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On the Periphery of Addition. Notes from a Mom.
Posted by daytoday on 27 September 2016.
Along the bumpy road to recovery…… and then what? More bumps and the random sink hole. That’s what! I’ve met many heroin addicts over the past couple of years. During that time some have died, some continue cycling through the system, and a few have made it to sobriety. This is a story about that backend of the road to recovery. While policy makers and researchers look into causes of addiction, barriers to treatment, etc., some attention needs to be focused on solutions to the barriers after treatment. It’s not an easy process. And its not a pretty one. There are many well-meaning professionals in the field of addiction research and related centers of support. A heartfelt thanks goes out to each and every one of you. Unfortunately, there are some who should not be working with the public or using the system. To them I say, ‘find another job.’ Move aside for someone who can and wants to make a difference. This may seem like an odd thing to say but, ‘the best thing to happen to my son was to be sentenced to jail.’ The 30-day treatment programs were never enough to distance his brain from the call-of-the-needle. After the countless 7-day detoxes and 14-30 day treatment programs there was never a next step available. Beds were full at sober homes and MassHealth does not pay for a longer period of treatment. He finally had his day in court (many days actually). The short story is that he was found guilty of probation violations and was sentenced to a Department of Corrections facility that housed a program specific for drug & alcohol abusers. Without that court ordered 6 months of sobriety he might still be in the revolving doors of homelessness, treatment, and drug abuse. Or worse, he could overdose again, die, and a beautiful little girl would grow up without her Daddy in her life. The court system is an entirely different story - one that needs restructuring for efficiency. How many times did I take time off from work to take him to court and found there was not enough time to get to his case resulting in a reschedule, the appointed attorney was not present, the jail forgot to send him, and on it goes. There were classes available in jail. Some he took and used as learning experiences and others were taken to pass the time. Due to overcrowding he was unfortunately released 2 months early for good behavior. I don’t see that as a benefit in this instance. Then with little more than a pat on the back he was released from jail and given the .04 cents that remained in his canteen account. In the program, counselors were made available to those who had longer sentences. Hello? Shouldn’t those with the soonest release date be helped first? Just a random thought. Now free, but homeless, jobless, penniless (well he did have 4 pennies), and a suspended license, which by the way had nothing to do with his offense, he was expected to find his way back and become a productive member of society. There was no assistance for placement or referral to a sober home or halfway house. He made countless phone calls but only a few facilities called back. Most of them were full or required a deposit plus the 1st week’s rent, or more. Not a possibility for an unemployed person fresh out of jail. I took a day off work to drive him to the sober home he really wanted to get into. They had a program to assist with education & employment opportunities through local businesses they provided referrals to. There had been no return call even after leaving messages every day for a week. This time he left a physical note with his number and as we were on the way home the manager finally called – there was no room at the Inn, but try back in a month. Remain in limbo for a month? And in the meantime? While in jail his health insurance, EBT card, and phone service had been terminated. Reinstating each of those was both frustrating and time consuming. The ‘emergency’ EBT funds took over 3 weeks to activate. During his initial phone call he was told to make an appointment for an interview the following week. ‘I’m hungry now’ was met with, ‘the interviewer will let you know if you qualify for EBT services.’ An Obama phone does not have enough minutes per month for one to remain on hold listening to elevator music while waiting for your phone interview (which was a scheduled time). As a work-around, I gave him my cell phone for the 10:00am interview. He was on hold for over 40 minutes, completed the interview, then denied services. Apparently sleeping on the couch of random friends is not considered homeless. However, if you provide a letter from your former employer stating that you do not work there anymore the decision may be revisited. Seriously? If you’ve ever had an addict in your life you understand why friends and family were reluctant to offer up financial support of any kind or even to offer a place to stay. You need to take inventory, have your home on lockdown, and make sure there was always someone home. Saying no is not easy when its your child (27 years old) out in the cold, dirty, hungry, disheartened. But, if you provide assistance of any kind, social services are terminated. So I bought him dinners on the QT. At the end of the day, my son is alive! So, to the barriers, human and human-made, I say BRING IT ON and we’ll deal with it together! Job hunting. I had to take a day off work to get him to a temp agency to apply for a job only to be told hours later that the company does not hire felons. Nice. So much for a second chance. Online job applications are relatively easy but there are time limits at public computer sites. Biking to an interview close by works on a nice day, then there’s learning a bus route in a new town, and walking which really limits potential opportunities. Two and a half months of job searching and he finally lands one! Feelings of success, self-worth, the start of a new life & new possibilities. I can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. 7 ½ months of sobriety. I hold my breath, cross my fingers, and pray for his continued successes. A job, transportation, a place to live, food. The simple things so many of us take for granted. Take any one of these away and the stool upon which you sit could collapse. Imagine having the courage to endure without having even one of these? Few addicts can bring themselves to make the attempt and even fewer succeed. My heart breaks every day when I see someone’s son, daughter, a parent or friend sitting curbside, nowhere to go, nothing to do, hopelessness in their hearts & souls. I don’t think it takes a whole village to make a difference but ignorance of the problem at an individual level can certainly be an obstacle. To use drugs may be a choice for some but Addiction is an illness. Be that one random act of kindness. For someone it may be all that they have.
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