Thursday, January 27, 2011

The experience of addiction, cycling in and out of rehab, and just generally being homeless

Becky Blanton [pic from her website]
There is a wonderfully interesting article, posted to Salon yesterday, titled "When my car was the safest place to live," that explains addiction and rehab right, from my knowledge of and observation of many of the great guys I know that have (or had) addiction problems and have experienced rehab at the mission. [I, myself, don't have an addiction problem - I should report - so I don't know the experience firsthand.]

Here is the 'money' quote, for me, explaining the problem of being addicted and the cycling in and out of rehab:

Thousands of alcoholics and addicts walk away from jobs, family, fortunes and seemingly stable lives every day. It is the nature of addiction. It is the nature of being human. Most addicts walk away from rehab, for that matter, or go through several cycles of rehab before being clean and sober finally sticks. What people don't realize about Ted [a homeless man in the news, recently, who walked away from his rehab program on Monday] is that he's not failing. He's right on track. He's just caught in the cycle of addiction: He believes the only way to alleviate the pain he's feeling is to use the drug that hurts him. And make no mistake: Withdrawal brings pain. Once the fog of drugs and booze clears, Williams has to face what he's lost: the years, the life, the relationships tossed, squandered or destroyed.
AND, there is this, the author describing how she felt being in the homeless undercaste -- a feeling, now even though her life has been righted, she has not [and may never] fully escape.
… there is safety in being invisible. No one expects anything. You're living the life you believe you deserve. No matter how you ended up on the street, a part of you believes you deserve it somehow. Stay on the street long enough and your self-esteem bottoms out. You begin to say you want out, but the reality is that the demands of a job, a schedule, are daunting. As hard as life on the streets becomes, a part of you enjoys the simplicity. Days become a blur and you become numb. And being numb from the pain is almost as much of a high as being numb from the bottle or the needle.

For some bizarre reason the kinder a stranger is to you, the more pain you feel. There is shame in feeling unworthy and in not measuring up to others' expectations. It's an awful dynamic: The greater the support of others, the more panicked you become. The more someone says, "You rock!" the more you feel like a fraud. The chasm between their reality of who you are and your distorted self-perception becomes too great. So the pain returns in force and so does the need to stop the pain in whatever way possible.
This isn't quite how I would describe my own experience of being in the homeless undercaste, but it is in the ballpark, and I have to greatly credit writer Becky Blanton for her ability at conveying her experience.  You rock, Becky!  No, reallyTruly.

Here, Becky Blanton's cool blog:

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Blogger JustSaying said...

Tom, Thank you for posting this. The comments I've received have been overwhelmingly positive - people identify with the pain and the hoops we all put ourselves through to avoid feeling that pain. Ted is just another person on a painful journey - only his pain is more public. I just hope people get that and continue to support his efforts and those of the people around them. We're all doing the best we can with what we have.

January 27, 2011 at 11:38 AM  

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