zen on a dime

Most things that turn out well have very humble beginnings.

Take my story, having worked for the last eleven years as substance abuse counselor, I now find my self disemployed from a corporation that called a last minute phone conference and release me and three other colleagues from their services.

I dealt with opiate addicts but that word dealt is all wrong.

By a long shot, it misses the mark.

Never in my work career have I held a position with so much power over others. Now before you take me to task, to say how horrible I am when I say that I had power over others. But I must adopt the right terms, or at least words that convey proximity.

I worked in a cubicle, an office lined with client charts with one those feel good quotes framed above my desk that began with courage is…

My job description centered on one task: to chart if clients were either compliant with treatment, or non-compliant.

This task had less to do with corporate benevolence than that federal and state law concerning methadone and its dispensation are set in place to both protect the client and to keep illicit methadone off the street. Back to that word power, when an opiate addict reaches a point they want help; their options are threadbare and paltry at best.

What started off as recreational soon morphs into a full blown addiction that propels people into a cruel unwavering life style.

“I don’t do it to get high.”

I trust those word I have heard thousands of times from prospective clients upon starting on methadone.

“I just don’t want to be sick.”

Not even close when you compare opiate withdrawals with something so benign as a food born virus. No, the terminology is universal; each client as if coached say the same things. Flu-like ach; the kind of hurt that cripples you; that makes you question your maker; the kind of hurt that has you reaching for the phone to get that one thing that will make you normal again.

“I just want to be normal.”

Which presupposes that any of us is normal- what they mean is they envie their old life a time when they were not dependent on a pill or a shot to even wake up. When they arrive, they are willing to do what they have to because at a point when you come into a clinic you have reached your lowest. In the field we say when you reach a point where you don’t have any options left, that’s when you enter upon methadone for treatment.

“Methadone is replacing one drug for another.”

After eleven years as a counselor, I see it differently: methadone is a about a lifestyle change. Addicts trade their old life style with its attendant problem for methadone. What divides the two is a narrow gap owing to the fact that for some clients their drug of choice on the street is methadone.

In the end, due to our present day lack of opiate related treatment most clients are helpless in the face of their addiction.

Methadone offers them relief from their aversive life style owing to the fact that methadone was concocted in a lab; that it has built in qualities such as the half-life that can overtake and overlap a prospective clients habits; it’s a schedule two drug grouped with heroin.

A client starts at a base dose and daily their dose is either increased or held owing to what their symptoms are; the goal for clients is to reach a point where they can go 24 hours with no cravings and no withdrawal symptoms.

At this point, they are normal. Far removed from the ups and downs of  working to keep dope sickness at bay; a client has the opportunity to recover a bit of control of their life now frayed at the edges. Statistically, people falter, relapse and sadly- over dose and die along side the other 40 plus thousand a year that die from an over dose of opiates.

Back to that word power, I am trying to understand in hind site what my role was as a counselor. I did what corporate asked and keep my charts up to date. But I felt too well that corporate was their to protect the interest of its board members.

Early on, I saw that these people sitting across from me were human beings broken on the rocks of something that could have been avoided. Heroin use to be something people did in urban blighted areas. As a drug of choice it was far from the maddening crowd. But along came a new paradigm in the treatment of pain; doctors were called upon by a well-trained sales team bent on moving their new supposedly less addictive pain reliever called Oxycotton.

A teenager, a mother, a husband, a brother, sister, aunt: all walks of life, people whom would never have thought in this world that they would be reduced to sticking a needle in their arm.

How harmful can a little pill be?

Jump forward ten years from my starting date as a counselor and when clients are asked what is their drug of choice: heroin. All of these new age heroin users began with pain pills.

Heroin is back.

Pain pills are no longer being pipe lined out of Florida via those infamous pill mills. It was a standing joke at the clinic to look at the headline of what politicians were allowing to happen.

They finally stopped it but damn it the damage touches upon nearly every city in America.

Crystal meth is known also as redneck cocaine. Meth dose not need to rely on a drug cartel.

Locals can cook up a batch in any given rural area in America.

Though pharmaceutical pills no longer make it to Saint Louis, heroin does.

It’s disheartening to even write this commentary.

But my point was to arrive at a place in my writing where I could establish a baseline upon which to build my future. Being disemployed was a favor to me because I would have stayed the course.

One of my colleagues expressed hurt because she felt we were not given noticed; I felt that too but what I asked them was: what about the clients; their needs? When they call to ask for help and the person whom answers the phone is merely a receptionist; not a seasoned counselor.

There are many ways to help people. If I’ve learned anything from the last eleven years, all of us is either in recovery mode or in denial.

Presently, I have chosen to be sober. Not that I am an alcoholic, but in some way drinking has never really done me any favors.

I am a point in my life where I want to be fully present. And I want to be creative 24/7.

I want to build upon my first client whom solicited my services at a time when I was going through the motions of filing for unemployment. I decided then and there that I would drop all pretense of filing for unemployment and put my time towards establishing and building my new business zen on a dime.

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