My first job in the counseling field was with LRADAC. I was hired on December 16, 1986. I was very green. I was only two years clean and sober from my own addiction. I had just graduated from USC with a Bachelor Degree in Psychology and Religion. What I lacked in knowledge and experience I tried to make up for with enthusiasm and faith. I would not hire myself today in the shape I was in. All my clients were instructed to attend self-help groups. They had to meet me where I was at, not where they were at.
The Involuntary Commitment Act went into effect on January 1, 1987. Nobody knew how this was going to work out, but it was now the law. There was a lot of confusion, but we were determined to make the best of it. I had been on the job for about 2 weeks when I got a call from a client’s mother. The client I will call Bob (not his real name) had knocked out the picture window in her house. Bob had an appointment with me that morning. She wanted me to keep him occupied while she had him committed, and the police to pick him up at my office. Neither she nor myself knew how this process worked, but we were determined to get him into treatment.
Bob was an interesting client. He was very likable. He had huffed a little too much gasoline in his day, and probably also had a mental health diagnosis. Bob was a pretty good guitar player. He had been in detox at LRADAC on several occasions, and also into Morris Village. He was happy to dry out in treatment, as long as he could take his guitar to treatment with him. However he was not willing to go to treatment that day. He was on a good binge, and had no intentions of stopping drinking on that day.
He showed up at my office on time. We were having a pretty good session that went over an hour. I had already started to repeat myself, and he was getting tired of the conversation. I’m sure he was anxious for another drink. I was hoping the police would show up soon so we could get him into treatment. After a while Bob started to get the feeling that something was up. My office was on the 3rd floor of the old LRADAC building on Hardin Street. Bob suddenly got up and ran down the steps which were right beside my office. Not knowing any better, I chased him down the steps. In front of the building was a parking lot. With me in pursuit, Bob ducked behind the cars. His head would pop up here and there as I continued the chase. Two of my co-workers, Ms. Kay and Ms. Jean, who were also in recovery, were in front of the building hollering out directions of where Bob was. I have no idea what I would do if I caught him. Bob had a lot of street in him, and would have probably whipped my butt. He finally headed down Hardin Street towards 5-Points and the bars in that district. I gave up the chase. He was too fast for me.
Later that day Bob called me from a local bar. He was half drunk. He took great delight in telling me how slow I was. This “therapy session” was the start of a long relationship with Bob. He was in and out of treatment with me for the next 20 years or so. During this time my fellow counselor Cleo Morris and I would go out to eat and listen to live music on a frequent basis. We often ran into Bob. He would be playing a local gig, or he would just be hanging out listening to the music. He would always have a Budweiser in his hand and a grin on his face. The last time we saw him he had a bleached blond girl friend that was driving a Firebird. He was playing “Brown Sugar” by The Rollingstones on lead guitar and vocals. He was very happy.
Bob died a few years ago. Over the course of his life he might stay sober a few months at a time. He never did take to self-help meetings. Bob taught me a lot about addiction and recovery. He was doing the best he could. He enjoyed life to the fullest. And I’ve learned to never chase a client. I just meet them where they’re at (most of the time).
James Wilson, MRC, CCS, NCAC II