Canadian Housing And Renewal National Congress
First, I would like to thank Lynda Clement Giffen and David Gibson, from Sandyhill Community Health Centre, for allowing me the opportunity to travel to Halifax for the National Congress. I always feel a bit overwhelmed when things like this happen! It shows me that it never hurts to ask!
To give you the readers a little context, I live in Strathcona Heights, which is an Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhood. I live in subsidized housing, because I live on a Disability Pension. From all outward appearances one would assume that I am fully capable of functioning in the world, and for the most part I do manage to function. This is only do to the tremendous amount of hard work that I have done in my life! I live with concurrent diagnosed disorders, Chronic PTSD, Bipolar and Recovery from Addiction.
Since 2008, I have been preaching the gospel of Tiny Living, as a way to house, in part, those like myself who are experiencing Homelessness, and or have experienced Homelessness. I am not suggesting that this is ‘’The Solution!’’ What I am suggesting is that it is a partial, short to midterm solution that would allow those like myself the chance to regain a sense of community.
While attending the Congress, I met many like minded people! Some who are already involved in doing just this kind of advocacy work. Please follow the link to view the Carcross/Tagish First Nations Tiny Housing Project https://youtu.be/iPJFkrnzFZ0 in the Yukon. Nelson Lepine is the contact person for this and other endeavours such as a Log Cabin Building project which is a skills development initiative for Carcross/Tagish First Nation youth.
What I also learned is that there are many people dedicated to helping those, like myself, who have yet to find their voice. The first day of the Congress, I attended a workshop designed to spark ideas, this one was called Responsive Programs Supporting Outcomes in Mental Health & Addictions. Something that I have been speaking too at every opportunity, is the concept of Peer Support and engagement with all organizations that service those like myself with Lived and Multiple Experiences and the hiring of these individuals to better support the programs. This workshop strongly shows that this type of engagement has a high success rate for outcomes. Examples given were from Mainstay Housing, in Halifax. The Manager of Tenant/Member Services and the Supportive Housing Worker spoke to the successes of community builder through engagement of each person as a member of the community, focusing on leadership building and governance with and by the tenants.
Similarly, the following workshop that I attended, Increasing Housing Stability Through Supportive Services & Tenant Engagement Strategies, spoke to small scale grassroots tenant engagement, through placement and Continuing Care Services. Noted within the context of the Housing First model, the continuing care aspect of this program is essential. In speaking to some at the Congress, the push to Housing First and the initial supports provided are important to getting someone housed. It is also more important to recognize that the funding for Housing First and the subsequent supports dwindle over time. This can be disastrous for those who have been recently housed. Mental illness and addictions do not go away, they are managed on a daily basis, it is a constant balancing act that can have the scale tipped in any direction by various triggers. I know, I struggle with this daily! Most days I manage fairly well, yet I do have days where my old coping mechanisms rear their ugly head, then it’s a fight.
Day Two; The first workshop that I attended was How Research, Business & Municipal Tools Can Create Housing Opportunities in Small/Rural Communities. This workshop was of particular interest to me because I have been collaborating with LiveTiny Canada for two year’s now, the Developer of this National Resource for all things Tiny, Matt Standen and I, have submitted a Proposal for Presentation to the Canadian Rural Revitalization Conference which has been accepted. The two community research projects that this workshop focused on were from Cape Breton Regional Municipality,shared a service based count and rental housing inventory, along with their research tools and multi-sectoral partnership; and the Alberta Rural Development Network shared how they grew from a voluntary university-led initiative into a non-profit working to redefine limitations on building affordable housing through their Sustainable Housing initiative. Cityspaces Consulting Ltd shared their work using scalable methodologies and tools for municipalities to support communities with their affordable housing development needs. All of this was extremely informative and insightful into the challenges being met in Small/Rural Communities.
The afternoon of Day Two a New Film Screening of the documentary Us & Them was available for viewing. I am personally recommending that this film be screened here in Ottawa, for the general public. It took the Filmmaker ten years to produce this Film. In her introduction, Krista Loughton said,’’I wanted to make a difference in these people’s lives, in fact they made a difference in mine!’’ It was very difficult for me to watch, as I have experienced personally much of what if revealed. This film will change what we think we see when we see a person who is homeless!
The work is not done! I left Halifax feeling full of gratitude for those who work and advocate daily in this service sector. Joyful for all the personal connections that I had the opportunity to make. Hopeful for the future, that we are moving in the right direction.
It’s the first Sunday of the New Year. Usually I would go to Church on Sunday. I didn’t today! That’s okay! I spent part of the day with my nineteen year old daughter and her father at a movie, we saw Arrival. No spoiler’s, suffice it to say that we enjoyed the movie. Did something different today and that was nice!
