I’ve recently taken a position at a local addiction-counseling clinic.
Essentially, my job is to sit on a couch in the waiting room and, as clients come in, make conversation as they wait for their sessions. The conversation needn’t be in any great depth, I’m not actually a therapist after all, it’s mainly small talk, the sort of nonsense that people who are friendly but don’t really know each other might exchange. Sport, entertainment, grand unifying theories ultimately signifying nothing, that sort of thing.
It’s a style of conversation I’ve found over the course of my lifetime that I’m quite good at.
This is, for alcoholics especially, a vital part of the healing process. Because addiction, you see, isn’t just a chemical dependency. There’s a culture surrounding alcoholism, and giving up drinking can take a person out of perhaps the only world he or she has ever felt truly comfortable in. Which, in addition to the actual withdrawal symptoms, can quickly reduce a person to a withered husk of what once they were.
In short, alcoholism is as much about the place, the people, the smiles and bullshit bar conversations that go around in circles without ever really arriving at any concrete conclusions, as it is about alcohol. And while addiction counseling can treat the disease, it can’t provide any substitute for the arrogant, long winded prick holding court in the local pub about whatever might cross his mind.
So now, five days a week, I’m in the waiting room, striking up conversations with recovering addicts on topics about which I know very little. Eight hours a day, I talk about how Marvel Studios has made basically the same movie over and over again since Iron Man, about how the Roughriders will win every Grey Cup forever and why the rest of Canada should be okay with that, about what to do about crises in countries I hadn’t even heard of until their crises made the news, about Drake hitting Chris Brown in the face with a champagne bottle, and I’m attacking each conversation with loud, opinionated gusto.
It’s basically the best job I’ve ever had.
And from what I’m told, the clients arrive for their counseling or group therapy sessions calmer, more relaxed and more open due to the experience, so I’m also giving back to the community. Which is a wonderful thing.
It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I’m part of a process through which people can overcome their demons and make themselves whole and healthy again, through hard work, intense introspection and arguments about whether Guardians of the Galaxy has basically the same plot as the Lego Movie, and it’s a process I couldn’t be prouder to be involved in. I’ve found my place in the world, my contribution, at the clinic, and that’s something I hadn’t even known how much I’d needed until I had it.
Now, if they’d just get off my fucking case about coming into work hung-over…