south side of our room and represent things like assault and battery. These knots grow larger as we walk across the room: rape, child abuse, serial battery, murder, serial rape, and serial murder.

While not technically physical violence, I always added con artists and burglars to my list as they are such personal crimes…leaving an emotional violence on their victims. I can imagine con artists getting the same kind of high from their crimes as the murderer does. Depending upon the extent of their robbery, the con artist and burglar are nearer to the middle of this continuum.

Like all other addicts, the violence addict grew up with relatives in their extended family tree who had varying addictions. This leads to physical heredity, not emotional behavior. There is a common myth that most perpetrators were victims themselves when they were children. Notice I said myth. And research does show that most people who are violent did come from terribly abusive homes. However, in my opinion, when we look more deeply at the information, the experience of child abuse is not the cause of future abusive behavior.

Instead, I think it is much more productive to look at the same disease model used to explain all other addictive behaviors. A violence addict finds early in life that he or she feels smarter, more powerful and actually invincible when they throw their emotions at another being. While it may sound strange, this is the allergy.

Normal people do, at times, loose their tempers, speak rudely and behave badly to others. However, most people react to this personal loss of control with feelings of weakness, shame and distress. Contrary to a normal person, the violence addict experiences this initial loss of control with feelings of power, aliveness, and vitality. At some point in a violence addict’s early life, they find that harming another FEELS GOOD to them.

As children, they harm small living creatures like bugs. As they grow, they begin harming bigger creatures like neighborhood pets. This is the beginning of tolerance. Tolerance continues to mean that the substance or behavior that leads you to feeling high stops working. Most addicts increase their substance or behavior. Violence addicts increase the size of their victims, the intensity of their actions and the riskiness of their behavior.  At this point, some violence addicts add rituals to their actions to increase the likelihood that they will experience their high.

All addictions progress in the following areas: Tolerance and consequences. There are social, employment, family, legal, and personality consequences for violence addiction . As the addict increases their addictive behavior, they change. You cannot continually and compulsively harm others without changing inside yourself. Eventually, an addict, any addict, will step outside the confines of a normal life and remove themselves from all human assistance.

Like all addictions, the violence addict has his or her own defensive system. I think that it must be quite difficult for a person to be harming others and deny to themselves that they are doing anything different from the norm. So, a violence addict must somehow mentally distort reality to make it okay for them to take actions that are obviously against normal moral code. They justify their feelings and behaviors. In my readings, it seems that they fantasize, devalue others, ascribe omnipotence to themselves, and develop grandiose fantasies.

There are no self help groups for violence addicts. To my knowledge, there are no effective treatments for violence addicts. In fact, so far, the best we can, as a society, do for a violence addict is to lock them up and protect ourselves.

I have written other articles on the topic of identifying violence addicts, con artists and people who lie to you online. See the list here.

If you have responses to my writings, have questions, or just want to share your thoughts, you may post them in the box below. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.

If you want to shake off the impact of a violence addict from your life, change your relationship pattern or achieve your relationship dreams, contact me.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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

Sex Addiction

Benjamin_West_-_The_Cave_of_Despair_-_Google_Art_ProjectPeople who do not approve of sex and free sexual expression often confuse a wide range of sexual pleasures with addiction. This is especially true for behaviors that might be a little exotic.

It is not so. This is not addiction. Instead, sexual addiction is a compulsive behavior that leaves the addict in a state of total degradation and absolutely no satisfaction.

If this group of addictive behaviors did not include despicable behaviors targeting unwilling victims, these afflicted would be sad. I’d feel bad for them. But it does involve harming others.

I, in no way, shape, or form, condone sexual crime. My experience and work have always been with and for the victims of sex crimes. I studied the behaviors of sex addicts to gain information for my clients.

In this article, we will not be discussing sex. We will be discussing addiction. Remember that in the disease model of addiction, first, we have heredity. A sex addict can look at the history of his or her family and see quite a few relatives with one or more addictive diseases.

This leaves the future sex addict with a high vulnerability to any addictive disease. Personal history and unique biology lead the sex addict to experience sex in a manner that is different from most people.

This is very important to grasp. For the potential sex addict, sex acts of varying sorts, initially leave him or her feeling dynamic, powerful, important, free of life’s problems, and infinitely capable. In this addiction, sex and the behaviors around sex function like a drug. This is the allergy to the chemical or chemicals produced by sexual behaviors.

Some people worry that the good feelings they get from sex, intimacy, and touch ARE an addiction. They can be. But they also can be just plain fun. Addiction has more to it than fun and your body’s reactions to sex, affection, and touch.

As with all addictive behaviors and diseases, you have the issue of tolerance. It is here that problems begin and you get into serious trouble, eventually as perpetrators with the legal system.

Tolerance means that acts and behaviors that gave you your original high stop working. You lose those blissful feelings that they achieved in the past. You develop a tolerance to your behavior of choice. It takes more and different to achieve the high you seek.

You can visualize tolerance from the following image. Fifty years ago, in one of my college psychology classes, the professor was showing us how rats are trained to press a certain bar to obtain food. The rats learn repeatedly that they will be fed their ration of food by pressing that bar. When the food is withdrawn, the rat doesn’t get it. In this analogy, tolerance is equal to no food for the rat and no high for the addict.

So, the rats press the bar over and over again. Then this poor rat presses the bar faster and faster and faster in a true personification of compulsive behavior.

This is today’s metaphor for the fact of progression. Once any addict reaches the point of tolerance, it takes more and more of his or her drug of choice to reach the same high. More and more compulsive behavior. Like all addicts, sex addicts increase their acts or the riskiness of these acts until you leave the relative safety of legal behavior and their own moral code.

Then you face personal consequences that increase over time. Social, family, relationship, employment, spiritual and legal consequences all increase as their disease progresses.

