Wednesday, January 5, 2011

WHERE IS MY 12-STEP PROGRAM? (revised 1/02/11)

Recently, out of curiosity, I googled anonymous groups and 12-step programs. I saw everything from Alcoholics to Workaholics, from Narcotics to Nympho’s. I know there is a need for these groups, with each one important in their specialty. I have several friends involved with at least two of the four mentioned. I’ll let you guess which two.

There are also intervention numbers listed, Domestic Violence, Rape Crisis, and Suicide are the first that come to mind. Again, there is a need for these services, and it is not my intent to take anything away from any group. I just would like to ask “Where is my 12-step program?”  Where can I find a hotline for my problem?

What’s my problem? I am considered a chronic homeless person. I have been homeless or battling homelessness most of my adult life, and I am almost 50 years old, and the war rages on, even in my current situation. I never knew anything about,  or that there was a condition of being chronically  homeless.  I chalked up my situation to wanderlust, the need to constantly move, always searching for the greener grass, and at times I even found it, but it never stayed green for long.  I went as far as telling myself I was following a pattern set by my father. (Is homelessness hereditary?) I thought of myself as a nomad, traveling city to city, working different jobs, and if there were no job, I traveled on until I found one. I never went without a job long unless I wanted to. It also didn’t help that I have a mental condition, maybe several, who knows anymore.  Since my interest in homeless advocacy I have noticed or recognized certain behavioral patterns which lead up to my being homeless. Some of these behavioral patterns are continuing this day. So who do I call when these patterns and urges rise?

Looking over the last several years, and my so called behavioral patterns, I have to ask myself, “Would it have made a difference if I had someone whom I could have called?” Someone to talk with when the urge to move on overcame me. Also some of these urges could be considered panic attacks with a sudden need to escape at any cost, and escape I did. On these trips I would drive until I was broke and out of fuel. I would then head towards the nearest labor hall. The jobs were often menial and at minimum wage, but it was honest work. Some of these jobs would last for months, or until the urge to move-on struck.

Still, I wonder, would it have  made a difference just to have someone to talk it over with? My family didn’t understand. They would say things like “You’re just like your father” or “How long you in town for this time?”  My friends laughed it off if I tried to say anything, which left me feeling more isolated.

I know there are people who I can call during normal business hours, and if I am lucky I may actually get an appointment scheduled or be added to their six-week waiting list. I also know that I can utilize the services at the local day center, though at times I feel as if I am taking away from someone who really needs their attention, not to mention that the day center staff is overworked as it is. Again, those services are available during normal business hours. So who do I call during the abnormal hours?

There needs to be a support group for the chronically homeless or formally homeless. I am in need of Homeless Anonymous (HA) support group. I am in need of a sponsor who I feel at ease with and will be able to call when the need arises. If there is such a group then I am unaware, and I apologize for my ignorance, also please send me your number. Are you on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter?

I have been in Santa Barbara for two years. Eleven months were spent at the local shelter where they guided me on a path to end my homelessness. They counseled me, helped me to obtain my SSDI/SSI, made sure I kept my doctor’s appointments, and helped me to apply for housing. With their help, and thanks to the HPRP program, I have been housed for a little over a year. They also provide aftercare, which I highly appreciate. Even so, with all they have taught me, shown me, helped me to accomplish, at times it just isn’t enough.

Night after night, I sit here in my room, and I feel the old patterns, the old life-style emerging. Even with my illness or disability, the urges resurface. Everyday becomes a struggle to stay alive or off the streets. This never seems to happen during normal business hours. It generally happens through the night. Lately, increasingly, I awaken with sheets drenched in sweat, often times disoriented, unsure of why or where. The urge to escape or run fills me with a sense of dread. At times there is an overwhelming sense of guilt because of being housed knowing that people I know, my friends, are still at the shelter or worse, still on the street, and there is nothing I can do for them. I am prone to panic attacks and high anxiety. I quietly suffer with Bi-Polar Disorder. Over the past thirty-six years I have fought with suicidal tendencies and feelings of worthlessness, being unwanted, and unloved.

I know in my heart I am worthy, I am wanted, and most of all, I am loved. This was my greatest experience while at the shelter. Yet I am haunted by the memories of what once was. The pain, the emptiness, the loneliness of isolating ones self. It will be a long road to recovery and I am sure that someday I will make it, if only because of the gifts I have received at the shelter. Still I must ask, “Where is my 12-Step Program?”

“Hello, my name is Ray. I am a chronically homeless person...”