Audio: Social Worker


Stop what you’re doing.

I want to share with you this full-length episode from my sober podcast series. It’s called “Social Worker” (SP217) and it’s about 40 minutes long.

I originally thought I’d interview a social worker who works as an addictions specialist. Sounds like a good idea, right? And our talk goes well … until it doesn’t. She says some things that I don’t agree with. And at one point it’s a little bit awkward. You need to listen all the way through, because this does NOT go how you think it will.

So below i’ve posted the entire 40 minute podcast. usually i just post a clip but today, thanks to some really lovely donations to the Sober Good Works fund (thanks!), i’m posting this audio for everyone to listen to – even if you’re not a paying podcast subscriber.


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after you listen, post a comment and tell me what phrase from this audio is an a-ha moment for you. Something that you’ve maybe heard before, but today you REALLY heard it. Loud and clear.


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(ps, my blog allows for anonymous comments – so you don’t have to fill in a name or an email address to post your comment below).


Comments from listeners:

Ariel: “The social worker podcast. Just amazing. I cringed waiting for each response. My heart was full that your disclaimers and apologies were still followed with straight arrows and truths. I had so much appreciation that you were not swayed by respectable titles, licenses, and professional experience. You both were gracious and I felt so much one-ness with the reality of just how many of us need to be on this road together.”

C: “Addiction and rehabilitation counseling is, at times … a commercial business with boxes to check off that says “yup, talked about that.” Wolfie wasn’t on the list for today… It’s sad rally. And here are more gross overgeneralizations: some counselors can become qualified (at least in the states) with little training compared to that of others in the mental health professions. Even if a counselor has other (better) credentials, they may fall back to a lowest common denominator way of thinking when working with addiction.  Also, there is a lot of pressure to get counselors on staff who can sign off on rehab, probation, and court documents rather than spend time with client in a meaningful way …  You doing work with empathy is a foreign concept for a lot of folks. it is much more subtle, less valued, in this capitalism or other instant gratification things in our culture. It is even seen as weakness. You. The Beatles didn’t invent music, but their take on it changed the way music sounds. I enjoy very much your intuition, original prospective, and encourage you on the path; you help dry academics humanize their therapy — you have a burning question about life, a niche, you explore it with a unique lens.”

Dr. C: “Interview was tricky. You did well. So did your guest. Great listening … hugely polarising and depending on which side you sit you believe, you’re correct. Your guest talked about dialectical thinking (and being a Libra!) and the ability to hold two opposing beliefs at the same time (this is a well established therapeutic tool) but I wonder if in this case it’s like being a little bit pregnant. I can’t help but wonder if more health professionals took your line, if a lot of grief and morbidity would be short circuited. You stuck to your guns. Well done. Made us all proud x … Your voice. Your bluntness and calling bullshit. Your empathy.”


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • “I just happen to be sitting in the chair instead of the couch” was like a face palm! People are just people but we have different skills. I can’t fix a sink so I call a plumber to help. I can’t get sober I talk to someone who has and continues to be sober to help. It’s that simple but in the case of sober it’s not easy because of pride. We are told we have to have our shot together and asking for help with head stuff is a weakness not just a lack of skills. Keep the sunshine coming out you are Belle;)

  • Wow! – great interview and so great that Social Worker is on the challenge with us! I needed to hear this today after more than 3 years sober – thanks for all you do Belle xxx

  • I loved all aspects of this interview. There were parts that had me laughing out loud. Your right this is good radio. I wanted hear more. I’m hoping you do more interviews for podcasts in the future. I can see both of your points of view. I imagine this social worker is very good at what she does, and so happy for her to be on day 30! Now she is discovering new tools to use to help her clients, you can never have to many.

  • If that was awkward or confrontational…
    Two people with different perspectives sharing their view.
    Very civil ilized and interesting.
    The moderation argument doest hold water for those desperately seeking sobriety.
    You made that abundantly clear and won the day.
    Thank you for all you do.

  • Seems to me like she just wants to keep her clients happy, so she takes the “moderation might work” route. She knows they don’t want to hear abstinence is the answer. She also just plain doesn’t get it. And this is exactly why I think for someone to really be effective working in addiction…they should be in recovery themselves. She thinks she gets it..but she clearly doesn’t. You did a great job of making your point, while still being polite 🙂 Not that this matters, but I found it annoying that she laughed at so many things, that aren’t funny for someone dealing with this. Just one more indication that she really doesn’t get the struggle.

  • My favorite line was “If it’s not a problem, why not take the 100 day challenge?” It was so nice to hear the excitement in her voice when the lightbulb went off in her head that she can do it.