Expanding on some of the reading that I have been doing over the year’s that I have been in Recovery, I wanted to talk about the chicken or the egg. I accept that I am an Addict, I accept that I am in Recovery. I wanted to know what, if anything, contributed to my making the decisions that I made over those many year’s. I have heard other’s share that they had optimal childhoods, ( normal is a setting on my dryer), and still became addicts.
The field of Neuroscience has researched what is called Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE. Based on ten questions I answered on a website of ACE information, I saw my earliest experiences condensed into understandable, likely outcomes that are predictors of the trajectory of my life.
For perspective, I am including the questionnaire, of which I scored nine of ten, the only one that did not apply to me was that neither of my parents were incarcerated. If you are interested in knowing more about ACE, I am including the link to several sites. Including some charts of ACE and behavioural outcomes.
Evidence of these outcomes is compelling , it spoke to me on many levels. Specifically what it helped me to understand and accept further is that, considering the circumstances of my childhood, it is a testament of the human spirit that I am still here. I used to ask what is wrong with me, now I understand that it is what is right with me. My brain did exactly what it was supposed to do, to keep me alive despite the abundance of hardship.
Recovery is my life and life is my Recovery.
“The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.”
Prior to your 18th birthday:
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did a household member go to prison?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
Now add up your “Yes” answers: _ This is your ACE Score
“Just for today: I’ve recovered something I never had, something I never imagined possible: the life of a recovering addict. Thank you, Higher Power, in more than words can say.”
Recovery, recovering, recovered! The many stages of the journey. I consider myself to be recovering, and for as many day’s more that I may have on earth, I will be in Recovery. The life that I had before recovery, was some kind of life. Yet, was it living? I thought so at the time. It was one way to live.
When I look back at the life that I was living, I understand now how much of myself I buried, denied, distorted, contorted, compromised, degraded, debauched, numbed and risked, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Recovery is giving me back so much of myself.
Part’s of myself that I had buried so deeply that I needed to go back to my childhood to remember. This part of my Recovery gave me back my values, the core of who I am. I didn’t recognize them or myself. Reading is important to me, as a child it was my refuge, my sanctuary, my safe place from the terror and pain in my young life.
Now I read for pleasure again, Game of Thrones, (after I binge watched the first four season’s), Hunger Games.Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman all to know myself better.
Feeling as though there is much that I want to say today, not certain how much I am prepared to divulge. Yes, I am trying to use this as a type of Journal. Knowing that there are others who are reading this, I am wanting to hold back. Not certain of the level of trust. May take me a while to feel comfortable with this process.
Actually went to a meeting today, something that I haven’t done on a Saturday for quite some time. Since my daughter is usually with me on Saturday’s. I have a new Sponsee, who needs the early stage of Recovery support. Which I am happy to do! I stay clean by helping someone else stay clean. It’s a service that I do gratefully. It keeps me closely connected to why I made the decision to get clean.
The day is done! I have another day clean. This is a successful day, more because I didn’t act out either. In Recovery I understand that any day clean is a successful day. There are day’s that this is everything, There are day’s that this is enough. Then there are day’s that I want more. Want, not need.
Learning the difference between want’s and need’s has been an important step in my Recovery. My need’s are basic. I need food, shelter, clothing and a bed to sleep on. If my basic need’s are being met then anything beyond this is a want. Having gratitude for these basic things has taught me a great deal, particularly having been in the position of not having these.
Beyond my basic need’s, I have a set of values, which I didn’t understand or know about when I first started my journey. My values are based on what I consider important! It is the foundation of how I make my choices and decisions.
Recovery tells me that I need to connect with a Higher Power. Some recovery literature uses the word God. That word used to make me angry, I would cringe with memories of my childhood imposed religiosity. Where was God when I needed him the most? The process of finding a God of my understanding has been a convoluted discovery. What I knew without a doubt was that the spiritual person that I am required nurturing. I felt that all the drugs, year’s of using and abusing myself had been a futile attempt to satisfy my spirit from a material world with never any satisfaction.
Early Recovery my Higher Power was the meetings, and the people in the meetings who certainly had more clean time than I did. On the day’s that I felt restless or bored with the meeting’s, I would here someone speaking from their own personal experience what I was feeling. There is some kind of synchronicity that happens.
Today, at the meeting, I heard many share about their relapses, feeling like they wanted to relapse, or how close they were to relapsing. Relapsing scares me, to death! I am at an age that, I might have another relapse, I don’t think that I would ever make it back to Recovery. In the continuum of my Recovery, over thirteen year’s, I have had my share of relapse’s. Had three year’s relapsed, had two year’s relapsed, had one year, relapsed. The last relapse kept me out for three year’s.
