Sunday, May 9, 2010

Salvation Diary 29

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

May 7 Tuesday Day 238

I woke to Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall in "Designing Women," (the movie), a comedy (not one of Mr. Peck's finer talents).
Mr. Vasquez had gotten up early to get donuts, and upon returning he got very busy running around doing all kinds of things that didn't need to be done, or could have easily been done by someone else.
He may be shooting speed.
I waited patiently for him to go back to his room and settle down before I did any writing.
Instead of going back to bed like I thought he'd do, Mr. Vasquez left the building at 10 o'clock, telling me he'd be back by 7:00 (he's supposed to relieve me at 2:30).
Since he was gone I was then free to run amuck.
But I restrained myself.
Talking to Mr. Schimmele, Reuben Smith, and Clarence Bliss, who was working the desk this morning (filling in for Kevin Rockoff, who would be at Worknet school this week), I absently mentioned that I had relapsed in the month of May for the last two years. Last year at the Canoga Park A.R.C., and the year before that, a continued relapse actually, when Jan left. When I said this everyone kind of looked at me like they didn't know what to say.
Clarence finally came forth with: "I never relapsed. I just went out and got fucking drunk!"
This is a typical response given by gentlemen of experience when confronted with modern sounding clinical terminology used today to describe aspects of the disease of alcoholism. When asked why they drink one often hears, "Because I like too." and "It's a habit." Very simple, straight forward, no nonsense answers to what to me is a very complex problem. When I ask them, do you think a person who continues to drink even though they know it will cause them great discomfort in the near future, has a problem? If I don't get an ambiguous response they generally will agree with me. Yes, that person has a problem they will say. Do they think A.A., or a program like the one here, at the A.R.C., can help? They say, it probably couldn't hurt, but they personally couldn't be bothered with it. The answer to them seems to be that if a person wants to stop drinking all they have to do is stop.
Very simple. Straight forward. No nonsense.
And to a large degree true. Although they tend to ignore, or discount the disease concept of addiction, and that little matter of "compulsion" that seems to play such a heavey-handed part in it all. This, coupled with the fact that most (not all) of these older gentleman apparently have no real desire to stop drinking any longer than is necessary in order to meet their residency requirements, explains our fairly large population of men fifty years, or older. These men are just getting by. Spinning their wheels. Marking time.
My mother agrees with these gentlemen of experience. She doesn't understand why I didn't want to stop drinking for such a long time.
Anyway, I was talking to these guys, and I couldn't help but notice that Reuben Smith was looking much like a raccoon. He looked that way because he had gone to the park yesterday (just like I did) to catch a few rays, and wanting to maintain his super cool image, did not remove his sunglasses while lying in the hot sun. As a result, his face is two shades darker than the area directly surrounding his eyes. A true iconoclast, he wears his temporary birthmark with pride.
Richard Bennett came in early to begin counseling. He asked for Dennis Smith first. We paged him, and after a while Dennis appeared, smiling sheepishly. Then he grinned at Richard. Richard stared back at him, cold, without flinching. Dennis kept on smiling. Richard said, "Don't you smile at me! Let's have a little talk." They went to the counseling room.
Which of course, is right next to my office. I heard several loud noises emanating from that direction for the next forty-five minutes.
When they finally came out, Dennis went upstairs to get ready for work. I asked Richard how it went.
"I had to give him a drop kick through the goal post of life."
I went to sleep after work. A troubled sleep with bad dreams. Dreams of using.
I got up at five and dressed. Then I went for a walk along Fair Oaks Boulevard. I returned a few minutes before Jill was due to arrive, only to discover that she had called in sick, and had canceled her groups
A week without Jill is like a week without sunshine. I exist halfheartedly until the next time I may gaze upon her radiant smile.
I sank back into my room, my lonely room, for the rest of the evening, reading and watching silly television shows, until I fell, with a great sigh... to sleep.

May 8 Wednesday Day 239

I asked Russell Burke if I could interview him for this book.
"You really writing a book," he asked enigmatically.
"What's it gonna be about? Alcoholics and stuff?"
"Well yeah, I guess Russell. Living here, the first year of trying to stay sober, The people who live here."
"Well I think that's a really good idea, Rick. Keep it up. Yeah, sure, I'll give ya an interview."
"When Russell? When will you give me an interview?"
"Anytime Rick. Anytime you want. That's a good thing, writing a book. Takes patience, maybe help a guy out..."
His voice faded as he made a quick, unobtrusive retreat, while wiping down anything that was not already moving and within arms reach.
I'm glad Russell thinks my writing is a good idea. That sort of sanctifies it.
And since Jill did not visit, this constituted the high point of my week.

