I went to the University of Ottawa and got a degree in criminology. Then I attended McMaster for continuing education, and I have an addiction care worker diploma.
My breakthrough in life came in my early 30s. People have always said I'm a good people person. Everybody told me to go into sales, but I'd worked a few corporate jobs and wasn't fulfilled by that. This is definitely my vocation. I feel very fulfilled in the job I do.
Initially, I wanted to get into law or maybe the RCMP or detective work. But after McMaster I became a big advocate for people who suffer from addiction and substance abuse. Eventually, I plan on getting a master's and working in policy. That would be my ultimate goal.
The McMaster program covered every major piece that has to do with addiction, from pharmacology to case management and crisis intervention. You can take that program online or in person. In my opinion, the key is to take it in person, because of the teachers. The links with teachers are some of the main relationships I came away with.
I got my first job on my first day at McMaster, after my first class. It was odd how that worked out. A program director was there, and I was asking a lot of questions; she approached me at break and offered me a job. I started working overnight at a treatment centre.
I never thought of starting my own private practice, but after being in that program and talking to other professionals who had their own practice, I started my own company.
As part of my addictions counselling work, I oversee all clients' treatment stays. I put together treatment plans, I connect with their families and with employers if there are problems with the courts. I make recommendations and assess them throughout their treatment stays
This job is tough. You need to be empathetic. You need to be very balanced. There's an extreme amount of stress. You're dealing with very sick people and crisis situations on a daily basis. You need to be organized and have good time management.
The worst experience comes when you work with someone for months and find out they've lost their battle with addiction and have relapsed. I've built close relationships with a lot of the people I work with, and when they relapse it is very hard. I've been in the field five years, and I've been to three or four funerals. Those are definitely devastating.
The best experience is when you get a phone call out of the blue from someone thanking you for saving their life.