No plans for retirement soon

Women Who Make a Difference

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Sunrise Centre Counselor Geneva French has worked with people to help them overcome addiction for 13 years. She said she loves her job and even though she is 72 years old, she has no intention of retiring soon.

ALPENA — Geneva French has been helping people in Northeast Michigan overcome addiction for years and has played a role in helping them turn their life around and in some instances possibly saved their lives.

French has been a counselor at Sunrise Centre in Alpena for 13 years and specializes in treatment and therapy for people who are dependent on drugs and/or alcohol. She said during an internship at Birchwood (hospital) she found out she wanted to work with people with substance abuse problems. She says she loves her job and finds it rewarding, but even though she may have helped play a role in helping people battle addiction, it is the individual who ultimately is successful or not.

“I don’t take credit for anyone’s recovery. They deserve the credit,” French said. “They may have heard something from me that they grasped onto and moved forward. If I was a part of a recovery, I’m thrilled.”

French said she does get contacted by former patients who thank her and update her on their sobriety and she says when that happens it makes her feel good.

“When we see the progress people make and the achievements they have it is wonderful,” she said. “Those are the things that sustain us and help us to continue doing what we do.”

French moved to Alpena in 1957 and graduated from Alpena High School with her high school sweetheart and went to Michigan State University. She returned to Alpena after having a pair of children and has been here for 44 years since.

When not at work she enjoys spending time at home reading and spending time doing things outdoors.

“We live in the woods and I enjoy doing things in the woods,” French said. “It is calming and therapeutic. We also have five grandchildren that we are very involved with.”

French said she has heard many sad and disturbing stories from her patients that are hard to digest, but motivates her to help them. French said it took her time to not let it impact her at home, but eventually she learned to separate home and work.

“Early on I struggled and it impacted my life at home very much,” French said. “I did a lot of soul searching and now when I go home, I go home. I don’t call or stop by to check on my clients. There are other people here who are just as good as I. I leave work at work and home at home now.”

French could have retired several years ago, but even though she is 72 years old, she recently updated her credentials to continue counseling. She said right now she is part-time at Sunrise Centre, but when it comes to retiring, she isn’t sure she ever will.

“I don’t think there is an end and right now I don’t intend to retire,” she said. “I guess when it is time I will know, but right now I have no intention of doing it yet.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.