Why I am working to become a Substance Abuse Counselor

April 3, 2018 By Jessica Gorham

My name is Jessica Gorham and I am a 26 year old graduate student at IUPUC enrolled in the Mental Health Counseling program. I am a member of the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress (ASAP) Prevention Team, as well as, a member of the Bartholomew County Substance Abuse Council. I am also involved with volunteer work at the Boys and Girls Club, Book Buddies, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and work as an American Sign Language tutor. I have my Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology from IUPUC. While earning my undergraduate degree, I had two children.  My children are the motivation behind everything I do to better myself and my family’s hometown. I am continuing to gain insight on the substance abuse epidemic through my formal education and community involvement.

I started abusing substances my junior year in high school. Once I started doing drugs, getting high became my main purpose in life. I woke up and sent out that “any” text to the usual group of people looking for that day’s high.  I was an opportunistic drug user. My preference was opiates, starting with prescription pain killers and eventually moving on to much harder drugs. However, if I couldn’t find the pills I was looking for, I would take anything available. Uppers or downers; it didn’t matter. I wanted to be high. I continued living this way for three years. During that time my life was going downhill fast. My relationships with close family members were strained, I was on the verge of failing out of Ivy Tech, making minimum wage, and living in a two bedroom house divided into four sleeping rooms. I was surrounded by toxic people and accomplishing nothing.

I got away from that way of life with the support of my fiancé.  When we got pregnant with our first child, all of my substance abuse days were over. Since my first pregnancy I have been able to salvage the broken fragments of my life. Fortunately, I made it through my darkest years without being arrested so my past does not restrict my future. Parts of my past are dark and ugly, but without the darkness I wouldn’t have the catalyst I needed to put me on the career path I am on today.

The master’s degree I am currently working on will help me to achieve my career aspirations of becoming a licensed mental health counselor with special interest in substance abuse treatment. Mental health counseling is the best fit for me for two main reasons. First, I can use my degree to benefit the population of individuals that are struggling with their own drug dependency in my community. Second, I have found a career which will utilize my negative past experiences in a positive way. My hope is to be a key factor in my client’s successful recovery process and help propel our community to be more progressive in its ideas centered on substance abuse.

My personal experiences have formed the perspective and passion I have today. My own battle with addiction has given me an empathetic understanding of why substance abuse has become so rampant. I have seen firsthand the grip addiction can have on a person’s mental state and ability to make positive coherent life decisions. I am aware of the realities of withdraws, relapse, and unexpected life setbacks. The recovery process will be difficult and lifelong, but with the right support system and network of resources, overcoming addiction is possible. I am excited to be the anchor my clients need to keep them grounded through any trials and triumphs they might encounter. As a counselor, I will be able to provide a nonjudgmental environment because of my own cognizance of poly-substance abuse. I hope my substance abuse battles will help me to be a noteworthy counselor by being the evidence my clients need to realize full recovery is possible.

My familiarity with personal addiction/recovery, my ongoing education, and continuous community involvement will give me the knowledge I need to be a successful counselor.  These great opportunities with ASAP and the Substance Abuse Council are giving me exposure to community proceedings and a behind the scenes look at what Bartholomew County is formulating to combat substance abuse. I am extremely lucky to live in a community so dedicated to treating and preventing substance abuse.  My goal is to help be a significant part of the solution through my volunteer work, studies, internships, and future profession. Combining the appreciation I have for life gained through nurturing my own children and my history of substance abuse has given me the potent mix of a highly relatable, motivated, and caring substance abuse counselor. I am grateful to ASAP for giving me the opportunity to share my journey and be involved in the awesome work they are doing for our community.

Category: General