Family Christmas

c_xmasMany gayers will be going home for Christmas only to discover the reason why they left. It can’t be the telly on non-stop, though it’s high on the list when it comes to irritation, nor is it the best behaviour one must endure with the rellies. Maybe it’s the silence. Yes the silence about you batting for the other side. No one mentions it.

Maybe this Party Game will help to explain why – it’s a bit like Trivial Pursuit. All you have to do each day is observe your family, tick a few boxes and decide which side of FAMILY FORTUNES they are on. Let your major focus be on your family of origin, and you may learn something about why you choose the type of GAY FAMILY around you. It may sound a bit OPRAH, but give in to the observations.

Meet the Family FUNCTIONAL : tell us what your components are – Team A.

Your functional family of origin gave you a permanent conviction of belonging. A functional family is the healthy soil out of which individuals can become mature human beings which includes a balance between autonomy and dependency with social, sexual, emotional and soul training at home. It’s a place where high esteem is taught and acknowledged as normal, where expression of feelings is supported and boundaries honoured. Each person, including parents, are given a structure which is safe enough to risk growth and individuation. Each person needs affection and recognition. Each person needs challenge and stimulation to move through each stage of development plus self-actualisation and spiritualisation. Spiritualisation involves the need to love, care for, to seek truth whilst avoiding self obsession.

Through this responsible process we safely experience emotions like FEAR, the energy of discernment, SADNESS, the energy of saying goodbye and completing instead of walking away half finished, GRIEF and sadness to create energy in completing the past and moving on with forgiveness not resentment. GUILT is the energy that forms our conscience, it’s called that because it’s a confidence trick. Functional families honour guilt but see it as con-science. Called the mafia of the mind it has no basis in fact, it’s an illusion that controls and demands pain. SHAME is the energy that lets us know we have a limit, shame can be functional because it’s feeling that we have crossed a boundary, we have made a mistake but can learn from it. JOY is the energy of freedom, our needs are fulfilled and we feel complete in our skin and whole being. It’s a natural high like THE WALTONS.

Now meet the Family DYSFUNCTIONAL : Team B

Each family member always carries the family within themselves. Your birth is your first life experience and emotional role model and your upbringing will linger longer than you think. Both will affect all future adult relationships. A dysfunctional family is riddled with secrets and what go’s on in this house, stays in this house. Codependency is the major outcome of the dysfunctional family set-up with the following defective components :

CONTROL – One must be in control of all interactions, feelings and personal behaviour at all times. This is the survival instinct. Once you control your feelings all spontaneity is lost and control gives each family member a sense of power, predictability and security. Control madness is in everyone. No wonder drugs offer a respite solution.
PERFECTIONISM is about being right in everything you do, it’s exhausting to watch and suggests superior on the outside while inferior on the inside. The need for perfectionism is the fear of rejection and abandonment coupled with approval addiction. Think Hyacinth Bucket. BLAME – rather than take responsibility for themselves dysfunctional family members will continuously blame each other, until anger and voices rise, breeding COMPETITION and RIVALRY. DENIAL is not knowing what YOUR needs are but clear about everyone else’s in the family. Think Antony in Caroline O’Hearn’s ROYLE FAMILY.

EMOTIONAL WITHHOLD figures high on the list of dysfunction. Don’t talk openly about feelings, thoughts, sexuality and fearful experiences. This means abiding by the rule of perfectionism, loyalty and misguided duty. As Eric Idle sang in Python” Always look on the bright side of life ” is the perfect ploy for shutting up about how you really feel. This is a useful distraction from the reality of emotional pain or other scarcities. Avoid upsetting anyone. Dysfunctional family members love a fight, a drama and the battle of separation encouraging INCOMPLETION. The resentment must go on for years because ” it’s FAMILY “. Plus don’t mention the row to anyone else. UNRELIABILITY is the result of dysfunction, never trust anyone and be on 24 hour guard duty for personal attack and when attack occurs REMEMBER IT. Family feuds go on for years until no one can remember what caused it. LACK OF BOUNDARIES completes the jokers pack of the dysfunctional family.

