As I drove away from the farewell party for Jane Schryer, Curry County Human Services Addiction Program manager, I was thinking how touching it was to hear from people whose lives she has influenced over the last 11 years.
Most of the participants were co-workers who had a hard time keeping the tears from flowing as they thanked her for the encouragement and inspiration she has been as a supervisor and example of tough and loving addiction counseling.
The first to stand up to speak was John Alexander, Del Norte County District Attorney. Alexander pulled no punches as he reviewed his own struggle with drug addiction that resulted in the loss of his thriving law firm, luxurious home in Southern California, self-respect, and license to practice law.
He told of his introduction to Schryer, seven years ago, when his attempt to regain his license required him to undergo counseling.
"I was able to get approval to participate in counseling out of the state because what I needed was not available in Crescent City," he said.
He laughed, along with his listeners, as he related tough times in no-holds-barred counseling with Schryer, who allowed no excuses, he said.
As the group enjoyed pizza with all the trimmings, plus salads and home-baked cakes, each took turns telling about help and encouragement received from Schryer and how much they are going to miss her no-nonsense and caring supervision.
Curry County Sheriff's Department probation officer Chris Bishop spoke about how much she appreciated Schryer as they shared responsibilities working with probationers, many of whom required a lot of firm, but caring, follow-up.
Schryer admitted some reluctance at leaving her post, but said she felt it was time to switch her life's emphasis to having more time with her husband, Michael, and taking more frequent trips to Florida to spend time with her two sons and four grandchildren.
She said she believed her experience as a recovering alcoholic helped her do a better job counseling those with addictions, whether alcohol or drugs. Alcohol addiction is currently the biggest problem in Curry County, she said.
In a later interview, Schryer recounted how wonderful it has been to have young people she has helped stop by to tell her about their addiction-free lives and introduce spouses and children.
In parting, Schryer said, "It's been an extremely rewarding experience. I'm sad to be leaving the agency, but I'm glad that I know that people will continue to receive the help needed to overcome addictions.
There's always hope."