Apr 292014

You Didn’t Get Here Overnight…

In most cases, you didn’t get to homelessness overnight, and won’t be able to extricate yourself from the situation overnight, as well. There are usually complicated factors that lead one into the street or a shelter that will have to be unraveled. You may need mental health or substance abuse treatment. You may, in effect, have to learn to work again after an extended period of sporadic employment, or no employment. You may have to make important decisions about where to live and when to move—when it is appropriate to make a geographical move.


Some people regard any tactic that smacks as a “geographical sure” as wrongheaded, but hanging on in an environment that is sapping your spirit may be the strategy that is wrongheaded. For me, it was necessary to move from Southern New England back to the South for a variety of reasons, but I had to make that move back at the right time. There were just too many traumatic memories to cope with for me, in Southern New England, and I needed to make a fresh start. Also, having grown up in the south, I had an intrinsic knowledge about how to conduct myself in that environment—a great advantage when one makes a major move.


You have to save sufficient money to make a successful move; it takes some planning and some degree of financial sense. The ability to handle finances may be a big part of your problem that needs to be worked on before you make a major move.


No matter how traumatic a particular setting is, there will probably be many precious moments associated with it, and to leave an environment where you have strived to set down roots may engender feelings of grief and loss and “having given up” that need to be dealt with at some level. Those traumatic feelings may hang on for a considerable amount of time after you have made your move. So it can be extremely scary to make a positive move. Fears of change and loss will surface, and you may realize this, consciously or unconsciously.


You may miss the positive aspect of where you have been living; Southern New England can be seen as a very attractive pace to set down roots. You have ocean nearby, and mountains, urban and rural settings, and physical beauty. Of course, you can become trapped in a tough urban and virtually never experience the beauty of New England. It all depends.


You may become comfortable in a protected setting like a rehab shelter or program and simply not want to face the unknown of continuing the recovery process on your own. This is a natural feeling, not something to be ashamed of. Someone might have to give you a nudge to move on from such a protected setting, and sometimes more than a nudge.


Then, if you are lucky, you have managed to find a group of health care providers, including at least one who understands, at least partially, what you are going through. One of your doctors may be providing psychotropic medications that you absolutely need to maintain emotional stability. So, naturally, if your decision is to move from a certain area, you will experience some fear that you are going to lose the medical support that can be so vital.


But some extra planning may help you to surmount that barrier. In my case, I was aware that through a program called TennCare in Tennessee I would be able to receive some adequate mental health care and access to the medications I needed, and that is one reason why I felt able to take the step of moving in that direction. Of course, I also had extended family there who had offered me housing while I continued with the recovery process. Both factors made such a move a feasible option.


These are just some of the complicated factors that can slow down or stymie recovery.

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