Thank god! We lost it in troubled waters-River City Counseling

When I got my first cell phone, my wife complained because I wouldn’t pick up or return calls. It wasn’t anything personal; most of the time I accidentally left it at home. It was more of an annoyance that anything else.

Years later, we got rid of our landline, and it became the only way to keep in-touch with me and me with others. But, over time, the amount I’m on my phone has escalated to the point that I think it’s a problem.  I think I’m addicted to my phone.

Unfortunately, I can’t just go to a telephone rehab center, get sober, and work my recovery. My phone is my business line, and I use it for email, social media and text messages, all of which are crucial for building my business and meeting our family’s financial needs.

Thinking back, there was a moment when my use ramped-up. As you may remember, KD is an incredibly early riser, and I’m the “morning guy.” I always checked my email on the computer first thing, and one morning a man reached out to me at 5 a.m. seeking counseling. Since he was already awake, I called him back at 545 a.m., and he came in later that day.

Months later, he asked me if I knew why he’d come to see me. I figured it was either that I was a guy and he felt comfortable with me or he’d looked at my experience and figured we’d be a good-match.  It was much simpler than that. He’d gone down a list of therapists he’d found on-line and emailed everyone, and I was the first person who’d called back. The next call back he’d received was 15 minutes later. After hearing this, I figured that I had to be on top of things during every waking moment. I was hooked.

The problem with addiction is that use tends to increase over time and you start to have consequences. And this was the case. I started checking my phone to the point that it was an obsession. If I was anxious or angry, I’d check my phone to calm down. I also joined a number of Facebook groups for dads, in which I both get and give advice. I love being a part of them, but they’ve been big time sucks.

Fast forward to last Tuesday. KD was pulling at my shirt, trying to get my attention, but I was busy doing some sort of stuff on my phone. I was going to pay attention to what he was saying, but I mumbled that he would have to wait a moment. I don’t know exactly what he said, but the general theme was that a big part of how he views me is as a guy on his phone.

I was mortified; the last thing I want KD to think about years from now is that he loves me but is sad and mad because a significant part of his childhood was spent waiting for my attention. Immediately, I put my phone down and was 100% focused on him for the rest of the day. We had fun, and it was clear that he felt great and responded to me in a way that he hasn’t in a while. I felt ready to make changes.

In case I needed an extra reminder, last weekend we went to a camp that doesn’t have cell reception. Then, in the early afternoon, KD and I hopped in a canoe. My phone was in my pocket, but since I have one of those “waterproof” cases that are supposed to be good for taking underwater photos, I wasn’t worried. Apparently they aren’t waterproof in this lake, because when KD accidentally flipped the boat during a water fight, my phone was dead, and I was electronically naked for the next 24 hours. KD apologized a bunch of times, but I really wasn’t mad. Our fun made the cost of a new phone seem insignificant. And, at the end of the day, my business was no worse for the wear.

Little or big, everyone does things that come between us and the people we love. Sometimes they’re necessary, and we shouldn’t try to change them or feel bad about ourselves for doing them. But other times, we do some things that aren’t necessary in that moment and get in the way of connecting with others in the ways we want. I encourage you to reflect on the choices you make in your lives that lead to distance from others and make some changes where you can.

As usual, this therapist/parent/spouse is going through life, doing the best I can.

Until next time…



6 Responses to Thank god! We lost it in troubled waters-River City Counseling
  1. Bart
    July 22, 2016 | 8:36 am

    Well said, Steve, As always. I strongly relate to this, as I feel I am also addicted to my mobile phone which is also my number one business tool. I can’t wait to get out on vacation were cell service doesn’t work!-(Of course, there is a nearby hotel with Wi-Fi access I can hike over two).

  2. Sue Hansen
    July 24, 2016 | 8:40 pm

    Hi Steve — I love your commentaries. They show that therapists are real people too! I’m reading a great book about habits. It’s called “Better than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. She was on Oprah and the Today Show, and was in Sacramento at the Bee Book Club earlier this year. She says “habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life” and “when we change our habits, we change our lives”. If you haven’t read it yet, I think you will love it!

    • Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
      July 26, 2016 | 10:21 am

      Thanks Sue! I appreciate your positive feedback and sharing a resource. My experience is that therapists often don’t share their full person, warts and all. It’s too bad because most people want to know that their therapist understands what they’re going through.

  3. Tom Desr
    July 26, 2016 | 9:53 am

    I too find I am getting relief from anxiety by looking at my phone. I see it as an issue I need to address. I feel powerless over it as I use my phone for so many working tools but I can certainly limit my use say not pick up my phone every five minutes.

    • Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
      July 26, 2016 | 10:23 am

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tom. As I respond to you from my phone, I realize that sometimes I am powerless.

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