6774111031_b8516d0978_zSo as you munch on a mince pie, check a few things about how you feel about being home. Is alcohol controlling the proceedings? Is kitchen stress evident, with a price to pay? Are you counting the hours or do you wish you came home more often? If you do, plan it while you are at home and communicate what you miss, it’s likely parents or siblings will value that. It’s very easy for gayers to withold the truth about clubbing/drugging/city life and sauna frolics and no one is suggesting you go for full confession but often our families think we don’t care when we remain silent and if they remain silent about your sexuality then it may be because YOU are not mentioning it. Politeness can be a killer.

So as you consider whether your FAMILY is A or B think also about how you have created a gay family of choice. Does it reflect your family home with the same old stuff going on? Then it’s time to review that too. Check out who serves your needs and who takes you for granted. Who reminds you of Dad? Who never rings back? Many of my blogs refer to Family Dysfunction, Codependency and Relationship recovery so if it gets too much go online for a barrage of info over the festive period @

Great Expectations

Setting expectations too high is societies curse, which is why government and partners fail us and media is flooded at this time of year with detox trivia, diet plans and resolutions. Don’t encourage them, be stylish – wait till February – or when you feel you want to, rather than need to just because it’s New Year. January is the time for looking back, not unplanned impulsive action. See where you have gone awry first. Take note of Dickens little orphan boy Pip in Great Expectations, “take nothing on it’s looks; take everything on evidence : there’s no better rule”.

It’s a pity that we take many things on first looks often without resort to reality, living a dream. It’s easy to be optimistically romantic in a club then discover 6 weeks later knee deep in “a relationship” that he’s psychotic, a compulsive liar or an addict. It pays to do detail sooner. Although the Pythons insisted that we look on the bright side of life, optimism is another word for denial so best if you face facts quickly, take everything on evidence and move on. Denial is an unconscious defence mechanism, which is why it’s so rampant, and therefore part of our core survival system.

None of us can survive our lives without a certain amount of denial to keep us in balance, but with denial in regards to addiction, the denial is taken to extreme and since gayers have a habit of breaking conventional bounderies, we are more prone to addiction, because we often have no boundary of when to stop and grow up. We don’t want the party, unconscious spending, cruising addiction and the chems to end – but if we don’t take stock, look back over the year, the end will come sooner than expected.

Why do people deny they need help? There are many reasons for denial in addiction. One reason is that most users don’t like to feel helpless and out of control and ironically, to observers, this is exactly what addicts are portraying. Bob Mandel of the Loving Relationship Training said ” the only guru you need are the results in your life “, but any addict or compulsive user often refuses to face facts, relying instead on the expectation that it will all end with a wave of a magic wand. It won’t. The addict will blame everything and everyone except their own substance abuse for their problems.  One of the reason why chems are the lifeboat of the scene is that the chemical dependent may be using drugs or alcohol to cover up numb or unpleasant feelings and by stripping away the denial, the unpleasant feelings will come to the surface. That’s why fear of detox keeps the compulsive user using. The last few weeks will have sorted the men from the boys, top this with office parties and extra socialising in December it’s no wonder we crave a detox, a rest or show the white flag for the New Year. It’s expected now that we slow down and the majority will, but many will be living with a nightmare partner, flatmate or family member with the party still in full swing. If you are – seek help. You may not help the addict but you can stop yourself getting drawn into manipulated guilts, codependency and the false expectation they will wake up and come out of their coma of justification.

While not all substance abusers have suffered past traumas in their lives, an inordinate amount have. Child, sexual & physical abuse is common in the addicted population. For gayers add secrets, withheld emotions, homophobia and shame to the mix. But, no matter what the cause is of the denial, the important part is that the addict ( or anyone close to the addictive person ) confront the defense mechanism head on. This may be by what some addicts describe as “hitting bottom” , job loss, health scare or can come from confrontation with family, friends or through the court systems for possession or drunk driving.

