Stations of the Lost and Found

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ladderstations of the lostpin ball

Stations of the Lost: The Treatment of Skid Row Alcoholics by Jacqueline P. Wiseman was first published in 1970 and won the C. Wright Mills award for best book in the area of social problems. It gave us the view of the alcoholics who passed though all the places those skid row alcoholics pass through and the view of those working in these places. I have been thinking about this book a lot recently because it always made me think of a pin ball machine. You get shot out of the chute at birth and you bounce around the bumpers doing well and getting the prize – a free game – or you get a couple of bad bumps, get a miserable score and slide back down the chute – game over. Once I had exhausted the pin ball metaphor I tended to think of it like a form of Jacob’s ladder that went both ways – up towards heaven and down towards hell. Several years ago I was stood talking to a friend who was then a drinking alcoholic in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester. As we were talking another guy came up who “looked like he’d fell off a flitting” (as my Mother would have put it). “Excuse me lads, how do I get to Val’s Hotel?” (Which at the time had a reputation as occupying one of the lower rungs on the descent of Jacob’s ladder?). Quick as a flash my mate replied “Carry on drinking and don’t pay your rent!” We are now working out how recovery housing works in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. As part of this process we might do well to start by thinking how the down ward escalator works. Each of our 152 local authority areas in England will have its own Stations of the Lost. These are the places that people pass through on their way down into the hell of active addiction, social isolation and premature death. Besides the police stations, prisons, hospitals and treatment centres there are hostels and bed and breakfast hotels. Once we have mapped out the rungs of the ladder on the way down we can begin to map the way out and upwards. We can offer Stations of the Found. These are the places where you find people in recovery climbing away from addiction, social isolation and premature death and towards the sunlight of the spirit of recovery. The lower rungs might be a sofa or a spare room in the house of someone else in recovery. The higher rungs are total freedom in your own home with a job, friends and family. So, what do the stations of the lost look like in your town and are they matched by stations of the found?

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