Posts tagged ‘addiction’

August 7, 2013

Recovery and Integration


During recovery counseling, we often encourage clients to separate the bad things they do from themselves. We talk of “the addiction” or “the urge to steal” or whatever it is. And as the client regains balance, “the addiction” loses power and shrinks. And at some point, we encourage integration once again, the recognition that “the addiction” is within them and part of them. Eventually they can use that knowledge to be stronger and to be just exactly who they are.
This poem was written by a client in recovery with 12 steps, who was recently baptized, and who attends church and small groups regularly. This poem is about his “shadow self”–a dark part of himself that has driven the self-destructive behavior in his live for many years. He writes about what the shadow-self wants in order to gain power over if and to be free from it. While it’s dark, look at the consequences of knowing this! With knowledge and submission and humility, this client is free from sin and free to follow Christ! 
As you read this dark poem, remember that is is written in first person from the perspective of the thing within that wants to harm. The words of “the shadow” are full of desperate lies, hoping to gain control of what is not rightfully his. This client is free! And he knows the words are untrue! May it be so for all who seek recovery.
Shadow Mission
The thief in the night that stole my life
in an enemy’s grip that chokes the light.
Bending the soul, he buried the knife.
The blackness came in a bloody fight.
He said, “Here are the tools. Take what you want
from family and friends. Then you can flaunt
an arrogance that will make them blush,
while they speak of you in a quiet hush.
You don’t need them. You just need me.
No need to love touch and see.
How quickly and quietly their hearts will flee.
No need for salvation, a lord and savior.
You can run around in bad behavior.
The illusion of freedom I give to you
until I take everything, even your shoes.
Walk around the world your head stuck in glue.
Reach out for anyone, and no one is there.
The embrace of your loved ones becomes a blank stare.
Your hands always dirty with knots in your hair.
You’ve given up everything, the ability to care.
A cage in a cage with a side order of chains.
You hold me, your enemy, as I blow out your brains.
No keys can free you, I made you a slave.
Your only serenity becomes an unmarked grave.
You live as a coward, and envy the brave.
Your mine for eternity , unable to save.
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July 8, 2013

Top Three Things I’d Do


I was asked recently a great question while speaking at All Saints’ Episcopal Church while presenting the ministry there to a group of 45 interested people. These were largely not novices at serving homeless people because they have several ministries there that directly serve homeless. The question was “If money weren’t an issue, what are the top three things you would do to help your clients.”
First, I’m going to give a different answer that I often give to parents of street youth asking what they should do. Here are my top three things that I think a parent should do if they have a street-dependent youth living on the streets of the USA:
A) Get your son or daughter a low end phones with internet. They are regularly on sale for $50 to $80. They may have it stolen from them, so don’t buy anything more. Purchase by the month a pre-paid plans ($35 or $40 per month gets unlimited texting, internet and calling). Don’t do a contract. Just stick with month by month. Your child can now keep in touch with friends of their choosing. They may even choose to stay in touch with you. They can research places where they can get help and call them. They can stay active on social medias. It’s a true lifeline. It’s not really a luxury in the USA.
B) Offer to purchase a hotel room about two nights a month to give your child a break. Living in constant crisis with no breaks leads to all sorts of physical, mental and emotional problems. Pay by phone and tell them not to give any type of cash refund for early check-out.
C) When your child decides to get a job and move from the street, help with deposit and living expenses for the first two weeks until they get paid. I would setup a bank account that you can both access and another that only you can access. Put money into the latter and setup a daily automatic transfer for a small amount into the first. Don’t’ micro-manage but don’t provide additional moneys beyond what you agree. They have to learn to make it but deposits and those first two weeks can be giant obstacles.
Now back to the question asked by the audience member. What would SYM do with unlimited funding? We are a faith-based organization. So first, we would make sure Christian volunteers and churches are used throughout the programs described below. We’d be an excellent employer of a volunteer coordinator and a communications coordinator. Together, volunteer and coordinators would:
1) Run a hostel with a kitchen. Active clients who attend indoor events at least three times this month, would get one room night (or something like that) and the option to exchange working at reception, kitchen, garden, or cleaning for additional room nights. All management and supervision jobs would be given to recovering street youth. Day labor jobs would be available in exchange for a room-night. This would be a legitimate hostile and we would welcome paying guests as well.
2) Operate a training center that works with some recognizable names in training to provide computer skills for real life (running a computer base cash register, waitress station, receptionist stations, etc.) and training in customer service. We’d operate a doggie day care offering grooming, walking and boarding services to the local neighborhood using clients who have been trained. They would compete for a set of “management” positions but all graduates of training classes could get overnight security, reception, advertising, crate cleaning, dog walking, and dog washing jobs.‚Äč
3) Augment government grants for school. FAFSA and governments grants do a great job for most homeless youth willing to attend community college. We’d only pick up certain outliers: felons, people who refused to register for draft, people who can’t satisfy residency, etc. We’d continue to buy college books for all clients who go to school and continue to qualify for government aid.
4) (a bonus) Form a hiring agency “co-op.” Clients join by paying a small amount each week (possibly even as low as $0.50). In return they can be selected by the membership as the “candidate.” All members work hard to get the “candidate” a job, pooling knowledge, networks, and talking straight to the “candidate” about clothing, hygiene, interview skills, attitude, presentation, habits, etc. The candidate signs a contract with the co-op to direct deposit 10% of paycheck for 3 months back to the co-op. Weekly paid members receive published job resources as well as snacks and access to meetings. The co-op pays other members of the group to watch pets or belongs of candidates.
5) (a double bonus) Form a detox facility for substance abuse. We would be a place willing to take in street youth client (attending at least 3 SYM indoor events in the month) for the purpose of detoxing from drugs or alcohol. They would stay there until a bed can be found in a longer term program. The goal of the detox facility is to always be able to get a spot open within 3 days. This would form a bridge buffer to rehab facilities that typically can only free a bed in 2-3 weeks. Two to three weeks is an eternity for a street-dependent youth.

