by Bryan L
My name is Bryan, and I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been blessed to have over 24 years of continuous sobriety and have been a grateful member of Alanon for the last 34 years as well. After a 24-year career as a probation officer I retired, went back to school and became a drug and alcohol counselor in 2009. And for the last 12 years I have worked at every level of drug treatment available from detox, to high end residential programs, to running groups inside homeless shelters, to teaching DUI classes, to doing counseling groups inside the county jail. I, the recovering alcoholic/addict, have been the person folks like us meet when the bottom falls out and we wind up in jails or institutions and deal with our addiction.
Folks like us meet when the bottom falls out and we wind up in institutions
It’s a crazy business working in recovery with a very high (50%) rate of relapse amongst counselors, for the same reason everyone else relapses — folks stop attending meetings that got them sober in the first place, convincing themselves working in the field is protection enough. It isn’t. I love the work and I was “trained” to do it from a young age growing up in a violent, abusive alcoholic home as so many of us in sobriety do. As I was growing up, I was my mom’s shoulder to cry on as well as her punching bag when she was drunk. No doubt she influenced my decision to work in social services for the last 35 years.
As I wind down my work life, getting more comfortable with retirement while continuing to fill in occasionally at the shelter, I am reminded each day that I could not maintain my sobriety and my mental health working in rehab were it not for my continued active participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon. When I think about all the places I’ve worked and clients I’ve interacted with, I’m reminded of a quote from John Bradshaw, “We are who we are, because of, and in spite of.”
We are who we are, because of, and in spite of
Rehab is the one form of employment where our experiences in addiction turn out to be valuable job training skills for future work in the field. The things I’ve witnessed from clients in groups has been equal parts shocking, humbling, terrifying, entertaining and heart breaking. From working in detox where an incoming client murdered one of my colleagues on duty, to having to extricate a 45-year-old naked woman from her room at a 50k a month rehab, to listening to a 19-year-old woman in a group I ran in the jail say, “My relapse on meth led directly to my participating in the murder of two innocent people.”
My experience working with clients has confirmed for me the life and death nature of our shared disease and made my work that much more humbling and meaningful. I remember my sponsor early on asking me why I wanted to work in rehab when, as he said, “It’s full of a lot of crazy people.” I told him, “I know, and some of them are clients.” I’m glad to still be of service to others.