How do you help a drug addict (continued)?

A fellow teacher gave me a book to read that was written to the families of drug addicts. It stressed how enabling the drug addict didn’t help, and in fact, just continued the cycle. It seemed as though the book and my fellow teacher were telling me to let my nephew hit bottom and wait until he really asked for help. It was tough love and it seemed very cold and it was difficult to accept, but I tried it.

It was almost winter in 2019 and I got a call from my nephew asking me to come see him at the hospital. He was now HIV Positive and suffering from a number of medical conditions. He was scared and was telling me he didn’t want to die on the streets of Camden. There was a very positive social worker that was helping him and she asked me if I would come to a meeting with his team. Because he was HIV Positive, there were some programs that were available to him and a chance for housing for him. It seemed like things were finally gong in the right direction.

He was given temporary housing at a motel in Cherry Hill and he had a specific plan that he had to follow. Obviously, staying drug free was part of that plan, but I really didn’t know all of the requirements. My cousin, my wife and I brought him food and other things he needed to start making it on his own. He seemed positive and focused. He was saying all of the right things and we were all hopeful. Unfortunately, he violated his plan, was told to vacate the motel room and he was once more homeless on the streets of Camden and back on drugs. At this point we all felt that it was hopeless and expected to receive a call or some notice that he was found dead somewhere and we were being notified as next of kin.

Fast forward to August of this year. I tried to contact him with limited success during the winter and spring of 2020. He appeared on Facebook as a friend request during the beginning of summer and I received a text from him. He later called me looking for money. I was rather short with him when he called at 8 pm and asked me to bring him money to Camden. About a week later I felt bad about that last conversation and tried to call him. Someone answered and told me they didn’t know anyone named Aaron. This is how things work when you try to keep track of an homeless person on drugs. I could have driven to Camden and look for him, but that hardly ever worked.

Aaron was once again somewhere in Camden, homeless and I had no way to contact him. Shortly after that, I got a call from him and he was in the hospital with another medical problem. However, this was different. He sounded different and it was difficult to believe it was him because he seemed so focused. He gave me the names of his client navigator and a representative of another agency that was helping him increase his SSI benefit. He asked me if I could come to Camden and meet with his support team. Then he asked me a question that I never expected: “Uncle Frank, Karl believes I will be getting a retro check and I wanted to know if you would manage it for me? If I get the money, I would probably buy drugs and end up killing myself.”

Surprised and not sure if this was even possible, I followed up with Karl and he verified that it was quite possible. A meeting was set with his support team and I went to Camden to attend the meeting.

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I have a BA in Psychology and a teaching certificate as a Special Education teacher. I have a MA in Student Personnel Services and I recently retired from my position as a Guidance Counselor. I have been active on advisory boards concerning disability issues for over 25 years. I also have over 25 years of business experience in Human Resources and Operations Management.

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