Addiction Recovery is Not Just for the Homeless

Being a facilitator for the Recovery for Life groups has been an amazing and invaluable experience. Between myself, Carrie, and Chris, I cannot count how many times we have all said to each other, "Such great things happen in recovery meetings.I wish we could film THOSE or tell people about all the things happening in the meetings!" Obviously, to protect our clients' confidentiality and the integrity of the program, we aren't going to film a recovery group or broadcast every detail. However, I do want to give you a glimpse at the great things happening at PiN through the Recovery for Life program we offer.

Recovery groups have become one of the four pillars at PiN, and for good reason. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless (2009), substance abuse is both a cause and effect of homelessness. The prevalent stereotype that most homeless people are "drunks" is simply not true. Addictive disorders can disrupt families and cause people to lose their jobs, yet people who find themselves homeless may turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with the situation. Depending on the person, their circumstance may revolve around a substance or it may have been a perfect storm that led them to becoming an addict. It is a classic "which came first: the chicken or the egg" conundrum.

The nature of addiction is cyclical and people often partake in drugs and alcohol in order to feel good or to avoid the repercussions of withdrawal. So it is simple: continue the drugs and alcohol because you don't want to feel bad. If you factor in homelessness, addiction becomes a whole other animal. The reasons a homeless addict differs from a homed addict are:

1. There is no safe place to dry out.

In recovery groups, we find that our clients are genuinely committed, yet it is hard for them to safely detox. Depending on the substance and length of use, withdrawal can be an extremely dangerous process. There is no place for many of them to go and resources are limited. Eventually, at PiN we would love to have our very own recovery center and in the meantime, we do our best to get people the resources they need to go through a safe detoxification process.

2. Socioeconomic status is a fine line.

I had a client point out to me that people want to help you when you are a working addict. For example, if you are a functioning alcoholic, who contributes tax dollars to society, people will be willing to help you. You might even be a fun person to party with or the lovable drunk who just happens to have a messy life. The moment you become homeless, everything changes. It is a fine line that some people teeter between being those we want to help and those we do not want to help. PiN sees no difference. If someone comes to us wanting help and wanting to maintain their sobriety, we will do all we can to walk with them on that journey.

3. High comorbidity.

Something many people don't understand about addiction is the high comorbidity rate substance-related and addictive disorders have with other mental disorders. Again, this is further complicated when you are homeless. Personally, I believe there are a lot of undiagnosed psychotic, mood, and personality disorders in the homeless population who are also addicted to substances. This leads back to the "which came first" debate. I'm fully convinced that if I was on the streets, I might start to see things, talk to myself, or be extremely depressed, which might lead me to do drugs. At PiN, we don't try to solve the debate, we just try to meet people where they are at. As we earn their trust, we can direct them to the resources that will get them the help they need and as PiN grows, we hope to be able to offer them more.

Having the opportunity to work with this organization as a group facilitator, I have seen how homeless addicts in a self-help group are different, too. Though I don't want to give away all the beautiful secrets of what happen in a group at PiN, I will tell you that at our groups,

Someone will come alongside you and walk with you.

There are infinite chances.

There is no judgment.

Vulnerability is encouraged.

Your victories are celebrated and someone will be there if you fall.

Maybe you struggle with addiction and you are looking for a place to talk about your journey with addiction. Join us.

I know a group that will welcome you with open arms: People In Need.

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