Substance abuse steals hopes and dreams, and incarceration can be the “rock bottom” result for some. Still, most inmates emerge from prison determined to make amends for their past mistakes and start fresh.
If the desire to change were enough, most ex-cons would move on to brighter futures without the slightest hesitation. But reintegration is more complicated for recovering addicts. Not only must they find a job, a place to live, and a way to reconnect with family and friends, but they also need to attend counseling and peer group support meetings.
Lending a hand, lending a heart
Nothing comes easy for the ex-con who must deal with the pressures of daily living as he or she starts life over from scratch. Loved ones can have a positive impact, however, by providing support and guidance.
Some of the adjustments that a person returning from a stint behind bars must make are obvious. Finding a job and a place to live, getting appropriate clothing and perhaps buying a car: these are just some of the basics needed after release. Friends and relatives can certainly take some steps to make things easier.
- Volunteering to arrange job interviews with anyone they know who might be hiring
- Providing a bedroom on a temporary basis until the ex-inmate can find a more permanent position
- Offering financial assistance, like loans or advance payments for services rendered
- Giving their friend or family member rides to important appointments
Really, any kind of practical or material assistance will be welcomed and appreciated. And this is doubly true with a former inmate in recovery.
While starting over is difficult, anything is possible with a good plan, lots of patience, and even more perseverance. The friends and family of former inmates should emphasize this message. More than anything, ex-prisoners need unstinting moral support and encouragement: this will prevent pessimism, doubt and the psychological pull of addiction from taking over, deflecting change and healing.
The long journey home
Former convicts may re-enter society feeling lost and alone. In such circumstances they need companionship and love more than ever before. If addiction is a part of the picture, their need for positive energy and messages of hope will be even stronger.
The work they will have to do is hard, and the answers they seek will sometimes seem elusive. But many others have traveled the same road and have traveled it successfully, almost always with help from their friends and family. So keep telegraphing the message: no matter how dark things may appear at times, you’ll never stand alone again.