Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Salvation Diary 14

"Salvation" artist, Amanda Milke

February 26 Tuesday Day 167

Up nice and early for work this morning.
After dropping off the morning paperwork, picking up some janitorial supplies for Schimmele, and making a brief dorm inspection, the residence seemed to be functioning smoothly so I took some time to write.
Later I talked to Richard, my counselor. We discussed the two Frankl books I had read. I told him that I planned to visit Pasadena City College (P.C.C.) next Monday, and hopefully talk to a counselor and enroll for the upcoming summer semester. Richard let me know that P.C.C. had 8 week courses during the summer, and to complete a 3 unit course one had to attend class five days a week, 3 hours a day.
My work schedule will not allow me to do that, so I may have to wait until the fall. We shall see.
At 12:30 the tutor came, and I let Kevin Rockoff go get tutored. I had the desk all to myself. I handled it. I began reading a book that Ron Collins had picked up for me "Zen, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," by Robert M. Pirsig.
After work I changed clothes and hung around the lobby, looking at people with unguarded suspicion.
I like to do that.
Jill was almost on time this evening. She looked ravishing as usual. She seemed to have the sniffles, and was squinting delightfully out of one eye. She explained to me that she had the sniffles because apparently she was allergic to everything, and she was squinting because she had only one contact lens on. And she explained that because of her allergy it hurt her beautiful eyes to put both lenses in.
She's so cute and vulnerable.
We went through our normal weekly goals routine. Jill asked everyone if they had completed their assigned goals, everyone except me again. This time however, I refused to be ignored.
"Don't I get to talk about my week, Jill?"
"Yes, of course, Richard. I didn't know if you wanted to participate, or were only here as an observer."
I let her know that I indeed wanted to participate, and I proceeded to tell everyone about all of the wonderful things that had happened during the last week. I discovered that Jill had also seen "The Silence of the Lambs." I must congratulate her impeccable taste in film viewing habits.
I had felt tired and drained earlier, and had thought about going to my room and lying down, dismissing once again the idea of attending an outside A.A. meeting. But after Jill's group counseling session I felt all energetic and decided to go.
Robert drove us to the St. James Church in South Pasadena. Everyone crossed themselves as they emerged from the van, still in one piece.
This is my favorite meeting in the Pasadena area. A nice, cozy, informal get together.
One of our group, Andre Laws, was randomly asked if he would care to be the evening's 5 minute speaker. He readily agreed.
Andre, at 22 years old, a handsome black kid, is just that, a kid, very child like. His main interest in life seems to be involved with the physical coupling with as many white females as humanly possible. I don't know how successful he is, but I can imagine his handsome childlike appearance, his slow blinking eyes, his halting voice, could sucker in a few girls. I do know that when any reasonably attractive woman comes to the residence, Andre, as if he can smell them, appears out of nowhere and hovers nearby until he gets a chance to introduce himself, or otherwise make his presence known. We regularly have to chase him out of the small dinning room every Tuesday night when Jill visits, and by the time tonight's meeting started, 15 minutes after we had arrived, Andre made sure that every single looking white female knew he was there.
It's a good thing that they hadn't asked Andre to read anything, because he would have had a little trouble with that, but we were all proud of him for getting up and sharing (despite the chance that this was simply another lecherous ploy of his). He did manage to insult almost everyone with his opening line, "I really don't know... ah, what I'm going to be talking about. I've never spoke to an older group like this." And his choice of verbs was touching. "I started on moonshine... then procrastinated on up to the hard stuff." All in all, he did pretty well.
I watched the news on TV when I got back to the residence before going to bed. The allied cause seems to be progressing nicely. At one count, 30,000 Iraqi troops have surrendered, or been taken so far. Maybe this madness will end soon.
My God I hope so.

