Men do not like to admit they have a problem. I am the worst at this! It reminds me of the episode of The Office where Michael Scott is informed that he has to fire someone in his office because of budget cuts. Almost the entire season (mind you not episode) goes by and Michael puts off dealing with this problem.
As men we have to get real with ourselves about our problems. Especially addiction because the consequences are real.
A man that I was working with had come to see me because his wife said he would leave him if he didn’t get help for his drinking problem. On our first visit, he made it very clear that he didn’t have a problem but it was his wife’s problem. He reluctantly informed me later that his driver’s license had been suspended due to multiple alcohol related offenses. He retold stories of waking up and not remembering what happened the night before due to all night benders. Despite all this he stayed firm that he didn’t have a problem with alcohol. He needed to get real.
Another man I was working with came to me with the goal of wanting to work on his marriage as he knew it wasn’t where he wanted it to be but was unable to identify why. We spent many sessions working on assertiveness, common communication pitfalls and explored all the other stereotypical relationship areas of growth. Yet he still reported the marriage was falling apart. It wasn’t until he shared about the hours of porn that he viewed in secret that the real work began. Porn had become his escape for life problems. He needed to get real with himself and see how porn was robbing him and his marriage.
There are all kinds of stories I can recall with some variation of addictive behavior involved. They refuse to get real and acknowledge that they have a problem. No one likes to admit that they have a weakness. Weather it be alcohol, sex, gambling, porn, drugs, relationships… you name it.
Men quickly justify an addictive behavior with excuses that unknowingly keeps them stuck:
“Everyone is doing it.”
“It’s not hurting anyone.”
Or the worst of them all, “Boys will be boys.”
As men we don’t address these issues because of shame. Shame is saying that if I admit that I have an addictive behavior I am a bad man. That I am no man at all.
That is so far from reality! I work with good men that struggle with addictions all the time. Being a man means getting real about a problem and working daily to be a better man than the day before. I hold this perspective about addiction:
“Addiction is an attempt to meet a legitimate need in an unhealthy way.”
Are you ready to get real and see if you have an addictive behavior that you can work on? If so, here are 5 questions that may help you determine just that:
Do you follow through with the addictive behavior despite the consequences?
Are you holding tightly to that alcohol bottle despite your kids telling you they don’t like it when you drink? Have you caught yourself watching porn while at work knowing that if you got caught on the work computer or your phone that you could lose your job? Have you ever gambled money that you knew you didn’t have that could jeopardize paying your bills that month?
Are you doing this addictive behavior to avoid or suppress an emotion?
A legitimate need that many men run from with drugs, alcohol, sex and other addictive behaviors are their emotions. Is there an issue in your relationship that you are avoiding by drinking or doing drugs? Do you avoid getting intimate with others for fear of rejection but instead turn to the always welcoming porn site?
Are you questioning if it’s a problem?
You are a smart man. You are the expert of your own life. If your gut is telling you that you may have a problem, stop ignoring it.
Is it helping you be the man that you want to be?
If this behavior doesn’t align with your values, goals or dreams it’s not good for you. If you truly want to uphold these values that are in contradiction with this behavior and you are still choosing to do it, it’s an addiction. If you really want to accomplish these goals and dreams but this behavior is slowing your progress or stopping progress all together, it’s an addiction.
Have people told you that it’s a problem?
It takes a lot for someone that cares about you to tell you that you have a problem. Get real and listen to the people around you.
If you answer yes to even one of these questions you have an addictive behavior that needs to be addressed. And that is okay! Surround yourself with men that can support you and help you become the man that you want to be. It is a great thing to identify a problem in your life because you can now work on it. The worst thing you can do is identify a problem and look the other way. Don’t ignore this problem. Get real!
This blog originally appeared on the Authentic Men's Group Blog at AMG.buzz in February 2018.