As a Therapist who has worked in the field of addictions for over 30 years, people often ask me ‘Do I have a Problem?’ Only you can decide that you are ready to change and decide what change might look like for you; what is reasonable, achievable and meaningful. Everyone’s ‘line in the sand’ is different so it’s unhelpful to compare your behaviour to others. There will always be someone who does more or less, is worse or better than you. Often it’s not about how much or how often you engage in a particulalr behaviour like taking drugs or drinking but more importantly the effect that doing these behaviours has on your life.

Problematic behaviours can take many forms; alcohol, drugs (over the counter, prescription and illegal), food (over or under eating and binging), porn, shopping, sex, self-harm, gambling, social media, video games, steroids, tobacco etc.

There are generally 4 areas of our lives that might be affected by problematic behaviours. (This is just a guide) These are categorised using a system called the 4 L’s, standing for:


You might initially look at these heading and think ‘Nah, not me.’, but I will now break each of these concepts down to give a better understanding of what they might mean in relation to problem behaviours in your life. It is then up to you to decide how big a problem that is and if it is worth creating a plan for a change in behaviour. A change in behaviour does not necessarily mean stopping it might just mean curbing the behaviour in a way that works for you. If you are able to achieve these goals you will want to review your changes and see if they have had the desired effect or if new goals could be set.

LIVER represents any health issues you may be experiencing, mental, emotional and physical. From anxiety and depression to low self-worth. It includes illnesses, accidents and injuries; from hangovers to neurological damage to weight issues.

Sometimes health issues such as PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), Chronic Pain or BPD (Boarder Line Personality Disorder) might trigger problematic behaviours such as alcohol or drug overuse.  In cases like this it’s important to work with the health issue and the problematic behavious simultaneously.

LOVER includes issues with all the kinds of relationships in our lives. It includes isolation and loneliness, problems with friends, co-workers, bosses, family, lovers, children and people we have small interactions within the public. If your behaviours are affecting your relationships even if it’s a spouse constantly moaning about you never being home because you’re at the pub, this may be the beginning of a potentially more serious relationship issue. Are others affected indirectly or directly by your behaviours? Are you avoiding people or telling ‘white lies’ because of shame or guilt? Are the people in your life supporting your best self or supporting your addictions?

LIVELIHOOD/ LIFESTYLE explores work-paid and unpaid, studies or education, hobbies and recreation. Are you doing what you want to be doing or are you so caught up in an addictive behaviour that it feels as though it’s controlling you? Do you ever spend more time or money on the behaviour than you told yourself you would? Do you ever miss work or other commitments because of engaging in a problematic behaviour either that day or the next? ie Don’t make it to work due to a hangover. Maybe your debts are building up to the point where you may be at risk of losing housing or it’s just super stressful.

LAW examines any issues that may involve legal problems whether you have been caught yet or not. For example drink driving, using illicit substances or you may be selling illegal substances to fund personal habits. You might have gotten into physical fights (assaults) or be involved in domestic violence. You may have divorce or child custody issues or be stealing to engage in your problematic behaviour or something as seemingly innocuous as parking or speeding fines.

You don’t need to tick all of the boxes to indicate that a behaviour is becoming problematic for you but if you felt that you identified with some of the above then perhaps it may be time to consider a behaviour change. If you do decide to change something plan well and decide on something you think you will succeed at. Ie; going cold-turkey with alcohol can not only be dangerous (depending on how much and for how long you’ve been drinking) but it might just be too big a step. Instead, think about safe ways to cut down ( and seek professional help). Think about what motivates you, what’s important about making this change. Sometimes our motivators aren’t the obvious ones but if we are not sufficiently motivated change is more difficult.

Of course, if a lot of people are telling you that your behaviour is problematic, then maybe it’s something you should examine but if you aren’t ready to hear it then chances are you will defend, justify and explain why it’s not necessary for you to make a change. It may affect your relationships.

If you have ever tried to change a behaviour and failed don’t give up. Change is hard and it often takes us numerous attempts before we make lasting changes. Each time you try is a learning opportunity, a journey of discovery of what does and does not work for you. Go back and revise your plans and realise behaviour changes don’t happen in isolation.

To change a target behaviour we often need to change other behaviours to support the one we know we need to alter. E.g.: cutting down drinking might require; not spending time with certain people, taking up a new hobby after work to fill up what was once drinking time, doing couple counselling to repair a relationship with a spouse. Keep listening to that little voice inside you that knows what is best for you and keep persisting. Enlist help if you need and get others on board who are non-judgemental and who can be your cheer squad on good days and bad.

Substances can be physically as well as behaviorally addictive and may require detoxification, so if you are considering changing the amounts of drugs or alcohol you use then consult a health professional. Substances such as alcohol can be very dangerous to withdraw from if you have been using it in high quantities.


If you think you may have a problem and would like professional support to make changes contact My Way Therapy we are experts in the field having over 30 years experience woking with people who experience addictive behaviours.



4 L’s Model R.Roizen and C. Weisner 1979