If I can’t be anything else then I will be kind and as far as is possible, generous. As I expressed in my last blog entry, I really took a lot from the twelve step program and the narcotics anonymous meetings that I attended. The main one being that of ‘service’. What does it mean to be of service? Namely, ‘the action of helping or doing work for someone else’. I really want to be of service and so I try in numerous ways to be as helpful as I can. With family it can be small things like listening to my sisters, talking to them and offering up advice or guidance whenever needed. Helping my mother around her house or babysitting for her to go out and enjoy a little bit of ‘me’ time away from the children.
For some time now I have thought about extending this in the form of voluntary work. Mental health and the problem area of addiction are both very much close to my heart and so I would like to assist in these areas wherever possible. Although, after a recent visit to my capital city I have found another subject that has struck a chord with me and one that I am now very passionate about being involved in. I’m talking about the issue of homelessness and helping people who find themselves down and out, destitute and on the streets.
With my sisters birthday fast approaching I popped into town wanting to pick up a gift. On my arrival I went through the ticket barriers and on leaving the train station there I was faced with people in the most tragic of circumstance. To be honest there were a number of homeless people I saw that day all in really bad ways but one woman really just stayed with me. So much so that I was consumed by thoughts of her all day, distracted as I muddled along in and out of shops. At 28 degrees it was baking hot and there she was sat on the floor, arms covered in scar tissue, evidently on heroin, ‘nodding off’ with the sun beating down on her. It honestly made me feel just so, so sad, realising that homelessness is isolating, devastating and dangerous.
Since my trip into the city I have read a lot about homelessness in all of its varying degrees. From ‘sofa surfing’, rough sleeping on night buses, all the way to setting up camp in shop doorways. People sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence. More than one in three people sleeping rough have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless. Also, the alarming rate that those on the street suffer with mental health issues and are those who have simply slipped through the net. Homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population. It really does create that perfect storm whereby people feel that they have no other choice but to end their life.
People become homeless for lots of different reasons. There are social causes of homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, poverty and unemployment. Sometimes life events cause individuals to become homeless, for instance women who have escaped domestic abuse and violent relationships. Other examples include losing a job, mental or physical health problems, or substance misuse can be the trigger. Being homeless then makes many of these problems even harder to resolve.
Given my experience with mental health, drugs and addiction I have since thought to myself what if that had been me. Without the support of my family, socially and financially that could very well have been me. Every day I make an effort to express what I am grateful for realising for instance that not everyone is like me in that they don’t have supportive friends or loved ones looking out for them. Not everyone has the luxury of food on the table or a roof over their head. Right now I feel that merely being compassionate is simply not enough, we have to take action and actually help the people in need of assistance.
Today I had to go and see my caseworker and I told her all about what I had seen. With my qualifications in Law and Sociology, also my life experience in terms of mental health and addiction she is of the opinion that I am very relatable and have a lot of potential. For some time now I have been thinking to myself what is it that I want to do, what is my purpose? Well I think that I have found it! Although, I have to make sure that I don’t take on too much and over burden myself. When I do put myself under too much pressure I find myself craving pain meds and the last thing I want to do is jeopardise my sobriety. It’s hard to find the right balance between taking care of yourself and looking out for other people. However, it is one that I want to achieve and I’m hoping that with experience it will come a bit more naturally.
I’m going to leave it there for today but can I just say a big, big thank you for taking the time to read this piece. Always curious and forever intrigued I would love to hear your thoughts on my posts. It would be great to hear from you and so please do drop me a line and say hello!