Many times an addict will lose a job, friends or family relationships because of the addiction but still find enablers to supply. Denial in addiction is not a linear course, either. The addict may be in denial at some times, and facing reality at others, so addiction in denial may be fluid especially in the beginning stages of looking at themselves or in recovery. Even for those who are far along the recovery path, falling off the wagon and denial can strike at any time and will need to be overcome once again to get back on track. Linkin Park talked about confronting denial best in their song “Breaking the Habit” when they said, “I’ll paint it on the walls, ’cause I’m the one at fault” in acknowledgement that a habit is indeed a personal disease for which one needs to take responsibility in order to break free.

More people consider REHAB in January than at any other time of year but the real test of whether you are in an addictive compulsive spiral is to stop and see how far you get without your poison be it alcohol, chems, escorts, food, internet or procrastination. Expect nothing and allow yourself to feel anything, even a feeling of surrender and freedom. Bare in mind that there are more compulsive dependents than addicts, but addiction will always grab you by the balls when it goes unobserved – as any crack head or meth abuser will confirm. Best if you observe now, take stock, tell the truth to someone and seek help in the areas that control you.

It’s not about stopping the party it’s about knowing when to leave. Look at your life, check the evidence, own it and then decide what needs changing. Don’t expect someone else to do it for you.

Contact me for specialised 3 hour Coaching Sessions or other support services can be found at  Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have regular LGBT meetings in London – check Google for information.

Antidote in London is a free LGBT Drug & Alcohol advisory service :

Holiday Romance

It’s that time of year for the holiday romance and time to feel the heat. For some it will be the birth of a long distance relationship based on a flurry of excitement, projection and great sex. Meeting the perfect partner on vacation is tempting but speed bumps need to be in place, before emotions override distance and logic. It’s easy to become a human ambulance wherever we live, or travel to, and romance coupled with a desire to rescue, can end in tears all round. Some of us already have experience of rescuing when it comes to relationships, or feeling the pain, plight, guilt and entrapment of others, especially if he’s young, hung and insolvent.

THE RESCUER is a role within the co-dependent model of relationships and is just as likely to occur with gayers as a str8 dad finding a visa bride. It’s in our genes. In the 1950/60’s torrid gay literature often explored the role between an older upper class gentleman rescuing the young working class ruffian into a differing opportune world, resulting in a father/son type union. The son grows into a man, leaves the father, much remorse, tears, tantrums and resentment (… after all I have done for you…etc ), resulting in the lonely twilight world of homosexual life that novels and tabloids loved to portray at that time before decriminalisation. Nowadays twilight has been replaced with highlighted hedonism as credit cards are spunked for survival, and older gays are no longer dependent on attracting youth. But the holiday romance in third world economics can turn the head for all the wrong reasons. Straight guys think they are seeking a loving lifetime relationship (after a week of scanning profiles) when in reality they seek regular sex with someone beneath them in economic scarcity, to control, demand and rescue. Modern 21st Century gayers can play the same rescue role at any age on the internet except this time it’s not about the class system on the printed page. It’s about wealth and like straight guys the power of the wallet reigns, exploitation in the guise of love, a credit card plane ticket for the new beau in an instant.

