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Vaya Con Dios, Mando

Armando Maliano

Armando Maliano

This week marks the retirement of my long-time friend and colleague, Armando Maliano.  I know him as Mando, as do so many other people in the treatment community of Sonoma and Marin counties.  Like Norm’s entrance into the bar on the old sitcom “Cheers”, someone would invariably sing out “Mando!” when we attended local meetings of professionals in the addiction field.

Mando got his start in the glory days of family therapy in Marin County, working at and then heading up the Family Therapy Institute of Marin.  He trained with such luminaries in the field as Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir.

I met Mando at Centerpoint, a drug and alcohol treatment program in San Rafael.  I was the young, newly-appointed clinical director and I had almost as many problems as the people I was trying to help.  As a consultant and former director of the program, Mando came alongside me as an older man and a mentor and directed me as far as he could at that time.  Later, when I left Centerpoint, we set up a private practice together in Larkspur.  Mando and I have worked together on and off since that time, almost 40 years ago.

Two years ago, at age 78, Mando earned his certificate in Drug and Alcohol Studies from the University of California at Berkeley Extension.  Since then, he has worked closely with me at our institute as head of our Addiction Recovery Team.  He has set a great example for me and my staff – almost 40 years of successful recovery from alcohol and heroin addiction, and the determination that it’s never too late in life to set new goals and accomplish them.  I have deeply appreciated his contribution to and support for my work.

Now Mando is off to Tryon, North Carolina, a beautiful part of the United States and a far cry from his rough beginnings on the streets of San Francisco, working for the gangs.  He plans to scale back his practice to occasional mentoring work.  He will semi-retire, and I think he’s being very smart about the “semi” part.  The death rate statistics for men within two years after retirement are alarmingly high.  I firmly believe that we all need to work and be productive, to whatever level we are capable, and must do so in order to maintain our emotional, mental, and physical health.

As a tribute to Mando, I’d like to quote from one of the papers he wrote as part of his studies at UC Extension titled, “Our Primitive Brain: The Force Behind the Relapsing Addict”.  Mando speaks with the voice of experience:

“Given the difficult challenge of recovery, what do addicts need?  They need understanding of their addiction on the physical level: how it works.  They need to know that they are going to relapse if they do not learn different coping skills from the ones which got them into addiction/relapse.  They need to respect the power of the primitive brain’s hold on them that seeks instant gratification.  They need to understand their plan of recovery and not have health care professionals discount that road to recovery.  They need to reach out for help and trust that help.”

“What do drug addiction counselors need in order to help the addict recover and not relapse?  They need more education about the neuroscience of addiction.  They need to be better educated about relapse, since relapse is almost a given.  They need to build their professional ethics, skills, and integrity in order to present this information credibly to the addict without pushing them away or scaring them.  They need to be able to teach the addict to say, ‘Good-bye to the high!’”

Vaya con dios, Mando mi amigo, y gracias.  I wish you the best, always.