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Risk Factors for Drug Use and Drug Abuse

Factors for Alcohol Abuse in Gallup, New Mexico

Hozho Center for Personal Enhancement

After taking over the reins at the Hozho Center a year ago in December, I spent the first eight months working at the front desk observing and talking to people as they came through the door.    I have been on the Hozho Center board of directors since before it was incorporated as a 502 © (3) tax exempt organization in 2008.  I knew diagnosed and undiagnosed brain injuries had something to do with the scourge of alcohol abuse here after holding four years of brain injury peer support groups at NCI Detox, McKinley County Adult Detention Center and RMCHCS inpatient treatment center.


Those groups and working at the Hozho Center have provided me with a broader understanding of what I believe are several other underlying factors that compound alcohol abuse by people on the streets here:

  • Few people on the streets have any long or short term goals. Without goals people don’t have purpose and meaning in their lives other than to get drunk. Setting goals play a critical role in building self-confidence and hope for a better day and a future worth living. 

  • Without a sense of purpose “Learned Helplessness” is a major factor and plays a critical role in people abusing alcohol because this leaves people with a sense of hopelessness.  The consequence of this has profound impacts on many people on the streets.  Childhood and domestic trauma increases helplessness and hopelessness.    

  • Hopelessness leads to being a victim and blaming everyone and everything for your problems.  Without hope there is no dignity.  With hope there is no pride.

  • Becoming a victim only compounds these factors because it’s easier to blame others than to do what it takes to change their long standing behavior.  This problem is compounded when they don’t have the self-confidence or strength to overcome peer pressure by their “street-family” when they want to stop drinking.  We hear this all the time that “my friends put me down when I don’t want to drink”.  The Hozho Center has become a sanctuary for the people who want to quit drinking and gives them the opportunity to watch their friends get obnoxious and out of control when they are drunk.  This gives them the ability to reflect on their drinking while watching their friends are being hauled off to NCI Detox.   This is a powerful tool for sobriety and is only possible at the Hozho Center.    

  • Stress is what fuels the alcohol problems we see here.  Being hungover, not eating right or sleeping good, loss, shame, blame and guilt are all factors that trigger the survival instincts in the limbic system to take over.  The brains reward center also is activated in this process.  These survival instincts are subconscious and very powerful especially because they have become chronic for many of the people on the streets.  Chronic fight, flight or freeze response keeps their reward center in control and drinking becomes habitual because of this.  

It may not look like it but we are making progress but we are.  We have seen a reduction in people who aren’t drinking come into the Hozho Center over the year and believe the results are from gaining the trust and respect from people on the streets.   The Hozho Center is having now having 50-70 people a day coming in and believe it’s because they feel safe and respected.  We are creating the buy-in necessary from people on the streets to create the changes how people feel about themselves and the means to a better life.

Ken Collins, CPSW

Executive Director

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