›› A Journey to Here

        by George Bishop

Initially I never intended to become an addictions counselor. I began my working career in the trades. My desire was to be a skilled tradesman to become autonomous by living on a farm and raising heavy calves in northern Ontario. I would augment my living with woodcutting and was a lumberjack in the winter and a landscaper in the summer.

In the middle of planning all this; none of it seemed to be working out and my girlfriend and I split up and my family reneged on helping me with a loan for a farm I had found in North Bay Ontario. This would have been an ideal place between the sales barn in Galetta and the stock yards in Toronto, with some fine hunting and fishing available.

In misery and depression, as all my goals were out the window, I struck out to Arizona to attend the outdoor experiential program in Prescott, AZ. I had been a runaway as a youth but had not gotten as far as the Grand Canyon in my travels; although I had crossed all of Canada. I thought it a good time to pursue this opportunity.

In this program I intended to graduate to teach high school but found that the environment was abysmal. I had been told about going back to fix it when I was a kid, but found out that was not true as the system was too big and entrenched. My advisors encouraged me to continue with my education although I was a grade 10 drop out, and I succeeded in obtaining a master’s degree. I have ended up completing 3 masters programs.

At the time of graduation, I was working with the dually diagnosed in a community counseling setting. One day I had an epiphany, I had asked the Creator what I should be doing, and my attention was directed to doing what I needed most to learn about.

What keeps me in the field? Well, I am not sure as it is a very difficult field to work in and under appreciated at every turn. I am very tired of hearing “We don’t have the funds.” I use tools from martial arts, specifically T’ai Chi, meditation and traditional spirituality customs to keep my groundedness along with friends and a wonderful family.

I also continue to work on projects to improve the field and developed a behavioral checklist to assess for violence risk to keep staff safer and more effectively deal with appropriate referrals.

Currently, I am developing a “spiritually oriented, community-building program that is experiential and that deals with the whole person in relation to the world”, in the correctional system for those in the halfway house to prepare them to live in the world. Something that I have noticed missing from traditional treatment programs is the focus on helping consumers to realize the benefit from working with, and becoming more interdependent with their peers; although we expect them to pick healthier relations a sponsor etc. and work their way back into a community. I would like to be now doing more to train counselors as I see there are major gaps in the education and approaches we use.

I keep thinking my karmic credit card must be paid up after twenty years in the field; and the Creator will let me go back to my digging in the soil and living a more natural life, hopefully going home to Canada and be near my granddaughters. However, that door hasn’t opened today. So, I continue to do what is put in front of me.


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