Joseph hated visiting his counselor. But he had agreed to go to rehab and agreed to do it for real this time. The last time he went to treatment all he really wanted was a place to dry out for a bit until he felt healthy enough to drink again. He wanted moderation. He made promises to himself that he would regain control. That plan backfired within hours of leaving treatment. Joseph found himself stopping at a bar on the way home. This time he was desperate and willing to do anything. That included going to meet with his counselor.
It was towards the end of his two month stay at the treatment center. Joseph felt better and was surprised at how much younger he looked compared to when he entered treatment. Inside he was a flurry of anxiety and exhaustion. It had been weeks since he slept through the night.
The counselor was an older man, though Joseph couldn’t tell his age. The man had been a junkie before getting clean and that could age anyone prematurely. Joseph waited in the lobby until the counselor came and asked him to come into his office. He gestured to an empty chair near the desk and Joseph sat down wondering what came next.
“We were talking about fear last time,” said the counselor.
“Yeah,” said Joseph.
“You said you were afraid of leaving here. What else can you tell me about that?”
Joseph shrugged. “I don’t know if there’s anything more to tell you.”
“You said you were afraid of leaving here and going back to work. Do you still feel that way?”
Joseph thought, Is this guy stupid? “I don’t know why I wouldn’t. You’d feel that way too. You’re here working in a safe place. I work in bars and play music. I’ll be surrounded by temptation,” Joseph said. “It would be easy to go back and end up talking to you or someone like you a year from now.”
“That sounds frightening,” he said. “And understandable. Have you considered some other form of employment? Something you can do that doesn’t involve playing music in bars?”
Joseph sighed. “I don’t have any other skills. I’ve been doing this since high school. I have a blank resume. And I have a criminal record. And the economy is busted. I’m pretty much fucked.”
The counselor nodded. “You believe you don’t have any other options.”
Joseph nodded. The counselor scribbled something in his notepad. “You think you can make a living playing music again? From what you’ve told me, you haven’t done any performances in years.”
“My agent thinks I can manage it,” Joseph said. “I can still be billed as the guy who wrote the song for the Mary Ann show. A lot of people watched that show. He’s already started booking gigs for me and sending tapes to different television shows.”
“So what will happen if you aren’t able to perform again? What will you do then?”
“I can perform,” Joseph said. “My hands still work. And I can still teach.” Joseph thought, What is he getting at? Why is he assuming I can’t make it? It’s like talking to my parents all over again when I was sixteen.
The counselor scribbled some more. “I just think you might benefit from being a little more flexible,” he said. “Open to other possibilities.”
“This is my life,” said Joseph. “Music is my life. I’m good at it and love doing it. And I don’t appreciate you implying that I can’t do it anymore.”
“I’m just worried about you leaving here and going to work in bars. Drinking and music are tied pretty closely together with you,” the counselor said.
Joseph shook his head. “Not that way at all. The drinking got out of hand when I stopped performing. When I had enough money I didn’t have to gig every night. I was bored and lazy. Work will help.”
“If that’s the case,” the counselor said, “what are you afraid of?”
“What am I afraid of?” Joseph pondered that question for a moment before answering. “Everything. Absolutely everything.”