As with all addiction, sex addiction comes with a built-in defensive system designed to keep you imprisoned in your own destruction. Sex addicts daydream grandiose fantasies of success, baldly deny reality, treat the other people around them very badly, blame others for their behavior, joke about their situation, intellectualize, and rationalize both their behavior and their life situation.

Sex Addicts Anonymous says that a sex addict experiences the following:

  • “Powerlessness over addictive sexual behavior.”
  • “Resulting unmanageability of his/her life.”
  • “Feelings of shame, pain, and self-loathing.”
  • “Failed promises and attempts to stop acting out.”
  • “Preoccupation with sex leading to ritual.”
  • “Progressive worsening of negative consequences”

Once, early in my counseling practice, my local police department invited me to sign a contract to treat child victims of sex crimes in our city. As part of this contract, one specific police officer demanded that I have at least two sessions with a perpetrator of sex crimes. This grandfather, a multigenerational perpetrator, insisted that he was the victim and wished to only talk about his childhood. He was in complete denial of his situation and the impact of his behaviors on his daughter and granddaughter.

Personally, I felt like I was in need of a long shower after that conversation. There was nothing sexy, appealing, desirable, admirable, or compassionate in his behavior.

This was an article discussing sexual addiction. If you are questioning your sexual behaviors, there are several twelve step recovery programs. Sex Addicts Anonymous has a website where you can read more and find out about meetings.

If you have been in a relationship with a sex addict, life coaching can help you change your relationship pattern. That way you can experience love, touch, intimacy, and sex without being harmed.

Like all addictions, life coaching can only help sex addicts AFTER they have ceased sexual acting out and worked a 12-step program. This means that they have a sponsor, are actively involved in meetings, worked steps and live a life incompatible with addiction.

Contact me to change your relationship patterns:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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

Relationship Addiction/Codependency

dreaming_13687618944Originally, the concept of relationship addiction or codependency developed with the growth of Alcoholics Anonymous. The wives of the men trying to sober up formed a separate organization they called Alanon. From the very beginning, there was a conflict of ideas and needs. One group gives you suggestions regarding how you can help your impaired relative. The other focus is how you can help yourself.

There is a third issue with relationship addiction. I wrote about that here: Is It Love or Is It Addiction?

The people who write about co-alcoholism from the ‘help your relative’ point of view will talk about enabling or rescuing. Enabling is something you do that might help you feel better but also helps your impaired relative continue in destructive behavior. The advice you will be given will help you stop doing whatever you are doing that might support another person’s problems rather than their solutions. There is no guarantee that your changes will actually help that person stop their addictive behavior. It might, but then it also might not have any impact at all.

There is no guarantee that your changes will actually help that person stop their addictive behavior. It might, but then it also might not have any impact at all.

I favor the ‘help yourself‘ point of view. Relationship addictions involve giving parts of yourself away that you cannot afford to lose. If this allows another person to behave destructively, then you are in fact enabling them.

However, sometimes you are giving parts of yourself to others that do nothing for the other person. Here you are only hurting yourself. In other circumstances, a person might be giving to others and not harming themselves. Outsiders might suggest that you are enabling, but you are not behaving from an addictive place.

You can be in addicted relationship to your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or any person in your life including your boss or employees.  What happens is that you begin giving to the other person usually because they really need your help in some way for some issue or problem they have.

But problems develop which now cause you anxiety in relation to them and their issues or behaviors. So you start giving to them or taking care of them to relieve your own anxiety. And before you know it you are addicted to giving to and taking care of another person. Loving then becomes codependency.

People sometimes ask me: But what about my religion and charity? Isn’t it the right thing to do to give to and help others? Before you know it, they assert, all good things will be classified as a disease!

There is a vast difference between healthy charity or charitable behavior and relationship addiction. Remember with addiction we have the following characteristics: The disease model, heredity, allergy, abnormal reactions, tolerance, progression, consequences, and denial. You can read about that here: Addiction and the Disease Model.

In the disease model, you have addictive behaviors in your relatives going back throughout your family tree. In relationship addiction, you almost always have grown up in what is known as a dysfunctional family with chemical dependency, family violence and/or personal experiences with being abused as a child. This leads to a life filled with unpredictability and personal feelings of anxiousness.

Somewhere along the line, you learn that if you take care of the people involved in these dysfunctional behaviors, you can feel and sometimes be safer. But, like all addictive behaviors, your caretaking does something more for you than it does for others. It gets you high. That is the allergy.

Like all addictions, you develop tolerance. You need to do more and more for other people to achieve the same feelings of peace and calm. The consequences you experience for your behavior progress along with your tolerance. In relationship addiction, you begin with exhaustion and loneliness and progress all the way to a form of emotional and often financial bankruptcy as you give more than you have inside you to others in an ever increasing fashion.

Finally, you lie to yourself about your behavior as well as the consequences of your relationships. Like all addicts, you avoid personal awareness of what is happening to you.

If you are concerned about your relationship with someone who drinks, you can contact Alanon Family Groups.

If you are concerned about your caretaking behavior, you can contact Codependents Anonymous.

If you are concerned that you are addicted to relationships and love, you can contact Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

It has been my experience that people who actively work a 12-step program change their lives. When I worked in my private practice as a therapist, I watched people participate in therapy AND go home to work on their issues using their program tools and steps. They grew and solved their problems at a massively different rate than people who just came for therapy or didn’t need a 12-step program.

The same is true for life coaching. People reach their goals and dreams by working on them. People in 12-step programs have more tools to use to work toward their goals and dreams. 12-step Recovery Wellness is life coaching for people who want to use all the resources possible to reach for the stars.

Contact me to begin your own journey toward living your dreams.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 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





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.


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.