Sunday, September 09, 2012

Just Sharing An Epiphany after the weekend I had.

This past weekend really served as an eye-opener, a re-affirming of life’s goals and the direction in which I am headed in. This past weekend also served as a time of relaxation sprinkled with a dash of reflection. Friday at work, I finally told an old co-worker what I really thought about him and his ability to correctly assess the mental functioning of some of the clients we work with. For the past two years that I have worked with this old therapist, he has had this bad habit of referring to only the Black clients on his therapy case load as “lower functioning.” Yes. I have sat in many clinical staff meetings and tolerated out of professional calmness to discipline this character referring to these women as lower-functioning. On this past Wednesday during a clinical meeting, he said it again. Instead of letting it pass, I asked him in front of all in attendance what was his criterion for labeling so many of the clients lower functioning. His face became a little red, but he proceeded to crank out some less than clinical reasons for him viewing these women this way. I was not satisfied with the answer he gave and I am sure the look on my face told the whole story. My boss, who was sitting two persons over from me, suggested that we table the discussion until Friday during our smaller staff meeting. Well, I thought this was the last I would hear anything on the matter.

This past Friday came and we had our little staff meeting discussing the behavior and progress of the clients in the facility. There was about minutes left in the hour long meeting, when out of no-where, the therapist from Wednesday’s agency clinical meeting, asked if he could continue the discussion where I questioned his therapeutic judgment. He said, “I would like to continue the discussion where Rico questioned me why I refer to clients as lower functioning.” “Rico, I want you to know that I have been a therapist for 25 years and when you questioned my judgment like that in front of the probation officers, you sent out the message that there may be some animosity between us as an entire clinical team.” “I felt that you were being inappropriate and very undermining of me when you questioned me like that.”

Of course, my blood was boiling as he went on forever it seemed about what a professional he was and how he has been a competent clinician for so many years. In his sick mind, he thought he was putting me in my place so that I would know better next time not to express any of my thoughts in a clinical meeting amongst fellow clinicians and probation officers. Yes. Somebody must have told him wrong. I sat patiently as he ranted and vented his frustrations. However when he was done, my clinical supervisor looked over at me and asked, “Rico, do you have anything to say?” I was like, “Yes, I do.” I took a deep breath and I let him have it until all of the breath that I had just inhaled had left my body. I stared him dead in his face and said, “First of all, I have been a social worker since 1996. I have worked as a mental health therapist and a substance abuse counselor since 2000.” “I CAN ASK YOU ANY QUESTION I WANT TO ASK YOU! I DON’T LIVE FOR YOUR APPROVAL or ANYONE ELSE’S APPROVAL!” “However, as clinicians, we are supposed to be intelligent enough and educated enough to know that the clients that we receive at this agency may not function on the level that we are operating on, but they function well enough to survive outside of this agency.

Many of the people that you often refer to as “lower-functioning live better than some of us in here. They have husbands, children, jobs, they go shopping, pay car notes and pump gas and many of the very same gas stations where we go.” Also, I have found it very interesting that over the past two years that every female that you have labeled ‘lower-functioning” has been a Black female.” He quickly interrupted me with, “No. That’s not true.” I just as quickly reminded him not to interrupt me when I am talking because I did not interrupt him. I stated, “It is very true. I have never heard you refer to a white client or a Hispanic client as being lower functioning. He interrupted again by saying, “You don’t what you are talking about.” I responded, “Yes. I do!” This is when my boss intervened as suggested that we end the discussion before it got really ugly in that meeting.

Well, I was done with it. This nut job even had the audacity to try to shake my hand after the meeting was over. Anyway, I felt a great relief after I had finally gotten that off of my chest. Now whether or not I have a job on tomorrow, Monday the 10th, that’s another story, LOL!! Anyway, as I was headed home after an obvious long day at work, I saw this woman trying to push her stalled car out of the way of flowing traffic. I pulled into the parking lot of the Popeye’s that I was headed to (don’t judge me! lol) and got out of my car to see what her situation was and then I proceeded to walk towards her to offer my help. Then, all of a sudden, she gave the car a big push in reverse and then attempted to jump back inside and steer her car out of traffic. I made it there just as she has slammed her door. I told her to stay inside of the care as I began to push. When I began pushing the car a young Mexican man walked by and asked if he could help and said yes. Then a second older Mexican man joined in on the pushing. We safely guided her out of traffic and into the Popeye’s parking lot.

