At our most recent workshops we became aware that institutionalized behavior is not only a condition suffered by those who have been incarcerated, but by any individual who has experienced living in a shared controlled housing situation such as: Substance Abuse Centers, shelters, military, orphanages, juvenile detentions and even preparatory schools.

Institutionalization or institutional syndrome [A PICS] refers to deficits or disabilities in social and life skills, which develop after a person has spent time living in hospitals, prisons or other institutions. These are places where authority figures control your movement, behavior and provides all the necessities for daily living. Usually places where these individuals have experienced trauma.

As I mentioned, at the workshops there were many participates who were from in-patient substance treatment centers. In the group conversations, we learned that many had been through these recovery centers multiple times. For most, they had gone through the same in and out ineffective treatment for decades. The interesting thing for us was that they had not identified this “lifestyle” behavior as institutional. Like them, most think institutionalization is only associated with prison, but as we listened to the returning citizens experiences and those who had been living in and out of these other facilities it was apparent they shared the same behaviors and traumas.

After listening to the participates share their process of recovering and how many times they had been in treatment we begin to wonder was their situation PICS related or were they using the recovery centers as “PIT STOPS”. Meaning, they came to these secured temporary housing that provided three meals daily, a place to shower, sleep, a place to associate with others with similar issues and the other minor benefits which were offered, but not affirming within themselves a new direction and dedication to live a new lifestyle.

I think the idea of these recovery centers are great. A place that provides the necessity for daily living with the help of medical professionals to address the issue(s) that brought the individual there. It is however, usually when an individual has reached a critical point that they are living in an animal state of being both mind and body when they enter these centers. Finding shelter would be a innate next step.

I wonder how effective can any of these places be when they are ran like prisons. Most are overcrowded, packing these individuals in basements and other large living quarters with no privacy. Providing in general unhealthy donated foods, having staff that treat the individuals with a prison guard mentality when the core issues, “PICS” are not uncovered and addressed. It is no wonder there is similar correlation between high recidivism and addicts returning to recovery centers. In plan language, if the PICS issues aren’t addressed prisons and other institutions, for most, will continue to be pit stops. by LC DeVine

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