Linda is the Re-settlement worker at Palmer House. She helps customers with a range of support needs to get ready for independence and find new homes.
Earlier this year, somebody at our services stopped drinking for over a month. Weeks in and they were already looking healthier, brighter, happier. They were even looking at the next steps in moving on to their own home.
Then, they decided to have a drink with friends to celebrate a special occasion. They have drunk every day since. It is really hard to see someone go back into old habits like that. They laugh about it and say they don’t care, but you can see they don’t mean it.
I support customers to move on from Evolve into new homes, and sadly this story is not uncommon. If someone has issues with substance abuse, then even if they say that they are ready to leave Evolve and that they want to, it might not be true. It can take a long time to make the behavior and lifestyle changes needed to maintain a tenancy. There are lots of reasons for this.
People staying with us have often experienced terrible traumas like violence and sexual abuse. Sometimes drinking or drug-taking is a way to suppress difficult feelings and emotions related to that. In these cases they must explore the underlying reasons for what they do, but that is really difficult. It takes time, patience and bravery.
It also requires the right support, over a long time. It is not enough to help people open up about their past and their motivations on a one-off. Follow-up support is also needed, otherwise things might flood back in a way that can be dangerous and triggering. The mind can re-live trauma, so we have to be careful about how we address it.
Changing harmful behavior isn’t just about confronting the past, it is also about present circumstances. Imagine you are drinking lots, and so are all your friends. You might make a huge effort to change your lifestyle, but if those around you don’t then problems can arise. There is constant temptation because others are still doing the same things, and being at different stages can also create misunderstandings; some people even get jealous or frustrated if their friends are moving on and they are not. If you have given up drinking or drugs, others might ask you for money because you have more of it. There is also the risk that if you move on to your own place, and friends come to stay and drink or take drugs, you will lose your tenancy. This all means that to move to a new home, you may have to change who you spend time with. That’s a big thing to do, especially at a time when you are already having to change so much.
When looked at this way, getting ready to move on becomes far more complicated than just changing your lifestyle or behavior. To do it you might need to confront deep-rooted trauma, ask big questions about who you are, or even change who you spend time with.
In fact, the challenges often feel like so much that people write themselves off. They tell themselves they can’t change, and over time they start to believe it. But that isn’t true. Despite the challenges, everyone can move on, and we’ll keep doing everything we can to help.
Find out more about our Palmer House service and their re-settlement team here.