Jolene and I have decided to write a topic or two together, each from our own perspectives. This is our first attempt. You can find Jolene's first entry of this dialogue on her blog site by clicking here. I've copied that text into this blog reading. We hope you find this helpful.
I look forward to this ongoing discussion.
In my personal opinion, obtaining and sustaining any level of personal connections with others is of the utmost importance in the recovery process. In my own addiction, I was an extremely self-loathing and self-destructive person. I was fortunate, however, to have created some wonderful & helpful connections with others that aided in strengthening my desire to stop actively using drugs, as well as showing support, especially early in my recovery. I truly believe that if it were not for those few connections I had, I would’ve not been very successful in my recovery. I recall saying that “I know that you mean more to me, than I do to you, but I appreciate the support cuz a little goes a long way”. Mainly, because I felt as though I was just another “face” to them in their outreach work. I, personally, lost any family support a long time ago and was, I feel, very fortunate to have any connections/ friendships during that point in time in my life. I felt as though I would’ve disappointed my support people if I went back to actively using once I’d gotten off of drugs. That was a huge part of my decision-making process at that time. I also did it for myself, but due to my low self-esteem, it was “easier” for me to care more about what others felt than myself at that time.
As a person doing street outreach and having never dealt with Substance Use Disorder in my own life, I was sure that my goal was to get at least one person into detox each and every time I visited the streets. I came to understand that my efforts, for as well-intended as they were, were misplaced and inappropriate.
The more I listened and casually chatted with people without any specific goal beyond that - basic conversation - , the more they opened their lives to me. I have heard stories of blood-curdling agony the likes of which would drive any child, young adult, high school dropout or soon to be surgeon to consume whatever pain killer they could find. I never would have heard these accurate accounts of life behind closed family doors if I had continued to be focused solely on putting another notch in my belt of getting one more into detox.
The result of this has been profound. I can't put into words what it's like
- To sit on a sidewalk while someone's son/daughter injects in front of me and explains how much they despise doing so but MUST because they need their medicine.
- To have a dealer ask me what he needs to do to stop doing what he does because he's sick of knowing that he's potentially killing people is a role that I never expected to be in.
- To give a bottle of water to someone's daughter as she hops out of one car and immediately into the next while saying to her loud enough that she and the two drivers can hear "(First Name), you are made in the image of God and you are worthy of the highest dignity, honor, respect and love." is a setting I would never be in if belt notching was my goal.
I've made a few mistakes along the way but overall, I've come to understand that through connection, doors open and healings happen. The following TedTalk presents this topic nicely:
 "They" is a term that I've grown to find as inappropriate in one way. We must remember that "they," the people trapped in Substance Use Disorder and homelessness, are very literally an extension of "us," the non Substance Use Disorder and non homeless members of our one society.