Today, I am clean! I will go to bed clean, and wake up clean! Today, no matter what, I have had a successful day! Today, I have a faith and a purpose. As a recovering addict I can carry the message of Recovery. And that’s enough!
(The photographs that I use are my own, taken around my home town. All with my Samsung S6.)
Just for today: I can look anyone in the eye without shame. I am grateful for the loving support that has made this possible.
Living one day at a time as an addict in Recovery, I never imagined a life without using. Today, because I live my Recovery one day at a time I remember every day what it was like and I know that I don’t want to live that life anymore.
Identifying as an addict can be scary sometimes. I identify readily in the world outside of the rooms, not for kudos or congratulations, because just maybe someone is living with the pain and shame that I was, not realizing that there is a way out. Many connection’s and conversation’s have been started in this way. I can carry a message of hope. Change is scary, yet it is possible and I am living proof of this.
Life has changed for me over the time that I have been in Recovery. Not all at once, gradually as I made different choices. The first and most important choice that I made was that I didn’t want to live like that anymore! Something deep inside of me knew that there was another way to live. I just didn’t know how! Yes, I was hurting. I had all the reason’s in the world to be hurting. Those reason’s ultimately became excuses. To use another’s description, I had a blame thrower. It was because of this, this, that and them, you and yours, that I used. You did this to me!
Going into Recovery was the first time that I finally took responsibility for my life, or so it felt. I had a choice! The choice to live or die! The way I was trying to kill myself wasn’t working very well, there was some spark in me that wanted to live. So, how did I want to live? I wanted to live well! This was where my Recovery began, knowing in the deepest part of my being that there was another way to do this thing called life. Seeing others who seemed to be enjoying their lives without the use of drugs, and wanting that badly enough to try!
Thinking of doing anything for the rest of my life is so heavy! This applies to pretty much everything, work, relationships, most importantly to my recovery. That was the trick my mind would play on me early in this process, I am going to have to do this for the rest of my life.
The great illusion! Being in recovery does not preclude me from planning. Having a plan, any kind of plan, ( other than using my drug of choice sort of plan), is a good thing. Yet, in making a plan, I then need to know how to let go of it. In the midst of life the plan, or any plan, is likely to change. I remember making plans and getting so invested in the plans, emotionally, psychologically and physically that either the actual event itself became anticlimactic or if the plan was altered I would be devastated. There had been such an expectation built up that no matter what, I was always slightly to mostly disappointed.
One of the benefits of learning to live my life, “Just For Today,” is that I have a much better appreciation for the way my life goes most day’s. Less pining, less whining, less of poor me! More gratitude, more contentment and definitely more peace! Living in the present is a great place to be. This does not mean that I don’t struggle or want, it is that there is a lot less of it. It’s not a rose coloured glasses attitude! Having been homeless at one point in my life, I enjoy the fact that I have a roof over my head, I have a place to sleep, I have clothes on my back, I have food in my cupboards and refrigerator, and I have the companionship of other recovering addicts.
Now, I am in the enviable position in my recovery to be able to help other addicts. I share my experience regularly at meetings, I am sponsoring other addicts who want to know how to stay clean, “Just For Today.” It isn’t a miracle cure, it has been work to get to this point where I can honestly say that I am comfortable in my own skin and in my own company. Other gifts of my recovery are that I am active in the greater community where I live, as a Community Leader. Giving freely of my time helping where and when I can!
I do what I can, with what I have, where I am!
It’s a New Year, more importantly, it’s a New Day! I am making a commitment to myself to blog more regularly. Using this as a form of journal-ling. Almost six year’s ago now, to be precise, February 7, 2010 I made the decision to change my life. Some habits are hard to break, and some habits were breaking me.
Physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually I was dying. It was my addiction that brought me to the point of loosing everything. My home, my health, my marriage, my family! The pain that I felt was real, yet I had inflicted so much more pain on myself. Six year’s ago, I knew that I had a choice. I could choose to live, or I could choose to die! Some spark of life in me felt that there was another way to do this thing called life, I just didn’t know how.
The first step, they say is always the hardest. I went into a Withdrawal Management Program and that is where my journey of Recovery and discovery began. I am learning so much about myself. Learning to take care of myself, learning what I like and don’t like, learning about boundaries, relationships, what I value, how to be in the world. Most importantly, I like who I am now! I can enjoy my own company! I don’t get bored or restless anymore, because I can sit with myself. I have discovered that the hole that I was trying to fill with all the external things was my spirit crying for nurturing.
Walking with my two little dogs daily along the river, I have been taking photographs with my phone of the seasonal changes. Continually enthralled by the beauty that I am blessed to see with my eye’s! My senses are filled with the feel of the cool, crisp air, in winter it truly does feel like a renewing of the earth, and I too am being renewed.