A typical day in a 50+ man residential rehab. Actually, a typical 2 hours and 25 minutes.
It’s 1 pm and group start’s in 15 minutes, I have no lesson planned, but have the idea in my mind.
I’m making copies of what I think I want to give to them and making the sign-in sheets for today’s group. “How many Medi-Cal clients are here today? Are any STOP clients here?” Then I forget to make a sign-in sheet for the 3 insurance clients that are there.
“Jason, can I go to the store right now?” I’m thinking he knows we have class right why is he even asking, “No, we got a group in 10-minutes.” “What the FUCK I need cigarettes, why you gotta be a fucking dick all the time.” Mind you this client came back from being out all morning long.
“Hey Jason I have court tomorrow and my counselor isn’t here can you write me a letter?” “Not right now remind me later, we have a group right now.” I notice he doesn’t come to remind me until 15-minutes before I leave work at 9:45 pm.
3-minutes Before Group
My phone rings and it’s one of many people that I’ve been expecting a phone call from or someone that wants something. I notice the caller ID and it’s one or the other Probation Dept. I pick the phone up and officer so and so needs a letter for so and so, oh and he needed the letter yesterday. I dive into the computer, open my templates of letters and choose one that I can easily rearrange for the client.
My letters are sometimes in a positive light or negative, it all depends on the client.
As I’m about to hit print and fax it over to the probation officer, a client comes into my office again 3-minutes after the start of the class should have begun. He tells me, “You doing group or what! I told you I could have gone to the store and been back already!” I simply respond “Yup, I’ll be there in two minutes.” He walks out muttering under his breath loud enough for me to hear “motherfucker”.
Group; Recovery Planning
I walk into the library where our group is held and forget the lesson the plan and the worksheets I was going to hand to them. I’m scanning the room and notice who’s is here and who’s missing. While asking one of the men to go get the rest of them who are not here, I get 4 other volunteers to go and help. I stop them because I know they will use this time to walk away from the group and return when they feel like it.
There’s probably between 28 and 33 men in the group today, which is about average. They start out by telling me I’m late and that why do I tell them not to be late yet I can. I advise them that a probation officer had called and needed a progress report for one of them, I can write the progress note helping one of you guys out or I can just blow it off and not help you out.
The sign-in sheets are going around and everyone continues to talk, I let them as I’m writing the topic on the board and what group we are having like they do not know.
I pull out the ping-pong paddle and grab four ping-pong balls. The room becomes quiet, they know what I do when I pull that out so everyone is paying attention now.
“What is the intention of this group?” I’m way off topic already lol. They look at the board and all read the topic (BTW Topic written is SMART). Many of the men have been through our program before and many have been to other programs that I know use this (SMART) method as well.
“What does it mean what does the acronym mean?” Complete silence. I start bouncing one of the balls with the paddle, walking up and down. “UMM SPECIFIC” another voice very quiet “measurable” another voice “ACHIEVABLE, REALISTIC, and TIMELY” I look at the last person and he’s reading off a paper and everyone laughs. I smash the ping-pong ball at his binder. “GOLD STAR” I use imaginary gold stars like teachers use to give out in kindergarten or 1st grade to get participation out of them. They love it.
I ask, “what’s the purpose of your waking up today, what is the purpose, every day you should have a purpose!” (for those of you that know me in real life and have never seen me teach a group just imagine the loud, Jason voice FYI) “you need to fuel it with your passion and right now that passion should be getting clean and sober right?” More than half the room in a low “YES”.
I see some guys with their heads down on the table falling asleep and I smash a ping-pong ball right near their head. “I’m up! I was listening.” I ask them what your fuel is right now and a silence, telling me they had not been paying attention.
“Where do you go from here? What opportunities are waiting for you, have you starting planning?” I notice the men on my caseload all saying yes. Are they actually doing it is the other thing?
