Recently, I got a phone call from yet another distraught mother whose sixteen year old son is being discharged from his second stint in rehab this coming weekend. She was referred by a mutual acquaintance.
She wanted me to meet with him upon discharge to guide him along the path of recovery. Fair enough.
However, I suggested that I meet with her and her husband, before the said discharge, to set a foundation of family support and chart a recovery plan for all concerned. Again fair enough. In fact, she acknowledged that it sounded like a really novel idea. She would call me to set the appointment after consulting her husband.
She called back a couple of days later to set the appointment and I then informed her that I charge for the service. Her reaction to the fact that I charge for consultation and how much I would charge them was familiar. She was shocked that I even charge for the service
My reaction was different.
I kept quiet. I listened to her rant about my charging to help people. I was silently fighting an inner urge to tear down the picture she was painting of how bad I looked with every word she spoke. I was so tempted to offer a free service, let alone a discounted one.
Like I have done several times before.
I was tempted to feel guilty about charging a fee for the message of hope, possibility and freedom around addictions that I do that I spread through my work.
As I have done several times before.
She later communicated via a text message that upon consultation with her husband they would not be able to continue working with me. I sent a polite acknowledgement thanking her for considering working with me and wished them all the best with their son. I really meant it.
She neither asked for a discount or a free service. I chose not to offer these of my own volition. Not this time anyway. I have done that several times as I set up my referral and interventions business. Mainly out of the distorted belief that what I offer is not a professional service. Yet from the number of enquiries and referrals I receive I am convinced it is a much needed service.
I have now come to believe that her reaction and indeed similar initial reactions from several family members that I have met in the past year of setting up the interventions agency, is really an indictment of addiction rather than what I have to offer.
What I offer is borne primarily, and perhaps unsurprisingly so, of personal experience. When I commenced my recovery journey over 16 years ago, my family was not involved mainly due to the particular path I took and the lack of information at the time. It was a path mainly focused on the problem person (me) and the rapid results it brought about bred more of suspicion from my family members, both immediate and extended, rather than relief or even a sense of approval which I so desired at the time. I really couldn’t understand why this reaction was emanating from people who were often embittered, resentful and wary of my frequent drunken behaviour.
I often regretted my family’s reaction to my sobriety and the loneliness it generated. I couldn’t reconcile the fact that a band of strangers were to become closer to me than my relatives who had borne the brunt of my alcoholism. And those same relatives, I felt, should have been the first to celebrate my recovery, now that I was not stealing from them, insulting them or being a downright nuisance whether drunk, craving a drink or hung over from a drunken binge.
I believed that it was in fact good for them now that I wasn’t drinking. By taking responsibility for my recovery, wasn’t I also doing them a favour?
Reality hit me, I think, when I was in my tenth year of sobriety. I started being invited to family gatherings. Family would now want me to talk to a friend or wonder if they could give my number to so-and-so whose sibling had a drinking problem.
It then dawned on me.
My sense of regret was a trap. It was a racket I could hold on to that would keep me feeling sorry for myself for the minimal family support I received earlier in my recovery journey.
Or it could be an opportunity for others to avoid the same route. An opportunity to earn a living as a professional in an area that was strictly borne of experience, pain and loneliness. An opportunity that could pay the rent, mitigate my teenage son’s insatiable need to be relevant or buy flowers for the woman in my life.
I also saw that with time, it gave me great joy to witness real results of families walking in freedom and relief with the addict or alcoholic in their life. Relief because of information provided that the addict was not bewitched, belligerent or plain stupid. Relief from new understanding that addiction was a disease like any other. Freedom to create new possibilities of responsibility, harmony and wellbeing.
That is why as a professional interventionist, I have chosen to hone my skills for this specific group of people as my primary clients: the families and significant others of alcoholics and addicts.
Families and significant others are often not aware of the impact they have on the addict’s life and are often dismissed as being enablers. What they hear when, for instance, the addict is being admitted into a treatment centre is that they are to ‘blame’ for the addict’s circumstance. The fact is they are not to blame just as much as the addict himself is NOT to blame for his addiction. The family and significant others of the addict are, however, affected just as much as the addict because they are all in one system in which the addiction thrives.
So, yes, to some extent I was disappointed when the distraught parent halted our engagement. More than that, however, I understand the action where they perhaps wondered why they have to pay for me to see them when clearly they weren’t problem person.
I really do wish them and their son well. The age of miracles is still with us.