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WELCOME TO DR. NEILL NEILL’S PRACTICAL PSYCHOLOGY

Here you will find hundreds of the practical insights I gleaned from my years of living and years as a licensed psychologist (1980-2013). As a columnist, I’ve written many articles about relationships, including codependency and addiction. But I’ve also shared insights into happiness, self-growth, mental health, trauma, grieving and other life issues.

NOTE: I closed my practice in 2013 and surrendered my license to practice as a psychologist or even to call myself a psychologist. I now limit my work to coaching and consultation.

CONSULTATION:  I am available for consultation via Skype or telephone. For more information, click HERE.

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Alcohol and Drug Abuse With Your Adult Child

 Alcohol and Drug Abuse Adult Children Dr. Neill.What happens when your adult child has a drinking or drugging problem?  What if there are alcohol and drug abuse?

When your adult offspring, son or daughter, starts drinking too much or using drugs, it affects everyone: brothers, sisters, boyfriends and girlfriends, and, of course, you the parents.

Let me share a personal story. My wife’s son, my stepson, had become addicted to hard drugs in his 20s, and he always drank excessively. He was an intellectually interesting young man with definite artistic talents and a good sense of humor. Lots of potential! He had girlfriends, but nothing lasted. For several years he was alienated from his siblings. He tended to hang around with other men who were also part of the drug/alcohol scene. Associating with this crowd got him beat up a couple of times and also led to his contracting HIV and hepatitis C. He lost jobs and got evicted from his apartment. He got an infection from an injury and the infection spread to his heart, necessitating a heart valve replacement.  Alcohol and Drug abuse was a huge impact.

My wife and I worried a lot as we went through 15 years of struggling to help our addicted son. With sending him to treatment in one form or another, letting him move in with us a couple of times, helping him financially, rescuing him, and yes, bribing him, nothing much changed except that his health became more fragile and we became more stressed. We went through a period ourselves of frequent conflict with each other with regard to what we should do regarding our son. It was affecting our relationship enough that we both sought counselling.

Through all this we came to realize that all we could really do was love him and accept him as he was, and, of course, stay open to his various attempts to change his lifestyle. As we backed away from our desperate attempts to help him, relationships improved all around. Our marriage was better and we both had good loving relationships with our son.

He did clean up for a time, but in the end, he died of heart failure at age 40 from causes related to his addictions. His loss is hard to bear, but we are very thankful for the closeness we had in his last couple of years.

One of the hardest things to accept was that we really couldn’t help him. All we could do was be there, love him, and emotionally support him in his efforts to better himself. As I reflect on this, I can see that our coming to a place of acceptance probably helped him significantly in his coming to terms with the life choices he had made.

A bit about context:

At the time of his death, I was working professionally with addicted men and women, with women married to addicted men, and with parents of adult addicted children. Later in the year of his death, my adopted daughter died from causes related to her alcohol abuse. And two years earlier I lost another son to causes related to his earlier excesses with alcohol.

If any part of my story touches something in your own life, I invite you to leave a comment. If you are reading this in an email, just hit reply.

 

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What is the “Top Lethal Issue” in North America Today?

You may recognize the “top lethal issue” was declared by America’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to be drug overdose deaths. Canada’s statistics on opioid deaths closely parallel those of the United States. Drug and alcohol issues are serious problems, and it’s personal. I lost a son and a brother to causes related to their drug abuse.

However, the number of deaths from drug overdose pales in comparison to the number of deaths caused by alcohol abuse. Opioids can kill you by overdose. Alcohol abuse can kill you in over 50 different ways. Alcohol abuse is an even more serious problem than drug abuse, and it is also personal. I lost a daughter and another son to causes related to their alcohol abuse. I lost my mother to an alleged drinking driver. And I probably would not be alive today, had I not stopped my own extreme drinking back in my thirties.

It seems that just as the opioid crisis is getting worse so is alcohol abuse, especially binge drinking. These are serious drug and alcohol issues.  One study defines binge drinking as five or more drinks on any one occasion for both men and women. Another defines it as four or more drinks for women, five for men.

In a US government survey, the percentage of men of all ages who reported binge drinking during the previous month was almost twice as high as that of women of all ages. However, over a recent 11-year period the number of men who reported binge drinking decreased slightly, while the number of women reporting binge drinking increased 13%. Perhaps more startling is the finding that, among all people between ages 50 and 74, there was a 24% increase in the number reporting binge drinking. For all people aged 65 or over, there was an increase of 23%.

