The Social Political Programme for Rainbow
A common feature of Rainbow Sweden’s member associations is that the client group can be found at all levels within the organisations’ structures, people who themselves have been patients, clients, or prisoners.
Rainbow Sweden is a client-run collective. Under the Rainbow umbrella, organisations come together that run activities for various excluded segments of society, including those involved in drug abuse. A common feature of Rainbow Sweden’s member associations is that the client group can be found at all levels within the organisations’ structures, people who themselves have been patients, clients, or prisoners.
Rainbow Sweden (RS) is a voice that speaks from the experiences its members have gathered during long periods of exclusion. Excluded people need a strong, collective voice that can bring forward viewpoints and understanding based on personal experience, both on an individual and a societal level. There is an unequal power balance between those who seek help and the staff of our society’s social and health care systems. Rainbow Sweden uses its collective voice to redress that imbalance.
Rainbow Sweden’s member organisations are hands-on practitioners offering everything from acute relief for the homeless to different forms of treatment, rehabilitation, and work training. These supported activities are voluntary and start out from the target individual’s own expectations and choices. Our clients themselves make an active choice to change their life situation. The role of Rainbow Sweden is to respond appropriately to the choices a client makes.
Rehabilitating a Marginalized Human Being
Long-term exclusion often requires long-term rehabilitation. Exclusion, regardless of its source (long-term drug abuse, incarceration, mental health issues, etc.), leads to physical and psychological consequences. The physical consequences can be lack of housing, unemployment, massive debt, or poor health, and lead more often than not to criminality. The psychological effects may imply lost self-esteem and a fear of “normal life”, i.e. a fear of relationships with others in a drug-free, everyday setting. Successful rehabilitation builds upon a person’s desire for change combined with actual, step-by-step, positive changes. Such changes indicate that the process of empowerment has started. Empowerment is a key element of sustainable, successful rehabilitation.
Housing, Work, and Health
Successful rehabilitation also requires a basic level of security and stability: housing; work, or least a meaningful daily activity; and access to healthcare.
Housing means a sanctuary. The key to the front door is a prerequisite, allowing an individual to move towards an improved life situation with integrity and at his or her own pace. However, access to one’s own accommodation does not mean that other rehabilitation activities and support are unnecessary.
Work and other daily activities must never be created simply to make time pass or be designed for the sole purpose of controlling or disciplining people. Of course, work teaches people how to earn a living. However, it must also be integrated into rehabilitation, a potent element of the empowerment process aiding the development of self-esteem. This requires that the individual not be engaged in meaningless occupational therapy. Successful rehabilitation provides activities that enable people to recognise that their efforts mean something and have value.
Access to health and dental care should be a right for everyone, even during times of active drug abuse. People with ongoing drug abuse issues have the right to protect their health without being met with moralism and disregard. (An obvious example of such moralism is the interminable discussions over needle exchange programmes.) Rainbow Sweden believes needle exchange programmes should be offered across the country. We also believe those who need medication in order to overcome drug abuse should not be denied such access, nor should patients be excluded from their substitution programmes without good reason. Social exclusion is bad enough: it should not be made worse by medical exclusion.
Escaping from Drugs
The long, strenuous road away from drugs and social misery is filled with ups and downs. Experience shows us that some individuals never reach an enduring freedom from alcohol and drugs despite their own best efforts and those of society around them. Experience also teaches us that we cannot predict who will once again become productive members of society and who will never leave drugs behind them.
Every drug dependent person is both a potentially drug-free, socially integrated individual, and someone who, for the rest of their lives, will swing between sober periods and relapses. There is considerable uncertainty, but we believe the task of a civilized society is to make sure its members survive even heavy drug abuse. A dead drug abuser can never be rehabilitated and represents a permanent and tragic loss to society; but where there is life there is hope.
We all accept that everyone has a different approach to life, with different needs, hopes, and aspirations. However, when it comes to drug abusers, this reality seems not to apply. Too often a client is offered the treatment currently in fashion, regardless of his or her own wishes, or needs, or motives. Appropriate rehabilitation can only be determined by the needs of the individual, not the needs of the system supplying it.
Stockholm, Sweden 2010