Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tired

I am getting old I guess. I go drive 500 miles and I want to go to bed and sleep ten hours. Used to be, I would be excited and need to drink beer and smoke cigarettes and talk shit for hours.

What I'm getting is that life is kind of hard and aging is very hard and people die from grieving their youth.

I picked up this 52 year old woman from the hospital, far away. Her grown kids were there. Her daughter told me, "Watch her. She's really fuckin' sneaky".

The woman was in the hospital because she had been trying to drink without a stomach. She had an ulcer and it tore open and ripped her stomach in two. Blood was pouring out her ass and she was drinking vodka. She couldn't get drunk because the vodka was just pouring into her abdominal cavity but she was trying.

That's how her daughter found her. She went to the hospital and they sewed her back together and when she was well enough I got called to come bring her so we could fix her up. Yeah right.

I liked her. She was an old lesbian with lots of piercings and tattoos. She rode a big motorcycle. She must have been the terror of the town.

She complained for weeks because she didn't like the clothes her daughter packed for her. I asked her what her daughter did with her bed and her carpets, now that they were blood soaked bio hazards. She said her daughter got rid of them somehow. Then I told her she looked swell.

A year ago I drove in a drunk, retired business guy. He'd been a big shot. Hadn't had drink in 20 years   Then he retired and sat on the couch. After a while he figured the couch by itself wasn't much consolation. He started drinking for something to do.

He was a mess and I brought him in and they sobered him up and I drove him home and it was all smiles. A year later, there I was again. This time he smelled really bad and his wife had dropped the brave and dutiful face.

He was kind of incoherent and after a while I asked him when he'd last eaten something. He didn't remember. I stopped in a rest area and ran and got cookies and orange juice.  When I got back he was lying in the parking lot. I'm a big guy and he is 5 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than me. I got him to his feet and carried him to the car. He drank the juice and ate some cookies. After a while he perked up a little so I didn't call an ambulance. He ended up leaning on two of us but we got him into the office.

A couple of days later he said he didn't feel good and he wanted to go home. They talked him out of that but it looks like he plans to die, alone and drunk. Sometime soon.

Speaking of dying. I drove up the coast to my favorite town. When I was 10 miles away, I stopped to get coffee. I called the client and said I'd be there soon. She said she had a quart of rum in front of her and she'd had a few beers. I told her to hold on and I'd be there in ten minutes.

Ten minutes later, I walked into her apartment. The bottle of rum was almost empty. She hadn't packed. At first she was walking and talking just fine. I tried to help her pack but pretty quickly she got to where she couldn't stand up. Then she couldn't sit up. Then she almost fell through a glass topped table so I let her stay on the floor and called an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived it turned out the cops and EMT's all knew her. One cop told me he'd had 4 or 5 calls on her in the past month. I found her keys, poured out all the liquor locked up her apartment and gave the keys to one of the EMT's.

I drove home alone. We never heard back from her. I kind of figure she's dead.

I picked up another returnee at a hospital way up in the mountains. I picked him up and took him home before. The hospital had him so tranked up he didn't recognize his own name. Later he told me that the last time I dropped him off he was drinking as I pulled out of his driveway. This time he told me it was going to be all different. Christ, I hope so.

There've been others. Lonely people in their 50's and 60's who just couldn't bring themselves to commit old fashioned suicide.

You know, I'm 60. I'm tired. Sitting alone on that couch seems like a good idea. I don't want to drink but sometimes it's hard, letting go of my youth. I spend a lot of time grieving my youth. I don't want it back but it's sad to see it go. The future used to go on forever and the possibilities were limitless.

I'm writing on a bad day. Tomorrow will probably be different. Sometimes this job is the best thing that's ever happened to me. Other days I wish I could quit. I figure I'll give it another year.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

More drama

I drove a long way to pick up this kid. He was a heroin addict. He was the worst heroin addict in the world His detox was going to be the worst and most protracted detox in the history of heroin. We were all going to be shocked by the extreme sickness he would experience during his detox. He didn't care. He could detox on his own. He probably didn't need detox meds because he was tough. He was a thief. He was a completely heartless thief. He stole ten thousand dollars from his grandma. He had millions in cash buried out in his yard. He was coming into treatment on his mom's grocery clerk benefits. He was the greatest mechanic I'd ever met. He'd built the most extreme off road vehicles with the most powerful engines ever built. He'd made more money flipping cars than he'd made stealing and selling drugs. He never paid full price for drugs. He knew the right people. When you know the right people you never have to pay the kind of money that suckers pay for drugs.

