Deborah Miller, who has been a part of the La Hacienda team since September 2016, knows first-hand what her patients are facing. Before she became a counselor, she was a teacher suffering from alcoholism.
Deborah first entered treatment in April 1985, but it did not take. “I left that program thinking, ‘Wow! Those people had a lot of good ideas. I’m going to use some of them, but I’m not like the others. I don’t need all that stuff they were telling me to do.'” It was no surprise that she started drinking again and “spiraled down really bad.” Five years later, she entered treatment a second time. She has been sober since Dec. 12, 1990.
Realizing a Talent for Counseling
With recovery came a need to find a new career. “I had lost my passion for teaching. I didn’t know what to do next,” says Deborah. But her husband did. Ray Miller, a counselor who was also in recovery, recognized her ability to be an effective therapist. “He looked at me and said, ‘You’re kidding me, Debbie. You don’t think you know what you want to do.'”
She went back to school and got her LCDC and a master’s degree and her LPC. She first counseled at a women’s center in Boerne for 14 years, then was director of a women’s program on South Padre Island for three years. Back to Central Texas, she counseled at a treatment center in Fredericksburg.
La Hacienda had been on her radar, but she thought the commute from Boerne was too long. She finally interviewed here and got a job offer. “I asked God, ‘What do you want me to do?'”
Deborah credits God for leading her here and feels fortunate that she was working at La Hacienda when her beloved husband of 26 years suffered a fatal stroke in 2017. “Everybody was like family, asking, ‘What do you need? What can I do for you?’ A whole row of people from here came to his celebration of life service.”
Counsels Women’s Trauma Victims
Deborah specializes in working with women trauma victims and facilitates La Hacienda’s Recovering Professionals group.
Once they are sober, women who have suffered trauma can receive counseling for it during their stay here. The therapy teaches them how their response to trauma can be an obstacle to sobriety. That is why they need to continue their trauma work after they discharge from La Hacienda, she says.
She can also recommend it as part of their continuing care.
In her work with trauma victims, Deborah has used her training in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, a method that helps victims recall trauma and reposition thoughts about their ordeals.
Four mornings a week Deborah facilitates a meeting of the Recovering Professionals group, patients with vocations that require licensing or certification. They frequently have leadership functions or roles that impact the lives of others. They include doctors, lawyers, teachers, airline pilots, engineers, and counselors.
“These are smart, amazing people, but they are alcoholics and addicts. Most have tried other ways to kick it. I tell them, ‘If you could have done it on your own, you would have done it before you came through the gate.'” The qualities that make them good at their jobs and leaders, can also lead them to deny their illness. “They have to surrender to a higher power. They must let go of control. They have to do everything that everybody else does to get sober and clean and stay sober and clean, and that’s very difficult.”
Loves the Team Approach
Deborah, who enjoys music, travel, hiking, and walking outdoors, loves La Hacienda’s team approach and focus on what is right for the patient. “They do treatment right. The patient’s welfare is the primary concern.” “I love it here. I will be here until I can’t walk up Serenity Hill.”