Friday, June 27, 2008

Employed, At Last!

With all the promises that have been fulfilled in sobriety moments before calamity, you’d think Wax had grown accustomed to it…and he has. But one week before leaving his transitional house, The House? Still he’s grown to expect the unexpected.
          For four months he’s been searching for a job, first in his chosen profession, then later, any sober job. What he landed is a compromise: Call Center Representative for a major local bank, FastBank.
          He was a little hesitant to apply, seeing that he still owns them some money, and even more surprised when they made an offer. They’ll end up with an amends.
          Two interviews was all that it took; first with Human Resources, then an hour long one with his boss. The HR interview reminded his of the standard corporate questions he’d been asked at The Department Store, with the typical disgruntled customer situations. The last interview went extremely well.
          Meeting in her cubical, Emily C. started the interview apologizing for everything from the meeting room being occupied, to her first time interviewing candidates; yes that’s right. It turns out that FastBank is trying out a new method of interviewing: having the actual boss conduct the interview. They’re just switching from a system where HR would handle all contact with new employees all the way through to the middle of training. Then boss meets employee, and if you weren’t a fit? Can you say, ‘square peg in round hole’?
          Well, that wasn’t a problem at all for Wax and Emily; they got along like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The communication was excellent, understanding similar situation they’ve experienced, and completing each other’s sentences. The only problem was that of sexual tension. Emily’s full-figured body, pouting lips, and succulent brown eyes may be an issue for Wax; something he’ll have to keep in check. After all, it’s not politically correct today to have an affair with your boss, even if she is female.
          An hour commute is an issue. Mannish House, the sober house he’s planning on moving into this weekend is in the other city. He’ll be working downtown, so bussing isn’t an issue. In fact, his new employer discounts bus fare to $35 per month. However, because of the state’s sober recovery rules, he must move from the transitional housing to a sober house. His chosen sober house isn’t on their list. If he has to choose a different one, why not move much closer to work. The only problem is he’s got ‘til this weekend to be accepted by one. The sober house he wants to move into is ideal, except for location. That is to say it’s distant from work, but he knows the area well. The advantage of living closer to work is that it’s a much more effluent neighborhood. He could find more side work as a computer repairman.
          Compensation is a little on the shy side: $10.90 per hour. His last job at The Discount Store was merely $10.76 an hour, and that’s after being promoted to manager. At his new job, he’s starting at the bottom as CCR with slightly more pay and a clear path for advancement. The job also has financial incentives for superior performance. There’s also an IT department he could slide sideway into. His new boss even questioned why he didn’t choose that and would help with the transition; she’s clearly a boss that thinks of her subordinate’s career path. His answer was intended not to prolong the employment start date: “One should walk in the shoes of the user before implementing software that solves their problems.” For the most part that is true, but he really needed this job now, and didn’t want to suffer the delay and complication of being hired by a department with much more rigorous standards. His technical history needs much more explaining and training before he’s comfortable with that transition. But dreams of making that transition at FastBank are much closer (one floor up) than with The Discount Store (one metropolis away).
          Money will be tight. With an approved sober house, the county will pay for first month’s rent and deposit. The second month’s rent will be due just as his first paycheck arrives. Until then, he’ll have to feed himself with plasma money; kind of a regenerative cycle. Most sober houses pay for utilities, cable, even Internet, as with Mannish House. So, if he hits the food shelves and uses blood money for the fresh vegetables, milk, and toiletries, he should survive until things get caught up financially. Of course, that’s not going to dissuade him from playing poker at the casino this weekend.
          Today’s photograph is of a young man waiting on a bus bench with a homemade guitar constructed of plywood. When asked if he’d built it, he replied, “No, I didn’t. I don’t know who did.”

