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Tuesday, October 23, 2007


A haunting past

Bit by bit the details came out. She talked of a life ruled by drugs. Now 5 months clean, she is haunted by her past. There are her three children, none of whom live with her. The 4 year old was born drug addicted, the 11 year old calls her by her first name, and her two year old is growing up without her in his life. She was crying as she told stories of her past. She was ashamed and sorry. Her present life is mired by the sludge of her previous actions.

"I'm trying," she said, "But nothing seems to be improving." Between school, work, and living with a friend, she is tired and has difficulty concentrating. Her mind often asks unanswerable questions that start with that three letter word, "why?" Then there are the "If only's." All exercises of vanity. The past cannot be changed. What is done is done.

Her harshest critic is herself. "My friends at work like me," she said with her voice shaking and dobbing at tears with a tissue. "They all think I am funny and a good worker, but when I get home all I can do is think about the things I have done. I feel like I am losing my mind."

She is on an emotional merry-go-round that won't stop. She can't sleep, she can't think. All she does is cry and hope she does not return to the drugs like she has the other times. At some point, she may say those fateful words, "F it," and then the gates of hell will open up and swallow her one more time.

So far though, she is holding on. She is determined to make it this time. She is working on her GED. She is working to make some money so she can get out on her own, but she is having a hard go of it.

When she had her say, I began to talk:
You're not losing your mind. You are in the process of finding it. For a long time you have been doing things that have been against your own values, but the drugs didn't let that hit you. Now they are wearing off and the impact of what you have done is sinking in. This is a process of healing. You feel guilt and shame and rightfully so. The purpose of those feelings is to make you sorry and to make you change your behavior so it won't happen again. In the past you have used drugs to deal with bad feelings. You can handle this. You caused this and you can fix it. You cannot change the past, but you can change your behavior so you do not repeat the past. It is not about what you did, but what you will do.
Recovery is a lot of things. One of them is forgiving yourself. People believe that God can forgive them. They can accept forgiveness from friends, but they often cannot forgive themselves. The trick is to use the present to make a future that will leave the past behind. It takes time and patience, which is another hard thing for addicts used to changing their mood by smoking some crack or popping a pill.

I think she will make it, but it is more about what she thinks and what she does.

Good luck girl.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, October 22, 2007


The doctor is in

The Doctor Is In
It has been so long since I have posted, I almost forgot how. I have been on the new job for about a month now and I can say without hesitation that I made a good decision. Nothing is perfect and everything has its own list of pros and cons. That said, I made a pretty good trade.

Before September 24th I had worked exclusively in psychiatric hospitals. In 21 years, I have witnessed a lot of change in how mental health is delivered in hospitals. The past 8 years or so, I have worked with the chronic population. The work needs to be done, but I lacked challenge. I didn't feel like I was helping anyone. People would come and go and I was one of the windows on the never ending revolving door.

I had hoped working with people at the mental health clinic would be more stimulating. That is, I would be challenged. The hospital lacked variety and challenge for me. I am happy to say that the things for which I had hoped have come about.

My job is to evaluate or assess those who walk in. It is an interesting task to talk with someone and help figure out what they need. I like to fix things and this is a chance to have a hand at fixing people.

I left a lot of good friends at my last job, but there are some good folks at the new place too. They don't quite know me yet. I have to unveil a little at a time for fear of scaring them off.
Bear is doing fine. It rained all day today and after work, it was pouring. On those days, he gets to swim. The ditches are full of rain water and he loves chasing his football in them.
The other morning I was walking Bear and it was almost completely quiet. Then all of a sudden, the birds started singing. I don't think I have ever noticed them not singing one moment and then singing the next. It was as though an angel walked into a large control room in heaven and flipped a switch entitled "Birds singing in Covington, LA."
One down side of the new job is I have to wait about an hour or so for Barbara to pick me up. After being bored stiff a couple of days, I started bringing my iPod and listened to music. Then I bought an audio book off of iTunes. Now, I don't mind waiting at all. I am getting into the audio book thing. The first book I listened to was "1776." As you can imagine, it is about the Revolutionary War. Very interesting and captivating. I recommend it highly.

Now I am listening to "Pulp Physics, Astronomy: Humankind in Space and Time." Again, two thumbs up.

The moral of the story is. Don't bitch, piss, moan and whine - read a book.
Speaking of complaining; I have been having a rough time with my running. I am still trying to get my right knee fixed, but I am up to about 3 miles in spite of it. The real problem is I have to get out of bed around 4:00 AM, because I have to be at work a lot earlier than when I worked at the hospital.

All of this stuff is just part of the process before routine sets in. Eventually, I will have a ride both ways to work. One of my coworkers is building a house close to where I live. Hopefully by January she will be my new regular ride. That will take the heat off of Barbara too.

Now you are up to date.

Until the next time
John Strain