Dec 102014

“It’s a long way down to nothing” (U2)

Good for the homeless, or anyone headed down a disastrous path, to reflect on this lyric, including addicts, anyone trapped in an abusive situation, the mentally ill, those head downhill toward financial disaster, etc. It may be difficult for those on a declining pathway to recognize the signs. That was certainly true of me, in my long decline to homelessness in New England.

Then there are many, including me, who are determined to make something work–past the point of reason. Sometimes. It can be incredibly hard for those who are married or in a “permanent relationship” to admit that a relationship can die, for various reasons. There are not many people who “want” separation or divorce. But relationships do break down, and sometimes it is just best to go your separate ways.

It can be hard for couples to admit that they need serious help with their relationship. There is still a shame factor associated with therapy. We all like to present a rosy front to the world–as far as our intimate relationships are concerned. But to delay help, past the point of no return, can prove to have disastrous consequences.

Many homeless folks (not all!) are mentally ill or drug addicted and need professional help badly. But many have an independent streak that kicks in to tell someone in pre-homelessness to just stay the course without reaching out.

Learning to recognize warning signs that one is headed down a disastrous path can be incredibly hard. I know. Been there, done that. I wanted so badly to make things work out for me in New England that I kept pushing on ahead, making mistakes in judgment, acting impulsively. It was not until I did reach out for help while in the Worthington Street Shelter in Springfield, MA that things gradually started to turn around for me.

Recovery can be a very extended process, too. One must be very patient. And it can be difficult to see progress in oneself. It can take someone else to say, “You’ve really changed!” to wake you up to the progress you have made along the way.

But I will end this essay with my initial question. How do you help someone to recognize crucial warning signs before they fall into the abyss?

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