Well, she got out of her call and thanked me. She stated that she thought something was wrong with ignition or at least she hoped that it was just a case of her running out of gas and nothing more serious. We shared a quick laugh about how she was really getting her hustle on trying to push that car out of traffic. I even mimicked the way she gave her stalled car a quick, hard push and tried to jump in it like a go cart. LOL! We both laughed our asses off in the parking lot before I offered to drive her to the nearest gas station to fill up her gasoline container. She thanked me for being there to help her. She said that I was a blessing and she did not know what she was going to do. I said thank you. She went on to say, “You know being a single woman out here, you gotta do what you gotta do when you don’t have a man to help you. I replied, “I hear ya.” When made back to her car and it turned out that all she needed was gas. She cranked her car up with the biggest sigh of relief on her face. She told me thank you again and I told her no problem. She said, “Look, I still want to give you something. I want to buy some chicken (referring to Popeye’s). I quickly told her, “No. I’m good. I am just glad I was able to help.” This is how I give back to the universe. It will come back to me the same way I put it in the universe” “You can thank me by helping someone the same way I helped you.” She said sternly, but with an appreciative smile, “I know, but I still want you have this.” I reluctantly accepted her monetary gesture of thanks and wished her a good evening.

On this past Saturday afternoon, I was privileged to attend an annual block party that is hosted by this non-profit organization called APAA, (Association of Persons Affected by Addictions) which is located in downtown Dallas in the medical district. APAA has a relationship with the company that I work for in that as soon as the clients are discharged after having recieved four months of in-patient residential treatment with us, APAA offers them after care services such as Narcotics Anonmous groups, DRA (Dual Recovery Anonymous) groups and Alcoholics Anonymous groups as well as getiting them connected to much needed support services in the Dallas area.

I hung out for about three hours listening to guest speakers share their stories of courage, strength, and hope since winning their personal battles with alcohol and drug addiction. I am often inspired whenever I get the opportunity to hear an ex-addict and/or alcoholic speak their truth. The time I spent at the block party also served as a reunion of sorts for me and some former clients of the agency where I work. I was so happy to see how well they were doing out here in society being clean, sober, and on their proper medications. It warmed my heart to hear them tell me how much they appreciated me for helping them make it at the agency. It made me feel even better when many of them would say, “Thank you, Mr. Rico for all that you taught me while I was at that place. I learned a lot from your groups.” All and all, I had a good day. However, they also shared with me stories of the many that have not been so fortunate while out here in society. A lot of others have either gone back to using drugs or have been re-arrested and sentenced to serve jail time by the courts.

Well, in this line of work, one has to be able to take the good with the bad. You learn to cherish the good news, while you continue to try to prevent the bad everyday you go to work. The visit to the sober block party served as a great balance and end of work week stress reliever. Where I work, I don’t really get to see the results of my contributions to the mental health field. I don’t really get to see the results of a day to day grind working to encourage and even convince a certain population of people that has mostly experienced hurt, disappointment, rejection and even abandonment in the lives that even though they have gone through so much in their lives a better and brighter day is very close on the horizon. I let them know often that even though their drug usage and mental illness diagnosis have caused some people in society to look down on them and even shun them in public, its ok. It’s ok that some people won’t let go of the old you. That’s cool too. You can let them have the old you because you have been blessed to be in total control of the new you and ain’t a damn thing they can do about it.

This past weekend served as an affirmation that I am where I am supposed to be. I am supposed to be in the helping field. I am supposed to be where others who are down and need a little help getting back up can reach up and grab my hand. I am supposed to be a social worker. I am supposed to be a counselor. I am supposed to be a skilled helper. I am exactly where the Creator wants be to be. I wish the same for all of you who took time out to read my story.

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