If I could just stop drinking, I could have everything I ever wanted in life…

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Tommy, Victory House, September 2018

I knew I needed to work on my recovery when I started drinking again. I was in a relationship at the time and out of the blue I just found and excuse to start drinking with her. I thought I could have just one, but there is no such thing as just one for an alcoholic like me. I went to detox, but after detox I wasn’t able to stay sober. Two days later I went to the hospital and they detoxed me in the facility. I’m just sick and tired of being sick and tired because the alcohol, it just grabs a hold of you. I knew there was nothing I could do but get back into treatment. Boston has so much opportunity for people who need treatment. I’ve been at Victory Programs before. It’s one of the best programs I’ve been in because knowledge and education is key. Knowing why I act this way and why I do these behaviors. They are always pointing me in the right direction. It’s a big help knowing people in the sober community.

When I made the decision to come back into recovery I was living on the street inside my car with my girlfriend. Money was starting to run low. It was the first time I’d ever lived in my car. I was pulled over and the cops gave me a choice between either getting arrested or sent to the hospital. Right after I got out of the hospital, the money it cost me to get the car out of impound, that $5 bottle of vodka cost me $500. My girlfriend was a huge motivator for me to stay in detox. I could see that if I could just stop drinking I could have everything I ever wanted in life, the things I need will come and anything I want is really extra. I need to be better prepared for that. I need more coping skills and there are things I have to learn that I haven’t learned in the past. There are things I haven’t done before like joining a sober fellowship and doing commitments. That is a major part of my recovery this time around.

I never really understood the term fellowship until last year. I never knew it was actually an active group of sober people who hang out and do positive things together. We go to other recovery programs and share our experience, strength, and hope cause that was us once. I can give back what was freely given to me. I always wondered what it was like to be on the other side of the table. Being able to sit there and see the expressions on other people’s faces, it is worth more than money. It’s seriously a miracle. It’s the power of giving back.

A couple of weeks ago we actually just went to the beach, and that is not something I would have just done while sober. The last time I was at the beach sober was as a kid. There I was just laying in the sun, talking about life. The sober community is a blessing. They are always there to help. I like having that network of positive people around me to help me grow. They don’t want anything back in return. My home group keeps me motivated. As a group member I do service work. I show up to the meeting early and make coffee. The best part of showing up early is you get to meet everyone that comes in to the meeting.

Being here at Victory House helps, too. There is always more to learn. Even that little refresher, there’s always that little bit. You might not have heard it the first time, but the second or third time it just pops into the back of your head like, wow, that’s what all that meant. I like the repetition of the groups and having that insight into what it really means to me and how I can benefit from the education. I like the program’s location because I am close to the T and everything is easily accessible. I easily get doctor’s appointments, meetings, and work.

I am currently working full time and I want to start school next month. I’m a carpenter, a builder with 18 years of experience. I’ve already had my company once. Going back to school and getting a business management degree for construction will really push me and give me that motivation. I can build anything, I just need to learn how to manage the books and work with people to get things done. I would have never done that if I hadn’t come to Victory House. They’ve given me the opportunity of a lifetime. If I just stay sober, follow the program and do those things I haven’t done before and ask for help. With all those life skills, running the business, it’s where I need to be. It’s not going to be easy, I mean, life itself isn’t easy. Being able to come to staff, if I have any issues with my family, they are always there for me. The road to recovery is my own personal journey and who I want to be in life.

I can come to the staff at Victory House for anything. Being able to talk to staff helps me cope with things. They give me advice. They point me in the right direction. They definitely help out a lot especially with the counseling and medication management. They were able to simplify things and help me not worry so much. They’ve helped me find the right balance with doctors and physical therapy to manage chronic pain. They are always there to give me a hand. Sometimes there are things I don’t see, and being able to ask for help really helps because some days it’s just rough. Staff really help keep me motivated.

I want people who are early in recovery, or thinking about recovery to think about giving themselves a chance. Do you want to die or do you want to give yourself a chance to live. There have been times in my life where I didn’t want to give myself a chance. Having known what that feels like, I want to share hope with people. It’s just such a good feeling. Even if it’s just that one person in group, or that one person in detox that has that light bulb pop off in their head and wants to give themselves a chance that’s a beautiful thing cause you can see it on the inside.

I can stay committed to my recovery because of the positive people around me. I’m the type that, if you aren’t going to help an addict, don’t hurt one. And to everyone working on recovery, never give up. Be the best version of yourself you can be. Don’t dwell on the past but don’t forget it either. If we never knew how hard life can be sometimes would we ever really know how great life is?

