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22-year-old male addict / alcoholic

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...hopelessness, despair and self loathing became my reality...

Although my stage experiences are extremely important to my growth as a social worker, my personal life challenges are equally important to my professional development. I understand that personal life experiences often shape individuals beliefs, morals and approaches on life. I believe that my personal experiences with addiction that I have faced and overcome on a day-to-day basis have helped me better relate to my clients on both a professional and personal level. My personal story is that I developed a severe addiction problem. I used substances because of the overwhelming tiredness I was experiencing with regard to school, work and personal problems. These challenges placed great strain on my relationships at work, with my family and my peers. Unfortunately, things quickly spiraled downwards and an emotional toll of hopelessness, despair and self-loathing became my reality. Despite all these people who wanted me to succeed and were available to me, I had hit rock bottom. Through this life obstacle I was able to understand that clients, although often surrounded by support networks and professional help, have difficulty accepting such services. However, I quickly learned that the only way to get better is to accept services, reach out to others and strive for a solution. With the support of my family, I checked myself into a rehabilitation centre called Andy’s House. This process broke me and rebuilt me and as I look back, I realize that this was the best thing I could ever have done for myself. It was the first step to truly saving my life. Since April 29, 2013, I have maintained a sober life, one day at a time. This experience influences my approach to practice because I know that although a worker cannot force a client to obtain services, it is important to support the client and empower them to want to get better. I believe that my experience and struggles throughout my life have helped shape me into a more helpful social worker because even though I will have different cases and situations from my own experience, I have the ability to understand the hopelessness which provides me the opportunity to sympathize and understand where the clients are coming from.

Throughout my experience of overcoming my drug addiction, I met a true gift of a counselor who acted as a very influential role model. This counselor was helpful in that he provided a safe space in which I could disclose personal information in an environment where I did not feel judged. He spoke in a very blunt way and would not sugar coat his words, in a way that really put things into perspective for me. This made me understand that in order to help people achieve true change; they often need to be told what they do not want to hear. I also learned that my feelings are not unique, and there are many other people in similar situations or have it much worse. Reflecting on his approach to engaging with clients, I noticed that instead of applying theory and textbook knowledge, he would use practical experience on both a professional and personal level to guide his clients towards achieving sober thinking. Nevertheless, he did follow a strength based approach in working with his clients. According to Hewitt (2005), it is important to “focus on the client’s strengths rather than lamenting about the person’s weaknesses”. This relates to my experience at Andy’s House since instead of focusing on the negatives of who I was and what I have done, my mentor was able to point out the characteristics within me that could help me achieve my goals. I believe that social work does not have to be all about theory and research; I believe that everyone has a personal and/or professional experience that clients can relate to. This is something that my role model at Andy’s House represented. To this day, I have a close relationship with this counselor by seeking his advice and suggestions on difficult situations that I am facing. This shows that although my formal work with him is done, the close rapport that we share makes me want to continue being in contact with him. I hope to model this type of relationship with my future clients.