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Finding strength in shared failings

Wed, Apr 18, 2012

Jim LoBianco

The StreetWise motto, “a hand up, not a hand out,” implies a sense of mutual support: an acknowledgement of being together in the struggle. Part of this togetherness is a willingness to share in each other’s successes and failures. The interpersonal support that passes between participants, staff and volunteers is one of StreetWise’s greatest assets when it comes to helping people achieve their goals.

I put my own life forward as a case in point. When appropriate, I share with participants the things I have done to achieve stability and success in my own life. More significantly, however, are the tales of personal failures and how I overcame, (or continue to overcome) them.

An example that I discuss openly is my past arrest on suspicion of DUI. That event was for me a personal low point, as well as an opportunity for reinvention. The DUI case itself went to trial and I was subsequently acquitted of the charges; however, the court proceedings were less significant than how I handled the arrest and its overall ramifications on my personal life.

The embarrassment and shame I experienced from the arrest was just short of overwhelming. Thankfully, I was able to lean on family and friends to help get through the initial depression. Within a couple of weeks of the incident I began the important process of taking stock of my life and the events that brought me to that DUI charge. The outcome was a commitment to live healthier, take full responsibly for my actions, and share my story in order to support others through their struggles.

In a recent interaction I encouraged a StreetWise participant as he worked to clear up an outstanding warrant for a drug related offense. I knew what it was like to be arrested and let him know that he would get through it. This individual took responsibility for his actions, enrolled in a drug treatment program and turned himself in to the court. His case has been settled and just last week he started a new job.

Another example of how my story has been accepted by the StreetWise community is an invitation I recently received. StreetWise participant and volunteer, Percy Smith, facilitates a weekly substance abuse recovery meeting. Percy informed me that on April 14 they would be celebrating three years of sobriety for one of our participants. I mentioned to the moderator that I consider April 15 as my anniversary date. The moderator came back to me later in the day to say that he mentioned to the group that my anniversary was coming up and that the members wanted me to join them to celebrate both my client’s perseverance as well as my own.

The sharing of my struggle is just one example of how the StreetWise staff, board and volunteers help move the entire StreetWise family toward greater success. At StreetWise the value of mutual empathy is a bedrock of the program.

By Jim LoBianco
StreetWise Executive Director

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. You are welcome to contact me at either jlobianco@streetwise.org or (773) 334-6600 (ext. 22).


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