›› In the Shadows of a Life

        by Marsha Thomason

How has working in this field changed my life? I have a life that matters today and I am able to put into practice the principles I have learned through education and personal development.

I am skilled to meet a client where they are and I have boundaries that allow me to trust my clients can find solutions to their problems with my humble assistance if they have the basic skills that allows them to ask for help. I know that on some days, merely showing up to a session is a basic skill in action. I have compassion and empathy. I have ethics and initially I had no idea what an ethic was. When I was sworn into office as a Correctional Officer several years into my recovery, I adopted the ethical guidelines and conditions of citizenry into my daily way of life. Those were my guideposts to living in the community. Guidelines I never knew existed and if I did know of them, had certainly never practiced them. I have faith in the information provided in curricula developed by those individuals that have paved the way in this field such as Dr. Minkhoff, Stanton Samenow, Claudia Black, and Terry Gorski to name but a few.

How did this happen and why is it important to share? A little background might help understand why that is an important part of my story as an Addictions Professional.

On May 5, 1988, I made a decision that changed my life completely. I entered treatment for intravenous methamphetamine drug use and alcoholism. That decision opened many doors for me and allowed me to turn deficits into assets, shame into esteem, guilt into accountability, and unemployability into marketable skills. I had no external motivation for change. No judge, no probation officer, no family members breathing down my neck, no partner or children suffering from my choices. I believe it was the first genuine act of self-love I demonstrated towards myself.

I successfully completed treatment and upon completion, entered into the world frightened, alone, and with one marketable, legal skill; bartending and cocktailing. And that is what I did. I would attend 12-step meetings and work in a dangerous environment. Eventually, community members recognized I was sober and my behaviors were changing; other jobs were offered to me such as Nurses Aid, Forestry Technician (Fire Look-out) and Computer Technician. I took those positions and remained humble in the knowledge that I was being blessed and forgiven for the choices I made during my active addiction.

I started carrying 12 step meetings into Jails, Prisons, and Detention facilities after 1 year of sobriety and after doing service work in these facilities on a regular basis, I was offered entry-level positions. Employers recognized my commitment, timeliness, and ability to build rapport with folks incarcerated for alcohol/drug related crimes. At 4 years of sobriety, I took my first college class with the help of an Idaho Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, a Psychologist, a sponsor, a home group, and the rest is, as they say, history.

I now hold an Idaho CADC/ICADC certification that allows me to work in multiple states and internationally. I have years of valuable experience working with clients of differing ethnic backgrounds, economic/social situations, ages, and in a variety of settings from remote Bush Alaska, Adult and Juvenile Correctional facilities, and in a medically managed Adolescent Unit in a reputable hospital. The clients I have worked with over the past 18½ years were Native American & Non-Native American Families, Couples, and Individuals. I have worked with adult and juvenile inmates in Correctional facilities, & delivered Alcohol/Drug Education Courses for Adult and Adolescent Offenders for court-referred clients. I have implemented the most current and best practice methods that work with criminal justice male and female clients.

There are so many people I could thank, but I will only name a few.
Carol R. and Cindy H., the best sponsors a girl could have. Gretchen, my VRC, Dr. James Reed and Dr.Viann Nations, Victor Joseph at Tanana Chiefs Conference, L.T. Cheryl Jordan, and Chris Klover at Pathways
Counseling, thanks for mentoring me and providing me with Clinical Supervision and direction in my career. I am blessed everyday that I am allowed to sit in the presence of a client. Those are days I never saw coming 18½ years ago. Recovery is possible.


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