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When they offered me a job at an upscale drug and alcohol treatment center in Bel Air, I asked jokingly, Doing what?
“As an experiential counselor,” was the reply, and if you don’t know what that means, don’t feel bad because neither did I. Since that day, it’s become clear that everything I’ve been and done is necessary, it makes me what I am, and allows me to do what it is that I’m doing now.
1 involving or based on experience and observation.
“the experiential learning associated with employment”
I work with young addict/alcoholics in their first thirty, sixty, and ninety days of recovery alongside a clinical staff consisting of therapists, counselors, social workers, and addiction specialists. The professionals set very clear boundaries with the clients, service provider to service consumer, in order to treat them effectively.
I do not. I engage them on a very different level.
I set my boundary halfway, dangerously close, in fact, inviting them to identify with me through shared experience. This forces me to walk a razor’s edge as I map out enough common ground for us to stand on, a conduit where I can share the benefit of my experience and the fruits of my unlikely longevity as a long-term heroin addict who’s found a way to be happy and productive without drugs and alcohol. To do this, I rely on all of my skills, as an entertainer, researcher, writer, editor, junkie, liar, thief, con man, I put it all to good use in the service of connecting with my fellow human beings.
If they want to connect with me, that is.
You know what I find best about all of it?
I learn more during an average day than I did in a decade shooting dope.
Billy Bang Douglas is a former EMI & Polygram recording artist, freelance writer/editor, experiential counselor, and editor-in-chief for Painted Brain News