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“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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April 18, 2010

Three faces on addiction


Last week I saw three street kids who are addicted to heroine. Each has a unique story.

A young woman, beautiful and smart, sat all alone on a curb in the alleyway. She uses heroin every day; her life revolves around finding out how to get the next hit. Her boyfriend is also addicted. Taking good care of her dog seems to be all she has of a normal life. When I spoke to her, she looked terribly tired and sad. She knows she has only three options. One, continue with heroin; this would end very badly. Two, kick the habit cold turkey. She knows how to stop the addiction, but “I know if I quit, I’ll just start again. I can’t seem to stay away.”  Withdrawal is terrible. Imagine seven days of the worst flu you’ve ever had.  For most, that is the closest encounter we’ll have to withdrawal from heroin. Her third option is a methadone treatment center. Methadone has side effects and is addictive, too.  She thought through her choices. “All are hard. All are difficult. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She is resistant to the gospel. Faith is not a resource for her. As I left, I prayed for her to find the strength to stop. I prayed she would find room for faith because it would help her stop.

I also spoke with a tall and elegant man who was addicted to heroin just a year ago. He was suicidal and hated himself. He decided to stop, and he rediscovered his relationship with Jesus. Now he lives in an apartment. He goes to church every Sunday. He has a girlfriend “just because we like each other. It’s the first time I’ve had a girlfriend for that reason. It seems kind of weird.” However, last week, he began to use heroin again. “I don’t know why. I just did. But you know… it wasn’t good. I didn’t like it. I guess I’m changing. I guess I’m finally growing up. I won’t do it again. I’m even thinking about going to a Christian rehabilitation center. I want to learn to truly live.” We talked about how the Holy Spirit will ask for changes in his life, but will not ask for more than he and Jesus can bear together.

Finally, I met with a former heroin addict and his wife; he stopped several years ago. He has two jobs now. They live in an apartment. “It feels really good to pay bills. You know…to be able to live like normal people. My wife doesn’t have to dance anymore. She’s out of the strip clubs.” I asked, “And church? Do you see yourself in church someday?” “Yeah, but I don’t know where to start. ” I smiled and made an appointment to talk about finding a church home for the two of them.

Only forty percent of street youth are addicted to substances. The most common substance abuse issues in Austin are with alcohol and heroin. Though several options exist, not all will accept help. The key is helping them is to gain their trust. They alone hold the keys to their change, but some of us get the privilege to walk alongside them. I rejoice for the changes going on in each of their lives. I hurt for them as they each struggle with past and present pain. I especially pray today for the woman on the curb, sitting alone, and wondering which of the difficult paths to take. May she know that Jesus is sitting beside her, waiting patiently and lovingly, to bear her burdens with her.