I’m sure you have known of guys on Gaydar in London who have flown to Brazil a week later to “fall in love”, then manipulate every angle to bring the lover home, all within a month. But you don’t need a holiday romance to be the rescuer, plenty of relationships back home start because one has less than the other, less friends, less money, less confidence. Finding a stray dog with no friends to possess or someone with chem habits that need fixing are par for the course for the codependent of any sexuality. Paying your partners credit card bills as an act of love and devotion only enables your partner to be rescued yet again, rarely breeding personal responsibility for themselves. Clients and friends often bemoan that “they have been ripped off” when THEY handed their pin number to their significant other in the hour of need. At the time it was a good feeling to be of value, to help, assist and nurture, later developing into resentment when the investment failed to pay off and the relationship ends. Helping someone out is not rescue or a human ambulance but we all know someone who makes a people-pleasing career of it in order to be liked and loved. If you can’t afford to lose it don’t give it. Helping a lover out is a good thing, but not adding boundaries or payment review is not. Love needs to be practical when it comes to money.
Nurturing a holiday romance in order for it to continue has great value but you need to give time, time, and be realistic. Starting a long distance relationship needs equality and responsibility on both sides. Bringing a lover to the UK or flying off on a whim sounds romantic but it doesn’t mean it’s realistic. I know couples who met this way and have created good solid union through facing realism and shared responsibility, though a holiday romance often remains simply that, a chance to let our fences down, to flirt, to live in a dream space. Remember how many clothes you bought in the sun that look faintly ridiculous on the grey streets of London? Draw your own conclusions. 
Some things are just meant to be temporary.

Drowning in Booze?

For most gay men on the lash, the thought of abstaining from booze fills them with horror, even if their present lifestyle is horrific in chaotic content, to the outside observer. Judgement never worked for me when I was bang at it, so don’t expect it in sessions. However it’s wise at some point to judge your own behaviours with experienced guidance.

When a client has an alcohol dependency, they usually “do too, too much” on a regular basis, which doesn’t always mean they are alcoholic. Although I have been clean & sober since the early eighties via 12 Step programmes I don’t use this material in my work, they can go to meetings if they want to pursue this path and abstain, a day at a time.

One of my clients was asked by ATTITUDE MAGAZINE to write his experience of getting off booze for the September 2010 “ISSUES” Issue, a dedicated spread of 12 pages around addictive & compulsive behaviours that affect gay men.

KEITH, 42, Project Manager, London.

” When I stopped drinking in September 2007, having been an alcoholic all my adult life, people started to ask : ” How did you know you were addicted?” It’s a difficult question to answer as everyone is different, but a good indicator is when any addiction you have starts costing you more than money. My illness, or to put it another way, my inability to cope with alcohol, was responsible for me fucking up in every job I ever had. I maxed out credit cards, had no sense of perspective and my life was a heady mix of addictions and chaotic living.

Most recovering addicts will agree that you have to reach rock-bottom in order to wake up from the coma ( of alcohol, and in my case drug dependency as well ) and it was for me although, unlike many others, I’ve never entered any treatment rehab or attended AA/NA meetings as yet, to pursue recovery.

I’d been on the lash in the Two Brewers one night. I couldn’t remember getting home and when I woke in the morning, I called work and concocted some spurious excuse for me not being able to come in. Maybe I’d had enough as my excuse was flimsy, see-through and fooled no-one. All the years of having to build lies to cover up my using ( which everyone saw through at once – the only person who believed the lie was me ) had taken their toll. Another job was hanging in the balance so I decided that I was too tired to carry on living this way and did something about it. I picked up the phone and called David Parker, as he had come recommended and was known as ‘Clublands Therapist ‘ on the scene.

We started working together in October 2006 and I set out on a path of  “purposeful using” as David calls it, which in a nutshell means using ( alcohol & coke ) on special occasions only. This was for me to decide my level of dependency. There were hits and misses, and in this first year I didn’t define myself as alcoholic, but there was plenty to unravel as the alcohol had been masking a whole raft of issues, including co-dependency, and low self-esteem. It was only after a year in therapy that I admitted to myself and everyone that I knew that I was alcoholic, and in many ways it was a relief to label myself as such, as it was proof that I was unable to deal with alcohol and would never be able to safely drink again.

