My mobile phone rang while I was at work today. I couldn’t pick it up because I can’t answer personal calls while dealing with patients. I didn’t recognize the number but I knew who it probably was.
Two nights ago, a friend of mine, Shawn, who now lives in Seattle, called to ask if it was okay to give a friend his, Ken, my telephone number. It seems Ken is in need of some assistance. Shawn didn’t give me any particulars but since I work in the alcohol and drug treatment field, he thought I might be able to help.
So, I waited until my break and then took the call. Ken’s voice had a bit of tremble to it, but he happily declared he was now sober six days. I eagerly encouraged him, telling him that was he has done is a wonderful accomplishment, and then asked how he felt about that. He said he was a bit scared because his world felt like it was falling down around him.
“That’s pretty natural to feel that way, Ken. Most of the time it’s these feelings that put us at a fork in the road and we need to make some choices.”
He sighed, “Yeah, I figured. I just thought I was able to handle it.”
I paused a moment. “We all do!” I said, laughing a bit. “But, we’re addicts and that’s what we do. We lie to ourselves just as much as everyone else.”
“How long have you been in the program?” he asked.
It’s a logical question and one I get asked a lot. My standard reply used to be that it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been in the program, or sober for that matter. If you are drowning and someone throws you a life preserver, do you ask if the person is a certified life guard or do you just grab hold and swim to safety?
But, I’ve changed. “17 years and counting, Ken.”
There’s a long pause on the phone and I wonder if possibly he’s disconnected. As I open my mouth to say something, he speaks.
“So, do you think you can help me? I don’t know if I need a drug treatment program, or something else.”
“Of course I can help you. Let’s talk a bit about where you’re at with your intake of drugs and alcohol. I’ll assume you’ll be honest?”
He laughs a bit, “Yes.”
“Good! Now, tell me about yourself…”