I have a client I represent on a probation revocation. From early on in his life he has struggled with mental health issues including schizophrenia and bi-polar. He never really got treatment for it due to cost and trying to work, etc. He typically self-medicated with alcohol and then later in life with meth. The meth of course makes all of his mental health issues much worse and causes permanent brian damage. He ended up with a very significant prison term hanging over him and now faces the possibility of having to serve that prison term because of continued drug use.
During his revocation hearing we got a judge to release him from jail to participate in a 6 month residential treatment program. We wanted to give him the opportunity to work on his addictions and mental health issues in a safe place and have the opportunity to also work. So this seemed like a great fit. We thought completing the program would give him the help he needed while also providing him the chance to prove to the judge he could succeed and would not need to go to prison.
Before he left we discussed the length of the program as 6 months in any one place, let alone a treatment center, and let alone again someone with his diagnosis, is a very long time. He assured me he would be fine and could complete it. So he has about 5 months in and called me this week. He said he is bored to death, wants to leave and needs to get a job. Says he is doing well (which he is) and feels ready to move on to another stage.
I reminded him that we discussed all of this and before he left for treatment I told him this day would come. That he would feel done with the program, bored, and ready to move on. He acknowledged that we had discussed all of this but said it was just getting to be too much and that there were some internal issues at the center that were making things difficult. I did not find out what those were as he was using the phone form the center so could not speak freely.
I asked him several questions to try to sort this out. These included:
1. What could you possibly do outside of the program over the next 6-8 weeks (the length he has left before regular discharge) that would justify leaving the program and then failing to get a successful completion letter (that we need for his upcoming probation revocation hearing).
2. Wasn't leaving a situation like this a typical response for him over his lifetime and might this just be his "addictive" personality acting out trying to avoid further treatment?
3. Might it also be possible that he still could learn some things from participation in the program and wouldn't that be OK? And if he left, he would never know what he might have learned.
4. And maybe the lesson he had yet to learn had nothing to do with the curriculum he would be engaged in over the next 6-8 weeks, but rather all about himself and they way he responded to adversity and his constant desire for immediate gratification and avoiding accountability?
He paused after all of that and I think in his own mind was then wishing he had not called me. I told him about a pond where there were supposed to be jewels resting at the bottom. I told him if he travels at the surface in a boat it is very difficult to see or to find any of the jewels. And if you swim with goggles at the surface it is slight better but still difficult to find what you are looking for. To truly give yourself a chance to find the jewel, you need to go deeper. You have to slow down. You have to go below the surface and make it to some depth and then stay there so you can really look at the bottom of the pond. It is depth, patience, and persistence that brings clarity of vision and the ability to see what yet has not been seen.
He paused again and told me he doesn't like to swim. I asked him then if he was in a submarine might he be able to go below the surface, and if yes, how deep could he take his submarine in order to view the bottom more closely? That seemed to register. I told him healing does not come easy. Truth does not come easy. Confronting ourselves at the deepest level does not come easy. It requires us to go deeper, to dive to levels that are uncomfortable and then to stay there, in our discomfort, with others, until we see those things we have not yet been able to see.
My friend is to call me back on Friday. He agreed to stay until then to think about it and to discuss all with his counselor. I am hopeful he stays but it is up to him. But our conversation reminded me that the same is true for me. The rush of the day, my work, and all that I fill my life with at times can be mere distractions to what we really need to attend to. Where in my life do I need to go deeper? To explore at some depth the bottom of my pond? Can I go to that depth and stay there for the chance that I might learn something the universe has been trying to teach me but I have avoided or yet not seen?
The jewels are waiting for us. We just often do not look in the correct places or we simply pass over at a depth so shallow we are unable to see the riches that await us.
Happy Halloween and may you not struggle in removing your masks....