A substance abuse counselor’s wishes for 2014

1. That you understand we aren’t real sure we will be able to help you. Recovery from addiction is an inside job. And, in recovery, everyone is unique and is going to be asked to do a whole lot of work to change his attitudes, thoughts and behaviors about most everything. So, just know we don’t have superpowers, but we do know the way to sober living. Use us like you would a GPS. Having someone point it out helps get you there. Then, pass it on.

2. That despite your counselor not being your new best friend, we hope you will open up about your life, fears, goals, hopes and dreams. Ours is a very lopsided relationship. We get to ask you all sorts of questions and you get to try to eke out a little unimportant information about us.

3. In our training, we are advised not to give you advice. Hah. We break that rule a lot. What we hope is that you listen to this advice as though your life depends on it, because it probably does.

4. All the degrees in the world, either yours or ours, don’t bode well for better outcomes. You want a therapist you feel comfy with, someone who is a superb listener, who has empathy, humility, gratitude and a sense of humor, plus an education and experience in the field. We want a client who gets out of their head and into their feeling zone.

5. We’re not in this for the money. First of all, the pay for this profession — well, sucks. Second of all, we work all sorts of hours night and day, most holidays and weekends for inpatient, halfway house and detox units. We get few paid days off and must fight your insurance company tooth and nail to get you days of service, and we have paperwork that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. But we love it anyhow. Go figure.

6. We hope, too, that you have more fun. Find something that makes you laugh and revisit it often.

7. Have gratitude for the little stuff, like dirty dishes, which tell the story that you ate; like mowing the lawn, which tells the story that you actually have a lawn; and laundry, which says, “Wow, I have clothes.” And soap and water. And for the big stuff like your vision, your living in America, and your pancreas, which knows without you telling it exactly how much sugar to release into your blood stream — too little, you’re dead; too much, same thing. Gratitude for your chance to reinvent yourself as a sober, loving human being.

8. More patience. More perseverance. Courage. Serenity. Getting well doesn’t need to happen by Thursday. It’s an exciting, sometimes frustrating journey that takes as long as it takes.

9. We wish for you to give service to others, which will bring blessings back to you tenfold.

10. More faith and determination. It’s gonna happen if you stick with it no matter how defeated you may feel in this moment. The moment passes and then, well, you have another moment to apply your best effort.

11. We wish that you pray more. Not necessarily to some form of a god created by a particular religion, though that’ll do, but to a power higher than us all. To that place in your heart that says, “I’m lucky to have survived this, am lucky to be alive, lucky to be sober today.” “Thanks” is one great prayer.

12. We hope you use your love. Love for yourself, who is doing about as good as you can right now. Love enough to forgive yourself. Love of your higher power, who is there cheering you on. Love for the all the gifts of the earth and of the stars and nature. Spirituality in a nutshell.

13. We hope you believe in the promises listed in the big book. (If you follow a 12 step program)

14. And finally, we hope you know we want someone, anyone to put us out of business. The sooner the better.

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