Caitlin Reider, Class of 2009


Ahmad Abdel-Azim, Center Spread Editor

Caitlin Reider works as a Substance Abuse Counselor at ThedaCare Behavioral Health. She previously used substance in high school to cope with difficult issues, but entered into recovery her senior year of high school. She now has the opportunity to help people living with addiction.


Noctiluca: What’s your full job description?

Reider: I work as a Substance Abuse Counselor at ThedaCare Behavioral Health, where I’ve been employed for several years. In addition to this, until this past October I worked part time at the Outagamie County Jail. As a Substance Abuse Counselor, I complete assessments and make recommendations for treatment, counsel people in individual treatment, and counsel people in group settings.

N: How have you reached the position that you are in now? What steps/choices have you made to become a Substance Abuse Counselor? Have you known since North days that you wanted to become a Substance Abuse Counselor or did you decide that later?

R: On November 8, 2008, when I was 17 years old and a senior at Appleton North, I entered into recovery. Life dealt me some bad cards at an early age and substance use was a good escape to coping with the issues I didn’t know how to handle. The idea of being a counselor didn’t cross my mind until I was in school at UW-Milwaukee and taking an intro course for social work. I figured that alcohol and other drug abuse counseling would provide me the greatest opportunity to do what I wanted to do – help other persons living with addiction. Since then, I’ve received my Associate’s degree in Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counseling, my Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science, and I’ll be finishing my Master’s degree in Psychology this summer.

N: What have you taken from North throughout your career? How has North helped you progress into your career?

R: When I was in high school, there were a lot of issues in my home life, which was one of the reasons I turned to substance use. I was just a really lost and scared kid that didn’t have many persons I could turn to, and the staff at Appleton North High School helped that more than I can express in words. In particular, I think of Mrs. Strick and Mr. Hechel. I’m able to help other people today because they helped me. I’m able to tell someone it’ll be okay, because they once told me it would be okay. Though I struggled to believe that, I had hoped that they were right. Honestly? They were so right. My life has been more than okay, it’s been wonderful, and I’m now able to pay it forward to the next person. A few years ago I had the gift of seeing both of them at a conference, and since then, I’ve reflected on just how much of whom I am as a helper is because of how good they are as helpers. At ages 16 and 17, I was in such a bad place in my life that I don’t believe I would be alive today to be able to help someone without the direction of Mrs. Strick and Mr. Hechel. That’s an incredible gift, and I hope any student that struggles knows that there is a wonderful staff, not just Mrs. Strick and Mr. Hechel, that cares for them.

N: What is one piece of advice you would give to students who are currently at North?

R: Whether or not it feels like it right now, you are amazing and you will be amazing. In high school I was this kid that was heavily bullied and abused. I was very unhealthy, very unhappy, and very lonely. Today, I’m healthy and happy. In my eight years since high school, I’ve continued to maintain my recovery, almost finish my Master’s degree, and lose over 300 pounds. I really doubted that happiness would ever be possible for me while I was in high school. If you have your doubts about that today, it’s okay. Just don’t think that this is the best it gets. Don’t think that you’ll feel stuck for forever. You won’t. Someday, you’ll wake up and realize you fit your own definition of amazing, and let me tell you, it’s an absolutely incredible experience.