Alcohol, Drugs, Sex, and Other Addictions


The sheer number of things people can become addicted to is staggering. Here are a few I have worked with clinically: alcohol, cocaine, opiates, benzos, nicotine, unwise and illegal sexual behaviors, porn, anger and blame, depression, physical aggression, work, shopping, video games, and the Internet.

As a doctor of clinical psychology, I have a special place in my heart for addicts of all types. I have been in recovery in a 12-step program for almost twenty five years. For those already in 12 step programs, I incorporate concepts and practices from 12 step methodology and culture into the psychotherapy.

dr-parker-wilson-denver-therapist-counselor-250x350Doctor Parker Wilson, Psychotherapist, Counselor, And Director Of The Awakened Mind Institute, Denver Psychotherapy Center

I have been treating sex, alcohol, and substance addictions for many years, and I teach the clinical treatment of alcohol and substance dependence to the next generation of psychologists and counselors. If you feel yourself being overcome by a substance or sex addiction, please do not hesitate to contact AMI for treatment.

Sidebar: please review AMI's fees for service. Therapy can be scheduled every week or every other week, depending on the circumstances of the particular clients. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Parker Wilson.

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[If] you do anything long enough to escape the habit of living ... the escape becomes the habit. David Ryan

We all have our triggers, blind spots, and stuck places. We all have hooks and emotions that overwhelm us:

  • For some, it is anxiety and loneliness.
  • For others it is grief and loss.
  • For others it is depression, powerlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, fear, or betrayal.

When these emotions arise in us, we go into a kind of mindless auto-pilot.

For example, let's say someone we love dies or s/he tells us s/he is leaving. If one of our main emotional triggers is the feeling of grief and loss, we will become prone to exiting our the experience of grief by using drugs and alcohol to numb it out. Because we can not tolerate grief, because we believe something is wrong with the emotion, we tell a story about how it shouldn't be there, and we feel justified in numbing it out.

After we do this a few dozen or a few hundred times, this numb out becomes an "auto-pilot" process, which eventually becomes a very powerful psychological habit.

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. Dr. Carl Jung

One Basic Law Of Human Psychology: Everything, Both Good And Bad, Gets Easier With Repetition

Some people numb out with sexual activity. I have treated many patients with addictions to porn, prostitutes, strip clubs, web cam sex, random affairs with strangers, and marital infidelity. Some people choose to numb out with work:

  • They may become hyper-achieving, hyper-successful individuals; they may work 70, 80, even 100 per week.
  • They may have tremendous mundane power and material, but they may be neglecting family and friends.
  • They may have no genuine inner life, which leads quickly to depression.
  • They may never even have created a family or a group of authentic friends. Such a personality is profoundly disconnected, fear based, depressed, and lonely.

All of these forms of numb out are different from alcohol and drugs, but the dynamics are the same, thus so is the basic treatment.

Sidebar: please review AMI's fees for service. Therapy can be scheduled every week or every other week, depending on the circumstances of the particular clients. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Parker Wilson.

Numbing Out From Our Own Experience Of Life Creates Suffering

When we fundamentally can not tolerate our own uncomfortable emotions - when our coping strategy is to escape, exit, shut down, do battle against, project, deflect, blame, or become angry - we only make the uncomfortable emotions stronger.

We make them stronger and we make them more likely to occur again ... and again. We increase our suffering. Plus our family and friends get tired of our unhealthy habits and inability to work with our own experience of life. They get tired of propping us up, tired of trying to draw us out into authenticity, and rescuing us yet again.

We increasingly strain those relationships at home and at work. And now the emotions we can't stand are stronger than ever, they are also occurring more frequently, and thus our mindless habit of numbing out continues and deepens. This vicious cycle slowly erodes away all quality of life and destroys individuals and families. In a nutshell, this is the cyclic hell of the addict.

Ask yourself, what emotions really blind-side you and send you into an auto-pilot numb out? What emotions can you least tolerate? What emotions set your mindlessness in motion, and have you intensely scanning for the nearest exit door? Take a look at the graphic below:


The classical treatment for alcohol and substance abuse was a methodology called "relapse prevention." We used it, as a stand alone intervention, in the 1970's and 1980's, and it failed miserably in producing long term recovery. We began using it for sexual addiction in the 1980's and 1990's with similar results.

The 21st century treatment for alcohol, substance, and sex addiction is multi-fold and far more effective. The formal name for it is mindfulness based relapse prevention (MBRP).

Introducing Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)

To fix a problem, you must first know what the problem is. Thus we build awareness of your emotional mind, identify your triggers, and your most common exit doors. This is done through a cultivation of mindfulness, and the general introspection of psychotherapy.

Mindfulness based relapse prevention will create a relaxation, stability and clarity you have never before experienced. Over time, MBRP will allow you to begin to calm down, tolerate, and then work with the emotions you previously found intolerable and compulsively exited. But MBRP in and of itself is not sufficient.

Sidebar: please review AMI's fees for service. Therapy can be scheduled every week or every other week, depending on the circumstances of the particular clients. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Parker Wilson.

Recent research has indicted that MBRP should be combined with a true commitment to some form of 12-step work. Whether the 12-step program utilized is AA, NA, CA, or SA makes no significant difference and depends on the circumstances of the client. But the spiritual work involved in practicing such programs, attending meetings, in having a sponsor, and in the strong sense of community these programs provide is invaluable.

It is not possible to recovery for any significant period of time without them. For those uncomfortable with 12-step programs (or those who have been a few times and decided that they didn't like it, etc) I suggest this: do not indulge contempt prior to serious investigation - it may cost you your life.

In my clinical experience, when MBRP, standard relapse prevention therapy (also called cognitive behavior therapy), and the 12-steps are combined, the maintenance of sobriety (or abstinence from sexual misconduct, etc) for two years or more becomes greater than 70%. The client achieves, often for the first time, a sustainable and refreshing level of mental relaxation, stability, clarity, and peace. In short, authenticity and psychological flourishing are born.

If this material has been stimulating, please consider purchasing Dr. Wilson's latest online mindfulness seminar.

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