Monday, November 18, 2013

When WE become counselors.

Of course, I am not graduated yet.  So I am NOT officially a counselor as of now.  But I do work under a licensed drug and alcohol counselor's license, as an intern counselor.

Did you understand that?  I almost didn't.

And as you may all know, (because I talk about it all the fucking time) I will be graduating in May.  Then I have to pass the licensing test through the state.  THEN I will be a licensed drug and alcohol counselor WITH a bachelor of science degree (I keep saying that too, because that is FOR SURE happening, even if I fail the license test.)

I got sober in 2010.  Less than a year later, I entered the program for L.A.D.C. at my college.  Some of the people in the 12-step groups, that I told about my plans, were like,

"Isn't she cute?  She wants to be a little counselor."

"Less than a year sober too."

"She needs two years of sobriety to work with clients."

"Dear god, someone stop her."

At least that is what I thought they were saying about it.  I am sure it wasn't TOTALLY true.  Some people did say stuff like, 
"Yeah, everyone wants to do that at first."  

"You better take care of yourself first."  

Or some of them just stared blankly at me.  Rarely did anyone say, "That is great!"

I understand why people in the rooms said that to me.  They thought I was rushing. But let's face it. I ain't getting any younger. And they didn't understand.  I have really wanted to be a drug and alcohol counselor since I was in third grade.

I know. It's a weird dream for a child.

I have always wanted to do be a counselor.  I just lost my way.  I almost had a degree in elementary education in my 20's. I was one semester and student teaching away from being done. I self sabotaged myself (well, got pregnant on purpose) and quit. 

THANK THE STARS because I would be a horrible teacher. I only like my own kids!

I figured if I became a counselor, I would have to be in recovery. And I wasn't ready for recovery.   Well, you either need to be in recovery, or not have substance abuse issues.  Or not EVER admit to them.  Which would honestly be such a buzz kill.  

I am not sure how people who are counselors, and don't have substance abuse issues, ever drink a beer knowing and seeing what we know and see.  And if they do have their own untreated issues, well, that must be a different kind of hell.

I'm not suggesting that people who aren't in recovery cannot be great counselors.  There is a lot more to being a great counselor than knowing what meth smoke feels like.  Or how it feels to stand in front of a pawn shop with your wedding rings. There are many skills that make a great counselor. Not just past experiences.

I am sure the folks in the 12-step rooms were worried I wasn't far enough into my own program to start helping people with their program.  How can I be a counselor if I haven't worked the steps?  The good news is that studying this field has strengthened my recovery in ways I couldn't have imagined. 

I continued to plug along, and my people took me more and more seriously. I am about to end my first internship and begin my next. Then I'll be all done.  I'm not so cute anymore, am I? 

Everyone may think they want to be a counselor early in sobriety, but not all of us do it. And for me, this journey has given me the purposeful structure I needed, taught me a ton about recovery, and puts me in a position to help folks who are just like I was. Just like I still am. And maybe some of them will want to be a counselor, just like me. 

My answer, will always be, "That is great."


  1. That IS great!! Best part of all those naysayers is that you get to prove them wrong!! Take that you Non Betsey supporters. SOOOO proud of you and your commitment to this.

  2. The people that you are about to spend your career working with are incredibly lucky. It IS great. I get the concerns expressed (or at least they are coming from I guess) but this career path is all you and you are going to be GREAT! Of that, I am sure. Super happy for you Betsey.

  3. Hello Betsey. I got sober in 1996 and it took me most of those years to become self-confident and find my purpose in life. I graduated college last year with an associate’s degree in drug and alcohol counseling, and like you; I have a blog and a passion to help others. So what's my point? It sounds like you already have confidence in yourself, and I can certainly see your passion to help others is strong. This along with your history will shine through when someone with an addiction is sitting across from you and needs help. I believe in the importance of education, and in the field of drugs and alcohol, degrees are simply needed. However, a combination of your experience with addiction and the knowledge you're obtaining is powerful. The key word here though is passion. It shows a genuine concern for others, and when it fuels us to help someone, the person we're helping knows we are genuine too, which can build trust. I worked with counselors who had their Master's Degrees, but with no background in the hell that addiction can be, and they seemed to lack the kind of passion I'm talking about. This isn't a criticism of them, and I already said education is important. But if like me, you have co-counseled groups in your internship, and watched licensed counselors with higher degrees than you not know what to do or say at times when you did, then you know it adds to your self-confidence. I also think that sometimes helping others becomes a job for people and stops being their passion. Something tells me this won’t be the case for you.

    1. Thank you so much Darryl. I agree. The whole thing is quite a trip. I am so excited for all of it.

    2. You're welcome Betsey. I'm glad there is a blog like yours. Like addiction counseling, we need different approaches in helping others. Keep writing.