›› On Becoming a Licensed Addiction Counselor

by Patricia Reule

In 2002, I was a 56-year-old woman, pursuing a second degree, my bachelor's degree from the University of North Dakota in social work. I had enjoyed a 25 year career as a high school teacher, but was burnt out. In 1997, I left the profession.

In 2000, after serious soul-searching, I determined that I still had a desire to be of service to others, but in an entirely different field. I knew that the addiction profession was the service area that was drawing me, for a number of different reasons. Perhaps chief among them was my desire to be of help to those who have lost their ability to live fulfilling lives. I know about that. I lived it. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

In late 1997 I was hospitalized, suffering from alcohol abuse and its attendant physical problems. The road to sobriety was an illuminating experience to say the least.

Uncertain as to what I wanted to do upon my release from the hospital, I worked at a number of jobs. At the back of my mind however was an idea that began with the thought that I wanted to do what I could to help others like myself, and culminated with writing a book. I have heard from several men and women who read the book and who also suffered from that disease, as well as members of their respective families. While I'm still learning about addiction, and hope to continue to learn more, I'm happy to say that the practical advice that I provided via the book was very well received. To put it more succinctly,"I've walked the walk and talked the talk". In most alcoholic's and/or addict's minds, that gives me some measure of credibility. I'm so very lucky, in that I found it possible to take what was a negative experience in my life and turn it into a positive and gratifying - although frustrating at times - life passion.

The greatest pay-off, if one wants to think of it in that way, is in helping others to achieve the peace of mind that I now enjoy, by becoming a Licensed Addiction Counselor. The road from "there" to "here" wasn't always smooth.

Upon graduating in 2004 from UND with a bachelor's degree in social work, I interviewed for and was ultimately hired to fill a position at the Long Term Residential Treatment Unit at the North Dakota State Penitentiary. During the interview I was asked about my short and long-term goals. I let it be known that my ultimate goal was to become a Licensed Addiction Counselor, but also that that goal was on hold until it was financially possible. North Dakota requires, in addition to appropriate coursework, 1400 hours of clinical training in order to become a Licensed Addiction Counselor. While completing those 1400 hours, it would be nearly impossible to work full time. Since I couldn't live without an income, my final goal would have to wait-or so I thought.

Through the efforts of my Clinical Supervisor, the Treatment Department Director, Unit Manager and Case Manager, to mention only a few, I was able to achieve my goal while working full time. It wasn't easy. I didn't expect it to be. I was raised with the credo that those things that are worthwhile having require "sweat equity". I still believe that.

Consequently, on May 15, 2005 I began my journey. Some 11 months, 1 1 week and 5 days later I completed it, only a little worse for the wear. I had passed the written exam during my training and on April 20, 2006, I passed my oral exam and received my license.

I was re-hired as a Licensed Addiction Counselor by the same employer and continue to work with drug and alcohol addicted inmates at the Long Term Residential Treatment Unit at NDSP. As I stated earlier in this paper, the work, while sometimes frustrating, is also very satisfying. I believe in what I'm doing. How many people can say that about the work that they do? At an age where my contemporaries are looking at retirement, I'm looking at a new and rewarding career. I love what I see.