20 January 2014

Still in the NW

Happy Birthday Martin! Some of you who read my last newsletter would assume that Monica and I are teaching music on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, as that is what I reported in November. Instead, we learned shortly after then that money to fund those positions had been struck from the parish budget. We had already booked plane reservations by the time this disappointing information reached us. The itinerary had been to fly to Boston on Christmas, visit friends and family till New Year's, then fly to St. Martin. With this spanner in the works, Monica was still free to do that (she spent 10 days visiting a family friend on the island of Saba, near St. Martin) but I had to return to Tacoma on New Year's and return to my addiction treatment internship/job. My boss was "thrilled" that I was now to step fully into the field after the introduction begun on Columbus Day—continuing to develop my skills and bring my unique gifts to the agency.

This agency branch offers adult outpatient drug and alcohol treatment. Last week I was finally assigned a caseload and my own groups to lead. I had been dreading this, for I expected to buckle under the pressure of having to document every detail for each client's file. My boss, however, decided to limit my clients to a number that she imagines will afford the thoroughness she has come to expect from me. What I stated in my last newsletter still holds; she has given me a new perspective on how I deserve to be treated by a supervisor. Three mornings a week (I start at 11 AM) I lead the newly created Pre-treatment Group, people waiting for inpatient placement—many of whom still use. Since it can take a few weeks to "get a bed", we have up until now been sending these addicts home to wait—if they indeed have a home. It is hoped that with participation required in this group, some will be able to get clean and go into outpatient by the time their bed date arrives. As transient as the group is, participants have shown ample humility and been supportive of each other far beyond what I would have anticipated. Three nights a week I lead an IOP [intensive outpatient] group. These clients may or may not believe they have a chemical dependency problem; some choose to be there and some have been forced by the legal system. I try to set it up so everyone can take something away from it. I ply my skills as an educator, as a counselor (RC) and as a spiritual seeker. I've been surprised by how alike we are; relegated to their circumstances I probably would have behaved no better than they did. So far I have not led music activities in my groups apart from leading guided meditation; but I have some exciting ideas to implement when the time seems right.

At present, I derive a heretofore unknown satisfaction from having a role in the redirection of lives. Whether it be passing by a panhandler or a crime scene, I'm not still shaking my head thinking "someone should really help these people." For better or worse, that someone is now me. In spite of my activism over the years, a part of me felt numb. People I met working in Human Services seemed less numb in this respect. As a music teacher, I did not always feel as though I was having a transformative effect on others. School music programs felt like a product to be sold to parents and administrators. Of course, a Human Services agency must constantly justify itself too. But I find that I'm a better salesman when the products are sobriety and serenity. And while I don't get summers off anymore, I get weekends entirely off—unencumbered by planning lessons or grading assignments. I still give local guitar recitals.