His extreme, shocking detox lasted two days. He was up walking around boasting to people by day two. They made him attend classes and group sessions. He didn't like that. He wasn't the center of attention in classes and sessions. Classes really pissed him off. He stood up in the back of the room and gave the finger to whoever was teaching through the whole class.

The staff had a talk with him about this shit. He called his mom. She came and got him on his third or fourth day.

Been a while.

Somehow, the job is becoming a job. I have a wealth of experience. It tells me that drunks and drug addicts are pretty damn dependable. We'll say and do almost anything to keep living in our heads.

The other day I spent five hours with a 23 year old kid. He was a tough guy, a bit of a redneck and a raging drama queen. He claimed to drink 3 fifths of hard liquor a day. Then again sometimes he'd bump the number up to three half gallons a day. He said that he'd had chest pains and sharp pains in his left arm. He'd been to jail a few times. He gets in fights a lot. Everybody attacks him and he has to defend himself. He's sent guys to prison testifying against them after they tried to kidnap him. His girlfriend gets in fights a lot too. They constantly have to defend themselves.

I told him, "All that drama, that's alcoholism. Alcoholics love drama". He didn't really go for that. He just wants to be like his girlfriend. She's from "Europe". In "Europe" they appreciate fine wine. He wants to spend more time enjoying fine wine with his girlfriend. He knows how to talk to rich people. He can operate at their level because he cleans a lot of rich people's swimming pools. He owns a piece of the pool service. I'll give him this much. He's a hard worker.

I'll tell you the truth. I didn't really like him much and he's decided he likes me. I try to take a few minutes and talk to him when I see him. I know he's trying.

Did I mention the guy I went to high school with? Not really. He graduated from my high school seven or eight years after me. He was the last thing I did on a fourteen hour day, most of it spent in barely moving traffic. I picked him up at a psych ward. He'd been forcibly hospitalized after they found him wandering, drunk on a busy train track one morning.

He had a terrible girlfriend. She emptied out all of his bank accounts after he went in the hospital. He didn't think his drinking had much effect on his life. He keeps bobbing up and down in life. Owning fancy houses and living in motels with money borrowed from relatives. He wants to find the right woman. She has to be a lot younger than him. She can't object to his drinking. He meets women. He gives them control of his bank accounts. He has a few drinks and they steal from him. He doesn't understand it. He left to go to a big casino, have a few drinks and see if he couldn't meet a nice woman.

Last week was an anniversary. I haven't had a drink in 21 years. I've been single and living in this damn trailer for ten years. All things considered, it's alright.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Drug seeking behavior.

I spent quite a few hours in a squalid Emergency Room waiting area. It wasn't dramatic or anything, just sick poor people with no place to go but the ER. Lots of babies, sick, poor babies.

Two of the clients got sick at the same time. Everyone thought they had food poisoning but it turns out one of them had appendicitis. He had the all new appendectomy procedure, three tiny incisions and twelve minutes total on the operating table. He admitted he was hoping to catch a buzz off the anesthesia but he went straight to sleep. I brought him back the next day and he was fine.

By the way, the other guy had an upset stomach.

There's another client. A girl, very young, 19. She's been using meth and heroin. She's very pretty in a terribly vulnerable big eyed sort of way. She attracted a suitor, which is not a good thing. He's an older fellow, a real gangster, albeit a small town gangster. He's started putting his arms around her when he thinks he can get away with it. She lets him do it, for all I know she encourages him. The trouble is that 19 year old pretty girls don't almost kill themselves with meth and heroin because they like to party. She's in some kind of psychic pain from God only knows where, although it isn't hard to guess.

She has a habit of punching things and breaking bones in her hand. She'd sprained her wrist once from punching a wall. She got to go to the ER but all they did was wrap it and tell her to keep it iced.

When the guy got back from the ER, she started complaining that her hand was hurting her terribly. It was somewhat swollen but not red or discolored. She kept wandering off and coming back with her hand more swollen. Late in the afternoon, I was coming back from some errand or other when her paramour opened the door to her room and said, "What's going on? It sounds like you're punching the wall".