Notice I have not used the term “alcoholic.” The DSM-V now uses the term “alcohol use disorder” to refer to excessive drinking, alcohol abuse or risky drinking. The fact of the matter is of all the men and women who indulge in risky drinking (four or more drinks in a sitting or more than eight drinks per week), only about 9% are actually addicted to alcohol. So it is not just the hard-core alcohol addicts who are at risk of dying from causes related to their alcohol use.

Let’s make it personal. I invite you to reflect on how alcohol is used in your own immediate and extended family and among your friends. Are you and the people you care about making good choices regarding alcohol use? If the answer is yes, good! If no, help is available to learn to make better choices without ever having to use the term “alcoholic.”

If any of this information on these drug and alcohol issues touches you, I further invite you to leave a comment below.

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Experiencing Loss and Grief

experiencing loss and griefExperiencing Loss & Grief?  Take time to remember . . . and love.

Eileen and I were on the road the other day heading for some Christmas shopping. We were both in good spirits and then Eileen said in just audible tones, “I’d give anything to have him back.” I waited and then I replied, “I miss him too.” Eileen’s son, my stepson was taken by heart failure nine years ago after years of substance abuse. He had just turned 40. Every year at this time we become especially aware of his absence.

I went back in my mind to the good times I had had with my son, Eileen’s stepson, before cancer had taken him 11 years ago just before Christmas following recovery from alcohol abuse. He was 41. And then I thought of my adopted daughter who died suddenly two weeks before Christmas in the same year my stepson had died. She was 52, but had had a long relationship with alcohol.

Losing my brother this year has intensified my experiencing loss and grief around Christmas time. My youngest brother had died many years earlier from causes related to his substance abuse, and when I was a teen my mother was killed in a car crash with an alleged drinking driver.

I know that many of you, my readers, are also painfully aware at this time of year of the absence of family and friends who are gone. Metaphorically, each departed loved one leaves a hole in our hearts. So we need to acknowledge not only their absence but also the differences they made to us by their presence, however short.

I also recognize that every one of the people I have lost would want me and my family to be celebrating Christmas as a happy and safe time, a time full of love and kindness. And so it shall be.

I invite you, especially if you are experiencing loss and grief at this time of year, to make it a happy, loving time in honor of those who are no longer with us.

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Holiday Excesses and Alcohol Abuse

Dr Neill Neill Relationship CoachIt seems the holidays are a time of excess. Some of us spend too much, eat too much, and yes, drink too much (alcohol abuse). But it doesn’t stop there.

It seems that the volume gets turned up on everything at this time of year. Acts of generosity are magnified; for example, notice how the food banks get huge donations at Christmas time but are experiencing serious food shortages at other times of the year. Children may be showered with gifts their parents can’t afford. I remember how church attendance jumps at Christmas because there were so many people who attended church only at Christmas and Easter

However, the volume also gets turned up on negative things. Singles who are alone at Christmas, when Christmas used to be a time of family celebration for them, may feel particularly lonely. Suicides increase.

In a family with a history of spousal abuse, the frequency and intensity of the abuse often increase at this time of year. The abusing spouse’s alcohol abuse (drinking more than usual) can only make things worse.

However, there are things you can do to put the brakes on the escalations. The first and most crucial thing, of course, is to be keenly aware of what is happening and what could happen.

Every year hundreds of children are sexually abused by relatives and friends at holiday house parties. Your social class is irrelevant, so hire a babysitter to look after your children during a party, even though you are there.

Have non-alcoholic beverages readily available for everyone. Serve sweets, because part of the craving for alcohol is the craving for sugar. Sweets can help reduce that craving. Be ready to stop someone who is unsafe to drive home. I know this is hard, but you might be saving someone’s life, perhaps even a stranger’s mother, the way my mother was killed many years ago.

If you are at someone else’s party, always have an escape route. Prearrange with someone to pick you up if you call. If you are not going to drink yourself, drive your own car rather than accept a ride. If your partner has a tendency to drink too much, have a discussion in advance of the party to plan an intervention and the escape route.

As we head into the season, please do give some serious thought as to the role alcohol might play or not play in your holiday season. Let’s make Christmas a safe time as well as a fun time.

Hit reply and let me know your thoughts on this. If you are reading this on the website, leave a comment.

 

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