Chesterton Tribune

John Canright reporter, counselor 'It's never too late'

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For years substance-abuse and family counselor John Canright ran his 1’’ x 5’’ ads in the Friday edition of the Chesterton Tribune.

Just a couple of paragraphs long, easy reading, a few words of wisdom or advice or simply a celebration of life. Thus, in an ad last summer, Canright wrote of those “rare days of June,” when “the early morning dew glistens” and the “air is alive with fragrances, sounds, colors, and warmth.”

Then his pitch: “Adlerian approach to motivation, assessment, addictions, lifestyle, and relationships counseling.”

Sharp-eyed readers of the Friday, Jan. 27, edition may have noticed, however, that for the first time in a very long time—Canright doesn’t remember himself when he first started running his ads, nor does anyone at the Trib—the paper went without his weekly pith.

And so it shall be.

Canright, age 75, has gone into semi-retirement.

Canright, as it happens, is one of those rare members of his generation who made a success of himself in two different careers. He’s the brother of Warren H. Canright, publisher of the Tribune, and worked in the Sixties and Seventies as reporter and managing editor.

It was Canright, along with Margaret Mabin, who furnished the thousands of words needed to fill the paper’s pages when the Trib went daily on April 1, 1961. They covered meetings, covered accidents, covered it all.

Along the way Canright became editor and did a yeoman’s job at it. Old-timers at the Trib recall his long nights at the paper, honing his editorials, plying the copy.

But Canright drank. Ask him yourself and he’ll tell you. He drank a lot.

Then he got sober—on Jan. 19 he celebrated the 31st anniversary of his first AA meeting, that he remembers—and put in one more year at the Trib. But it really wasn’t working out anymore. “That year was a challenge,” Canright says. “For all of us.”

So, middle-aged, casting about for a new gig, Canright got it into his head to free-lance and especially to write about addiction issues. “But I didn’t know how to do that,” he says. “I went to some workshops and somebody suggested I become a counselor. Later somebody at Porter-Starke said the same thing.”

And that’s what Canright did. In the early Eighties he earned his certification and began practicing. Then, in 1992—well into his fifties—he returned to school for his master’s degree from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. That Canright was awarded in 1994, and he counts it as one of his great achievements in life.

“I’m proudest of going back to school at 55,” he says. “I might have been a little older than that. It’s my proudest accomplishment, having the guts to go back to school and doing it.”

And maybe that’s his greatest wisdom too. “It’s never too late to go back to school,” Canright says. “It’s never too late to get sober. It’s just never too late.”

In fact Canright believes that the transition from reporting to counseling was more seamless than might first appear, that the two professions have a lot in common. “My value to the community?” Canright considers. “I was entrenched as a newspaper reporter. I was an observer, only an observer, as far from making judgments as humanly possible. God notices the fall of a sparrow. A good reporter sees it as well and writes about it.”

But a good counselor does much the same thing, Canright says. “He listens and observes and does not judge. Judging’s not his job. You’re not telling people when they’re wrong and what they should be doing. Suggestions do come out but not during the listening part.”

And so: one life, two professions. “It wasn’t too late for me and it isn’t for anyone,” Canright says. “Or as I like to tell people, ‘Left foot firmly planted in the past, right foot firmly planted in the future, stuck in the present and that’s all you got.’”


Posted 2/20/2012