Walk Down Misery Street

You’re the lowest junkie,” and so on. Such a “psychotherapy session” could go on for an hour. The person for whom this lashing was intended would then agree with everything and thank his peers for their fair and useful observations. If someone objected, started to make excuses, or snarl, the criticism would grow sharper and the lashing would increase. The session would end either with the person exploding—shouting, getting into a fight, and then being ordered to collect his belongings and leave the rehab immediately—or he would lower his head, relinquish his pride, anger, and resentment, and quietly utter: “Thank you, friends, you’re right.”

The goal was not to demean or punish, but to teach humility, to force the drug user to listen and hear others, “to get his head out of his own ass.” In doing so, he would admit defeat and the bankruptcy of his erroneous “sheep/wolf” philosophy.  (p. 50).

5All joking aside, the average salary of an ordinary substance abuse counselor is about 35-45K a year—not a lot when considering the enormous psychological burden he has to withstand. A counselor has to work with very manipulative people who have been scarred by broken family ties, lifestyles, and prison life. These people are confused and suffer from many serious physical and psychiatric ailments, and they trust no one. Yet they wait expectantly for a counselor to help them! Isn’t it easy for a counselor to break under the burden of the human suffering that his profession bestows on his shoulders every day? He must constantly communicate with doctors, public service officials, medical coverage representatives, parole and probation officers, agencies for children protection, relatives, and even the patient’s mistresses—anyone involved in a patient’s life in one way or another.

Moreover, the average salary for a substance abuse counselor is comparable to that of a receptionist or data entry clerk who works in a peaceful, quiet office, shuffling papers or mindlessly entering data into a computer while watching the clock every minute: Is it time for lunch yet? (p. 64).

6In the substance abuse field, the word “codependency” is often mentioned. This is a condition whereby a person ceases to take an interest in his own life and fully immerses himself in the sickness of another person. He is ready to give everything, if it would only save his son or daughter.