The staff yelled at him for going into her room and she came out and said that the noise must be coming from some other room. By then her hand was really swelling up and she said she wanted to go to the ER.

On the drive there she was gasping with pain every time the car went over a bump. I pulled up to the ER door and she went in while I went to park. When I got back, I asked about her. The guy at the door asked me who I was and I explained that I was the driver from the treatment center. He said, "That's pretty interesting because she fainted in the waiting room and she just denied that she was in a treatment center. You better come talk to the triage nurse".

I was led to the triage room. The client was in a wheel chair and the nurse was asking questions while she took the client's vital signs. After I was introduced the nurse asked again, "Are you in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction?"

The client said, "Yes".

The nurse asked, "What drugs are you addicted to?"

The client looked a little frantic for a second. There was a long pause. Count the seconds... one... two... three... four.... "Meth".

She was wheeled back to the waiting room. We sat there for a while. She had me get her candy from the vending machine. She stood up and staggered a little. I don't know if she was putting on a show or not. I put her back in the chair.

Finally, they came and took her back into the ER. It was my day off and I was not supposed to be there at all. We made arrangements for a cab to take her back later and I left.

When I got back, I heard a staff person talking to the doctor, "So, it was just a bruise? She was not given any narcotics? Good. Could the injury have been self inflicted? I see."

I don't know if she really came back or not. I hope so. She seemed like she was doing OK till that guy fell in "love" with her. I think that scared her.

There's another client who is addicted to diazepam. She's detoxing and she can't sleep. She's having panic attacks. She hasn't slept in 72 hours. She wanted me to go pick up some medication that might help her sleep. It probably won't. I've had the stuff and it didn't make me drowsy. I didn't have time to get her medication before the pharmacy closed. She's really mad at me. She thinks I did it on purpose. Like I said, it was my day off, I was not supposed to be working. She wasn't supposed to get her prescription till tomorrow anyway. I had other things to do. She hung around the office and glared at me. She kept telling me her symptoms, insomnia, panic attacks, shaking. I said, "That's because you're detoxing from a dangerous drug. You feel like that when the drug goes away". When I finally left for the day, she glared at the car.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

No shows

I'm really tired but I think I'll try and write this before bed.

Two days in a row I drove a long way to pick up people who panicked at the last minute. It could be discouraging. I think it's a miracle that anyone, anywhere ever gets clean and sober. I'm impressed that anyone would even try.

Of course I'm talking about alcoholics and addicts here. Lots of people use drugs and alcohol without a problem. I always have to clear that up because I don't want anybody to think I'm for any kind of prohibition. Around here we make wine and we grow weed and if you can't handle them, I come scrape you up and drag you into treatment.

Anyhow, yesterday, I drove into the big city to pick up a lady who claimed that she didn't have a drinking problem but she seemed to be drinking a lot since her divorce. I called her on the way to her house but she wasn't answering and her mailbox was not taking messages. That's a bad sign right there.

When I got to her house I drove past. The front door was standing open. There were Christmas decorations in the window. Another bad sign. Most people, even if they're drunk, manage to put away the ornaments by May.

I parked the car and walked up to her house. She stuck her head out the window, saw me and ran and slammed the front door shut. I tried her doorbell a few times then stood around on the sidewalk for a while. After a while, I called the center. They told me to come home.

So there went something like 5 hours of driving in heavy traffic for nothing. I was kind of annoyed.

First thing this morning I woke up early and drove 3 or 4 hours in heavy traffic to pick up a young amphetamine addict. He'd been cut off by his family. He was homeless and living in his car. I called him a few times but he wasn't answering. His voice mail message was him bellowing incoherently. Bad signs.

He sent me a text message asking me when I would be there. I gave him a time and asked him to call me. I didn't hear back from him. I was supposed to meet him at a gas station near the freeway. I got there about the time I told him I would. He wasn't answering his phone. He wasn't answering text messages.

I hung out at the gas station for a while. Then I went and got lunch. Then I hung out some more. I sent him text messages every once in a while. After two or three hours I sent him a message that I was leaving.

I drove about a hundred miles when he sent me a text message asking if I could come back and pick him up. I pulled off the freeway, explained that I was 2 hours from home and it was late. I asked him to call me. He never did. I waited around for 15 minutes or so and then sent him a message that I was going home.

