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
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
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.’”