I can remember when I quit smoking as if it was yesterday. I had moved away from my very dysfunctional family in Ohio at 20 to come to Palo Alto, California and pursue my vision of an emotional and spiritual freedom I had never known growing up.
After finding everything and more that I could have hoped for in the dynamic and diverse culture of Palo Alto and the Stanford community in 1974, I settled into creating my new life and saw immediately that smoking – which I had inherited from my parents and older siblings – was a huge block in loving myself and being successful. After a while I quit cold turkey, and very quickly began to feel things inside of me that had been sitting underneath my conscious awareness since I was a very young boy. Primal emotions and the complex wounded relationship dynamics within my family that I had only felt and seen as if through thick opaque glass started to come alive in my body into a focused and vivid clarity, animating into a kind of convulsive purging of the suppressed negative impact that my family had had on me.
I had embraced the addictive pattern of smoking at a young age through the family imprinting of emotional suppression and denial. I now loved watching the distorted veils of dysfunctional family loyalty within me start to thin out into a startling series of emotional breakthroughs. I felt the most incredible sense of new life waking up inside of me: my heart was healing, and I was becoming emotionally sober for the first time in my life. My authentic, true self was finding my own voice at last.
From that time on I have dedicated my life to my own heart healing and emotional sobriety as well as spending the last 25 years as a Life Coach guiding clients through the heart healing processes that have brought them into their own sobriety as well. This book is the culmination of the last 40 years of gradually achieving successful love through emotional sobriety, not only with my amazing partner of 17 years, Holly, who passed away in 2014, but also with my new partner Carly with whom I have begun an exquisite relationship.
So what does it mean to heal your heart and find emotional sobriety? It means that we need to do the emotional work to peacefully confront family dysfunction and the impact it has had on us – which means identifying how the parents acted out their own family love and attachment wounding at the expense of the emotional development of their children. Only then can we can begin to restore functional love within ourselves and free ourselves from continuing to act out the same unconscious patterns of love failing in relationships as our parents did.
Love fails in dysfunctional families in a variety of ways, and we will explore all of them in this book. Finding emotional sobriety means learning the emotional skills to stop compulsively acting out wounded emotions rooted in failed family love and our interrupted emotional development. Becoming emotionally sober means that we can begin to feel and articulate those wounded emotions that have been trapped in our bodies in a contained, grounded manner that allows us to love ourselves and each other with greater clarity and skill.
As we attain the different stages of emotional sobriety, the love in us can become more conscious of what is really happening in our relationships and function at increasingly more competent levels. In this way we can break the cycle of failed love that once had us in an unconscious death grip, because we are mastering boundaries, communication and resolution of complex emotional cycles.
All of work this takes time and a strong commitment. When I start working with new clients, I tell them that even though we can make great strides in the first year of our work, it really takes about 3 to 5 years to achieve the deep, core healing that sets us free. And even then, mastering all of this is a life journey.
So if you want to learn how to love yourself and others successfully and achieve the emotional sobriety that is the true, lasting foundation of emotional freedom in our lives, this book can serve as a solid, sober guide and companion. This is a journey I have personally undertaken thousands of times in my own life and with clients. This work works.