  • I listened to this yesterday and since then, have just been pondering some things. You’re point about if someone mentions alcohol, they’ve already got a problem–really struck me. I hadn’t considered that before. I look back during my 3 year slide (post bariatric surgery as you also mentioned!!) at how many times I “mentioned” in an offhand way to friends, my doctor, my therapist, that maybe I like wine a bit too much lately (ha ha!– I said it in a joking manner) and no one said “maybe that’s a problem”. You’re so right–it’s like the banana thing you’ve said before. If someone is counting their bananas, or how long since they’ve had a banana, they have a banana problem. Most people (and me pre-overdrinking) never think about their drinking. When you do, you’ve likely already crossed the line into addiction. You’re also correct in that most people don’t come asking for help to quit forever–they just want to feel better. Thanks for sharing this Belle.

  • Your interviewee is smart and warm and BRAVE. At the same time, she also sounds like what I think I sound like when I am being a people pleaser, which is much of the time. I really cringed in recognition, the way you might when you hear yourself in a recording and are embarrassed. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: the social worker should not be embarrassed! But in own my attempts at radical authenticity (authenticity is the word I’ve chosen for 2018!), I’m come to recognize my people-pleasing habits and the dishonesty behind them. I guess I wonder if what she sounds like to me bears any relation to what she feels like, and if that’s at all similar to me. I am on day 11, and am glad to know she’s so far along.

    The flipside of hearing/recognizing the “people-pleaser” voice is recognizing my discomfort with the tone you have in your responses/questions. I have come to admire this tone for its honesty, but my knee-jerk reaction is often “geez, that’s harsh.” And mainly, I’m sad to say, I find this specifically in my reactions to other women. I’m happy, very happy, to be recognizing this and calling myself on it, but it’s still there. Thank you, Belle, and especially thanks to the Social Worker for allowing you to share.

  • I agree with the other comments. Wow. I have been wobbling this month, it would be 120 days if i had kept to my original promise on August 5. today is day 3 again. I was so moved by the end. Belle, you handled that so well. it was really touching to me. you have compassion, but deliver with the strength of your truth.

  • I understand that living addicts is better than dead one. Harm reduction is cuel. Like metadone or disulfiram project in Poland or heroin project in Switzerland. Learning people how to take drugs safely. You know – like don’t kill oneself. But if there is a chance that some people will live and work with specialist than do drugs and do this all bad staff like commiting crimes and have all health problems…This is the lesser of two evils. 🙁
    I am sober for three years and eight months. I believe that this is the best option for me and other addicts.
    This things are really difficult to explain in my mother language in english it’s almost impossible to do. I hope you get it.

  • Counselors.. I have so much to say about this. Open mindedness is also super important. I found you second, Unpickled first. I tried moderation for two years, it did not work! I did not loose it all. I have a house, a husband, a good job, So I must be fine. Abstinence is what worked for me. Also I have an eating disorder too. So in that addiction, I could not abstain from food. I have had to learn about healthy moderation in food as well. It tricky. Lets just say she would not be therapist I would have seen long term… Love you Belle

  • I would never pay money to a counselor who mentioned her/his Zodiac sign to describe her/his counseling style. see Nancy Reagan era. Trial period vs surrender comment excellent. Also, I think counselors and doctors who don’t have alcohol issues will never get/understand that by the time a client/patient mentions it (alcohol use) as a possible contributing factor to any problem, it is already a HUGE problem…..IC Momentum

  • When I got to near the end of the interview, about 37:40, and the subject was “higher power” I was surprised that when your “guest” said “…It’s not in some dude on a mountain top or you don’t need to mediate x amount of hours to get there..” that these comments where not challenged. There are many tools in a sober toolbox that work for some but not for others. If a “dude on a mountain top” or meditation is a supportive tool to someone embracing their sobriety these tools should be respected and not mocked. Perhaps I misunderstood or misinterpreted her comments?!

    • i’ll have to listen to it again, but i think she was talking me and that i was channelling something spiritual, and that’s what i was deflecting. because you’re totally right – anything that helps you to be sober, is a sober tool. starting with accountability and having someone cheerlead for you. but to think that meditation ALONE is going to do be enough, would be disheartening. because then if you relapsed, you’d think “i just need to meditate harder” and … and well, it’s not about that. (anyway, i’m off-topic now, i think the point in the audio was her talking about my ‘calling’ which i flatly dismissed.)

  • That was brilliant! Well done both of you. I love that Belle could hear Wolfie talking and directly asked, are you an over-drinker? And I equally love that Social Worker was so honest and non defensive with her answer, yes. And that she has taken on the challenge to do the 100 days sober…wow, that’s modelling the desired behaviour. Good for her clients (and us listening) and good for herself.

  • Thankfully I at least had 4 years training to be a counsellor and would never consider myself an “expert” and I agree that empathy goes a long way!
    I think the major ah ha moment for me was when you said “no one comes to me wanting to give up alcohol but to feel better “ and it about being “ a trial”. If I’d been “told” to stop it wouldn’t work; but to be told “you will feel better “ is hugely motivating and hopeful.
    The fact that you “ignore” the ambivalence is powerful and goes to the core of the part that’s wants recovery. This part starts to grow and gain strength. Very different from AA and harm reduction programs that I’ve tried and failed at!

