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Housing First ... and sobriety will follow

Sacramento Bee opinion writer Dan Morain wrote a piece about homeless people and sobriety in today’s [12/20/15] Bee that is a year or two behind the knowledge curve.

Morain calls for a policy of “sobriety first” for homeless people who drink habitually before they get housing.

What Morain very apparently doesn’t know is that the big majority of alcohol drinkers – including heavy drinkers – and users of other brain-altering substances ARE NOT ADDICTS or Alcoholics. Their Number One problem isn’t that some beverage or substance has taken control of them. Their problem is that they aren’t engaged in a life that feels meaningful and interesting. The counselling they need is NOT “how to stay sober,” it is how to jump into a “life more normal” that is full, eventful and invigorating.

According to the website 1st Alternative Counseling:

What Is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control, or physical dependence. In addition, alcohol abuse is less likely than alcoholism to include tolerance (the need for increasing amounts of alcohol to get "high"). Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that is accompanied by one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:
• Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities;
• Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery;
• Recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk;
• Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the effects of alcohol.
While alcohol abuse is basically different from alcoholism, it is important to note that many effects of alcohol abuse are also experienced by alcoholics.

Thus, what the big majority of homeless alcohol drinkers need is Housing First very much without any sobriety-counseling waystation (or waste-of-time station) on their way to GETTING THEIR LIFE BACK! Unfortunately, many many “homeless-help” charities are really put-homeless-people-through-a-gauntlet-for-no-reason charities. Others fully seem to exist to create money for themselves, never even pretending that they know all that much about what they're doing.

What alcohol abusers need is a pathway to a “life more ordinary” that has meaning and purpose and reliable friendships and hope and happiness. Homeless alcohol abusers are model candidates for Housing First. They are ready-made for a refurbished life that can come from being put in housing that gives them a wide field of possibilities for employment and new, healthy relationships and habits.

Please listen to this excellent short video. A must see. Just 15-minutes long.

In his June, 2015, TED Talk, “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong,” [see video, above] Johann Hari tells us that American soldiers in Vietnam by the tens of thousands were using heroin. The expectation was that when these men returned to the U.S., there would be a huge problem. But there wasn’t. The reason, it turned out, was that heroin (or alcohol) abuse isn’t about “chemical hooks,” as was supposed, but about what we bond with..

Says Hari, “Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond. When we’re happy and healthy, we will bond and connect with each other, but when you can’t do that – because you’re traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life -- you will bond with something [potent] that will give you some sense of relief.”

What prevents people from becoming alcohol abusers is having healthy connections with others and work and hobbies and activities that satisfy them. Likewise, the fix for those who abuse alcohol is to re-connect to a satisfying life which will, of itself, disconnect them from alcohol.

Further information: Here is a link to where WebMD makes the distinction between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependency.


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