A Journey into the Business of Substance Use Recovery, Mandatory Sobriety and their Role in Housing for San Diegans
By Orlando Barahona
Have you been in a Residential Substance Use Recovery Program?
I can answer, yes. About this, I cannot express how frustrating it feels when clinicians I meet for assessments develop a quick physical expression of distaste. I feel compelled to reveal how my binge drinking springs forth when I feel suicidal. The usual response is that of someone who is thoroughly jaded by the generalized patterns in behavior seen in so many patients or clients.
A relatively recent affliction since my thirties, Alcoholism has followed me cross-country and has disrupted my life in moments when my anxiety peaked and the urge to self-medicate became imperative.
My name is Orlando Barahona and like my father, I inherited a propensity for self-medication. I suffer from two psychiatric diagnoses as well, which I have come to understand as latent elements in what I now brand a spiritual and intellectual myopia.
From a report submitted by the San Diego Housing Commission and the Health and Human Services, there are forty-one organizations offering residential recovery programs in San Diego County, most listed on the Network of Care website by zip code and specific clientele served. These programs have a combined capacity of over 1,600 clients. Men, women, TAY (Transitional Age Youth) and perhaps even children form the pool of patients or clients who find themselves admitted voluntarily or court-mandated into programs funded by the County. A small percentage of people pay for their treatment with their own funds.
My first experience in the Rehab Industry happened in Vista, where I lived with my middle sister until her Bipolar One Disorder forced me out on the streets of San Diego. This resulted in an unfortunate entry into the system of housing programs and haphazard living conditions which lasted approximately four years. Good news! I now reside in a Permanent Supportive Housing unit through housing navigators at the Friend to Friend Clubhouse. Huzzah!
Housing for the Substance Users implementing a Free Program
Two questions for you: Do you believe that Faith alone can cure someone of their addiction? If Science were such an abomination, shouldn’t we live shorter lives?
There are subtle differences in both A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) and N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous), but when I was exposed to both, I completed all twelve steps to understand the core of their success – or failure. As Christian-based in their History as both programs are, I find the more religious peers have better success in them. Please forgive me for the morbid way in which I usually approach the meetings: to me, they represent Tragedy Porn. Testimony is NOT an audition to appear on Broadway. If someone were to share “I sold my baby for crack!” I would ROFLMAO.
The “dry environment” mandatory in seven-eighths of all programs and most housing programs is a disaster. The revolving door of clients, patients or residents in Sober Living Facilities guarantees a failure for most of my peers and myself because relapse is part of the natural process of abstinence or the Odyssey to moderation. I prefer the mental healthcare system and the different approach to finding the causes of the addiction.
Landlords can exercise the ruthless practice of keeping a deposit and any rent paid in advance when the properties are not listed in trustworthy association-approved sites. It’s still the Wild West out here and opportunities for rough treatment by non-professionals and peers can be staggering.
A much better effort in regulation can be modeled after the Independent Living Association and its mandatory reviews by peers and professionals, who promote the properties advertised on the official website ilasd.org. To maintain the listing, the Director of Operations and at least one peer or two, either a landlord of an Independent Living Facility or one peer who has had the experience of living in one visit the locations on a yearly basis.
Are you aware that there is an outpatient Buddhist-flavored Recovery group and also a Big Book (The A.A. and N.A. bible) study group in San Diego? Options, my friends! After trying out the combination of Ethics and Mindfulness, I was hooked for a while until I had a falling out with the Director. It is quite possible to duplicate this formula in anyone’s home. Knowledge of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are absolutely necessary to understand the background and context of the meetings.
The Menu of Recovery
I’m a fervent advocate for the promotion of complementary programs, therapies, and philosophies. Take as a brilliant example Smart Recovery, a Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program. Not an antithesis or an adversary to Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, but part of a well-rounded Recovery effort.
During my travels, I’ve found four kinds of substance users thus far:
- Power Users – Remember when rock groups in the sixties and seventies made a “Jet Set” full of substances both in powder and liquid form almost a calling card to enter the glamorous life? The legacy I have observed is that in which peers simply love the stuff they prefer and care little about consequences.
- Spoiled Kids – The typical Mama’s boys and Daddy’s little girl types. Why? Because the moment life does not spoil them as they were with their favorite parent, they choose to self-destruct.
- Victims – When I felt a depressive cycle begin, alcohol would be my go-to substance to kill the pain for a few days. I’m not a falling-down drunk; my objective is to sip and be in my “no-pain zone” for as long as possible.
- Functional Addicts – A few of my peers have been addicted to substances for so long, it’s far more natural for them to require the additional drugs just to feel stable again.
Luckily, there are chemicals solutions available on the market such as Disulfiram and Naltrexone. One, in particular, Vivitrol shows promise in allaying narcotic cravings. There are viable solutions to deter the use of substances.
Prohibition and You
Prohibition was brought on by suffragettes who made a connection between domestic abuse and alcohol. It also brought on one of the most catastrophic periods of crime in the History of the United States, second only to the War on Drugs. As a result, alcohol became decriminalized and taxes are flowing from everywhere.
My suggestion? Producing and selling a few choice substances with the bonus of taxes, which can fund various projects, instead of having users promote national and international terrorism.
How it Ends
At the core of my Recovery is the desire to be well; to invest all my intelligence to engage major personal changes to evolve into a stable being. I wish to feel like others, not less-than. My ignorance of certain psychological and spiritual tools and loneliness have always been the biggest dangers to my Recovery. Demonizing alcohol is apparent to me as another attempt to bring on Oppression and taking certain freedoms could be next.
Oh, there is no option other than to accept my two loyal companions and saboteurs. Until I find the right combination of Recovery options, Sláinte!