May 9 Thursday Day 240

Bill Rausemplat on the PA: "Goooood moorrrnnninggg! (slight German accent) Rise and shine! It's six o'clock! Up! Up! Up, up, up, up, up! Looovvveeely, lovely day!"
It's a miracle no one has killed him. Yet.
I began another nice 17 hour, nonstop, action packed, work day with one of my favorite breakfasts: SOS.
Really. I like the stuff.
Though I didn't feel like moving around much after I ate it, so I hid out in my office a got some writing done, until all of the guys went across the street to work.
Mr. Vasquez got up early to go to the V.A. clinic to have his foot calluses sand blasted down.
There wasn't really a whole lot to get done today. I had ran all of the urine the night before, and the janitors didn't need me or want me to supervise them, so I killed some time, not feeling like doing anything constructive. I read some short horror stories written by Joyce Carol Oats, Theodore Sturgeon, and Clifford D. Simack, which picked my spirits right up.
After lunch I got Ernie Sens to let Dennis Smith drive me to Builders Emporium, in South Pasadena, so I could have some locker keys made. I also needed to stop off at Vons to buy some razors so our new clients could shave. We had a couple who looked like they'd been in the mountains three years without benefit of toilet facilities.
Sounds vaguely familiar somehow.
Both were from New York City. They had that quiet, glazed, homicidal, New York stare about them.
While driving south on Fair Oaks, I asked Dennis what had really happened last weekend, why he had been A.W.O.L.
He had been driving in his new car it seems, cruising the Southland freeways, when he "accidentally" passed by an old girlfriends house. Naturally he just had to stop and have a chat, and the two of them continued to drive around, exploring the mysteries of his new car.
Upon returning to her house they began exploring the mysteries of each other (I've got to get a car!), afterwards falling blissfully into deep sleep. Dennis woke at 12:30AM, said fuck it, and went back to sleep. He decided the next morning that since he was already A.W.O.L., he might as well stay A.W.O.L. until Monday morning.
Probably not the best decision to make, looking back on it. But that's what he did.
And he got away with it, only receiving a (stern) reprimand from Ernie. Not a tremendous example to set for the men of the residence though. It's not a very good idea to start letting some break the rules without serious repercussions, while throwing out others out for similar offenses. A lot of the men who had looked up to Dennis as being an example of how the program works, let him know that he had let them down, and Dennis felt bad about that.
I told him he was an idiot.
All of the above adding a great deal of scurrilous, unwanted, bullshit pressure upon a man still in the infancy of his recovery.
But I guess that's how it is sometimes.
All in all, he had been chastised rather harshly. He deserved it, but I'm glad he's back and continuing with the program.
The most surprising thing about the whole situation, surprising to both Dennis and those of us back at the center, is that he did not use.
Which of course was confirmed by urinalysis.
He told me that his usual pattern after an initial fuck up would be to merrily move forward in the process and fuck up to the extreme (no moderation in fuck upingness).
This is the usual pattern for many, if not all alcoholics and drug addicts, myself not excluded.
By some miracle Dennis was able to halt the process this time. Halt the guilt and self loathing, then the mindless and blind merry-go-round ride toward debasement and self destruction. He was able to stop while relatively little harm was done, before he gave up all of his choices. If the whole episode had been some kind of test, then this time he was able to pass it.
He saved his job, but that was the least important thing he saved.
Good for Dennis! Very good.
After a little over a month Rico Montgomery has returned to us. He came back all smiles, but did not have much to say for himself. At least not to me. I will no doubt talk to him later.
And once again the infamous Zulu brothers are united.
The only thing I did of consequence for the rest of the evening was to write up Ron Basemore for missing both his Substance Abuse seminar, and his A.A. panel. And I made an appointment for an H.I.V antibody test at the Jackie Robinson Health Center in north Pasadena, for May 20th.
I've decided it's time to stop mucking around and find out something of what the rest of my life is going to be like.