“The choices you make today, tomorrow are going to shape the rest of your futures do you want to come back to this place? Do you want to be in that guest room again, waiting for withdrawals to be over?” This time it’s a loud “NO”
The two balls I hit are thrown back at me, it’s telling me they’re ready to work now. “These decisions we make affect you for the rest your life, hell your families lives if you want to get down to it.” I hit a ball straight at one of the guys and he catches it.
“Our life comes down to our decisions and if we change our decisions, our thinking patterns than what?” loud room “We can do whatever we want and not end up back in jail or prison or here with you.” laughter and I love it. Two more shots to two other men and they catch them.
“When we check out what happens to our new thinking patterns? Our old behaviors come back right?” “YES” “So what are we doing in here? Are we changing our patterns and habits or buying time to get out of here?” Some answers “changing our habits” because in reality and sad to say most are buying time to get out some do end up changing for the better, but not all.
“All the self-doubt you have about being here all the over-thinking about this and that did it worry you when you were out there drinking or using or in jail or in prison?” “no” The balls are thrown back at me almost as if on queue to piss me off. I catch two one I have to avoid and the other just straight missed me. I hit one more, but smash it even harder between two men, one of them catch it.
“So when we get all the garbage out of the way and the thinking patterns and habits change what happens?” They all yell out “We become SMART!” and I say “What does that mean” this time half the class yells it out and it sounds horrible. I throw my Expo marker at one of the guys I see has the acronym in from of him and ask him to come up and spell it out for the rest of the group.
“We all know what to do and this is a step by step guide showing us how to do it, FUCK I still use it because it works!” They nod their heads in agreement that it must work and I shoot another ball. “Then why is it so hard to do the little things that will improve your life?”
“The cool thing about this, you can build it like a pyramid and start small, those small goals you achieve in life is a start, fuck how many of you guys want to make it to 30-days clean or 60-days clean or a year clean. That’s where you start and starts every morning when you wake up!”
“Yo, what’s your goal in life?” as I point at one of the men. “I want to raise my kids the right way.” “What’s stopping you?” “CPS” and laughter erupts throughout the room including myself. “What do you need to do?” He starts to name off all these things and I have him come up and write it on the whiteboard.
We come up with a plan for him and start on the easier things and he begins to get excited because it’s all broken down for him and he now knows it’s achievable, it will take time but it’s where he sees how to do it.
I continue this for the rest of the group and the group is helping each other. I’m walking around going to individuals with hands in the air asking questions.
It should have ended at 2:15 pm and I should have been on to something else. It’s now 2:36 pm and I end group.
As I’m collecting my thoughts and thinking about how I’m going to write my notes a couple of the men stay behind and tell me, “thank you”. “Yup, no problem that’s why I’m here.”
As I walk back into the office another counselor calls me in and tells me something that kills my day. “Hey Jason so and so came back loaded we tested him and he refused the guest room (detox) he’s packing his shit now. One of my clients that had a week left until he completed. I shouldn’t feel the way I do, but it’s heartbreaking, these are lives that we deal with every day.
He had his goals set and was achieving all of them. I go talk to him and he sees me enter and tells me, “I fucked up J, I fucked up I’m sorry bro.” I offer him detox one more time and he tells me no and has his mind made up, “I’m not ready I wasted your time man.”
I offer him some encouraging words, we talk a little more and I help him with his bags to the front. We sit down and complete his paperwork and as I finished the last page I ask him one last time if he wants detox.
Most days are easy going and not like this, but when they do come it takes a toll on the residential community along with counselors and support staff. I never have seen or heard from him again and hope he is doing okay. This happens every day across America. This is just a little of what I do or did on a daily basis. My role has changed and I miss doing groups and when I get a chance to do one I jump at it.
If you or a loved one is struggling w/addiction and would like more information, please contact 1-888-633-3239 Please see some of my other scenarios about loved ones and addiction. Scenario 1 / Scenario 2 / Scenario 3 / Scenario 4