As a parent, it’s my natural instinct to want to protect my children. As they venture into adulthood, one of my major concerns is their potential homelessness. Raising your children you try to teach them to take care of themselves and you like to think that you’d always welcome them back home if they came upon hard times and needed assistance for a while. I think with many children, that’s possible. Unfortunately, with addicts that’s enabling.
When Laura was 18 years old, she left my home, quit school and got married. Several times she asked if she could come back. To be put in that situation is heartbreaking. If I let her come back I had to accept the risks that came along with it, like theft, damage to my home, disruption of the family, etc. If I told her no, I had to be ready to accept the idea that she could be homeless with nowhere to go. There were times I let her stay at my house, other times I gave her money or paid rent for her somewhere and times I cried and prayed she’d be ok without my help.
When Laura went to rehab, a big motivating factor in her decision to go was the fear of being homeless. She had burned more bridges than I can count at that point and her chances of finding someone willing to take her in were slim. As painful as that situation was for all of us, it was the biggest blessing I could have asked for! For Laura, it was rock bottom.
She spent 9 months in an inpatient rehab before she decided she was done there and walked out. Unfortunately, once you walk out, you are not allowed to just walk back in. She called me from 450 miles away asking me to come and get her. She literally had NOWHERE to go. I was able to arrange for someone to pick her up until I could get there. The next big dilemma though was “what next?” Was I supposed to bring her back home with me? Even though she had been sober for 9 months, she still needed to rebuild relationships and earn trust. It wasn’t particularly encouraging to me that she walked out of rehab instead of officially graduating and scheduling the next step. Times like these is when I tend to turn to God because I know I’m not capable of doing it on my own. I prayed and I started making phone calls. A coworker (who had been in Laura’s shoes before) told me about a halfway house that might be a good option. I called. They told me they had 7 beds and 1 of them had just become available. I was able to secure that spot for her and take her straight there from rehab.
The halfway house was wonderful! While in rehab Laura often told me she didn’t know how to move forward when she got out. She said “I’ll still have no home, no car, no job” The halfway house took care of all of that. They provided the roof over her head, help getting a job, transportation to and from work. In return she had to pay rent, do chores, stay sober, participate in AA, and follow all the other house rules. She did so well there that she even worked as house mom for her last few months. Because of her experience there, I find myself as a HUGE advocate for these homes!
Right now, Matt is in prison. He’ll be released two months from now. During his time in jail his lease on his apartment ran out. He has no car, no job, very few friends (and NO friends that are not involved in the lifestyle he was living before he went to jail). We’ve mentioned the idea of a halfway house to him several times but he doesn’t want that. He says they’re full of “shady characters” who decided they need to get sober and “that’s annoying”. He tells us he doesn’t believe in addiction. He thinks people who call themselves addicts are just weak and lacking the self discipline needed to stop using drugs. He States that his own drug use was just recreational and he doesn’t believe he has a problem. Makes sense…. Being in prison isn’t really any indication that your drug use is actually a problem. Right? (I hope you are able to read that with the sarcastic voice I’m saying it in)
Matt says his plan is to live with his mom when he’s released. The only things that need to be taken care of first is for his mom to get a job and an address. She is currently reliant on the kindness of her own friends and family for her own survival. Then, Matt just needs approval to transfer his probation to a different state. I honestly don’t know how easy or difficult that is to do. My hope is that they tell him no. Even though I don’t believe he’s ready to make any real change yet, I don’t think being with his mom will help him get there.
What I’m praying for now (and I don’t know the system well enough to know how likely the possibility is) is that the state won’t release him from prison with nowhere to go. I’m praying they place him in a halfway house, or something similar, that may just give him the supervision and structure that he needs. I’m praying for a mentor for him that understands where Matt currently is and is able to show him a better way to live.
Matt seems to think he can live on the streets temporarily if need be until he’s able to go live with his Mom. I’m praying he’ll choose something better, even if it’s not initially what he WANTS, to avoid being homeless. No matter what happens a couple months from now, I’m going to have to accept it. This is Matt’s life to live, not mine.
I send my compassion as you watch Matt continue to avoid reality. It is extremely painful to watch someone self-destruct in that way, denying that living on the street is dreadful. May God continue to watch over him.
Thank you. When I went through this with Laura, I couldn’t imagine that we’d ever be doing it again with another of our children. However, I find it a little easier to know how to handle situations with the experience I gained through those years.
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My husband was talking yesterday with a substance abuse counselor with an addict son. The disease sure doesn’t discriminate.
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