It would be a lie to say that I haven’t been tempted but given where I am now compared to three years ago, going back simply isn’t an option. The vast majority of my friends have been wholly supportive of me. True, there have been one or two who resented me getting well but I guess that’s bound to happen. It’s one thing getting sober but the real test is staying that way, so I observe my thoughts and actions on a daily basis. I’ve been sober and off drugs for almost 3 years and there will ( I hope ) be many more ahead for me. The key to success is remembering what made me drink and how it made me feel so I’m not tempted to pick up a drink again – in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years time. “

As my client discovered, being coached into booze solutions leads to other areas of opportunity and improvement. In the timespan I worked with him he also stopped smoking ( and has stayed stopped ), gained emotional esteem, lost weight, created a regular gym regime, dealt with debt and is now in surplus, started dating again, gained career growth and started his own business. What’s not to like?

The Love Drug

Being exposed to self-help books in the early eighties saved my arse. I was hungry for results dealing with an incurable disease, liver damage and the many consequences of my past behaviours. Along came a new language, words like ” dysfunctional ” ” co-dependent ” and ” inner child ” which asked more questions than they answered. One of the major tomes that became part of the regime I call ” Airport Spirituality ” was Scott Pecks 1978 trailblazer – THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED.
Airport Spirituality is what I call dip in, dip out, working on yourself, as if snatching a spiritual best seller leaving Gatwick, to read on a Greek beach in 40 degrees is the answer to the reason why you ” need to get away ” in the first place. It isn’t.
If you need to ” get away ” the best idea is often to stay put and work through it. Peck’s book challenged many ideas that people hold around the illusion of LOVE and the time spent leeching rather than loving. Whatever is unhealed we bring to the table and that platform of desire is riddled with remembered LACK than remembered MORE THAN I NEED – Abundance. If you felt you were dysfunctionally parented, then you will create the same kind of relationships as an adult.
Peck writes,
” I define dependency as the inability to experience wholeness or to function adequately without the certainty that one is being actively cared for by another. We all – each and every one of us – even if we try to pretend to others and to ourselves that we don’t – have dependency needs and feelings. All of us have desires to be babied, to be nurtured without effort on our parts, to be cared for by persons stronger than us who have our interests at heart. No matter how strong we are, no matter how caring and responsible and adult, if we look clearly into ourselves we will find the wish to be taken care of for a change. But for most of us these desires or feelings DO NOT RULE OUR LIVES. When they do rule our lives and dictate the quality of our existence, then we have something more than just dependency needs or feelings, we are dependent.
Specifically, one whose life is ruled and dictated by dependency needs suffers from a psychiatric disorder to which we ascribe the diagnostic name ” passive dependent personality disorder “. It is perhaps the most common of all psychiatric disorders. People with this disorder, passive dependent people, are so busy seeking to be loved that they have no energy left to LOVE. They never feel ” fulfilled ” or have a sense of completeness. They always feel ” a part of me is missing “. They tolerate loneliness very poorly. Because of their lack of wholeness they have no real sense of identity, and they define themselves by their relationships, who they know and often live through other peoples lives “.

A decade after Peck described ” a passive dependent personality disorder ” the personal development industry called it CODEPENDENCY, with Pecks illustration being just one symptom of ” the disease of NEVER ENOUGH”, that lay at the core of all addictions. Never enough LOVE, MONEY, Drugs, ALCOHOL, Food and yes, even SELF HELP BOOKS. The affirmation ” I AM enough, I DO enough, MY PRESENCE is enough . . .  is an instant pacifier for recovering Codependents, so stick that dummy in your mouth whenever a LACK feeling arises. Since many codependents think they gain LOVE through DOING, or gaining approval OUTSIDE of themselves . . . love, like charity begins at home, so check out the vision of love revealed in your early childhood years and work forward. If you are expecting to be parented by your partner, or you babysit them already in the name of LOVE, it may be time for that Greek holiday after all – but on separate Islands – just to find out who you are.