Every month, the small alternative school for at-risk youth where I worked as a young man ran a “recovery” group. This group was for those students in active recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. This always included some whose recovery wasn't quite “active,” but were seriously contemplating sobriety none-the-less.
I had only been working there a few months. After co-facilitating one of these groups for the first time, I was processing with my supervisor. She asked me what I thought. I shared some impressions, none of which were particularly interesting.
Next, she asked me about one of the students who had talked at length about how the school had helped him get clean and the wonderful new world of sobriety now before him. I shared that the student’s story was inspirational. It was clear that the staff were making a big impact in these kids’ lives.
My supervisor nodded slowly. Then she said, “Yeah well, that student is totally lying. I bet he hasn’t had a sober day in the past two weeks.”
“I don’t know…”, I said tentatively. “That was a pretty powerful story he told. I don’t think someone could fake that.”
My supervisor smiled a bit and nodded again and said, “I want you to talk to him.”
“Okay. What do you want me to say?” I asked cautiously.
“Just look him in eye and tell him that he needs to get honest.”
“Then what?” I asked.
“Then don’t say anything else. Just be silent,” my supervisor instructed me.
“That’s it?” I asked.
“That’s it.” I was told.
I thought that my supervisor must be crazy. This student just poured his heart out in group talking about the changes in his life and profusely thanking the staff for their help. Now, I’m being asked to call him a liar and start grilling him for information about supposed drug use, about which I have no proof?
Yes, that’s precisely what I was being asked to do. So, I did it. Begrudgingly.
I walked down the hall to the English classroom and asked if I could speak to the young man. Once we were away from the class and in a quiet office, I did as I was instructed.
After an awkward pause I said, “Simon, I need you to get honest.”