The Road Less Traveled

Many years ago, I read the book The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. Well, most of it. OK…some of it. Nevertheless, there is one part of the book I did read that resonated with me, and I remember it to this day.

Peck described how something went wrong with his car and he brought it to a mechanic. He was amazed at how this mechanic quickly diagnosed and fixed the problem, and Peck declared that he could never do that. The mechanic responded with “Yes, you could. It’s not hard. You just need to take the time. Nobody wants to take the time.” (These aren’t direct quotes – just my memory of 25 years ago.)

Then Peck wrote about how, sometime later, a light went out in his car. First he got all irritated and was frustrated that he was going to have to take his car back to the mechanic. Then he remembered what he’d been told. So he calmed himself down and thought about the problem. It could be a blown fuse. So he got down and positioned his body under the dash. I remember distinctly how he described the way he wiggled around until he got comfortable. Then he followed the wires, found the problem and fixed it. He stated that, while he wasn’t going to become a mechanic or stop taking his car in to get fixed, he learned that if you slow down, take the time to get comfortable and see what is happening, you not only live a much more peaceful life, but you may discover a few things too.

I’ve really taken on this philosophy of life. I like to sit back and watch how events play out. From my perch at NCADA’s front desk, I get to observe what goes on. I take the calls, make the appointments, greet the people coming in the door. I get a front row seat to see the work of the somewhat unsung heroes in our counseling department. They handle calls from people looking for answers; people who need help or hope for themselves or a loved one. And in just a few minutes, the counselors do help. They help these people stop, get comfortable, and take the time to find solutions. Sometimes people just need to be heard.

Frequently teens and their families come into NCADA’s building because the teenager has found some sort of “trouble” with substances. Emotions run high. Parents sometimes believe “nothing is wrong” or “it’s the end of the world,” or anything in between. Our counselors take the time to meet with the young person, then their parent(s) or caregiver, and then bring everyone together to form a plan. They provide an interruption in these families’ lives where everyone can stop, get comfortable…and take the time to examine the issue. If there is a problem, what is it? What solutions are available? Follow those wires.

The counselors also provide assessments for adults. These people usually have been forced to seek an evaluation for substance use as a condition of their parole, or to get back to their job after a failed drug test. They come in just wanting to get this thing over with; something else to check off their list. This is not where they want to be.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve observed a disgruntled person go into the counselor’s office scowling, and then come out an hour later smiling. It’s like a weight was lifted. Our counselors are gifted professionals, assisting their clients to press pause and take a look at what’s happening in their lives. Not everyone who comes in has a problem with drugs and/or alcohol and they are sent on their way with a little more information than they had before.

Some do have a problem but aren’t ready to take that road less traveled – that road to recovery. That’s OK, because our counselors have at least let them know that road exists. But for those who are ready, they are given a nudge towards a different path and the GPS coordinates to find it. Our counselors help people to take the time. To slow down. To get comfortable enough so they can look at what there is to see. To follow the wires. To discover the road less traveled.

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