Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Salvation Diary 42

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

July 15 Monday Day 307

I couldn't get out of bed until 9:00. I just couldn't.
By the time I showered and dressed it was 9:20. I noticed that the counseling room was occupied, and correctly surmised that the beautiful and noble Wendy was in there counseling away. I decided to wait a while and see if I could get another smile from her before I started out on my big bus trip to the San Fernando Valley. There were three other guys sitting there with me. Scott Feeney, Kevin Rockoff, and James Goodwin. They were waiting for the same thing. Smiles.
She came out about a half an hour later. She had been counseling Hugh Hogle. She looked at the four of us sitting there looking at her, took a deep breath, and favored us with a big smile.
After receiving their portions of Wendy's smile, the other three guys got up and left. I was about to do the same when Wendy let me know that it was cold in the counseling room. She did this by saying, "Gosh, I'm going to have to get Robert to turn up the heat." I let her know that I could do that for her (I'm so helpful). Robert wasn't around anyway.
I soon left. I walked up to Colorado Blvd. and caught the 181 west, all the way to Hollywood and Highland, in Hollywood. I walked around for a while when I got there, looking for a place to buy some cigarettes. I bought the smokes and returned to the bus stop just as the 420 pulled up. As luck would have it, this was just the bus I needed. It took me into Van Nuys, where I got off at the corner of Van Nuys Blvd., and Vanowen. I had to wait there for the 163 to take me a little further west.
This was the first time I'd been back to the valley for about a year. This is where I grew up, where I had lived for most of my life. And standing at the corner of Van Nuys and Vanowen I considered myself very fortunate to be living in Pasadena now. Van Nuys seemed like the middle of a busy beehive. In the twenty or so minutes I stood waiting for the bus, at least 4 emergency vehicles, blaring their sirens, passed by me. One of the vehicles was a hazardous waste truck. I'd never seen one of those before. Thousands of people continuously walked the hot, dusty streets, heedless of each other, deeply considering their individual journeys. Refuge and trash spilled into the street gutters.
Watching it all I felt a very real desire to forget about what had brought me there, turn around and head back to the relative tranquility of Pasadena.
In all fairness this particular corner, or actually all of Van Nuys Blvd., is usually very, very busy and congested. This is the downtown of the San Fernando Valley.
But it wasn't only the sights and sounds which had invaded my psyche. Everything I looked at, here and on the bus ride that brought me here, triggered a barrage of memories; some good, some bad, some pleasant, some vehemently embarrassing. Some quite frightful. In fact this barrage, the weight of those memories from my past, a past for the most part closely associated with heavy drinking and the use of drugs, the stupid, extremely selfish behavior also associated with drinking and the use of drugs, paralyzed me. I was on overload, and it was difficult for me to move.
I found this feeling particularly uncomfortable and was anxious to get back to my new home in Pasadena, a place with a clean future.
So I read a little Dostoevsky (always a quick picker upper) to clear my mind before continuing on my journey.
I had come to this place to make a start on my 9th Step. Step 9 of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I would not finish all of my 9th Step today. Not by a long shot. But I would make a good start.
This is what Step 9 is all about: "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." Pretty nifty, isn't it?
I was here to pay back some money to my ex-sponsor, Jeff Weeks. Forty dollars. When I last relapsed he paid for a night in a motel for me when I had no where else to go. I wanted to pay him back, thank him, and in that way make a beginning on my 9th Step. It will be a very long time before I get anywhere close to finishing this Step. It's a doosey! But the program requires that I make a start, and I will, and I'll do a little at a time until I feel I'm finished with my past, then all of the amends I'll ever have to worry about will be due to my inevitable future indiscretions.
The benefits of this simple Step are vast. Some of it has a lot to do with relieving guilt.
Step 8: "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all," I had pretty much taken care of during the writing of my 4th Step, which contains a list of all those I have harmed (that I could remember). It also contained a list of all of my creditors, again, all that I could recall. I'm sure I'll remember more as times goes by.
I am perfectly willing to make amends to those I have harmed. I am also willing to pay back any and all money I owe to others. I'm just not able to do so at this time.
Which is okay.
Little by little, I shall pay back the credit card company, the phone company, Circuit City and Zales, my mother, an untold number of doctors and hospitals, and the Los Angeles Public Library.
And today I pay back Jeff.
I had forgotten the name of the street where I should have got off the bus. I wound up jumping the gun and disembarking two blocks prematurely. They were very large blocks, so after a nice long, hot, and sweaty walk, I eventually found Jeff's old apartment building. I say old, because I learned from the apartment's manager that Jeff had moved out a week and a half earlier. He had moved in with his brother in Sam Dimas, which of course, was relatively close to where I started out from in Pasadena. The manager did have Jeff's forwarding address, so my trip was not wasted. I will mail the money to him in a money order. End of story.
Next case.
I purchased a nice dry chicken sandwich from 7-Eleven, which I consumed while waiting for the old 163 to take me back from whence I came. RTD was pretty good to me today. I only had to wait more than five minutes once before a bus arrived.
I returned by the exact same route, once again experiencing a deadening nostalgia brought about by the once familiar buildings and locals.
Old ghosts.
I felt quite relieved upon returning to the residence. It was good to be back where I felt I belonged. It was nice to now have a place where I feel I belong, where I'm safe. And as luck would have it, I got back just in time for dinner (little meatball things).
Robert wanted me to fill in for him a while, so he could make another of his journeys. This gave me the opportunity to catch up on some office paperwork, and get some personal writing done.
In my relapse prevention workshop we once again discussed what stage of recovery we thought ourselves to be in. There were only a couple of the participants who said they were in the early stages of recovery and not kidding themselves. We also talked about what relapse is (how appropriate), and some of the common misconceptions attributed to that process. Going over this material again and again, I think I'm achieving a gut feeling towards this subject, internalizing it, if you will. I feel that any repetition of behavior that was once associated with an addicts previous lifestyle could very easily lead to the beginning of the relapse process. It's critical to be willing to change everything in order to maintain the primary goal of staying sober and learning how to live effectively without the use of drugs or alcohol.
I talked with Reuben Smith after the meeting. We sat outside on the benches in the parking lot, enjoying the warm summer dusk. Reuben's having a bit of a hard time right now. He's worried about going insane. He tends to bash himself in the face while asleep, and doesn't like doing it. He's seeing a psychologist. I told him it wouldn't get him anywhere by worrying all of the time, or by freaking out about it. I tried to encourage him, letting him know that he was attempting to deal with the problem and doing everything he reasonably could about it. Reuben's pretty jumpy though. I hope he's alright.
Barbara came out and talked to me too. We talked about school and stuff. She's a neat lady.
The PBS show, "American Masters," outlined the career of Neil Simon. I watched it, fascinated. Here is a man who painted his whole life in his plays and has become the most successful playwright in history while doing it.
What a wonderful way to spend one's time.

