Drug addiction and alcoholism could care less about your income, social status, ethnicity, or education. Both tend to be equal-opportunity destroyers. At the same time, alcoholism and addiction can certainly be the catalyst to finding yourself suffering from job loss, a fall in social status, becoming impoverished, and of course living the imminent crash-and-burn lifestyle that’s part and parcel to addiction. There are myriad stories of successful people finding themselves losing everything as a result of their addictions, having thrown their lives away in the name of getting drunk or high. For them, having wealth and success may simply mean a harder fall, seeing as there’s obviously more to fall from, making a sudden life of poverty a seemingly harder experience to manage.
But then there are those already living in poverty, who are naturally at a higher risk for addiction issues. With its deep-rooted aura of hopelessness and desperation, finding ways to escape the emotional isolation of poverty may be the catalyst for alcoholism and addiction, but it is not the direct causation.
According to a recent report on NPR by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “nearly 15 million children, or 20 percent of America’s juvenile population, were living in poverty in 2009.” With unemployment at an all-time high, more kids are falling to the wayside as parents find themselves hustling for work, and desperately trying to make ends meet in an ever-failing economy. This leaves families in varying stages of poverty, some of whom have lost their homes, are reliant upon government aid for the first time in their lives, and are likely to suffer from an arduous, Sisyphean struggle to get back on top. The pressure of such a struggle could easily create higher stress levels, which could potentially lead to drug and alcohol use. Whether that use will lead to addiction depends upon the individual. According to NIDA, “No single factor determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs. The overall risk for addiction is impacted by the biological makeup of the individual—it can even be influenced by gender or ethnicity, his or her developmental stage, and the surrounding social environment.” Sadly, it also means those suffering from poverty have less means to get help if they do find themselves fighting the battle of addiction.
Surely, we can see that poverty is not an indicator of addiction, but poverty-stricken homes remain at high risk for addiction mostly because they have more to lose, and fewer means to get help. This then gives us another way in which to be of service. We can be of service to this population by regularly reaching out to impoverished communities by donating time and energy to help provide safe emotional and/or physical spaces for healing; we can volunteer and reach out to organizations that regularly provide services to these groups. For example, Miriam’s House provides addiction support for single mothers and their children, and they can always use volunteers.
Being of service in this way begins the process of creating a feedback loupe of support: once someone has learned to receive love and support, they are more likely to give it back. What can you do to help?
You can also join Visions at this upcoming benefit:
Polo in the Palisades to Benefit Miriam’s House