I want to talk candidly about what changed my life.
I do it because I want you to know that even bad situations turn out well. People recover. Marriages recover from addictions. Yours can, too.
“My name is Max and I am a recovering alcoholic.”
That’s how I introduce myself at AA meetings 3x a week. I share with you my alcoholism because it’s what defines me. Not being a Couple’s Therapist, or a partner, or a father, or even a tennis fanatic.
A Nightmare to a Blessing…
For me, being an alcoholic (at first a nightmare) has become a blessing. The journey of recovery has changed me in a profoundly positive way and I have become a much more engaged and generous person. Still, I have to maintain my spiritual program of sobriety every day or I could easily fall back to my old ways.
The results of sobriety have been amazing.
I have had more success in relationships (romantic, platonic and familial), and my therapy practice has thrived.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Twenty-four years ago, when I married my wife, I gradually began to change from a caring husband to a bitter, lousy partner. Rather than taking responsibility for my actions, I focused single-mindedly on my wife’s selfishness as the reason our marriage was failing.
I was, of course, deluding myself. I critically damaged our marriage by using alcohol and drugs to avoid connecting with her.
Sure, having kids was stressful but after they went to sleep I couldn’t wait to sneak off to my man cave to isolate, smoke marijuana, avoid my partner and disappear.
I was afraid to connect with my ex-wife. Alcohol, weed, and later Xanax made me irritable, impatient, angry, bitter and resentful.
Not a pretty picture.
My wife and I went to marriage counseling (a lot). I sometimes joke that we must have spent a half a million dollars in therapy. It didn’t help. I couldn’t look inside myself and see my part. I was focused on her behavior, what she did wrong or what she was withholding from me (admiration, affection, and sex).
I was defensive about my role and insisted that alcohol and drugs were not a part of the problem. But they were, and our marriage of 15 years failed. The main reason was not that we were mismatched, but that I used alcohol and drugs to avoid intimacy.
Today I am a profoundly different man and have deep connections with my kids and dear friends. I live a low drama and peaceful existence often channeling my inner James Taylor. I walk a lot and talk to everyone; on the street, at supermarkets, even in line at the movies. I love connecting and doting on people.
My MO is “constant thought of others,” including strangers. I’ve learned that the more I reach out and focus on other people’s happiness the more love comes back to me in waves. I’ve learned to face my fears; I love the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real.
I’m in real love, perhaps for the first time in my life.
I believe we are pretty good partners to each other. Nevertheless, we still have to work on our communication; nothing comes easy.
First, you’ll find me accepting and non-judgmental. I listen carefully and patiently, so I understand each party’s feelings and realities. It is one thing to give couples hope, but that’s not enough. I provide them with clear tools on how to hear to each other even when they’re feeling annoyed or aggravated. I teach couples how to solve conflicts, de-escalate tensions and most importantly, develop an intimate and fun friendship.
Everyone wants to be heard, admired and feel they are smart and attractive. In my opinion, this is why marriages fall apart – partners stop respecting and cherishing one another. When people no longer feel admired they look ELSEWHERE to get that unique and irreplaceable attention, and resentments and affairs (both emotional and physical) ensue.
I believe it’s critical for couples to share affection continually and go on dates. Kissing, cuddling, holding hands and saying, “I love you” are essential fuel. Every loving and positive interaction between a couple are foreplay. If you want to have good sex then be considerate and attentive in your day-to-day interactions. It works!
If you choose to come to California for an intensive couples therapy weekend, this is what you’ll get: a very personal and connected therapeutic experience. And the expertise of an Addiction Specialist. I am thoroughly trained (both personally and clinically) to assess alcoholism and addiction.
One more thing:
…just because I’m an alcoholic doesn’t mean I assume other’s are. Many couples who meet with me want a substance abuse assessment, and I’m happy to provide it. But many couples aren’t impacted by addictions. I’m encouraging and supportive, offering clear, direct and honest feedback about your marriage, regardless of whether you are impacted by addiction issues. I look forward to meeting you.