I love my job. It is stressful, time consuming, emotionally draining (at times), but I love my job. I am good at my job. I love to see the progress my clients make. I love to get calls from them years after program completion to hear that they are still doing well. And I get sad and feel somewhat responsible, at times, when I see that they have relapsed and been arrested.
Not all repeat drunk drivers are alcoholics. Most of my clients are not what we as society assumes an alcoholic is. About 85% of my clients have lives that are discombobulated and mismanaged and simply are at a complete loss on how to even get on track. So they self-medicate. And yes, this can then lead to a more solid addiction. But it is getting even those that interview for my program to understand, this will comminute in a negative manner until they get things straightened out.
But it is the clients who come in for the interview, telling me they have no issues at all with alcohol or drugs and just made a stupid decision. Again. And some choose to stick to that story no matter how much discussion we have. And maybe those people are right. They were just stupid. Again. But then there are the few clients that come in, have no issues, and as we talk further they break down.
I am much different than most “classic” probation officers. Those individuals do the best job with which they are given the capabilities of. We deal with adults. There needs to be an aspect of responsibility taken on their end as well. But I am open. Blunt. I may not suffer from addiction, but I know what families’ go through on that side. I tell potential clients that with both perspectives being represented, we can look more comprehensively at their issues of concern. That it is okay to have been diagnosed with mental health issues. I myself have those issues. And it is not all rainbows and unicorns every day.
Yesterday, I spoke with a potential client who just finally broke down and said that I was, “a breath of fresh air” in regards to my understanding. That simply because she needs medication to help her function, that does not mean she is a horrible person. That I will work with her to help her achieve the success she wants to achieve. But I will not pull her along. Many times, these individuals are not used to hearing these things from someone in my position.
The stigma of mental health and addiction is simply out of control just as much as the addiction crises that we have in our society today. Yes, technically, these people are criminals. They have committed crimes. Crimes that could have easily injured or killed themselves or someone else. But these are people. Treating them with understanding of why they are in front of me, and how to make sure they are NEVER in front of me again, that allows for success. Not for everyone, but for most. And that is what I try to accomplish every day.
I watched a video once of some people who came back to thank one of their high school teachers for his teachings. They talked to him about their successes in life, and how instrumental he was in those successes. I have a sign in my office that quotes that teacher (who I do not know the name of) that I look at daily to remind myself that I do this for a reason. For purpose.
“If you can change someone’s perception of themselves, and make them better that what they thought they were, then you have done a good job”.