Ask the LifeQuake Doctor – Aug 2017
Dear Dr. Galardi,
I’m a sixty-year-old man who’s been in the real estate business for thirty years, and I’m in burnout from the job. However, I’m not yet financially set up yet to retire. I have two grown daughters. My ex-wife died a few years ago, so they look to me for guidance. I’ve been divorced for eighteen years and haven’t lived with a woman other than my daughters during that time. I’ve always felt that I have a strong sex drive. Sex has always been really important to me and makes me feel alive and healthy.
About nine months ago, I started dating a woman who is a therapist and who works with clients in recovery for addiction. She told me she thought I had an alcohol dependence because I drink every day. I have an autoimmune condition and it was suggested that I give up alcohol for ninety days. This therapist thinks I have an alcohol issue because I haven’t been willing to give up drinking for that length of time. I only have two glasses of wine in the evening. Does this seem extreme to you?
Also, I’ve been finding myself reattracted to my old girlfriend. She doesn’t know I’ve been seeing someone recently, and I’m feeling guilty about it. My current girlfriend is a lovely person and we have regular sex, but it isn’t off the charts like it was with my ex-girlfriend. My ex-girlfriend and I have been seeing one another without my current girlfriend’s knowledge. I think I just need to be involved with someone like my old girlfriend who doesn’t question my drinking and has no problem having sex every day.
I wanted your opinion as to whether you think I have a drinking problem given that I don’t drink a lot, and as to whether I might be a sex addict because I want sex every day. I’m working on my job stress with my therapist and have not addressed the girlfriend issue yet, as it feels like it isn’t a priority. I just thought I’d get your advice first.
– Confused in South Florida
Well, there is a lot here, I must say. I appreciate your reaching out and at least being willing to look for input as you are heading for a big fall, my friend!
Your job stress is probably very related to your inability to be sated by the affections of one woman. You are self-medicating with both women and wine. The only thing missing is rock ‘n’ roll! I am not making light of your dilemma—sometimes a little humor helps with a perspective.
You say you are not ready to retire, but are in burnout from a highly demanding job. I have worked with a lot of people who are entering what I call “third acts.” They do not want to retire and they do not want to continue doing the work they’ve been doing, so they tell themselves they just need to put their nose to the grindstone and push through for another five years.
The problem with that philosophy is that burnout can lead to depending on outer substances to feel good. If you cannot stop drinking for ninety days, it does not matter what the quantity is, you are using it to numb out. If one woman is not enough, I suspect that the fact that your current girlfriend is confronting your addictions has led you to turn off to her and thus need the dopamine fix that having sex with a new person—even someone you once were involved with—can give you.
I recommend attending two different Twelve Step programs: Sex, Love, and Fantasy Addicts Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. Both of these programs can provide ancillary support along with a sponsor. I would also recommend talking to your therapist about exploring a new professional arena. I am a big advocate for career repurposing along with recovery as a relapse prevention method. Finding a career that is meaningful and fulfills your passionate purpose can provide the neurotransmitter support that you are looking to women and alcohol for.
I just suggest you do something about this soon before your current girlfriend finds out about the other woman and this ends in an explosion. If you do not address this soon, two other people are going to get hurt, not just you.