This blog post was based on an interview with Tommy, a client at Victory House, our first residential recovery program, and was transcribed and edited by Victory Programs’ staff with feedback from Tommy.

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A Summer of Opportunity

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Our President and CEO, Jonathan Scott, has had a summer full of meaningful tributes and events! Jonathan was honored at the Community Research Initiative of New England (CRI) Summer Party on July 21 at the Red Inn with the Dr. Cal Cohen Founder’s Award in recognition of his forty years of innovative leadership at the helm of Victory Programs. You can read more about the CRI Summer Party here and view Jonathan’s moving acceptance speech here.

Jonathan also gave a Tribute at this year’s Pilgrim Monument & Museum Flag Raising. This annual event signals the start of Provincetown Carnival and a full week of town activities. Jonathan was selected as one of  Carnival’s 40 Grand Marshalls commemorating the 40th anniversary.

More than 100,000 people gathered to watch the parade, led by be-dazzling costumed “Grand Marshall Jonathan” and other sparkling Grand Marshalls and their friends in this year’s Carnival theme “Mardi Gras By the Sea.” They led the parade  bearing the specially designed official  rainbow flag signed by Gilbert Baker, the world famous political activist who created the first rainbow flag in 1978, as it wound down the 3 miles of a very boisterous and rollicking Commercial Street.

At the end of carnival week, The Provincetown Business Guild’s newly opened LGBTQ Welcome Center “The Shack” hosted  two activist survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, current Parkland student, Dimitri Hoth, and history teacher, Greg Pittman, at the Provincetown Public Library. The Business Guild invited Jonathan to share his story of having been a young gun shot victim and survivor during an unexpected work crisis early in his career with all of the students present. State Senator Julian Cyr and State Representative Sarah Peake co-facilitated this powerful and deeply moving listening session about gun violence and student-led efforts to reform gun-control.

We are proud to work under the leadership of such a deeply respected activist and advocate here at Victory Programs and we wanted to share the ways in which he continue to be a voice for social justice, equity, and the community members we serve every day across our 19 health, housing and prevention programs.

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August 15, 2018

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

As service providers, we at Victory Programs work daily with people who are struggling to make life sustaining decisions in the face of heartbreaking challenges.

Yesterday and today, we were witness to an example of the unfortunate consequences that sometimes happen when resources are scarce yet need is great. Individuals living in storage units, right across the street from our administrative offices on Massachusetts Avenue, were removed  due to legitimate safety concerns. Workers from the City of Boston were on site to offer assistance attempting to connect displaced individuals with services as needed.

The challenges people on the streets outside our windows face every day are often so much more complicated than simply having a place to sleep at night. Some individuals can’t, or won’t sleep in the shelters for various reasons. Many homeless individuals have a history of significant trauma, chronic chaotic substance use, fear of abuse, crave privacy, or other challenges many of us can’t begin to fathom.

At Victory Programs, our dedicated team of more than 200 staff members strives every day to stand next to these people and work with them on creative, safer solutions to whatever they are facing.

The Boston housing crisis is national news. At the moment, the average rent for an 815 square foot apartment is more than $3,000 a month or $36,240 a year. An individual on a fixed income makes about $9,000 a year. Even with a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, someone working full time will only make $31,200 a year. For so many people, the math on finding affordable, market-rate housing just doesn’t work out.

In the past few years, the City of Boston and their partners have housed 580 formerly chronically homeless individuals and 800 veterans. Boston has the lowest percent of unsheltered people (people on the street or in situations unfit for human habitation like storage units) of any urban center. Our organization and others like us will continue to work with the city to do what we can to address homelessness in Boston, however, this crisis didn’t happen overnight. It won’t be solved overnight. And until it is solved we will continue to see individuals with limited resources and few options making choices many of us can’t comprehend because that is what they need to do to take care of themselves.

Sarah Porter, Chief Operations Officer, Victory Programs

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Modifying Recovery to Meet the Needs of Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Recently, staff at Victory House, one of Victory Programs’ five residential recovery programs, underwent training to learn how to better screen recovery clients for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and how best to respond to challenges specific to the disorder. While not everyone with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder will also develop substance use disorders, children born with the disorder are more likely to wind up misusing substances than the general public. Those with the disorder also frequently exhibit cognitive symptoms such as learning disabilities or mental health issues that impact their ability to follow directions or comply with rules and present a unique challenge in a recovery setting.

Staff who participated in the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder training included Kathy Crehan, Director of Strategic Initiatives: Ryan McCallister, Program Director at Victory House; Kayla Davis, Clinical Director of Recovery Homes; Christine Arismendi, Senior Counselor; Dominique Delucia, Substance Use Disorder Counselor; and Dan Moss, Substance Use Disorder Counselor. They learned how to use the screening tool to effectively identify clients who may be struggling with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and skills to work with these individuals to improve their chances of successfully completing a residential recovery program.

