Tomorrow is the day I officially start meeting with clients — in my own office, at a real drug and alcohol treatment center, for pay.
Holy mackerel; life comes at you fast!
One month ago, I was newly a unemployed copywriter scrambling to find a counseling internship before the start of the grad school semester.
And 43 months ago, I was gutting out the first day of a scary new life without alcohol, not having the slightest inkling of the new NEW life I would be living in recovery.
So there was only one way to spend this day — my official sober month-iversary — and that was to get up at 4AM for a lovely moon- and headlamp-lit run through the state park, grab a quick shower, and log onto a virtual 12-step meeting to share my “experience, strength and hope” as a very grateful guest speaker (who kept her story under 20 minutes…score!) And then, to crash under an avalanche of emotion just after breakfast, nearly forgetting I have to show up for a class tonight — in person.
I can’t get out of it. I tried. 😩
Nothing against school. I mean, let’s be real. I would not have gotten my foot — hell, my toe — in the door at this job without the stellar reputation of the DelVal program, which accepted me after a 20-year academic hiatus with a bachelors degree in journalism, and placed me under the tutelage of professors who practice what they preach and know what it takes to make it in this unpredictable, all-consuming, extremely rewarding and important field.
School is giving me the tools to turn my passion into a profession. My course instructors, along with my personal therapist, are teaching (and modeling) the practical skills, techniques, and ethical best practices I need to do the job.
But if I have any hope that I can do real good in other human lives, that my f*cked-up past and wasted years can inspire and empower others to make a change, it all comes from my lived experience as an addict recovering in a 12-step program, and the unconditional love and support I’ve received from my sober community.
I’ve never professed to be a dyed-in-the-wool AA devotee. I went a whole year without attending a single meeting. I basically fired my first sponsor. And I’ve definitely had my scrapes here and there with some of the “principles over personalities” dogma and the more staunch enforcers of program “rules.” But I cannot deny the crucial role the 12-step fellowship has played in solidifying my sobriety, forcing me out of myself, guiding me toward my true purpose, and ultimately, rerouting the trajectory of my life.
I felt a stirring inside as I was entering my fourth year post-alcohol and approaching “go time” in this new career. Something told me that I couldn’t make it much farther out here on my own. Not only was I going to need the support of other alcoholics in the next phase of my career, but I owed them mine. Who was I to take the gift of fellowship and run away with it?
What love and solidarity would there have been for me to feel in those early, life-changing meetings, if others took that laissez faire approach? Who would have made me feel less alone every time I showed up feeling low, struggling hard, losing hope?
How can I continue to guide my therapy clients toward the gifts of recovery without regular reminders of just how amazing those gifts are and how they show up, in subtle ways, every day? More importantly, how can I ask clients to get out of their heads, avoid isolation, and seek community, if I’m not committed to doing that myself?
I heard someone in a recent meeting tell a story similar to mine. They, too, took time away from the program while tending to other business, then felt that same little tug back in. Something was calling them home, telling them (their words): “The answer is in the rooms.”
When I sit in my little room tomorrow, providing therapy for the first time and wishing I had all the answers so I could “be good at my job,” I’ll have to remember what lots of time, trial and error — those priceless non-classroom lessons — have taught me over the past 43 months.
All addicts might not share the exact same experience, but there’s a special kind of strength that only people in recovery can comprehend. And hope can grow out of simple gestures, a kind face, a welcoming voice, or just sitting in reflection with someone who cares.
3 thoughts on “Hope”
Congrats Jen! Proud of You while I follow your writing.
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No doubt you will be great / Congrats on this next career path.
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Jen- I am so amazed at the growth you have achieved that enables you to start to clinically help others. I’ve been following your blogs it seems like forever and I thoroughly enjoy them. I’m happy that you continue to work everyday at your sobriety and pray that my husband at some point will “get it.” He’s been “in” the program since 2016 and hasn’t been able to grasp the concept of surrendering, the importance of honesty and letting God (or whatever he would like to refer to a higher power) guide him. I guess it’s his ego or maybe it’s just him. I would love for him to find a therapist or someone to talk to. Maybe it’s because he’s a man and they are taught from a young age, not to discuss their weaknesses. Thanks for letting me vent. I wish you the best of luck with your clients. They are so lucky to have you as part of their team in their sobriety journey. Cathy
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