July 16 Tuesday Day 308

Up nice and early to start the work week. A fairly normal morning, I wrote, took over the paperwork, finished waking up, and got some toilet bowl cleaner, toilet paper, and large plastic bags from warehouse supply. I admitted two clients, terminated one (Garth Schimmele, Jerry's son, who has left to serve a 16 month jail sentence for some drug related offense). Ron Collins and Scott Feeney made the transition from clients to employees. And I had a heck of a lot of urine to run. A heck of a lot. All in all, I kept pretty busy.
Soon my work day was over. I went up to my lonely room and read from a book that Bill Rausemplat had given me concerning the story of Led Zeppelin, my favorite band of the late 60s/through the 70s.
A crazy bunch of guys, let me tell you.
I watched "Tiny Toon Adventures," then went downstairs to the lobby to see what Jill was wearing today. Some orange and red floral print thing that matched well her lustrous hair. Ron Collins and I were sitting next to each other, when Ron told her, "You look absolutely phenomenal today."
I shook my head in agreement, adding, "More phenomenal than usual."
She commented on my superb tan, saying that it looked like I'd been out in the sun.
"My morning paper route," I explained.
I was a bit rakish this afternoon, I must admit. It's the Irish in me. As I opened a door for Jill, she asked what I was doing here on my night off.
"Sitting in the lobby and looking at all of the beautiful counselors."
"Oh, go on with your flattery." She loved it.
"You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met in my entire life."
"Oh, really?" she replied with an air of skepticism.
"You doubt my sincerity?"
"It's okay. Many women do when I tell them that."
I don't usually give a whole lot of compliments to beautiful women. They already know they look good. And I have found from experience that they don't really care for compliments, they don't mean much to them unless the words of praise come from someone they themselves care for, in one way or another. So Jill seemed rather surprised by the way I was speaking to her. I was in a good mood I guess.
She loved it though.
Not wanting to overexpose myself to this lady I returned to my lonely room and watched a PBS program on the origen of birds.
When I woke up, and odd Stephen King movie for T.V. was on, entitled, "The Golden Years." I love Stephen King, but this show was just one more example of how to take a simple and exciting idea, and draw it out to the point that it's as much fun to watch as a wet mop (My God, they've actually made this into a mini series!).
I learned a little more about the problems the U.S.S.R. is currently facing while watching "Nightline." So many problems in this world. I see a new one each night on "Nightline."
If most of us weren't buffered by the illusions of our daily life we would all most certainly go stark raving mad.

