The year is 2005, and I am in my mid-thirties with seven years of abstinence-based recovery (we program villagers call it clean). I am a passionate member of the 12-step community. I’m living my aspiration by playing drums in a local Rock Band in Los Angeles. I’m healing and atoning my way into a healthy relationship with my parents, family, and community. I’m a responsible father of a then-six-year-old son. My life was going relatively well; I hit the proverbial wall with little passion for my position in pre/post-production at an AD agency that I was once grateful to be employed by. Work became, well, just work. In my life, to this watershed moment, I am living healthier than ever before. However, I’m still being seized by opportunistic moments only to allow days to pass and expire, like in checking numbered boxes on a calendar. I was in need and intuitively knew a shift was coming from me and for me. With the exception of playing music, my organic strengths were not realized with the confidence to actualize, so I grew tiresome in my general position altogether.
My Mother (1st) and her mutual friend, Jessica (2nd), in a matter of a day, asked that I meet with (let’s use a pseudonym concerning confidentiality) “Nina,” who owned and operated a Sober Companion agency (on this basis, my friend Jessica stated: “I think you would be good at this”). I said, “Sure, how can a conversation and coffee hurt…” I didn’t see it as an interview, but that’s what it was. After all, “70% of life is just showing up,” and for some of us, is it 80%?
Nevertheless, I felt no pressure; that is likely why I seemed to impress her, “Nina,” enough to where I was gifted an opportunity as a Sober Companion on the spot. I contemplatively accepted and was on my first case the next day. The task: I went to a psych ward to convince a Seventeen-year-old who was on hold because he was a minor to leave the facility, but only under my supervision. I was not met with any rebellion; he looked at me with a mischievous grin of excitement and dilated puppy eyes across the table as if I were a hero, the kind of “savior” that can spring him free from a lockdown hospital—that I did.
From then on, I lived with a warm, lovely family: Father and Mother; my client was the oldest of two adopted boys, a teenager confused with the pressures and existential challenges of being an adopted child, growing up male, and social survival to be “Cool” and (of course) developing a substance use disorder to cope. Nature and nurture take form. It was a 24/7 Companion assignment for thirty-one days. My position was to ensure he stayed clean. I introduced him to healthy pleasures, i.e., playing and attending sports events, exercising, and hanging out with AA youth before and after 12-step meetings. All this while he awaited a bed at an adolescent treatment center. I was grateful while living their life, though brimming with family dynamic challenges; there’s a unique intimacy of being smack in the middle of a family system that is in peril, yearning for answers and healing. No. I’m not pretending to be a Guru. However, there’s a certain amount of deference given to me where I’m trusted to provide a comforting ear and cogent voice, using discernment and finding myself as committed as I’ve ever been to help aid a family in crisis. There’s a disarming humility and humanity when the truth emerges, and the healing begins. I knew coaching and companioning would become my life’s work—where I felt meaning in motion, and I was along for the ride—having had that healing personally within my family structure, being empathic to the sufferings, anguish, fear, anger, and subsequent recovery, such as wise-love, gratefulness, forgiveness, compassion, and support that carries still to the present day.
A few weeks after my first sober companion job, I interviewed for a position at a brand-new Malibu treatment facility. I got the job. Though a self-professed-empath, some street sense enabled by intuition, and vice versa—I needed clinical tools to buttress my efficacy as a professional. I enrolled at the Institute of Chemical Dependency Studies. I went to school full-time and worked the graveyard shift. Life was rooms, long drives to and from work, class, and a few naps so my brain could be sane. After six months, I graduated with a 4.0 GPA and became a certified Chemical Dependency Counselor.
The clinical director took notice and gave me an opportunity after witnessing my passion for patient relations; I was gifted access to clinical meetings after demonstrating a continued sincere interest in counseling and positively influencing patients in the milieu. From then on, I requested to facilitate individual sessions and counsel at a group level. I met the challenge and excelled. Shortly after, I had a modest caseload of patients and many other responsibilities in intrapreneurial status to create projects and solve challenges within the treatment structure. I was fulfilled, confident, trusted, and respected personally and professionally. I found equanimity, equality, community, and professional rhythm I had not experienced before.
In 2007, my independent streak, newfound confidence, curiosity, and entrepreneurialism inspired me to take another leap of faith to work for myself. I gave my resignation and was fortunate to facilitate groups at that facility for a year after my departure. I built my practice with several clients over the first year, from respected Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Attorneys, client referrals, and colleagues with Sober Living and Treatment Centers both locally and across the country.
Since then, I have worked with several agencies and treatment centers as a consultant and counselor in a freelance fashion, primarily for myself at FoxWhole Services and Reach Aftercare and with leaders of the clinical world. I journey to cities and small towns all over North America. I have spent hours, days, weeks, and months with clients and their loved ones. My practice has afforded me many opportunities—the blessing of engaging people in the most turbulent times—to experience how facts are no longer avoided; once embraced, those tears of pain beget tears of joy that have been shared with me and shed by me, too. Though a topsy-turvy ride, the principle of gratefulness has always been the healer; though not given by osmosis, the ‘G’ word is a higher language when bore out by our actions; this is no job. The duty has been an adventure, a livelihood. It’s like constantly being up-to-bat in the World Series; your sole desire is to connect.
From May 2007 to the present day, I have not invented any psychosocial phenomenon nor a talking panacea for treating Addiction other than a sincere attempt to make a humane, empathic impression on people who learn to trust so they can give their all to a life of ongoing healing and boundless recovery.
I have coached and companioned 51 individuals—all of whom have shaped me and have secured property in my heart and mind. I am merely attempting to aid individuals in their healing; I’m just an instrument serving another, where the goal is their zenith!
I prescribe (to what I call) a recovery constitution from Addiction:”…which there is no known cure. It can, however, be arrested at some point, and recovery is then possible.” Chapter 3, “Why are we here,” NA basic text.
Meaning: There’s a healing practice for those suffering; however, there is no ultimate formula for all persons, though there are necessary ingredients based on scientific, philosophical, and, dare I state, artistic applications, inasmuch varying recipes, and subsequent personal outcomes. In my personal and professional experience: It’s finding, experiencing, owning, enduring, and finally, accepting the feelings that come with the facts when addressing one’s own story—it’s constant humble transparency of one’s thoughts and emotions—developing mature love for one’s self and others—gratefulness, and the embrace in beauty of being a person in the healing process—personhood, the wonderment, and importance of individuation—benevolence, kindness, patience and the projection of such Principles in one’s actions that color life brighter and broader—the practice of ongoing individual spiritual direction. Again, the constancy of helping others is as essential as oxygen to a healthy brain.
Experience, organic strengths, health practices, and clinical skills:
– Motivational Interviewing
– Meaning Counseling
– Meditation Practices
– Coping Skills and Practices
– Relapse Prevention Practices
– Communication Skills and Practices
– Reshaping Reality Counseling
– Family Dynamics
– Crisis Management
– Tasks Management
– Conflict Resolution
– Yoga/Calisthenics/Isometric motions
– Healthy Eating Methods
– Vocational and Academic direction and support
– Individual Pre and Post-Treatment plans and therapeutic alternatives.