UnCharted Path Productions - Let's Talk About it...Substance Abuse and Homelessness
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
UPP's Weekly Mental Digest
"Substance Abuse and Homelessness"
by Shari Wilson, Psy. M.
July 8, 2022
So just imagine that you’re driving downtown in a major city on hot summer day around 3 or 4 pm in the afternoon you stop at a red light; then someone catches your eye. There she is, you see this woman laying down on the bare ground under an overpass with tattered clothes. You see her carrying a full-on conversation with herself and you can tell that she has had a rough life; especially to be in the condition that she is. It just really makes you wonder, what brought her to be homeless?
Welcome back to another week of exercising getting that mind of yours nice and healthy.
This week we are looking at how self-medicating mental illness with substances can lead to homelessness. We discussed last week how it is vital to get help for issues that one might have mentally and just to be cautious about the treatment received. You don’t want to be just taking medication all willy-nilly without getting to the root of whatever brought you to seeking help. One of the reasons why seeking out therapy, is to avoid self-medicating because it can lead to a dark rabbit hole that can feel like it is impossible to crawl back out of.
There is a toxic relationship between untreated mental illnesses and self-medicating. You have those who think that they can handle whatever they went through by themselves, not noticing that their need to “take the pain away” is being filled with some sort of numbing agent; whether alcohol or narcotics. This is where things may get distorted, because this chase of the ability to numb yourself, takes precedent over the reasoning of responsibilities and a working moral compass.
This need to be numb becomes the driving force of their “therapy options”. This form of “treatment” can easily lead to substance abuse. And once the chasing of this dragon begins, all else tends to be thrown out of the window. It can lead to physical and/or psychological dependence.
This simply means that one has created a tolerance to their form of self-medicating that physically, if they stop, their body will go through withdrawal, hence the physical dependency. Whereas, psychological dependency is more along the lines of self-medicating to continue to numb those negative emotions. More information on this can be found here: What Is Psychological Dependence?
This web of dependence can quickly become out of one’s control leading to a life that they were not wanting. There are those who have said that they would never be where they are now, a life of the unknown, chasing the next fix without a place to stay. Unfortunately, this downward spiral goes hand and hand.
Substance abuse can lead to complete disregard for relationships and responsibilities, and even one’s wellbeing. Let’s just say that their addiction has become strong enough that their next fix is more important than that light bill or that rent payment. Unfortunately that next step can lead to an eviction and soon-to-be homelessness. Homelessness in itself can be an onset of a mental disorder.
One of the most common disorders associated with becoming homeless is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). For those who have been self-medicating which may have led to homelessness, this can be a vicious cycle where getting help is a lot harder than one would think.
What makes substance abuse and homelessness a very dangerous combination is the element of “how do I get my next fix?” The options for chasing that high can be a lot crueler while homeless. The streets are not as forgiving so “job options” are: panhandling, prostitution, hustling, and those are just to name a few. Dealing with mental illness and now substance abuse while being homeless is a whole beast within itself.
It is a vicious cycle. I can guarantee for a child who is asked what they see themselves doing when they grow up, they would never say that they want to be a self-medicated person with mental illness mingled with drugs and being homeless was not their answer. Additionally, there’s no way they would answer with wanting to deal with the guilt, shame, and mistrust that comes from living that life. Even in these dark hours of dealing with the insurmountable stress on a daily basis of mental illness and/or substance abuse and its toxic relationship, at some point, one will believe that they deserve better.
That moment will be the driving force to not necessarily bring them back to where they were before, but the hope and faith that is used in motivating them will let them know that they have something worth fighting for. It is really just about taking it one day at a time. The decision to get treatment instead of self-medicating can literally determine how the butterfly effect turns out; one decision can change so much, but as long as you’re in the land of the living, there is hope. If you or someone you know is suffering from some sort of disorder or addiction, just know this friendly reminder that there is ALWAYS hope, even when it seems impossible. Therapy is available even if it seems as though it may be impossible to receive, there is ALWAYS someone somewhere willing to lend a helping hand. You are never alone. Feel free to reach out!
About the writer:
Shari Wilson has a true heart to listen to anyone who shares their experiences, traumas, or just life in general. She studied at Purdue Global University, acquiring her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis and Addictions Psychology in 2016. On the path to furthering her studies, she received her Master of Psychology in 2018 from Purdue Global University. Since then she has been enamored with the ability to use her education to help others through difficult times.
She is a Consulting Psychologist for UnCharted Path Productions, working on the upcoming psychological thriller series titled, “Hidden District”. She is a mom of 3, a wife, and an amazing friend to those around her.
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