Sunday, August 06, 2006

What the hell did your parents DO to you??

That's what I often want to say to some of my clients at work.

I'm employed as a substance abuse counselor for a public housing facility in Chicago and, believe me, every time I think I've "heard it all" with regard to human behavior, someone will surprise me with something new. I've also done internships at in-patient treatment facilities in New York and Toronto where I really heard a lot of twisted tales. It still amazes me what we humans can come up with regarding our behavior.

Anyway, here are some cases I've come across during the past few years. Fasten your seat belts. . . .

1) A male client who was obsessed with eating women's hair. Gee. What diagnosis do you apply to that? (It was quasi-cannibalism) Sort of makes you shiver. I can see it now:"Oh waiter, I'll have the coq au vin with a side of the hostesses bangs, please."

2) A male client was in treatment for substance abuse had quite a shock during the "family weekend." (That's where family members get to come up and tell the patient all the ways he has essentially screwed everyone up. Lots of tears ensue. Loads of fun for everyone). During the weekend, a family member revealed to him that his wife was actually his aunt!! Woah! (Cue up soundtrack of banjos playing)

It turns out that the client's grandfather had had a secret affair with the next door neighbor. The client had married the offspring that resulted from the affair, so she was actually his half-aunt. They had three children already, none of whom turned out to be zucchini, so everything was okay. Well, aside from the fact that his children were now his cousins. He was pretty freaked out about it until it was explained to him that a half-aunt is the same degree of relation as a first cousin. (Third degree of sanguinity). Their marriage would have been legal in Arkansas. That knowledge seemed to allay his disgust a bit. I wanted to suggest that he get drunk but that would not have been an appropriate mode of treatment.

3) A 24 year old female was mandated to treatment after completing a prison sentence. She had four children by four different fathers. It turns out that two of the fathers were her two brothers! (Cue up banjos again) It get's worse.

She had named her little boy "Coyote" and named her little girl "Elvis Tommy Lee". She was from a Native American reservation near the Canadian border and had a very unusual last name. I wish I could mention what it was because it was so wierd, but I've always been adament about client confidentiality. Let's just say it was something very similar to "Quicksand." So, you have a kid named "Coyote Quicksand" and a girl named "Elvis Tommy Lee Quicksand". (Boy, now there's a couple of treatment centers waiting down the road.) I can just see it now: "I Am My Own First Cousin" by Coyote Quicksand. Sheesh!

4) One of the other treatment counselors was this nerdy, high strung, way uptight guy. He reminds me of Dwight on "The Office." Well, one afternoon Dwight was making his rounds conducting room inspections. He knocked on this one resident's door and, receiving no answer, he let himself in. It turns out that the resident, a 20-year old guy, was merrily masturbating away, just having a good 'ol time. The guy had heard the knock but just thought it was the headboard on the bed knocking against the wall. Well, Dwight just freaked when he walked in on that, yelling, "Put on your clothes, put on your clothes!" The resident was telling everyone all about it later during group therapy and had us all in stitches. He didn't mind at all admitting that he was caught masturbating because Dwight's reaction was so hilarious. Poor Dwight. . . .

And now, I must tell about the time that I learned a lesson, big time. In the treatment center, there were lots of rules and one of them was that there was to be absolutely no romantic or sexual touching between residents. One night I was working late and went into the dining room for some coffee to find these two teen-age kids kissing away in the dark. It turns out that both of them had done very well in treatment and were scheduled to be released the very next day to go to halfway houses. If I reported it, then these nice kids wouldn't be completing treatment and would have no place to go. They both knew that and were sobbing away, etc. The guy had done especially well and had been elected leader of the resident council. I just hated to see them mess everything up especially since they'd both be completing treatment the next day and going to after-care. So, after reading over their files, I told each of them that I wouldn't report it but they would have to promise not to tell anyone. Hugs and more tears ensued.

Big, big mistake! Huge.

Of course, the first thing the girl does is tell her best friend. Within ten minutes it had spread to all 62 residents and they were freaking out that the rules had been bent. We had to do a "lock down" where everyone had to stay in their rooms for the night which meant no one could go outside to smoke. Of course, my two kids got kicked out of treatment along with five other people who were caught smoking in their rooms.

Like I said, big mistake. That was eight years ago. To this day, whenever I consider bending a rule, I remember that incident and the lesson I learned. Even if I don't agree with or understand a rule, the rules are there for a very good reason.I still love my job, but I wish I had a poster on the wall of my office that read:What the hell did your parents do to you??"


At 1:52 AM , Blogger Edy said...

visiting courtesy of Lorraine. I love this post. I may print it for my shrink.


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