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  • Jason McCarty

The Journey and Stimulation of My Work with the Addicted

I’m not sleeping well these days. My psycho-philosophical work with my addicted clients in treatment is too ripe a ground to explore life. My own personal exploration of life, psychology, and meaning has grown and deepened drastically in the past 5 years. My time with clients presents not only an intense time for them to explore their lives, but an almost over-stimulating time for me and my brain. I am finding my work so stimulating that I am now having trouble shutting off my brain.

I wanted work that engaged me and that’s what I received. Now to find balance. But who wants balance really? Balance is boring. My clients search into addiction for something meaningful, something profound. They know that a life un-well lived is no life at all. They also know that a life of balance is boring. I just did a workshop the other day on balance. Sometimes I do workshops and roll my own eyes afterwards. We mental health professionals are talking heads sometimes, throwing shit out and hoping it sticks. Life is complicated and so is addiction. You can’t teach a person out of addiction. It is a profound endeavor in search for meaning and profound experience. Aren’t we all looking for that?

I can’t stop feeding my brain while at work. I have intellectual clients with complicated and fascinating lives. I see them everyday. I see how they live. I did not see how my private practice clients lived. I have so much information on my client’s patterns and approach to life and others, that it gives me way too much information to work with. Is it my job to figure out their lives? No, but try and stop me from trying. It’s too interesting. When I’m not in group with them I find myself reading in my office. It is like I am on this continuous journey with all of them, trying to help them and myself make sense of our lives, make sense of addiction as human phenomenon.

I have not had a major substance abuse problem. I’ve often wondered what has kept me in this business so long. It’s now what I know the most about and what I seem to be able to navigate quite well. It’s a field that is wide open for expansion and development. It has been a closed system for a long time. It is a human problem that I personally believe will never have an answer. This makes it an ongoing challenge and problem to engage. It makes it a psychological and philosophical journey that I get to go on with other people, one that will continue until the end of time. That might sound depressing to many, but I find addiction to be a helpful endeavor in getting people on solid ground. I have a lot of empty and lost clients. I believe their addiction is an attempt to search for truth. It is an attempt to search for peace, happiness, and love. That isn’t just bullshit either. I’ve done this work long enough to know that addiction isn’t just about fucking off.

So I’m tangling with suffering humans trying to make sense of life and addiction. I’m reading, thinking, wondering, exploring. I’m probably working too hard to try and figure addiciton out, figure my client’s lives out. This isn’t going to help them fully. They need to be as passionately interested in this process. My job is to help them passionately explore their lives and life in general. How can I be a model for self and world exploration that helps them to want to do the same? How can I be myself in our exploration together. I don’t apologize to them for not having had an addiction and they don’t really seem to care. They can tell I care and they can tell I know something about the exploration process.

I think what I’ve realized in the past couple months, returning to this work, is that I need to be involved in deep exploration. Not just everyday life challenges that people need to talk about, which can certainly have deep answers, but stuff that people are profoundly struggling with. I need my work to be stimulating enough that I want to keep learning to help others. I need a reason to help others as well as allow that to help myself. I need to be involved in relationships of deep value and existential concern.

When a person explores their soul, or the deepest self, I believe something creative will arise. I think I have always wanted to find my creative core. Sometimes I think it will come from my work, my exploration, my thinking, my writing. But I also think that at our truest, or most genius, we are ourselves in a way that is completely naked and exposed. We walk onto the stage and we just perform, without cue, without direction. Our own personal confrontation with life is an opening to immediate and personal experience that originates from deep within. The only answer to addiction I know at this time is to show up on stage and begin.


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