January 7, 2015 – Dreams can come true

“I am a great believer in luck

and I find that the harder I work,

the more I have of it.”

                                            Thomas Jefferson

Why did I start with that line? I cannot imagine why. In life we all have dreams of things we wish we could do or things that would come to us.  I would have loved to be a ballerina or a figure skater or a good teacher. None of those things were in the cards for me.  I never thought I would be an addictions counselor or a passionate prevention person but those things did come my way.  Addictions were not part of my life until I married and learned about the genetics of addiction and decided I would pursue that field because of concern for my children’s futures.  I knew nothing about addiction but when I found out how many alcoholics were in my kids family line I knew I better find out about it. As it turned out it was a pretty interesting field and luck has been with me and I guess my dream of eventually finding a good job in prevention did come true and one would have to believe it was a meant to be situation.

I was working for CHP/Kaiser Permanente and in August of 1999 they announce to the provider community that the place would be closing down on January 1, 2000. It was a terrible shock to so many of us because we loved working there and still look back on those years as very positive ones for us.  The pay was good, working conditions good, bosses fair and would listen to us, and I had made some really good friends there. Not being a social worker or a nurse and with changing times there were few places for me to go where I could make the salary I was making at CHP.  So, I figured I would stay until the end and see what came my way.

My friend Pat went to interview for a job in Rensselaer County.  After the interview she told them she really was not interested in the job.  They asked her if she would be interested in another opening they had for a prevention specialist. After describing the job to her she said no thanks but she knew who would be great in that job and would love it. She gave them my name.  So I get a call offering me an interview. Fabulous job and one hitch, you had to live in the county to get the job. I said no thanks, I would love the job but I am not moving.  I thought that would be the end of it. Then a month later I get another call, this time from the Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health, would I please come back for a second interview. Sure, why not, right?  So back I go and had a wonderful chat and again, we want to hire you but you have to live in the county.  Sorry again, but I am not leaving my house for a two year grant position.

So, December came and CHP closed. I was hired on to help them close out claims which might go on for a couple of months with no reduction in pay and my benefits would continue so this was good. In the mean time I had visited the people the company were paying to help people find new jobs.  They told me I would be hard to place, but if Denis wanted a job they had plenty they could offer him.  He was not looking.

So, I learned how to close out claims and was not messing up too much and one day the phone rings. This is now about the second week in January.  It was the Commissioner of Mental Health. She said they wanted to offer me the job if I was still interested and if I wanted it they would go to the County Executive and request that the job be changed so I would not have to live in the county.  I said yes and two hours later I got the phone call that the job was mine and that they needed me to start right away. I told them I had this commitment at CHP and I would get back to her.  My supervisor in the claims gig looked at me and said “Are you’re nuts, you don’t owe us anything, go take the job.”

The next day I called and arranged to go with the Commissioner to a meeting with the State in a week and although it would not be my start date I would get comp time for attending this training with her.  The training was for those being funded under the grant that I would be working under. Every other group did a presentation about what they had done so far with the grant and the progress they were making. I learned a lot and it was things learned in grad school studying Community Psychology.

The end of this story of getting the job is that they gave me an office in the Commissioners suite. The desk had been used by the two woman who had the job before me.  When setting up the office I found a letter from the State that had arrived around New Years. In it it stated that if the position was not filled by the end of January the grant money would be taken away since the position had been open for over six months.   No wonder they were in such a rush to get me to the State and let them see someone had been hired.  I had a good laugh over it.  Sometimes things are just meant to be and our dreams do come through. That was my dream job and I stayed until I retired in 2011.

Since 2011 I have continued to volunteer on various groups doing prevention at the community level. I still love it although after the four months away I could easily step back away from it.  Something has changed in me and I have other things I would rather be doing.  Sad to say but true. I love presenting on underage substance issues and have attached a picture of a panel from last spring that Congressman Paul Tonko organized in the Capital District. He is a great advocate for the work we do in our communities and his staff have been wonderful to work with.


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