May 10 Friday Day 241

I had the opportunity to catch up on some sleep this morning, and I made use of it. At 10:22AM I climbed out of bed and went to the bathroom. This triggered an alarm inside of the janitor's closet, at which time they descended upon my bathroom like a pack of hungry wolves, armed with mops and scouring brushes.
I made a hasty retreat and showered, dressed, then went to lunch, Club sandwiches.
I wrote in the lobby until it was time to start my shift. Russell Burke walked by the desk and said, "Hi, hi. How ya doing?" A little while later Scott Feeney also walked by, and mumbled, "I hate this place."
Everything's normal.
I suffer from an affliction other than alcoholism and nicotine addiction (many others actually, most too sordid to mention). I like to make other people read books, and stories, and pieces, that I have once read and found worthwhile. I like to think that I am enriching my victims lives by doing so. I like to think that they will find the same enjoyment and feel the same things that I felt while reading these wonderful works. I am almost always disappointed.
Anyway, I found a copy of Vonnegut's "Slaughter House Five" in the residence library, and showed it to Robert Vasquez. "It's about the bombing of Dresden," I said, a little unfairly. "He was there."
The old war horse looked at with interest. "Dresden?" he asked. "What? He was underground?"
"In a meat locker."
"Hummm, let me have a look at it when you're finished."
"I've already read it, sir. You can have it."
I neglected to tell him the the book also concerned time travel, flying saucers, multidimensional living, and porno queens. If I had he probably wouldn't have read it.
He probably won't anyway.
After everybody was paid, after the bingo, and tournaments, and cash, and extra work canteen cards were counted and bundled, after the New Client Orientation, and after the stupid and heavy bar was put up in the thrift store parking lot, I spent the remainder of my shift reading about cocaine.

May 11 Saturday Day 242

I have come to terms with reality. A bold statement, but true. I have come to the conclusion that I do not have to face it, all of the time. That it is alright for me to escape its influence every now and then, by reading, or watching television. As long as I do not use a chemical to escape the perils and joys of everyday life, or read so much and so often that that's all I do, isolating. It's alright, even healthy, to read and view worthwhile programs and movies on T.V. (there are a few), it can even envelope one at times, with a higher sense of reality, of what is really important in life.
Many newly recovering alcoholics and addicts do feel that they must deal with everything, and every issue that reality throws at them in a most succinct manner, and that they must never again shy away from responsibility or avoid taking part in their brave new world.
I say, hey, chill out! Calm down, take things easy. Don't stress! Relax.
This morning I diverted reality in a positive manner by staying in bed and sleeping until 11:00AM, thus allowing sleep to replenish whatever it is that sleep replenishes, plus preparing my sorely taxed mind for the day's upcoming adventures.
Upon awakening, I felt so rejuvenated that I tackled my computer, and attempted some of the typing exercises, actually completing a few. This made me feel very good and worthwhile. I was now ready to open my door and face the day.
I went to work and had a fine time with reality. My desk crew ready to assist me in whatever I may endeavor.
Clarence "Eagle Eye," "The Flash," Bliss, who when asked at first will invariably give the incorrect answer to any question posed. From experience I have learned when dealing with Clarence, and asking him a question and receiving a reply, to always ask, "Your sure?" Almost always he will say, "No. wait a minute, it's such and such..." then will supply the correct information. One of his nicknames, "The Flash," derives from a current television show depicting an ultra speedy super hero, and is paradoxically applied to him because of the fact that it takes him so long to shift his mode of thought, and because of the halting quality of his movements. Clarence reasons in a linear fashion, one thing at a time (very A.A. ish), and if you need something from him, and he at that time has placed his train of thought somewhere else, you're damn sure going to wait until he can get to you, and that may or may not happen on the same day that you would like it to.
Bill Raushemplat, although at times very witty, is constantly thinking and talking about food. Many, many times while working a Friday or Saturday night shift, Bill will walk into my office with a most serious expression on his handsome, young face, and begin to expound upon the merits of one particular cheeseburger manufacturer over another. He directs my attention to the delicacy and texture of the grilled onions, the poignancy of the mustard and relish, the tartness of the pickles. He describes the different sauces he has sampled throughout the ages. He will not shut up until I finally say, "Okay Bill, go take a break." He will the take off merrily on his way to the canteen to munch out. His hunger satiated, I will have peace for a short time.
If something displeases him about his meal, he will let everyone know about it. Everyone.
A dry pork chop will ruin his day.
Kevin Rockoff has resumed his quest for his dream girl (or any girl) through the Christian singles ads. He has secured the name and address, by way of a pen pal club, of a lady approximately his own age, who lives in Japan.
Unheeded by national boundaries the search continues.
The issue at hand is not to avoid reality, but to learn how to live with it. Please now allow me to ease back into it, and conclude for the time being, spending the rest of my shift learning about cocaine.
I will end with the startling realization that "crack" cocaine is not addictive at all, supplied to me from the comedian, Richard Pryor: "It's not habit forming! I've been using it everyday for fifteen years and I don't have a habit."

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