Exactly 11 years ago, I began what would be the latest phase in my professional life. Who in Recovery doesn’t want to be a counselor? I certainly did, right from my first NA meeting in Oakland in January of 1987. Of course, I still had 5 years of alcohol-fueled meth binges in me, with ample Bud to temper the trip. I finally crashed in August of 1992, which allowed me to celebrate 25 years Clean and Sober on August 8th. Still, I was bat-shit insane for a long time after that, and waited 14 years to even begin to become a Pro.
(Yes, I use ‘Clean and Sober’. The NA enforcers and AA Bleeding Deacons may protest, but I left their gig 10 years ago, and came out publicly about that termination of relationship 3 years ago. I haven’t been to a meeting since: but that’s another story for another day. In the meantime, everyone knows what I mean by ‘Clean and Sober’, and if it’s good enough for a Michael Keaton movie, who am I to disagree?)
Anyway, one might think the 25-year thing is the ultimate, right? Oh, contraire, my friends. I just did something even tougher yesterday: I passed the IC&RC License Exam. Yep, no longer a paraprofessional. I graduated with my Master’s in May, and because I’m certified, I didn’t have to wait 2 years for the license. The short cuts the IC&RC have authorized may be a cause of concern for some, but there is a shortage of actual ADDICTION PRO’s. So, we get the advanced track, and I jumped at it. They also waived the 2 year of practice required to become a Clinical Supervisor, so about 10 minutes after I get my license, I’ll begin the CS-I (Intern) process.
Anyway, yesterday was strange. As in I was strangely focused and in a ‘zone’. However, I wasn’t calm and I wasn’t relaxed. In fact, as a result of meditation that morning, I remembered a lot of the things I’ve witnessed over the past 11 years, and they pissed me off. For example, a methadone patient was refused dosing by the Program Director because she wouldn’t report her domestic abuser; and no, I’m not kidding. But at the time I was an Intern (SAC-I), and thought I was helpless. Of course, when I had to lawyer up, I found out I was culpable with a duty to report. But when you’re an Intern, going up against a Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor is a risky move, so I chose to roll with it.
Then there was the Certified counselor who preyed upon and impregnated another methadone client. Or the abusive jackass who yelled, swore, threatened, and punished clients in a Criminal Justice program. Oh, and then there was the “Cool Dude” biker who relapsed on Jack Daniels for 4 months before the facility figured out that he was doing Group drunk out of his mind. Still, nothing tops the Marine Command who imprisoned a female who relapsed, claiming that since she was drunk when she got raped by her Staff Sgt., she was a danger to self if she drank. Since there are no female facilities in that Brig, they tossed her into County for her own “protection.”
Look, man, ‘Certifieds’ and the like only need a HS Diploma or a GED. Counseling training is woefully inadequate, and the standards are minimal. They have to be, or the shortage of staff would be epic: I get that. Also, other Professions get ‘Deemed Status’, again with minimal substance-specific training. Don’t get me started on “Peer Support”, which is about 3 steps below the Certifieds in training. But hey, they go to AA and NA, so it’s all good, right?
No so much. AA and NA have no legal, professional, or ethical standards. You’re a member when you say you are, and you’re as clean and sober as you claim. No room for abuse there, right? Like I wrote earlier, that’s another story.
In the meantime, I not only have 25 years in Recovery, but also 25 years of seeing people treated poorly by both the institutions and the Communities that are supposed to help heal them. No more watching, hearing, or being aware of clients/patients being sexually, emotionally, physically, or mentally abused by those who claim to ‘care’ for them. No more standing by in a weak position, and no more fretting about what to do about it. I have something to say about it, and a little more credibility in doing so. I can firmly claim, “Not on my watch!”
Self-righteous? Perhaps. Having a license with a chip on one’s shoulder should be a warning sign for anyone. But I have an excellent support system of peers, Supervisors, Doctors, Social Workers and other professionals to help keep me in line. The good guys outnumber the bad guys by about 10 to 1, by my estimation. With their help, maybe I can make it 11 to 1…