Dear Feelings Doctor: I’ve been reading your column, and your advice to the man who has had several lovers was good for him, but I have not been with a woman in nine years. I am kind of shy and really find it difficult to approach anyone. I have my good family and friends for years who I trust, but no one else. How can I try to start again? Thank you.

— Stan in Santa Barbara

Dear Stan: By writing me and sharing your desires, you are ready now to begin the next chapter of your life. Bravo! Here we go …

Where have you been spending most of your down time? What types of hobbies and sports do you enjoy? Start with baby steps in those directions, doing things that make you happy and taking risks with those who show up around you. Make conversation with people in line at the store or coffee shop. By putting yourself out there a little each day, you will feel more confident.

Mention you are ready to begin dating now to your close friends and see if they have anyone in mind. You trust your family and friends, now begin trusting yourself. Good luck, and have fun!

Dear Feelings Doctor: I am newly sober and have been working a program now for four months. I really want to get the healthy part of my life back, which includes my friends, and remember the good, fun times again. Help, please. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated.

— Kathy in Santa Barbara

Dear Kathy: Congratulations on your four months! Second: Find a program, a sponsor and support group right away if you haven’t already. As you seek an emotionally healthy, sober life, your relationships with friends and family will change. It is time for you to make new friends who have the same goals that you do right now — working a program and staying sober, exercising and taking better care of yourself in different ways than you have before.

It sounds like a broken record, but it is so very true — one drink is too many and a hundred is not enough! Letting your old friends know that you are making important changes in your life right now, and that their support is appreciated, will also be a blessing for you.

But no matter what, each day is the beginning of that new start that you have chosen. Keep reaching for your goals — one day at a time with the vision of that bright future that you can see ahead.

Dear Feelings Doctor: I am trying with all of my might to stop smoking! It’s a b****! I get crabby, and the people in my office are thinking I am losing it. Please, can you help me? Thank you in advance. Please answer as soon as possible. P.S. I really liked your column today.

— Stacey in Ventura

Dear Stacey: Way to go! What a huge gift you are giving yourself! The addiction of nicotine is as powerful and habitual as heroin. It is, however, possible to stop smoking with all of the help that is available these days.

Check with your doctor to decide which of the avenues is right for you. There are patches, sprays, gums and shots that you can try, along with behavioral modification. First begin with your routine each day: Switch it up from the minute you wake up until the moment you lay your head down on the pillow at night. The rituals that you have had as a smoker will need to be changed immediately. When you go out to dinner, sit in the nonsmoking section. Tell everyone you meet that you have stopped smoking, enlisting the support from others will be a big help.

Begin an exercise routine if you do not already have one. The more you stay active, the less time you will have to notice that automatic “reach” for your cigarettes. Join a support group either online or locally for nonsmokers.

The first three to five days will be the most difficult, but your symptoms will be tolerable and more manageable as time goes by. Keeping your hands occupied and your mouth busy is a goal right away. It may sound a bit crazy, but sunflower seeds are actually one of the best things to have around. It keeps your mouth and your hands busy while eating something healthy as well.

I have given you several suggestions, but I’m sure there are a few that will work for you right away. If you slip up, don’t give up! Start over again. Please keep in touch. You have support right here.

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— Psychotherapist Randi Rabin, M.A., MFTI, answers reader questions in her weekly Noozhawk column, The Feelings Doctor, and can be contacted at She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Antioch University Santa Barbara and completed her master’s degree in psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute under the guidance of renowned psychologist Stephen Aizenstat, Pacifica’s chancellor and founding president. She has worked as a counselor with a number of local nonprofit organizations and schools. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.