How My Sobriety Led Me To Become A Therapist At Monument

By Mark Zauss, BC-TMC, NCC, CCMHC, LMHC, Double Board Certified licensed clinical psychotherapist and therapist on the Monument platform

As a therapist on the Monument platform, I believe it’s important to speak openly about my history struggling with alcohol use disorder. Looking back at my journey, I can understand that I formed a dependence on alcohol due to a lack of tools and information, and that finding new ways to cope is what ultimately transformed my life. Now, I spend every day empowering others to recognize that they too can change their relationship with alcohol. 

I had my first drink at the age of 14. It was the first time in my life I felt relief from my anxious feelings. Shortly after, my parents divorced, and my pattern of excessive drinking took hold. I found that alcohol was a way I could distract myself from the stress of my new reality, and find relief from my anxiety. Another way I learned to cope with anxiety and suppress my feelings was to excessively practice trumpet. By age 16, I was practicing 10 hours a day. After I was done practicing, I drank beer almost every night as a reward. By 28, my drinking had gradually progressed to 12-15 beers nightly. I drank excessively for 17 years. 

My unhealthy relationship with alcohol impacted every aspect of my life. I did not accept responsibility for my actions, or hold myself accountable for the way I was choosing to cope with my thoughts and experiences. I blamed others, and created an illusion in my head that the world was unfair, and that I had no other choices. 

My last drink was on November 18th, 1997. I was 32, but had the coping skills of a 16 year old. I was angry, hurt, and blamed others. Drinking had stopped me from processing my feelings and halted my emotional and social development. I got comfortable detaching from others, and from my true self. 

I had to find a new way to control my anxiety and move forward with my life. By starting to practice trumpet sober, I began to feel my emotions fully for the first time. While this felt like progress, there was still so much to reflect on and learn. I was not in therapy and found the process to be daunting, confusing, and difficult. Eventually I took the leap to try it out, and my recovery journey began in earnest.  

Therapy helped me process my cravings and learn alternative coping mechanisms. Because I drank beer, my brain was gradually conditioned to feel rewarded by drinking out of a cold can every few seconds. Right after I stopped drinking beer, I drank several diet A&W Root beers throughout the night. My brain accepted this behavior as a replacement, which lowered my cravings and allowed me to progress in my sobriety. Because all my past decision-making skills were based around drinking, I had to learn how to process the world as an adult. This included experiencing and processing anxiety about the future, without using alcohol as an escape. I learned how to identify the roots of my anxiety, and how to make better decisions when navigating challenging situations. I started to give myself time to process all of my emotions. I drank for 17 years, and unlearning old habits took time. It took regular therapy to develop these new ways of thinking. My journey was about progress, not perfection.

I became fascinated with the opportunity to better understand myself, which then grew into an interest in helping others do the same. In 2001 I enrolled in Rollins College to become a therapist. 

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Fast forward to today, I’m a therapist on the Monument platform. Monument has created an affordable and effective online alcohol treatment program. One I wish I had access to when I first stopped drinking. Monument combines scientifically proven methods to create a personalized care plan so that each member has the right support for them. These options include attending individual alcohol therapy, joining free, therapist-moderated alcohol support groups (which I moderate a few of), and seeing an experienced physician to evaluate if medication to stop drinking is right for you. 

I am proud and honored to be a Monument therapist. The recovery process of each and every member is personal to me. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible, and clinicians like myself are here to help you get there. We all hold the potential, and bravery, to seek a new beginning. Just like me, you are the author of your own success story. 

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Mark ZaussMark is a licensed mental health counselor in Florida with over 12 years of experience. He is a board-certified clinical mental health counselor by the NBCC — (National Board for Certified Counselors), a nationally certified counselor by the NBCC as well as a Board Certified Telehealth provider for online counseling. Mark is also a qualified supervisor. He graduated with honors from Rollins College which is recognized as one of the highest-rated colleges in the U.S. for mental health counseling. His specialties include treating anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, fear of being in a public place, social anxiety, relationship issues, career problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance abuse and addiction issues. Mark also specializes in helping others cope with new and difficult situations while having to adjust to a new way of life-related to the pandemic.