Dave became my client when he presented at the Kern County Mental Health Access Center. He had lost his job, a position he held for seven years. He sought help with symptoms of depression as he reported experiencing insomnia, feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness about his situation. Dave’s firing resulted from having reported to work under the influence of alcohol twice in two weeks. In the past, Dave carried private insurance and participated in counseling for depression. Dave also took antidepressant medication in this period. He shared with me that he never shared much about his alcohol abuse with his previous counselor. Counseling sessions with Dave consisted of mostly “problem talk” and his venting. Dave would soon learn his focus on “problem talk” would be listened to respectfully but the sessions would gently be refocused toward “solution talk.”
Dave spoke of his job loss, how he had worked his way up the ladder over time and how much he felt respected. His former boss said he’d even write him a letter of recommendation if he was in recovery for six months. In spite of that, Dave was feeling deflated and hopeless. He envisioned no clear path from to recover from his current experience and perception of a miserable living a miserable life. He felt without a job, he was nothing and the hopes of finding another were very slim. Our work together began when I asked Dave the “Miracle Question” “If tonight while you were asleep, a miracle happened and it resolved all the problems that bring you here, what would you notice that would be different tomorrow”? Dave’s immediate answer was, “I’d awaken feeling good with no hangover, want to go job hunting and believe in myself again.” Dave shared that three mornings a week he is able to wake up without a hangover but always seems to relapse after three days passes. During these three-day windows, he is somewhat motivated to seek work but self-confidence is quickly fleeting and he soon finds drinking again. I asked Dave how he had managed to stay sober during the three-day-period in which, he experienced some success. After thinking about it, he shared that, on those days, he exercises and may go to an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting. I praised Dave for being able to stay sober for three days at a time. Dave quickly spoke up and asked, “How can I make this work on the other days of the week?” I provided Dave information on Crisis Addiction Counseling Groups (CAC) at Mary K. Shell, church recovery groups and a Personal Development Group. Dave chose which options he felt would be helpful to him.
I asked Dave to rate on scale of 1-10 how he felt on those days when he woke up sober 1=horrible, 10 = excellent. We talked about what it would take to get to a 6. Dave shared he would wake up at least 4 mornings a week sober. He said his girlfriend would immediately notice the difference as she “keeps track of him.”
Dave experienced some difficulty identifying his strengths so we began talking about his job. I commended him on how long he had remained in his job. I also brought up how well respected he was in his position and illustrated this by emphasizing the fact that his former supervisor was willing to write him a letter of recommendation was indicative of the appreciation he felt for Dave. At this point, Dave acknowledged he had been focusing so much on the loss of his job, he wasn’t able to appreciate the positive others saw in him.
Dave started attending CAC Groups, exercising five days per week and continued with Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings. He also started the Personal Development Group which he found very helpful and stimulating. I saw him during an individual session two weeks after he attended his first group. Of course, my first question was, “What’s better? His reply, “What’s not better”? Realizing he could stay sober four nights, and these results motivated him to attempt five days and then to strive for six and then 7. Dave lasted 11 days, with no alcohol. He slipped on 1 beer and got right back into recovery.
Dave’s girlfriend became his biggest encourager, and saw a big change in Dave. When Dave realized he did have many strengths, and that he was, and, is the solution he felt empowered and in control. He continues to attend meetings and is job searching. He has had a few interviews and feels they were good experiences.
Dave also got something he didn’t expect, his antidepressant started working with increasing effectiveness as he maintained clean time! I explained to Dave how the alcohol reduces medication efficacy, and the potential risks from mixing the two.
At this time, Dave is in full recovery from alcohol and feeling much less depressed. His antidepressant is increasingly effective and working as intended. Of course, he still struggles with a lifelong disease but continues to make recovery his priority. He is hopeful, looking toward the future, and may pursue a new careers helping others find recovery as a drug and alcohol counselor.
By Ellen Eggert, CADC II, SAS II