When we think about the kind of people we assist as the St Vincent de Paul Society, it’s easy to just look at the tip of the iceberg.
The guy standing in line for his share of daily bread is obviously just hungry and thankful for food. The mum popping in for some help with her electricity bill clearly just fell on hard times this month and needs a spot of help to get back on track.
It’s much harder (and a lot more confronting) to dive beneath the surface – to take but a glimpse of the real person – and to seek to understand the why of things when considering the lives of the people we assist, especially when it comes to helping people with addictions and substance misuse.
Vinnies services for addiction
Vinnies offers a range of services designed to assist people vulnerable to various kinds of addictions. We operate from the perspective that wholistic treatment works best and often the first priority in recovering from addiction is to remove the substance from the person. From here clients can then start exploring, identifying and facing up to any underlying issues that have either caused and/or contributed to their addiction. Addiction refers to a range of behaviours, from substance misuse to gambling.
Case study: Services in the Northern Territory
The following case study has been provided by Neil Gray, our Alcohol & Other Drugs Counsellor from the St Vincent de Paul Society in the Northern Territory:
“Here in the Northern Territory, we embrace our fair share of individuals that struggle daily, hourly, and minute by minute with demons that will not (perhaps ever) let go.
There’s a naivety that many possess when it comes to working with people with addictions. “Just replace the addiction with something else,” kind of thinking, or a “just find out ‘why’ the person uses drugs or drinks, and then talk to them about it,” as though salvation is found in art therapy sessions and the mere act of remembering why an individual chose to stick needles in their arm every day for the past 13 years, or drink alcohol to the point of unconsciousness.
The reality is that addiction is indeed an affliction of the entire person; it is not rooted in just the physical, the emotional, the intellectual, the social, the occupational, the environmental, the spiritual or the financial. Its roots pervade all of these areas of the addicted person’s life, and the journey out of addiction does not (and cannot) begin by addressing just one or two of these eight dimensions of wellness.
A useful analogy for tackling addiction
Picture a barrel. Perhaps one of the big ones used to distil cider (for our purposes, let’s make it non-alcoholic!). It’s made up of strong planks that bend from bottom to top, braced in the middle to brace it further. It is water-tight. It holds a full complement of cider for many years. It can be reused. It is solid, and gets stronger under pressure. But should just one of the planks suffer a breach of integrity, the entire barrel becomes unsuitable for its intended purpose. Cider will easily spill out of the weakened plank.
Now picture these eight areas of our life (physical, emotional, intellectual, social, occupational, environmental, spiritual, and financial) as the planks of the barrel. For a person who is functional, it might be argued that this barrel can still be filled to the half-way point or even higher before the cracks become evident. Whilst it may not be working at optimal capacity for all but a few highly successful and balanced individuals, it is fair to say that each of us has a point where one or more of our ‘planks’ isn’t as healthy as the one next to it.
But for the person going through an addiction – especially for a person who can be deemed chronically addicted – it must be acknowledged that each of these slats is severely damaged; that not one of them functions as it should. Each of them is a different length, at different stages of degeneration, damaged by years of either neglect or over use. It can be argued that maybe all bar one plank – or area of wellness – is seriously compromised, if not completely missing, meaning that they cannot hold any of the content meant for it (in this instance, the barrel would hold ‘life’).
When diving beneath the surface it is paramount to tread carefully, to ensure no further harm is done to any of the brittle remnants of planks that lie in fragments. Carefully, and of course with permission, it becomes an honoured task of putting the pieces back together in their right place, rebuilding each plank evenly and equally so that the capacity for full life is restored not one ‘plank’ at a time, but rather one day at a time.
What Vinnies does
For the people who visit Vinnies centres across the country, day in and day out, we offer not only assistance that will lessen the pressure of the mounting bills. We offer a hand up. We treat each person with integrity, ensuring we are a solid and reliable source of help regardless of how many times a person may need us. We offer commitment to each individual.
Find help near you
Click on the links below to discover more about addiction services in your state or contact us directly.