In a job like mine (Chemical Dependency Technician) we can’t help but to care for the clients and every now and then there will be a client we connect with more than others.
In my case I spend a minimum of 40 hours a week with the clients. Clients are there anywhere from 30, 60, 90, and in very rare cases 120 days. I think it goes without saying that the longer they are there the more connected we become, in most cases.
My job is amazing, I truly love it. I get to watch the clients grow and find themselves from the day they come in until the day they leave. Some of the clients are like night and day. I get to watch them go from looking pretty rough to looking healthy and happier. As with any growth there are growing pains, and I also watch them go through those. Those are the times you just want to endure their suffering so they can focus on recovery, so they can have the life they want and deserve.
Some come to me and tell me their stories, their day to day, to vent, for a comforting word, and just to talk. I have found, for myself, that in some cases it is hard to not become protective of them, to not come to their defense.
Last night I was talking with a guy and he was talking about his current situation. While he is telling me, there are several flags that go up in my mind and I let it get the better of me. I become very protective and frustrated all at the same time. I began to say to him, if “this” happens because of “that” I will be so… I don’t recall if I finished the sentence before saying, “I will just let it go and disconnect. It’s not my problem”. About midway through my first sentence I suddenly became very aware that I let my emotions take over and I had over-stepped. As much as I want to protect him/them from things I see as having the potential to be problematic, I can’t. They have to make their own decisions. No matter how much I care, I am here to be supportive, listen, and do what I can to help (within reason). I need to let them find their way.
I should mention he is no longer a client here, but still stops in daily. I wouldn’t have over-stepped with a current client. It was the first time I had over-stepped with any of them past or present. It took me by surprise when it happened.
I think sometimes my head and my heart get a little confused about which one of them is supposed to be running the show. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise to me, this has been a life long struggle of mine.
Lesson learned…it’s okay to care, but I have to have a limit/boundary as to how much I show. I cannot do this for them, they have to find their way through what may seem problematic to me. I am happy that I had an awareness of my reaction to what he was telling me, but it was about 2 seconds too late. I know now to be aware of it ahead of time if this type of conversation comes up again.