February 27 Wednesday Day 168

Pandolfi opened my door and stuck his head inside. "It's five o'clock, Rick."
I shifted in my bed and looked at him judiciously. "Arro etta royum?" I asked.
"Yeah, but Crawford didn't go get the donuts." He left.
I got out of bed, showered, and made my way downstairs.
A tad overcast this morning, either a rain storm is coming, or the locusts have arrived.
After completing the morning's paperwork, and inspecting the dorms, I wrote for most of the morning, and on into the afternoon.
Did I say the weather rarely changes around here? It began raining at 1:06, and never stopped. California is in it's 4th or 5th year of drought, so we could use some rain. It will help to clear off some dust at least.
One thing about rain, it always lets you know where your leaks are. I hear there are some over in the warehouse, but that doesn't concern me too much. The residence, however, is another story. Water is finding its was past the rear door of the roof, down the back staircase, and collecting at the entrance to the laundry room. We studiously applied a bucket. We hope it works.
The biggest leak is in the basement, on the west wall of the barbershop, and ruining the carpet in the clinic. I utilized a large garbage can, getting it close to the wall, and the flow, as it's shape would allow. I applied duct tape to affix the trash can to the wall itself, thereby diverting the flow into the can, in in the process, avoiding certain disaster.
Clarence Orion, our Chaplin and intake officer, stole my umbrella after chapel this evening. Well, he didn't actually steal it. Clarence Bliss gave it to him. I had stashed it away between the file cabinet and the office wall, just so no one would think that it was theirs. Pattie, Clarence Orion's wife, had left her umbrella in my office. Her's was a different color than mine, a red umbrella. Mine was a brown umbrella. Most people who have umbrellas around here have brown ones, just like mine. That's because they were the umbrellas that the Salvation Army gave to us for Christmas last year, and unless one had placed some kind of identifying mark on their umbrella, they of course were impossible to tell apart.
Unknown to me, Clarence Orion must have left his umbrella in my office as well. A brown one just like mine. I think Major Johnson took his. The Major had a brown one too. After chapel, while I was busy in the Transition Group, Clarence must have asked Clarence for his and his wife's umbrellas. Mr Bliss, ever so helpful, proceeded into my office and ferreted out mine and Pattie's umbrellas, and gave them to Clarence, and that was it! Off into the night it went, quite possibly never to be seen again.
After Transition Group ended I returned to my office and discovered my umbrella was missing. I asked Eddie Gillespie about it, and he let me know that Clarence Orion had taken it.
"You let Clarence take my umbrella?" I asked.
"The funny thing about it," Bliss volunteered, "was that I gave it to him."
I really wouldn't have minded so much if were not for the fact that I would eventually have to spend about 30 minutes in the midst of the unrelenting downpour while putting up the stupid bar in the thrift store parking lot!
Jill popped in for a talk with Ed Reitz. It's always so nice when she pops in. Dennis Smith walked up to her and asked if she had come to wish him a happy birthday. It wasn't his birthday today, but it is in the month of February, and tonight was the big birthday dinner night, and he was one of the celebrants. He thought Jill might be interested in his birthday because I had told him that I thought Jill had given him the old eye last night in group. I had in fact witnessed no such display, but told Dennis that just to start some trouble. I also suggested that he should wink at her at every opportunity.
So he was being real nice to Jill as she visited. All smooth and charming and all. I didn't notice if there was any winking going on.
At 10:00PM we heard word of a cease fire in the war in the Persian Gulf. Clarence Bliss, Eddie Gillespie, and myself, feel a cosmic connection with this event. A little Deja Vuish. For it was on a Wednesday night shift, when all three of us were together, that the air war began six weeks ago.
Hussein is still in power, but Iraq has agreed to all 12 U.N. conditions for a cease fire to occur. Allied forces have taken upward of 50,000 Iraqi troops as prisoners in 4 days. Approximately 80 U.S. soldiers have died in the war, or war related activities. Anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 Iraqi solders have lost their lives. General Norman Schwarzkoph, Allied Commander, revealed that Allied troops had been within 150 miles of Baghdad, and could have taken that city at any time with minimum effort, if that had been his intention. Kuwait is once again in the hands of the Kuwaiti's.
They reentered their capital city on their traditional Independence Day, comparably like us retaking Washington D.C. on the 4th of July.
If Iraq does indeed keep it's promise of meeting each of the 12 conditions this war is effectively over.
A short war.
The best kind.

February 28 Thursday Day 169

Up early again for work.
Hopefully today would not be as hectic as yesterday, and as busy. I didn't get a chance to read at all last night.
At 9:00AM the Waverly Street Nursery School, two doors east of the residence, gave me a call and asked if we might help them out. They had experienced some flooding during the night and needed some big strong men to place sand bags in strategic locations to prevent further inundation. Sounds sexist to me, but we have no lack of big strong men.
In my mind I pictured scores of little moppets floating away on the high tide. I called Ed, and he volunteered 3 hefty guys, and we went to the school to check things out.
It wasn't too serious. Just 3 or 4 waifs sloshing about. I hope we were of some assistance.
Ed and Robert, quite effectively I might add, screwed up the ADx urine analyzer. So even though we have plenty of samples, we can't run them. This unfortunate development allowed me the opportunity to take about an hour off in the afternoon, time enough for a short nap.
The rain continued, although not as heavily as yesterday. The trash can I had attached to the wall in the clinic last night had filled.
Lots of mud slides and traffic accidents in the news. Even some tornadoes touched down here and there. Very rare. Tornadoes haven't happened around here since 1987.
The rest of the day went fairly easily. I didn't even have to write anyone up for missing Substance Abuse, or the A.A. panel.
A cute blonde lady came for the C.A. panel. I fell in love with her.
And I had lots of time to read during the evening. I read about opiates, and journalism in Tennessee.
Not that the two have much to do with each other.

