Paul: I’m sure that you experience some significant challenges. How do you like to handle that stress? Keith: While it is undoubtedly rewarding to watch our patients reclaim their lives, the work we do in the battle against alcoholism and other addictions can be fraught with frustration. As a former therapist at Alternatives used to say, this disease resists its own recovery. To keep my own serenity intact, I employ many of the same coping skills we teach our clients, including prayer, meditation and sharing my thoughts and feelings with others who understand. Though I am on-call frequently, it is important for me to maintain clear boundaries between my work life and my personal life. When I step on the tennis court, for example, I leave my work day/work week outside those white lines and focus on where I am and what I need to be doing at that moment. I also will not watch treatment-related television programs. When asked if I’ve seen the latest episode of “America Needs Treatment”, I reply, “I do that 8 hours a day at work; I’m not doing it at home!”
Paul: I know you are passionate about several causes. Would you care to share what they are? Keith: I’ve been an ethical vegan since 2004 and, as such, am an animal rights activist and a firm believer in the health benefits of a plant-based, vegan lifestyle. For the past several years, I have asked my co-workers to graciously support me as I participate in the annual Walk for Farm Animals to raise money for Farm Sanctuary, an organization that works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals and promote compassionate vegan living.
Paul: If you knew you were going to spend one year on a desert island, with all the food and water you’d need, as well as a solar-powered CD player, but were allowed only one CD, which would you take with you? Keith: John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme would be my pick, even though a year alone with that incredible music could never be enough!
Paul: What if it were a solar-powered DVD player and only one DVD? What would you take? Keith: The 2002 US Open Men’s Final between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi… or the 2009 Wimbledon Men’s Finals between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick… or… do I really have to choose just one?
Paul: What advice would you give the families of our clients to help them in their struggle with their loved one’s addiction? Keith: The best piece of advice I can offer families in these situations is to seek support in Al-Anon and don’t stop going. Just as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have been helping alcoholics and addicts recover for decades, Al-Anon has been a steady, guiding light in the darkness for families and friends who struggle to understand and help their afflicted loved ones and who suffer themselves from the effects of watching their loved ones slowly self-destruct. I once heard a recovering alcoholic say, “You don’t have to drink alcohol to die from the disease of alcoholism”. Al-Anon can be a family’s lifesaver, both metaphorically and realistically.
Paul: Keith thanks for taking this time to speak with me. Any parting words? Keith: It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Paul. It’s been interesting to shift my perspective a bit from what I do to why I do it.