“I Want to Function … I Want to Thrive”

Human Services Spotlight Series #20

Recovery Is a Process

A homeless man turned his life around and rebuilt relationships with his family through counseling and other help from the the Medication Assisted Treatment program (MATE).

In November 2019, a 26-year-old male became a MATE grant recipient to Operation PAR for medication-assisted treatment, counseling and case management services via a referral from Bayside Clinic. He told counselors he had a 10-year history of opioid abuse with no periods of abstinence. He said his drug of choice was heroin, used intravenously. Other substances included methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, crack cocaine and marijuana. Before entering treatment, he had suffered four overdoses within a year.

He wanted to get off drugs and live a healthy lifestyle, but said his main goal was repairing family relationships. The effects of addiction, including disengagement and lack of trust, had deeply damaged the client’s relationship with his family. He said, “I would like to regain the trust of my family.”

When he entered treatment, he was homeless and sleeping in the woods. He also needed other help, including vision and dental services, Hepatitis C screening, referral to Directions for Living, job training, independent housing, furthering education and financial assistance. His case manager worked with him to resolve his needs and continued weekly case management sessions.

During his first individual counseling session, the client expressed what he would like from treatment, saying, “I want to function without using …. I want to thrive and be successful in a career …. I want to go out in public without feeling like this.”

Early on, anxiety interfered with his daily functioning. He self-reported anxiety symptoms as early as age 7. It was his anxiety that prevented his linking with a mental health provider for several months. Managing his anxiety and other emotions became a focus in treatment to help him prepare for and become comfortable working with a mental health provider.

He consistently attended medication-assisted treatment, counseling and case management sessions. With his commitment to recovery, he became more stable and confident. He was provided with a job resource and got full-time employment after 90 days in treatment. He was allowed to move back into his mother’s home four months into treatment and continued to work on mending their relationship. He began to work towards improving his quality of life so that it was enjoyable and re-engaged in his love for fishing and kayaking. After five months in treatment he said, “I’m pretty happy.”

During his time in treatment a focus continued to be a healthy balance between work and recovery to support a successful lifestyle change. As time went on and he became more stable, the fear and anxiety that once prevented him from addressing his psychiatric needs were no longer a barrier. He confidently contacted a mental health provider recognizing the need for mental health stabilization and influence on recovery. Although challenges to reaching medication stabilization arose, he worked to manage his emotions appropriately, ask for help and lean on his support system.

This client shows time and time again that recovery is a process. It takes time to overcome anxiety, rebuild fragmented relationships, develop a professional path and find pleasurable activities that support recovery.

He responded well to treatment and the continued support. He chose to remain in counseling and continues to receive medication-assisted treatment. He showed his resiliency and self-efficacy throughout the course of treatment by his commitment and practice of new skills to live a purposeful life. He has done a phenomenal job at becoming financially stable and budgeting. He was able to obtain his drivers license after five years and buy a vehicle. He has maintained stable employment for more than one year. Professionally, his journey led him to a career change where he considers himself to be thriving and even happier saying, “I love it.”  He lives a full life including outdoor activities and is surrounded by family. He has worked hard at rebuilding his life and creating a safe environment for himself. Not only has it been a pleasure to witness his growth, but also the hope and content he carries when looking into his future. His smile affects each session and is a true testament to the life he has created. 

Statement in his own words: “The old me would lie, cheat, manipulate and had no work ethic. The new me is honest, hardworking and responsible. Thanks to the program I am able to be there for my family, especially my nieces. With the hard work I put into my recovery and the tools I’ve acquired; I have now been able to live a happy and successful life.”

Funding for the MATE program comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration for the Pinellas County Health Care for the Homeless Program. Human Services has partnered with Operation PAR and the Florida Department of Health to provide medication-assisted treatment services for those homeless clients with substance use concerns including opioid and alcohol dependence. According to the Pinellas County Opioid Task Force, more than one person dies every 48 hours from an opioid-related overdose. 

For information about Human Services programs, visit Pinellas County Human Services.