From Drugs to Duds
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From Drugs to Duds


This post was originally published on April 17, 2014.

Need a feel good story to put some pep in your recovery step? Well you’re in luck! The Atlantic has delivered a great piece on Stadsmission, a Swedish charity group that has launched a temporary employment program called Blixtjobs for hardcore heroin addicts who are looking to get back on their feet but have failed in other treatment programs. The idea is that chronic users may be less apt to relapse if they have jobs to show up to in the morning; this program thus helps them work toward financial independence while also building up their self-esteem. And it makes sense. Addicts out there: remember when you were unemployed? Did anything make you want to get fucked up more?

Blixtjobs Options

One of the coolest parts of Blixtjobs is the kind of work they have available. In addition to being Sweden’s number one charity, Stadsmission has found a niche in high-end vintage clothing, overseeing eight stores in the Stockholm area. So while some Blixtjobs participants may opt for work in painting, shoveling, cleaning, sweeping and gardening, Stadsmission also offers work in their tailor shop—Remake—where donated items that aren’t up to par get remade into furniture, clothing and accessories under the charity’s label. Thus, people who were once hopeless get the opportunity to work their way into creative and exciting jobs in the fashion industry. I’m not gonna lie, this kinda makes a gal wish she was once a heroin addict in Sweden.

Following Suit Stateside

But programs like Blixtjobs aren’t exclusive to Sweden. The US has their own organizations like the Delancey Street Foundation, which is designed to rehabilitate ex-cons and hard-core addicts and integrate them into the workforce. Much like Blixtjobs, Delancey Street offers work in a variety of areas—such as catering, limo driving, printing, landscaping, moving, trucking, tree decorating and even handcrafts. Since alcoholism and addiction are fueled by low self-esteem, programs that train and help the newly sober find jobs like these can be imperative to success in recovery.

Help Available, Outcome Unknown

But how does an organization like Stadsmission know that the addicts they help, many of them fresh off the streets, don’t just take the money they earn and return to their old ways? Alas, they don’t; out of the 90 participants in the pilot program, Stadsmission found that 75 showed up irregularly and seemed to use the money for drugs. Still, for the other 15 people, the program has been a lifesaver: the difference between a drug-induced death and a second chance.

While 17% may seem somewhat bleak, the truth is that it’s actually pretty decent in terms of addiction recovery success rates. Whether all of the 15 people are able to stay clean and build upon what Blixtjobs has offered to them is yet to be seen. Because jobs don’t cure alcoholism, attempting to distract it with busy work won’t hold us for long (trust me, I’ve tried). As addicts, we need to deal with the problem that caused us to use. But for now, a big part of the battle has been won for these lucky 15. Getting clean and changing their behavior and environment are key elements to maintaining long-term sobriety. And walking around Stockholm sporting super cool handmade vintage clothing doesn’t hurt, either.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.