He called me a couple of hours later but I never got the call. I was almost home by then and there was no way I was going back down there.

When I got back to the center there was a group of clients standing around smoking cigarettes. I rounded up all of my stuff. Threw away the trash in the car. Locked it up and walked over to them. I told them I was proud of them for even trying to get sober.

I know most of them want to clean up because they are in trouble at work or they're facing jail time or their wives are mad at them. Not many of them have really looked inside themselves and seen the abyss. Most of them are going to die fucked up. That's OK I guess. They took some time off and tried out the program at the center. Lots of people are so scared they can't even take a break for a few weeks. They will die fucked up. I hope they don't suffer too much.

I'm sure this is full of typos. I kept nodding off as I wrote. This is not a bad life.



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Got to love 'em

There was a guy who was my teacher. He was a spiritual guy. He was a guy who did tons of service for suffering people. He was infinitely kind to me.

He used to send me letters. He always said the same thing. "You've got to love alcoholics. If you want to be happily sober, you've got to learn to love alcoholics".

I kind of thought he didn't know what he was talking about. He was a retired small business man who lived in his old hometown. He lived quietly with his wife of almost 50 years. I was a bus driver. I talked to alcoholics all the time. They were whiny. They wanted something for nothing. They thought they were better than everyone else. They would fly into a rage unless you gave them what they wanted. They'd abuse and insult you if you gave them what they wanted. My friend just didn't know what it was like.

It took me a long time to realize that the reason why he always had a good answer for me was because he had made every stupid mistake I was making. He wasn't super humanly wise and he wasn't isolated from the real world in some little bubble of serenity. In addition to doing wonderful things that lifted my heart he had done stupid, greedy, fearful things, just like everyone else.

So, he died about ten years ago. I stopped driving a bus about three years ago. I've never stopped thinking about the things he told me. I started to wonder what would happen if I tried loving alcoholics. I would be nice to drunk guys who came to meetings. It didn't seem to make much difference one way or another but it felt okay. I tried listening to people who mostly didn't make much sense. I would sit and listen to people who talked and talked about themselves. They always said the same thing. They would cry on cue about some hurt they had suffered twenty, thirty, forty years before. They cried every time they told the story, even though they'd told me the story before.

It was starting to work. I started to realize that these awful people were struggling with pain and fear. The more I looked, the more I saw that everybody was struggling with pain and fear. Yep, me too.

Look, I know there are assholes out there. I know that there are people whose needs and interests are not the same as mine. I can tolerate being in an adversarial relationship. Jesus didn't say, "Don't have enemies". He said, "Love your enemies". I don't tolerate bullies. I don't like being manipulated. The only difference is that I can see my enemies struggling and yearning and talking shit and trying to con me, all at the same time.

This change didn't happen in a monastery or anything. It happened while I was watching TV and hanging out with friends and taking little walks and wanting to get laid, or eat dinner, or take a nap. Just regular stuff.

So then I got this job. Driving drunks and drug addicts from one Starbucks to the next. I like Starbucks because they are everywhere and they have bathrooms. I like seeing that green sign and knowing that I can piss should the need arise.

I get to meet these people who are in some kind of crisis. Their lives are falling apart and they say the most wonderfully foolish things to me. Kids like to tell me that they are scary gangsters. Now, the people who come to the center are mostly people who work in grocery stores, or family members of grocery store workers. But they're scary gangster grocery store clerks when they talk. Or older folks like to try and tell me that their problems are far, far worse than mine. They drink because their children don't understand them or because they got sick or because their bosses are assholes.

There they are and I listen to them and I mumble something back at them and they seem satisfied but a couple of weeks later, they've started to get their brains back and so many of them want to know what I thought of them when they were so fucked up, when we first met.

I tell them I liked them. I tell them funny stories about the way they behaved. If they behaved very badly I tell them that I figured we were not meeting on their best day. I tell them how awful my life seemed and how it still seems to be too much sometimes but that we are God's hands now and we don't have to run the world any more.

Some of them get it. Most of them are going to die fucked up. It doesn't matter. I love all of them. If only a little bit.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Moscow

Either I have fans in Moscow or someone in Moscow is trying to hack my blog. I tend to believe the latter possibility. If I'm wrong, Hi Moscow.