An Interview with David Houke
“I love seeing the lights come on for people,” says David Houke, primary therapist at Promises Austin. “My job is to figure out what it’s going to take for a client to open up to changing their life and then guiding them in that change.”
Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, David earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Southern Illinois University. He went on to obtain a master’s degree in social work from Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio, Texas. His first job out of college was as retail manager for Foley department stores, part of the May department store chain that was later bought out by Macy’s.
Embarking on a New Career
How David went from retail to helping people overcome addiction is an interesting take on serendipity. “When I got sober, I left the retail business,” says David. “About two years sober, I was at a meeting getting my two-year chip and a lady I met there said, ‘You’d probably be good at this counseling thing.’” She recommended that he talk with a local treatment center that had an intern program. “I went and talked to them and they offered me a job the same day.”
Like many people presented with an opportunity, David says he at first had lots of excuses why it wasn’t going to work. He had just signed a lease on a new apartment. “But all those obstacles fell away. The apartment was sublet within three days. The people I was working for at the time knew I was going to leave once I figured out what I was going to do. Suddenly I was in the counseling field.”
He worked at a large addiction treatment center in Texas for 17 years, starting as an intern, and then serving as a case manager, family program director and finally adult program director for about 10 years. His most recent job prior to joining Promises Austin was with MAP Accountability Services. They do monitoring after discharge, much like Elements Behavioral Health’s JavelinSM program.
Philosophy on Treatment
Dedicated to helping clients embrace change, David is unequivocal when it comes to his philosophy on treatment. “I believe that 100 percent of the people who seek treatment can stay sober,” he says. “I do not believe that relapse is a requirement.”
He also feels strongly about treating dual diagnosis. “We have to pay attention to secondary diagnoses or else people won’t be able to stay sober,” he explains. “Also, you have to treat the whole system; you can’t just treat the client in isolation. If you’re not also treating the family, work, their living situation, you’re not going to get good outcomes.”
David is forthright about the challenges of long-term sobriety. “I’ve been sober since September 16, 1989,” he says. “It was not an easy process and nothing that I could have done alone. I overcome challenges by relying on resources, reaching out for help from friends and people who know more than I do. My job is not to have the answers but to be willing to make mistakes in finding those answers. It’s about the effort and collaboration.”
What Truly Excites Him
Today, David and his wife Arlene are the proud (and very busy) parents of four children – ranging in age from 9 to 26, and doting grandparents to three grandkids. He loves woodworking, a craft he got into when one of his sons was in Cub Scouts and his Scout leader had a walking stick that he made. “I decided that I could make a walking stick and be the cool dad.” That turned into a whole woodworking hobby and David has participated in arts and crafts shows where he has a booth displaying his handiwork.
He’s also a huge music fan, particularly jazz. He collects vinyl and currently owns close to 1,000 albums. “I’ve got the Beetles White Album that’s actually printed on white vinyl. I’ve got an original Jimi Hendrix and Billie Holiday’s first album.”
The most important things in life to him are love, God and spirituality. “It’s my Higher Power and the blessings I’ve received as a result of growing that personal relationship. I know I’m far from perfect and I’m always willing to get some feedback. I am always going to be learning how to do my job better and, most importantly that I would like to work myself out of business someday. I’d like to find a way to permanently get everybody sober and we’d not have this problem in society anymore.”
In the meantime, he’ll keep doing the best that he can.