In July 2022 I started work as a volunteer counsellor for Emerging Futures, which works across the country with people affected by homelessness, drug and alcohol problems and physical and mental health needs. It’s been just over a year and what a year it has been. I have learned a great deal and the experience as certainly changed me as a person. It has challenged me and my perceptions and has given me a different view of the world. The overall learning point is resilience and people can change if we give them a chance and believe in them.
Emerging Futures is a non-profit organisation. In Norfolk the emphasis is on substance misuse (drugs/alcohol) and helping people through their recovery. The emphasis being on behaviour change. They offer workshops and counselling to help individuals come to a better understanding of themselves and their addiction. They work alongside the charity “Change Grow Live”.
As a volunteer counsellor I see each person for a period of 12 weeks and try to look at what issues, trauma or event may have impacted their path to addiction. A main theme being hiding from trauma or the emotions that go with the trauma. The addiction acts like an anaesthetic and numbs the pain.
The more they use this as a negative coping mechanism the harder it becomes to control the addiction. My role in the capacity of counsellor is to offer a safe space for them to explore anything that may be preventing them from moving forward. They can learn more about themselves and find beneficial coping mechanisms that strengthen their recovery. Change must come from within.
The counsellor’s role is to walk alongside the client while they find their own way forward. This can both be a rewarding and a challenging experience.
How has this changed me?
I have learnt that fighting an addiction is not an easy path and what is required from others is patience, support, and belief, not always easy when you are sat on the other side watching.
Addiction can affect the person sitting at the next desk to you at work, the person serving you in a shop, your next-door neighbour and even your friends – it affects every socio-economic class. Most people with an addiction are still functioning in society. It’s changed my perceptions and made me much less judgemental.
Those fighting addiction have often experienced a traumatic event. Be kind – you have not walked in the shoes of others and have no insight into their life.
Those who experience addiction often feel worthless and have very little self-belief – yet underneath the label “addict”, there is a person. That person has been lost, yet they are still there and are just needing a little help to find themselves again.
I have met some amazing people this year and each client has left their own mark in some way. In many ways I should be thanking them for challenging me to change. I admire the resilience and resolve of everyone I see in the consulting room. What a privilege this year has been, I am excited what next year will bring.