Tilly, You Rock My World

Today was a good day. In the life of a drug and alcohol counsellor it was a very good day. Aside from the telephone calls, intake assessments and other tedious administration tasks there were two client visits. Four visits is an average day if we’re carrying a full case load although scheduling in six visits is not uncommon. The theory driving the six scheduled visits is that someone cancels at the last minute or is a no show.

In line with best practice our therapies (the way we counsel) favour a client-centered approach. Those of us in community service are are driven by a fierce commitment to social justice (yes, I know, it’s a catch phrase for all kinds of whacky trendy lefty ideologies – another post me thinks) so we are focussed on working towards the best outcome for our clients and in the work I do, parents, of young children, are my clients.

People interest me. How they cope in their circumstances; how they manage on a welfare benefit (you have to be smart to feed a family on what they get); and the fact that so many of them are still here, struggling on, lurching from one crisis to the next. They haven’t given up. They’re a tenacious population group. My clients, those affected by their misuse of substances, legal or otherwise.

This morning’s first client has a long history of cannabis, amphetamine (speed and ice) use as well as any other drug that could be dissolved and shot up (injected). Tilly (not her real name) had a bad reaction to a batch of cannabis which caused her to experience a psychotic episode. The episode of psychosis required police intervention to subdue her, hospitalisation to stabilise her mental health followed by a ten month period in an intermediate stay mental health unit. She now has severe schizophrenia for which she is heavily medicated. At our first meeting it was difficult to know whether Tilly was struggling with the medication or if in fact there was a cognitive impairment. Her attention span was minimal and eye contact intermittent.

In the eight months I have known Tilly it has been humbling experience to journey with her and watch the transformation. With Tilly’s hospitalisation and long term stay in the intermediate unit she lost her home and family, her daughter was assumed into foster care, where she will remain until she is eighteen. When Tilly moved from the intermediate unit into temporary accommodation her belongings filled two grocery bags. She had little hope left in her heart to see how things could be better.


Today was a major milestone for Tilly. She completed our outreach drug and alcohol programme which focusses on relapse prevention and it’s many aspects of recovery from substance dependence. It has been a challenging journey for us; for Tilly as she came to terms with her diminished cognitive capacities and for me to be continually adapting the material so Tilly could grasp the concepts underlying the strategies. She pushed through, persevered when others would have thrown in the towel and today we closed her ‘episode of treatment’ with our service. She had graduated.

Her face when presented with her certificate of achievement was a picture that will encourage me for a long time. The delight in her accomplishment was tangible. Her treatment is complete because everything on TIlly’s case plan – which she helped to put together – has been ticked off. Although Tilly’s cannabis-induced psychosis has left her with a permanent disability with which she is still coming to terms, she has shown more tenacity and courage than many other clients who do not have an acquired brain injury.

Today Tilly is:

* Abstinent from all drugs
* Settled in stable long term accommodation
* Living independently
* Managing her medications unassisted
* Involved in volunteer work one day a week
* Attending college two days a week
* Seeing her daughter once a fortnight and attends her daughter’s netball matches on alternate weekends

Tilly you rock my world!

Yes, indeed it was a very good day.


7 thoughts on “Tilly, You Rock My World

  1. Thanx, T. Tilly certainly was a picture of pride. Me? Maybe just a little but I left her home with a new sense of privilege that someone could be so vulnerable before another. Sometimes we see the potential in others when they are willing to be vulnerable.


  2. How do we ever grasp the kind of courage people like Tilly display in their journeys towards health and stability? My admiration is also with people like yourself enabling and giving such caring support. Lovely inspiring post.


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