Making real changes in your life

People use drugs and alcohol for their own personal reasons. Most people don’t realize that these substances are not a problem, but rather a symptom. They are used a coping mechanisms and in fact don’t solve the problem at all. For many gay men, growing up isn’t easy. Most lessons in life are difficult, including […]

Health Mental Health Bill Coleman, PhD

The Blueberry SmashPeople use drugs and alcohol for their own personal reasons. Most people don’t realize that these substances are not a problem, but rather a symptom. They are used a coping mechanisms and in fact don’t solve the problem at all.

For many gay men, growing up isn’t easy. Most lessons in life are difficult, including fitting in and have concerns about fitting in. This leads to anxiety, stress, and fear of being rejected. This is where drugs and alcohol often come in, to be used as a way of coping with emotions, but not solving the problem on how to grow.

Once you’ve identified that substances may be a problem for you, overtaking your life, it’s a good time to make some changes. But making real changes is hard work. It’s not easy to get over social anxiety. Learning to have uninhibited sexual pleasure with another person is really hard for the average person.

Just because it’s difficult to make changes, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. First off, identify the emotional forces that drugs help you cope with. It could be anxiety, sexual inhibition, poor self-esteem, or something else.

Once you’ve identified your reason for using drugs or alcohol, focus on how to make better choices and change your behavior to get control. Each person has his or her own path to understanding. It could be personal counseling, reading books, talking to a friend, researching online, or just taking a deep look within you. It could even be a combination of many of these. You have to find a method that works for you, to help make the changes in your emotional state.

Personal counseling can be expensive and not accessible. When you are ready, if you can make the investment, personally or through a health insurance plan, then it will help move you a long ways in making the changes you needed. Find a counselor that you feel comfortable with and has both knowledge and experience with drug and alcohol use.

Reading books can be very helpful. Not all books will be useful, so choose ones that speak to you. Here are some suggestions:

  • Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story (Perennial Classics) Paperback – May 25, 2004, by Paul Monette
  • Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance Paperback – May 5, 2009, by Richard Isay
  • The Best Little Boy in the World Paperback – May 11, 1993, by John Reid (one of my favorites)
  • Coming Out of Shame: Transforming Gay and Lesbian Lives Paperback – December 1, 1996 by Gershon Kaufman Ph.D., Lev Raphael Ph.D.
  • Queer Blues: The Lesbian and Gay Guide to Overcoming Depression Paperback – July 10, 2001, by Kimeron N. Hardin, Marny Hall, Betty Berzon
  • 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Find Real Love Paperback – May 24, 2012, by Joe Kort
  • Ten Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives Paperback – July 31, 2012, by Joe Kort
  • Growth and Intimacy for Gay Men: A Workbook – April 4, 2014, by John Dececco, Phd and Christopher J Alexander
  • The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World Paperback – Bargain Price, Apr 25 2006

Talking with a knowledgably friend is challenging. Hearing friends say uncomfortable things or hiding the truth may not solve the problem. However, it can be very helpful when used with multiple approaches, to ensure clarity and guidance.

Self-examination is not usually through of as an effective way to make changes, but some find benefit in examining their own lives. Most of the time this is most successful in combination with other approaches.

Addressing drug and alcohol use means taking control over unresolved internal emotional needs and taking changes in your emotional self. It is important to recognize the use for a particular reason, identifying the issues behind the use, and to create a plan to make life changes through the use of counseling, reading, talking, and self-examination.


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  1. Pingback: Drugs – Alcohol; How do they fit into your life? Why we use them! | Dr Bill Coleman