So… I was approached by Morgan, our Director of Marketing, to write a blog about how I found myself working in the treatment industry. Me write a blog? Like a blog, blog? Like something other people will read? I immediately thought to myself that I can’t write anything someone would be the least bit interested in reading, let alone to be chosen to follow up on Heather’s blog. You know, the one detailing her rise to become our fearless leader after reaching depths of her addiction. And those pictures? I’d have some tough shoes to fill for sure.
Before getting started, I wanted to lead off by saying it is an absolute honor and pleasure working with the folks at Serenity Light Recovery and the people in this industry. I have never seen such dedication from a group of individuals. This is not a job to them. It’s a cause. And for those who have never worked for a cause, try it. Its life changing.
I’m a relative newcomer to the field of substance abuse treatment but I’m not new to the business. I have had the chance to work for some amazing organizations under some the brightest mentors. I am forever grateful and indebted to them for what they taught me and the opportunities they gave me. But the reality of how I got to this industry, like so many others treatment professionals, is more personal than it was professional.
My wife and I lived a much different life several years ago. We drank together, we used drugs together. We both enabled and were codependent. We convinced each other our behavior was ok. It was normal. We were at home, we didn’t run around town. We didn’t hurt anyone. We were just having fun. As so many of us know, it’s fun until it’s not. And the fun ran out on us. We were left high and dry. We found ourselves in the downward spiral of addiction. If we didn’t do something soon we would end up in jail or dead.
I’m often asked if I am an addict. I mean, I fit all the criteria to label myself an addict, right? I had the negative consequences. I had the hopelessness. I had the insanity. But I still, to this day, find it hard to say that I am an addict. Not because I am embarrassed or afraid of the stigma society puts on addiction and addicts, but because I don’t want to take away from the life and death struggle that I have seen addicts face fighting this disease. I have a tough time labeling myself an addict because I was lucky, and after hitting my bottom, I was able to stop on my own. I worry about using the title and taking away from those who could not.
My wife was one of those not so lucky. I watched her struggle with her addiction for months after getting sober myself. I could not, for the life of me, figure out why she could not stop. I mean, I could stop. Why can’t she? I ran it through my head over and over trying to make sense of it. As a loved on tried my hardest outsmart the disease. I thought I could control it. I thought I could control her behavior. I thought at one point I even caused it. I even miraculously woke up with a MD apparently and thought I could cure it. I was doing my uneducated approach and it only made the problem worse. I had gone from AA to Al Anon in the blink of an eye. Now I had a clear view of what addiction could do to a family. One that I had not had before because I was in it.
When she had no choice, my wife agreed to go to treatment. I had finally held a hard line with her and it was the treatment or she was going to have to move out. This was by far the hardest decision I have ever made. This decision, by no means, was based on any education or research on addiction. I again got lucky by unknowingly raising the bottom on her. She was now forced to seek out and receive the help she desperately needed.
During her treatment, I had plenty of time to self-reflect. I reflected on how things got so out of control, on my relationship with my wife, on my child. I clearly knew that my behaviors were damaging to everything that I had going on in my life. But I still engaged in it for so long even after negative consequences. I started to understand what my wife must have been going through all along. I had a chance to spend a lot of time with my family and my little one. I had a chance to really understand what was important in life. Nothing will make something seem so important like the harsh reality of losing it all.
At the tail end of her stay in Kerrville, I was lucky enough to attend a family program at one of the best facilities in the great state of Texas. I knew this program would be something that would require some soul searching, understanding and compromise. This was sure to put us both of us outside our comfort zone. Regardless, I was excited to see her and could finally spend more than only a few hours with her. For three days, I learned more than I thought I would ever learn about her, me and how addiction affected our family. Addiction is truly a family disease.
And those three days, I was a student once again. I focused on every word coming out of the therapist’s mouth. I knew what they were teaching me could be the difference in my family making it or not. She was my inspiration to put everything I had into this. She was working harder than I had ever seen her work. She was operating outside of her comfort zone. She was dedicated to her program. She worked her ass off and now I had to work mine.
Leaving the facility for the last time we walked and talked. I was always passionate about what is I did for a living. Right or wrong, I had always defined a large part of me by what I did from 8-5 (my wife wishes this was true). I vividly remember walking with her on the grounds and told her how amazing it would be to do this for a living. I was so grateful what I learned, the changes in her and the new opportunity to start over. So many people leave treatment and stay in the industry that gave them the opportunity to live life again. I was bitten by the bug, too.
The stars aligned and it was my wife that actually decided first to move into the industry. She had developed a relationship with Heather and moved from her corporate marketing position to representing Serenity as a Marketing Liaison. She loved her job. It was rewarding and fulfilling for her. I was fortunate enough to work on a few projects with the Serenity team that enabled me to get a feel for what was going on out in Angleton. It was special. People treated this as mission and not a job. After some dancing to make sure we were a good fit for one another, I decided to leave corporate America and the traffic behind for a quiet drive down FM 521.
And a year later, that drive is the only quiet thing about working at Serenity! Every day is a new adventure. There are challenges. We are setting out to do what only the best do. We try and make a difference in every client’s life. The rewards are unlike anything I have felt in my career, and I sincerely love it. I would not trade it for the world. The clients teach me something new about myself every day. I know the day their mom, dad, wife, husband, brother or sister called. I know when they called looking for help. I get to watch them make their journey of sobriety each day.
As I close my rambling attempt at my first blog post, I leave you with this. Each day we have to try to do better than we did the day before, try to work in a profession you love because then it’s never really work. And lastly, try and make a difference in someone’s life.