When I was in my second year of recovery in 1977 and working at Texas Mental Health Mental Retardation in Temple Texas, Our area hosted a symposium on Alcoholism and the helping Professionals, our special guest speaker was baseball legend Don Newcombe (sober since 1965) who was helping players with their Alcohol abuse, the keynote speaker was our resident psychiatrist from Temple, Texas M.R.M.R. who introduced his talk with this story.
An 8 year old boy needed to do a report on giraffes for his class, he went to the local library and asked the librarian for help, and she said, “Certainly young man, just go over to that book shelf and on the bottom, you’ll find everything you want to know about giraffes”. The young man went to the shelf and found one gigantic book half his size, the young lad wrestled it to the nearest table, and waded through this tome which had everything ever written about the history, origin, and physiology of this great creature. After a half hour of puzzling through this massive work, the poor frustrated young child lugged this giant book over to the librarian’s desk and placed it there. “Well young man did you find information for your class report?”, the librarian encouraged. The young man politely responded, “Yes mam, but that’s More than I Needed to know!”.
The Doctor further explained how we as helping professionals, learn our craft and are able to work successfully with our clients and patients, but for various reasons we sometimes doubt our effectiveness or mistakenly become enamored with other professional’s style or reputation. Sometimes we modify our practice because duplicitous people come to us with the newest and respected approaches, which we then needlessly saddle to our client’s relationship. Our Relationships falter or even worse become diluted and formulaic, the client becomes understandably guarded, confused, and even frightened, and we begin to doubt our abilitiesas competent care providers. Fortunately we can do asimple Values Clarification* of our motives and remember our purpose is to Care for the client (Hippocrates’ Do No Harm); Care meaning watchful attention, patient supervision, when we are unable to cure or resolve their issues. The doctor also mentioned that it is okay to know one’s limits, take joy and satisfaction that a client can be referred to an appropriate professional, and that by learning and honoring our limitations we teach our clients a valuable and therapeutic lesson…” you can’t win them all”, neither should we see “winning” as our ultimate measure for success. I learned a great deal from our doctor’s speech, and from “Duke Newcombe’s” impressive sharing about: going from fame, to alcoholic despair, and finally genuine recovery and mentorship, thirty-five years later I still use their good examples and advice to hopefully help others.
*Our Step 12 Clients refer to that process as continuing to take Personall Inventory (AA Step 10)