Every so often — too often — I run across a newcomer with a few months or even a couple of years, who has decided to become an addiction professional or otherwise involved in the field, and help save all the poor folks who are still “out there.”

It scares the hell out of me.

The last thing a person in early recovery needs is more stress, and let me tell you: going back to school, working as a tech and picking up contact hours, and then the life of a newly-hatched counselor or therapist is not conducive to good, long lasting recovery.  As much as it seems like these things would enhance one’s understanding of the disease and the recovery process, the exact opposite is true.  It puts us directly in a position of being unable to see the forest for the trees, distracts us from the steps, practicing the principles, and generally focuses us on other people at a time when we should still be focusing on ourselves.  Not only that, but it can fool us into believing that we know all that we need to know about recovery.  I’m here to tell you that is rarely the case even for old-timers. I learn new stuff every day — often from newcomers who have done the research for me and lived to tell about it.

Goodness knows that if several folks with good recovery hadn’t gone on to become professionals and been there to help me, I’d be dead. I like to think the same is true of my efforts, in at least a few cases.  But, without any exceptions that I can think of, the truly good counselors and therapists are the ones who had several years of recovery under their belts before they became immersed in the field.  I’m sure this isn’t the case with all, but I am willing to state unequivocally that it is true of most.  The experience that makes recovering people some of the best therapists needs time to develop, and if you don’t have the fundamentals down for yourself, then you don’t have anything to give to others.

So all you folks who are living in the fast lane, holding down a job or two, maybe trying to raise kids, and planning to hit the books — please think about what you’re doing.  I’ve seen that kind of recovery end abruptly, sometimes years down the road.  And you know what?  It’s really hard for those folks to get back.

Take care of yourself, or you won’t be able to take care of anyone.  And remember, anything you put ahead of your own recovery, you are likely to lose.

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