I sometimes ask myself why I like working in the addiction recovery field so much. It doesn’t take me long to come up with the answers and they are always the same. I am fascinated by how people come through so much adversity in overcoming their addiction, and so often the other problems that arose as a consequence of their addiction, or preceded it and were a significant factor in its development. I love the fact that they go on to lead valued and meaningful lives, often helping other people on there journey to recovery.
There is also something special about being around people who are trying to turn their lives around or have done so. And seeing them help each other. I love the human interactions I see when I visit recovery communities. And I guess I’ve never really liked seeing people struggling in their lives. And I don’t like social injustice, something that close friends tell me has been part of my character for a very long time.
I saw the same personality characteristics in Wulf when I first met him back in 2000. I could see that he cared passionately about other people, the adversities that they faced, and finding ways to help them. I guess in a way it is no surprise that we’ve come together all these years later to develop this Recovery Voices initiative.
At the time we first met, Wulf told me about his chef days. My clearest memory about those conversations was Wulf telling me how much drinking and drugging went on amongst chefs. It was an occupation to escape or avoid! He also told me about his actions described in the film below, his helping young people. Seeds of what was to come in his later life, the signs of a special person who cares about others.
Wulf’s first serious ‘career’ was as a chef. He reached the stage where he was asked to manage a whole hotel and kitchen. People have often asked him how he got from working as a chef to being a social worker. There were two main paths to this journey. Firstly, catering colleges asked Wulf if he would take on lads who would find it difficult working in the less relaxed atmosphere of other kitchens. Secondly, he started working with a local agency and took on young people with learning disabilities, along with their support worker (whose role diminished over time). Wulf went on to realise how much he loved human interactions.
He decided to apply for jobs as a nurse, but was immediately rejected and told that they didn’t want his type on the wards—someone who would challenge the doctors. They asked him if he had considered being a social worker. In frustration, he went back to being a chef for another couple of years. He ended up with a very young, hedonistic group of local lads in his kitchen and they were great to work with, despite all the challenges that came with them. The bug finally caught him… and he applied to be a social worker.