Anonymous: A story about addiction, community
BERKSHIRE COUNTY — For many of us, being around friends, family and our chosen communities is the most important part of the holiday season. In 2010, the importance of community became very evident.
Addiction had consumed everything. I felt as though I had nowhere to turn, and I was embarrassed, ashamed, and didn’t think I deserved anything. After falling into what I would describe to you as a deep emotional hole, I found myself without the tools necessary to climb out. Often, society feels addiction is a choice people make, not an accident. If someone accidentally falls into a real hole, we have rescue crews ready to help. The hard part with addiction is that once you are addicted, the drugs can control you, unless and until you have the tools and resources you need.
Becoming homeless, my family was moved to a small city in Franklin County, 50 miles away from friends and family, to a motel. This motel was also a homeless shelter with paying customers as well, adding to the shame and embarrassment that my family felt. Here we were in plain view, homeless. However, to my surprise, there were thirty other homeless families who occupied one whole wing of this very motel.
Despite the many reasons that we were all homeless, what seemed to matter to the motel and the state was that we were not to become an “eyesore.” Occupants of the hotel were not allowed to go into one another’s rooms to socialize; as a result, it was very difficult for the children to play and form the bonds of friendship that are so important for their development. They were in jeopardy of not learning important socialization skills, having low self-esteem, having no sports and games to play, and other emotional risks that are associated with isolation and marginalization. Children were picked up by the public-school bus at the motel; I know that many children felt shame at being “outed” as the homeless kids.
Sleeping, eating, bathing, relaxing, socializing along with so many other daily requirements are often centered from within a home. Many families had lost some of the very basic things needed to sustain a healthy life and jobs. This had a tremendous impact on the children and parents at the hotel, as it felt we were being punished for being too poor to have friends.
COMMUNITY IS FORMED
One day, I walked to a church to ask, “Could a small group of us use your property as we are residing in a shelter?” I explained to the pastor we had been eating out of microwaves and washing dishes in the bathroom sink. His response was, “Wow! Absolutely, you are all welcome please feel free to use the property as you need.”
After leaving the church I found myself crying, flooded with emotions, and a stranger asked me, “Are you OK do you need help?” Naturally I said, “No I am fine, thank you, I am just going through some hard times. I am staying at the homeless shelter with my family.” She asked, “where is the homeless shelter?” I pointed at the motel, and she began to cry with me. She had no idea that there were homeless families in that motel — or any local motel. Between her and the pastor, their kind gestures to stop and talk with me was enough to change my life forever. This lady felt that it was important to give me money and handed me a $50 bill. She said, “Take your family to a nice dinner, things will get better.”
If this Good Samaritan only knew that I would take that $50 and purchase a grill.
That weekend, families showed up to the church: There they would find a grill, tables, coolers. Families could interact, the children could play, and games were set up. It was clear we were a small community with a lot of hope that things were slowing getting better for us. We began to depend on one another for survival, help with dinners, childcare, sober- entertainment, clean-up and much more.
Being a self-identified addict who has overcome so many barriers, I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given, such as a place to live, jobs, and an education. I am one of the fortunate ones that was able to keep my family together. I will soon be finishing my degree, and I am committed to working for creating hope and housing for all, as well as for sharing the message that all people, regardless of addiction status, can benefit from having a sense of community, and housing is a big part of that.
Who would have ever thought there would be a community inside of a motel? I say, you can create community anywhere.