July 17 Wednesday Day 309

Then again, sometimes life is really wonderful.
Kathy and I had a really good talk tonight. At first I thought we wouldn't be able to because she came in complaining of a migraine headache, and she told my desk men she wanted to keep her sessions as short as possible. But like most counselors I've known, once she got started she couldn't stop, and once again she was the last counselor to leave.
Isn't she wonderful!
As she was leaving the building, and because I just happened to be hanging around the front door, I walked with her outside to her car and we fell into deep conversation. I even got to say a few words this time. She really opened up, telling me all manner of things. "I don't even know why I'm telling this to you," she said. But I'm so glad she feels comfortable talking to me.
She is going through a stressful period in her life right now, which, she believes, is causing her headaches. I will not relate what she said, what she told me, as it really was quite personal. Those are her secrets to divulge to whomever she chooses. But I was definitely affected by what she told me. And by her.
I will say this: she's thirty two, divorced, and when she first met me she thought I was too serious. She doesn't like authority figures, she says (I have a hard time thinking of myself as an authority figure, an awfully hard time).
But now... she thinks I'm alright.

July 18 Thursday Day 310

I went to bed last night thinking about Kathy. I woke up thinking about her. I felt good all morning - wonderful in fact, remembering our conversation, despite the serious implications of some of what she told me . I was happy just because she was willing to tell me these things.
I was the recipient of some good natured ribbing by the guys who witnessed me giving my undivided attention to Kathy. Darrell Sipp threw his arms back over his shoulders in a parody of passionate lust, making smacking, kissing sounds.
A real jokester, that Darrell.
I'll tell you this though. When I saw some of the pain radiating through Kathy's pretty eyes as she related what was troubling her I very much felt like taking her into my arms.
As my day wore on, and the reality of my daily routine began to influence me, my effervescent glow dissipated somewhat (I hate it when that happens). I got through the day without experiencing many problems. No more problems than usual. Over all, Thursdays are easy for me. The Major only comes over for lunch, and Ed Reitz is hard to find even when you're looking for him. So I'm pretty much left to myself, to do as I will on these, my long days, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 6:00AM to 11:00PM. I make sure everything that needs to be done is done. That way the rest of the time is mine, and I read and write with a clear conscious.
And read and write is what I did. I wrote in the morning, as is my custom, and read in the afternoon and evening. I read all about Led Zeppelin.
One good line I heard as the C.A. panel let out, from an older black gentleman, apparently a former resident. He was talking to a couple of men as they walked out the front door.
"Don't it tell you something that when you first get here, and go downstairs to the clinic, all they have is a bunch of chiropractors looking you over. They know you've been pretty hard on yourselves."
He was referring to the way we alcoholics and drug addicted individuals beat ourselves up, in every way, while in the midst of our addictions.
From 4:00 until 11:00 I performed my number 1 job, the job they hired me to do; calmly, and hopefully with some humor and fairness, sat for a hundred painfully new and gloriously sober- babies.
I wish each and everyone of them well.

July 19 Friday Day 311

I got up early, or at least early for a Friday morning. I still felt so warm and good reminiscing about the conversation I had with Kathy that I didn't want to waste a lot of time sleeping while feeling so wonderful and alive.
What a sappy guy I am.
I smoked an unauthorized cigarette while meditating on the toilet. Then showered and shaved, not necessarily in that order.
I dressed and went downstairs to the lobby to write for a while. I also thought about what I could do for the rest of the day until 3:30, when I went to work. I considered going to the movies and seeing, "Dutch," a new film starring Ed O'Neill, the actor who plays Al Bundy on "Married with Children." Instead, I talked Marvin Gardenhire and Reuben Smith into seeing "The Naked Gun 2 1/2, the Smell of Fear." Second time for me.
By the time I got back to the residence I had an hour before starting work. I read a couple of pages from the Bible, about three Psalms worth, then laid down, closed my eyes and rested until 3:15, or so.
At work I was surprised to receive another week's gratuity since I had already gotten my first paycheck. I accepted it greedily as my last tax free $20 I'll be seeing for a while.
After putting up the stupid bar in the thrift store parking lot I had time to write. I continued copying excerpts from "The Underground Empire," book.
I spent the rest of the evening doing this, and was going to include them in this text... but decided not to, so there's not much else to write about today.

July 20 Saturday Day 312

I slept in late, getting up just before lunch. The sky above Pasadena had been overcast and murky for the last couple of days and this trend continued on into today, so I opted to forego the park, and hung around the residence and continued writing. I wrote for most of the afternoon and throughout my shift. After finishing I read some more about the history of the rock group Led Zeppelin, kept an eye on Roger Collins to make sure he did his job, thought a lot about Kathy, then when my shift was over, went to my room to watch a rerun of "The Outer Limits."
Then I went to sleep.
And dreamt of Kathy.

No comments:

Post a Comment