  • “I’m just a deeply flawed person who shows up”. Which is probably the best any of us can hope for…. Inspiring and illuminating. Thanks for sharing this, both of you.

  • This interview took me back to my drinking days. I saw a therapist briefly for unrelated (I thought) issues and mentioned I was concerned about my drinking. You’re damn right that if a client “mentions” drinking to a therapist, it’s a big problem. She asked if I thought I was an alcoholic (who me? of course not!) and whether I’d had a DUI (thankfully no, but I could have been cited many times). Then she recommended that I only drink when I was out with my husband or friends. End of alcohol discussion. Of course, it was only after I got sober and learned about the Wolfie voice and self care that I was able to start working on the issues that brought me to therapy in the first place. I appreciate how both of you handled this interview, disagreeing with civility and moving on to a place of real communication.

  • I thought the whole thing was a wonderful example of complex the issues we face are and how we can learn from one another. Both did great tackling a difficult topic that has a whole spectrum of responses. For some maybe harm reduction and moderation helps them get to place where they’re more amenable to abstinence. For this alcoholic, I love Belles advice. It’s straight from the heart and it IS easier. Life is complicated enough without having to measure and count drinks.

    • i’d be all for counting drinks … if it worked … we’ve all tried moderation. maybe we didn’t call it that, but we tried. being sober is just plain easier.

  • I really enjoyed the interview, Belle. You did a fantastic job presenting your view.

    I also sympathized with her points. But at no point did I think the conversation didn’t go well. That might be in your head. Maybe you felt defensive because you don’t have letters after your name? Difficult or challenging conversations aren’t by default bad. You challenged her positions but each time she responded openly to your viewpoint. It was a wonderful display of active listening by both of you.

    In the end she learned from you. Perhaps she has made some professional recommendations that didn’t align with her own personal beliefs out of some measure of empathy or practicality or “meeting the client where they were.” And perhaps now she will practice more closely to her personal values. That’s a huge victory … for her.

    Also in the end she began a sober journey. Way to go, Belle. Way to go … Social Worker whose name I don’t know. 🙂 Another victory for her.

    Thank you so much for sharing it in it’s entirety.

  • So at first I was like “what?!” – in regards to the idea of moderation, or the person who switched from hard drugs to pot as a “better” alternative? But listening the the whole podcast, was heartwarming in that hearing she is on 30 days now with us! Yay! Was a wonderful ending to the call 🙂
    I like to hear that professionals are human too. They aren’t superhuman with all the answers for the rest of us. We all have the same struggles and are all in this thing called life, trying to help each other out.
    “We’re all just walking each other home” ~ Ram Dass

  • Wow! This was an amazing audio and if you don’t listen to the WHOLE thing, you really are missing out! Wonderful job!

  • That was very affirming for me to listen to. 1) Reminded me of how AA was too scary for me at the time I quit drinking. I absolutely could not say I would never drink again. Still can’t, actually. 2) So happy I didn’t go to this type of therapist as I would still be drinking and rationalizing why moderation could work for me. 3) Relieved I stumbled upon your blog and am on day 381 thanks to sober supports and connecting with like-minded people.

    • I listened to the whole thing. It sounded like an AA speaker meeting. Lots of buzz words and jargon from both sides. And the big climax- now this social worker is doing the 100-day challenge. That must be very gratifying for you I am sure.

      • i find the tone of this comment to be unfortunate. did i seem self-congratulatory? mostly i was worried that she would regret doing the interview. that’s what i remember most. and then waiting to release it and asking her again if she wanted to retract it. to think that i do an interview in search of gratification is saddening to me.

      • … Not once in the transcript did I sense or feel self promotion on your part. Even if you were self-promoting, why would the promotion of a proven methodology for overcoming addiction be a bad thing?

  • The only thing that comes to mind is that this therapist “Dances with Wolves” when meeting clients where she thinks they are at and suggesting services she thinks they will be receptive to. If you show up to a counselling session for addiction issues, you are already admitting you have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs. I love how you convinced her to also suggest to clients a trial period of sobriety as opposed to moderation. One of the reasons I have stayed away from addiction therapists in my recovery is because I know the majority indulge in the Kool-Aid themselves so aren’t able to see things from the perspective of Day 836. I hope this social worker has copies of your book in her waiting room!

  • Wow! I just finished the social worker episode. Just wow. I was not expecting that interview to go where it went. Amazing. Ending up with the addictions therapist 30 days sober. What? So, first of all, how brave were you both? You both started with a sort of canned interview format and ended up in a very real conversation about alcohol. I loved it. Full of surprises. I have to say, I am a psychotherapist myself. I cringe at any talk from a professional about moderation. I do not think you start there. I agree that you start with an invitation to try an experiment to watch what unfolds and then evaluate. So, when a therapist is drinking themselves what are they able to offer a client? I loved this. Brave and the truth. Thank you.