Interview With Addiction Counselor Christie HayesApril 9, 2018 Addiction Treatment
If at first, you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again. That’s what Christie had to do. Now a loving mother and caring counselor, she has over 15 years clean and sober. But it wasn’t easy. She relapsed several times before recovery truly “stuck” for her. We sat down with Christie for one of our weekly Facebook Live episodes and she told us about her recovery journey, how she became a substance abuse counselor, and what keeps her inspired in this tough industry.
What is your job title? Tell me a little about what you do.
I’m a substance abuse counselor. On a daily basis, what we do is we educate the clients on life skills, relapse prevention, and how to socialize in the community without the use of any mind-altering substance and just be abstinent.
How did you become a counselor?
Well, I’m a recovering addict. As of October, 31st I have 15 years. I also come from a very addictive family, so my mom’s an addict, my dad was a severe functioning alcoholic and just passed away this last June. My great grandmother also was an alcoholic. So you know just having the disease in the family as well as myself and be able to be in recovery, I decided to go on a path of helping others and giving back to the community.
Would you mind sharing a little bit with us about your recovery journey?
It started in high school. I started getting into acid and different things. Meth, cigarettes, and a lot of pot. I started declining in my academics and school and not getting good grades. I became a failure to my great grandparents who were my life. My mom was in active addiction and wasn’t around, and my dad wasn’t either. I just watched my life disintegrate little by little and continued to get in legal trouble. I had to do something, so I started to go to meetings, and I was able to kind of hold on, but then I would fall back. Various things I’d encountered in my life, whether that be death, or an argument or a lost relationship I would relapse. And it would be a constant back and forth thing until I lost my grandmother to cirrhosis of the liver and that’s when I started getting into active recovery. I was sober for about five years, and then I had lost my grandfather, which again let me to relapse. At that time is when I decided that I have to find a balance in my life and work the program. No more stopping going to meetings and not being active in the community, just because I feel like I have so many years clean. That’s when, in between having my kids, I needed to step up and change my life because I didn’t want to be a mother to my children as my mother was to me. That was my official sobriety date on October 31st, 2012 and here I am today working in treatment.
What would you say to somebody who’s who kind of in that same situation continuing to relapse? How would you like to bring them or give them hope that you know they can get out of this?
I would share my experience with them and let them know that it is easy for us to fall back into old behaviors. We want to be numb to feeling – we don’t want to remember. I would let them know that they’re not alone and there are many different places that they can go for comfort such as meetings and support groups. If they can stay with someone that can comfort them and let them know that they’ve been on that same path before and receiving compassion that they might be able to say, if they can do it, then I can do it too.
What is your favorite part of working in this field?
My most favorite part of working this field the opportunity to watch the growth of our clients. When they are at our residential treatment center, we plant the seed. You watch them go through different channels of their life, and then they come over here to the intensive outpatient facility and being over here you’re able to see them socialize in the community. They’re able to follow direction and implement the coping skills that they’ve learned and applied them to their daily life. That’s rewarding to me. Seeing that they want to change their lives, and they’re putting that into action.
What advice would you offer to someone who may be interested in doing what you do?
If they’re interested in doing what I’m doing, I would want to ask them what’s what’s bringing them to want to follow this path. What stories or experiences they have whether it be their own or it could even be family or friends. There are a lot of excellent schools for this. There are also internships that you can also do to get a feel for things once you’ve got a little education. So they can apply what they’ve learned and given them the right material they need to learn and pursue this career.
If you could garner the attention and tell the world one thing about addiction, what would you say?
We’re not perfect. We have flaws, and we make mistakes. We didn’t become an addict overnight – it took time. We can recover, but it just takes time to create new habits.
This is a really tough industry to work in there’s a lot of highs and lows. How do you stay inspired?
What inspires me is thinking back to my journey. What I’ve lost and what I’ve gained. We’ve all lost a lot, and we’ve all gained a lot and in order to stay inspired you to have to know that tomorrow is never promised. You’ve got to live in the moment and just do what you do best. Continue to strive for what you want. Sometimes know when I hit my low moments I just remember what got me here today and how far I’ve come in life and what I want to do to hold on.
Through working with those struggling with an addiction, what do you hope to accomplish each day? How do you work to accomplish it?
Every day, I hope to instill hope in our clients. They’re young and trying to refresh and rewire their brain. They’re learning how to function without the use of substances. I just hope they hold onto something I’ve said or how I educated them that day with the group. For example, I always tell my clients when they have low self-worth, and they don’t love themselves “I’m gonna love you until you can love yourself. And even then – I’m still gonna love you.” That usually will inspire them and let them know they are loved, and someone cares about them. That builds their self-worth a little bit. Even a quote or something can give someone hope. The slightest thing can give them the smallest bit of promise. I believe this allows them to wake up the next day and look forward to that day.
What is your mantra? (a saying, phrase, or quote that you live by?)
What I always try to remember is to live in the moment and keep in mind that tomorrow is never promised. I allow myself to stay in the moment and just be in the present and know that I wake up every morning and I’m grateful for the life that I have.