The training emphasized the need to communicate instructions and develop realistic goals for individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. This includes simplifying directions into single-step instructions, providing clear expectations, and not getting frustrated when the same behavior reoccurs after it has already been addressed. Staff were able to tie much of what they learned to Victory Programs’ core values as emphasized by the “Standards of Excellence” which emphasizes individualized treatment and attention to client needs.

“At Victory House, our goal is to modify treatment for individuals with an Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder so they can successfully complete our program.  We are happy to make adjustments to meet the needs of individuals who are living with both Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and a substance use issue.” 

– Ryan McCallister, Program Director, Victory House

To learn more about our recovery services please click here

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Myths vs. Truths about HIV, Hepatitis C, and STIs

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Guest blog written by Rachel Kirsh, Intern, Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team

 

Myth Truth

HIV

You can tell someone has HIV just by looking at them. HIV can exist in the body for more than a decade without showing signs or symptoms. The only way to know if you are infected is to get tested.

 

HIV is no longer a threat in the USA, only in other countries. The number of people living with HIV in the USA has increased over the past decade, however, an estimated 1 in 8 individuals is unaware they have the infection.

 

There’s no way I could be infected. I don’t need to get tested. HIV Screening is recommended for all adults, adolescents, and pregnant women. What you don’t know could hurt you and those you care about.

 

Monogamous people don’t get HIV. If I only have one partner I’m safe. Unless you are 100% certain that both you and your partner are HIV negative, monogamy is no guarantee.

 

Only men who have sex with men get HIV. HIV is transmitted through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluid, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. High-risk categories for contracting HIV include: people who exchange sex for money or drugs, people who have penetrative sex with multiple partners and are not regularly tested between partners, people who use non-prescription injection drugs, people who have recently had an STI.

 

My annual checkup includes an HIV test. Many practitioners only include HIV screening in annual check-ups when it is requested.

 

I’m old enough I don’t have to worry about HIV. New HIV infections are on the rise in older Americans.

 

They test my blood when I donate. Blood donors are not always informed when their blood tests positive.

 

I can’t live with the results. If you are positive, you can’t live without knowing. Not knowing puts you and those you love in greater danger.

 

STIs

 

You can get herpes from a toilet seat Herpes simplex is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact. Unless you are sharing a toilet seat with another person you are not going to get Herpes from the toilet.

 

My pap smear is also an STI test. Pap exams don’t include testing for sexually transmitted infections.

 

You cannot get an STI through anal or oral sex, only vaginal. Any sex which involves an exchange of bodily fluids can lead to an STI infection, including anal and oral.

 

Getting an STI test is painful and embarrassing. Most STI testing can be done with a simple urine sample. Some tests may also involve a blood sample, visual exam for signs of infection, or a small genital swab.

 

Oral contraception protects against STIs. Oral contraception is only effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect the user from sexually transmitted infections.

 

STIs will go away on their own. Most STIs do not go away on their own. Additionally, delaying treatment puts the infected individual at greater risk for more serious complications.

 

Hepatitis C

 

Hepatitis C is incurable. Not only can Hepatitis C be effectively treated, it can in face be cured. “Cured” means that the virus cannot be detected in a formerly infected person’s blood months after treatment has ended.

 

There is no way to reduce the risk of getting Hepatitis C. You can reduce the risk of becoming infected with Hepatitis C by taking the proper precautions, including: avoiding sharing razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, needles or other personal care items that may have come into contact with infected blood.

 

You need to be substance free for six-months prior to being treated for Hepatitis C. Massachusetts State Law requires insurance companies to pay for Hepatitis C treatment regardless of whether or not the patient is using substances.

 

If someone’s been re-infected, they cannot be treated again. People who are re-infected can absolutely receive treatment again. However, it may be wise to speak to a medical provider about prevention.

 

People live with Hepatitis C for years without any harm. Even though an infected individual might not notice the effects, the Hepatitis C virus starts attacking the liver as soon as it enters the body. The sooner an infected individual gets treatment, the better their health outcomes are likely to be.

 

An antibody test can tell me if I have Hepatitis C. The antibody test only indicates if a person has been exposed to the virus. A follow-up RNA test is required to see if there is still an active infection.

 

Hepatitis C treatment makes people sick. Modern treatment methods have fewer side-effects than the older, interferon medications. Common side effects of the newer medications include mild headaches and fatigue.

 

To learn more about HIV, STI, and Hepatitis C through Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team please call 617-927-0836

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