March 1 Friday Day 170

This morning I got to sleep in a little, and didn't come down until after lunch.
I had intended to do some writing in the lobby, but as soon as I sat down the Abbott tech rep arrived to check out the ADx analyzer. Mr. Vasquez was no where in sight so I volunteered to take him on up to the sample room.
As he looked over the analyzer, I sat down and wrote. It didn't take long for him to find the problem, and then to correct it. Mr. Vasquez came in as the tech was making some final adjustments, and Robert wanted to know exactly what the problem had been (the boom calibration was off. The boom could not lower itself enough to collect the samples from the sample tray). After the rep explained, we went ahead and ran some of our samples just to make sure everything was in order.
It was. In fact, we noticed that one of the client's cannabinoid level had risen from "Low," reading, to a 10.6. The machine does not detect anything lower than a "Low." I mean the machine will register a 0.00 before it registers a "Low," so this client has ingested something of a cannabinoid nature since the 20th of February.
We of course cannot rule out the possibility of this man's being accidentally locked into an air tight room in which marijuana smoke was continuously pumped which he was forced to inhale.
It can happen.
In any case we shall keep a steady eye on this particular fellow. If he had registered 25 or above he wouldn't be here any more.
By the time we finished with the samples it was time to go to work.
Mr. Vasquez picked up Edward Taylor from the Huntington Memorial Hospital just after I began my shift. Ed had been in there a while, with all of his internal organs seemingly dying on him. The truth be known, we thought we had lost him. Even his family had given up hope and had come to pick up his things. But he's pulled through.
We're tough bastards, us alcoholics and drug addicts.
After New Client Orientation, things started to settle down to the point that I could enjoy a nice cup of coffee and read.
I had begun the book, "Illicit and Illicit Drugs," by Edward M. Brecher, and the editors of Consumer Union Reports. It was published almost 20 years ago, but for my purposes, is still extremely relevant. If one wishes to learn about addiction no better family of drugs could be picked to study:

"Opium is a raw natural product - the dried juice of the unripe capsule of the opium poppy. Morphine is the chief active ingredient in opium; each grain of opium contains about one tenth of a grain of morphine. Heroin is produced by heating morphine in the presence of acetic acid (that found in vinegar). The heroin is promptly converted back to morphine in the body. Codeine is also found in small quantity in opium, and there are numerous other opiates."

Naive that I am, I had always thought that drug addiction had been a fairly recent phenomenon. I was terribly wrong. Laws against drugs had been what was most recent, thus bringing drugs into the limelight.

"Opium was on legal sale conveniently and at low prices throughout the nineteenth century; morphine came into common use during the Civil War, and heroin was marketed toward the end of the century. These opiates and countless pharmaceutical preparations containing them 'were as freely accessible as aspirin is today.'"

Physicians dispensed them, drugstores sold them, grocery and general stores as well as pharmacies stocked and sold opiates. There were countless patent medicines on the market containing opium and morphine: Ayer's Cherry Pectoral, Mrs. Winslows Soothing Syrup, Darby's Carminative, Godfrey's Cordial, Mr. Munn's Elixir of Opium, Dover's Powder, on and on.
And if that weren't enough, opiates could be ordered and delivered through the mail!
I ask myself this question: when wasn't this country drug orientated, or an addicted society?
Because of the evil reputation some of the opiates have received within the last half century, I found it interesting to learn there were hardly any deleterious effects upon the human body upon ingestion, or even when addicted to these drugs. After decades of consistent use constipation seems to be the only effect they have on our physiology. Besides being extremely addictive that is. By comparison, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are 1000 times more harmful.

"For example, the narcotics addict is properly portrayed as lean, gaunt, emaciated. A subgroup of 100 addicts out of 861 in the Philadelphia study was maintained on adequate doses of morphine and intensively examined and tested while thus maintained. Only 4 of the 100 were grossly underweight - emaciated. 6 of the 100 were grossly overweight - obese. The group as a whole weighed two tenths of one percent of the norm for their height and age as determined by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company standards. . Yet these addicts before hospitalization had been taking on the average 21 grains of morphine or heroin per day - more than 30 times the dose of the New York City street addict in 1971.
The explanation for the weight findings, which could hardly be more normal, is quite simple. The addicts in the Philadelphia study had ready access to both hospital food and hospital morphine. Under these conditions they ate well and thrived. The emaciated addict usually described in other studies is one who starves himself to save money for black market drugs - an ordeal he is able to bear more easily because of the tranquilizing effect of the drugs."
It is Mr. Brecher's opinion, and from experience and a small application of common sense, I also believe this to be true, that the harmful effects of opiate use stem not from the use of the drugs itself, but rather from the narcotics laws, and the heroin black market flourishing under those laws.

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