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Follow Your Bliss...

📸: @emma.e.arsenault

Connect to be Free……

By Susan B. Raphael

On February 18th, 1999, one woman’s life changed forever . . .

Prior to that she had suffered immeasurably from the disease of alcoholism, only she didn’t know it. She drank daily in the end. Delirium tremens (DT’s), hallucinations, alcoholic seizures, broken bones and many contusions were just a few of the symptoms she battled on a day-to-day basis. She regularly sought help from hospitals, detoxes, police and other community supports.

She had progressed far beyond the day where she could predict what would happen after she took that first drink of alcohol. She had been in battered relationships, lived in shelters, sometimes surviving on the kindness of strangers for handouts and help. Her family didn’t know how she was living. She isolated and lied to them, full of pride, guilt, remorse and shame. And then one day everything changed.

On February 19th, 1999, her transformation started with simple fact that she didn’t drink that day. The very same woman who had drunk regularly for multiple years did not drink on that day. This occurrence was nothing short of divine intervention --- a miracle. It simply could not be explained.

That woman was me and it was about this time that Renascent Treatment Centres came into my life and into my heart, where it has remained. I attended the women’s residential program for a 21 day stay. It seems like a lifetime ago and in fact it is. My experiences at Renascent changed my outlook on life completely and we’ve been connected ever since. The 12 Step informed approach I had resisted was now clearly saving my life. I even ended up working at Renascent when I was 6 months into my sobriety. Informational interviews with the Executive Directors’ at the time, Michael Mazza and Les Talbot turned into a job for me with Renascent’s head office. Remarkable. Another coincidence I could not explain. More inexplicable phenomenon’s -- spirituality was becoming ever present in my life.

In 2008, I wrote a piece for Renascent’s newsletter, (at that time called TGIF) on how I found meaningful work to balance my life in recovery. Specifically, I wrote about how I turned my passion for helping others into a livelihood. I had worked at many jobs and now I wanted a career.

Following My Bliss

Becoming a professional addictions counsellor was a very intentional process for me. I knew that for me I needed something to do in my world of work that I was passionate about. A friend recommended the book, Follow Your Bliss, by Hal Zina Bennett & Susan J. Sparrow. Healing and insightful, this book is for people seeking work that makes their hearts sing. How I followed my bliss was through talking to people. I networked with all the counsellors and mentors I could find, researching the profession and working in the field. I sought out volunteer counselling positions to gain knowledge and hands on experience. I needed to believe in myself enough to try and face the many obstacles that I saw in my way. If I had any advice to give it would be to go for it. Don’t let the obstacles block your way. Keep on keeping on and the obstacles eventually become conquerable.

Addiction Counselling Education

I also took all the necessary education courses that were out there. Thanks to Renascent and Bill Gilliland, the Education Director, I was able to complete courses that they offered to staff for continuing education. I also had a graduate school education in psychology prior to coming into recovery and many of those education courses applied towards my addiction counsellor’s certification.

Canadian Addictions Counsellors Certification Federation

If you want to learn how and where to get the proper training to become a counsellor in addictions, The Canadian Association of Addictions Counsellors Certification Federation, is a very helpful resource and guide. The CACCF has information on what requirements are necessary to be recognized and certified in the addictions profession. Today, there are many college and university programs in the community and on line that focus on addiction counselling.

I also joined the CACCF as a member well before I had my education requirements, so that I could be informed and take part in the association. I began logging all the Supervised Clinical Training
hours that were required as part of the certification. Slowly and surely I collected the compulsory items always with my goal in mind.

First, I worked towards the requirements for the International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counsellor, designation (ICADC). Shortly thereafter, I pursued the International Certified Co-occurring Disorders Certification (ICCDP). It took several years for me though I was approaching certification on a part time basis and working full time. This is a good combination, as I needed experience working in the field in order to fulfill the prerequisites.

Since 2006, I have been working as a private addictions counsellor. I have a home office and work in the field as well.

This is what my bliss looks like;

· My counselling practice is called Sustainable Recovery and I provide effective counselling solutions to youth, individuals and families recovering from addiction and mental health disorders

· For over a decade I worked as a counsellor with Recovery Counselling Services, an association of experienced, qualified and caring chemical dependency specialists dedicated to providing out patient alcohol and drug, counselling to adolescents, young adults, adults and families

· I also worked as the Clinical Director of Young Ones Breaking Barriers, a nonprofit organization that provides youth with addiction and other mental health issues counselling and a peer support group.

· In April of 2013, the NBA/NBAA Players association anti drug program invited me to join their clinical team helping players and their families with solutions to substance us disorders.

· For many years I served as a board member on both the Federal and Provincial Boards of the CACCF. It is such an honour to be working with these people dedicated to the treatment of addiction.

· I am on the board of Renascent Treatment Centres, where my journey of recovery began.

Stay tuned for more bliss…..

Susan B. Raphael

Sustainable Recovery Counselling and Addiction Services



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