Without Wax (speaking in the third person),

Sunday, June 22, 2008


The fear of becoming fully diabetic has played a major roll in Wax’s goal to stay sober and respect his body. Crossing that line between prediabetes and diabetes is just one of the consequences facing his recovery. How this plays into his immediate needs is critical too.
          Now that he’s got a new doctor that has cleared him for plasma donation, it has really helped him both financially and with his self-esteem. The story there goes that six months ago when he tried to donate at City Plasma, they deferred him for having glucose in his urine. Not knowing what that meant, and feeling overwhelmed, he turned to the bottle. Being one week sober before attempting to donate plasma wasn’t enough for his body and so he wrongly thought to punish himself by binging. City Plasma said that if he went to his doctor with their specific request for diabetes clearance, he could donate. Not having health insurance, and not wanting diabetes to become a pre-existing condition, what he should of done six months ago is what he ended up doing now.
          He discovered that there are many resources for information and testing available without having to go on record as diabetic. Urine glucose testing strips are $14 over the counter. A diabetic friend of his gave him an old glucometer and test strips to monitor his blood sugar. The hospital, where he went to treatment and was diagnosed prediabetic, trained him on how to avoid becoming diabetic with diet and exercise. Unfortunately, the same doctors would not clear him for plasma donation. They didn’t want to stake their reputation on someone who could in the future become diabetic. Because of this attitude, he avoided their recommended clinic and went with his own health care provider. With enough time for his organs to heal, proper diet, and some light exercise, he was ready to attempt another physical at City Plasma.
          He’d been donating for a month at Suburban Plasma. Although he took all the proper precautions of eating well and testing, they didn’t test him for glucose. They assumed since he’d tested negative a year earlier, there’d be no reason for him to become diabetic. Protein and iron were all they were interested in.
          When it came time to attempt donating at City Plasma, he ate a salad for breakfast, tested himself, and passed their tests with flying colors. This upset one of the older nurses who think he’s trying to put one over on them.
          The cause and effect relationship between alcohol and diabetes is unclear. I would like to revisit this subject with more reference and a clearer understand of the subject at a later time. As far as he is concerned, his alcoholism caused his prediabetes.

Without Wax,

Friday, June 20, 2008

John’s Gone!

In more ways than one, John L. left us a while back. But tonight, he was way gone! Some explanation is in order.
          John L. is a bad ass old dude who doesn’t take shit from anyone. Probably because he’s been shit on by everyone he’s ever trusted. For some reason, he trusted Wax…but Wax never shit on him. Whenever he’d try his tough stuff on Wax, He’d give him shit back, but only in jest, but that’s only because Without Wax is too old, cranky, and wise to take shit anyway.
          John seeked him out during his first laptop purchase. How he knew Wax was knowledgeable about computers, will never be known. It was an old Dell Latitude Pentium III he bought from some girl in treatment for $100, all the money he had at that time. It arrived with a virus that was sucking up all of the CPU cycles, slowing the machine to a crawl. She said she wiped it clean, but she must not have done a very good job. Wax tried repairing it, but quickly realized it would probably take a re-installation of the operating system, a job he was not willing to do without getting paid. He also instinctively recognized that John was not your common layman when it came to computers: he was a moron. Not wanting him as a non-paying, high-maintenance client, Wax never revealed to him this ultimate solution. He later found someone else to re-install his operating system. Ryan C. the cook offered his father’s assistance it in exchange for word-of-mouth business, that never came to fruition.
          One late evening after he’d spent all day online for the first time at school, he came back home and started dicking with security settings in Internet Explorer. Both he and Wax were tired at the time, but he even more so due to just having taken Seroquel. Wax was too tired try to repair the damage John may be doing and just told him, “Just press the ‘Default Settings’ button and put it to bed.” This guy is definitely high maintenance. After this re-install went off successfully, Wax hadn’t heard much about him.
          It wasn’t until a week ago when he was moved to one of the three beds in Wax’s room that he had a premonition of tonight’s events. John complains about everything, and you’d think he’d be grateful to not be sharing a room with Stan W., a notorious snorer. But no, he just complained that the weekend advocate was incompetent. You could say Wax was less than comfortable with the move.
          Wax started to get to know him better after playing Texas Hold’em Poker with him. He eventually won, but they settled for him lending Wax his bus pass while he bought him Jolly Ranchers. He was on a two week restriction for relapsing on meth, and so couldn’t leave the house. He considered the dollar he’d won in poker a wash for his delivery service.
          Yesterday, the power cord on his laptop’s A/C adapter shorted out and he’d asked Wax to repair it. He told him he was too tired after donating plasma and needed sleep. He left pouting, which made him finally realize how immature this elderly addict was. This in turn caused Wax to revisit his own immaturity, how it’s measured, and when, if ever, he will eventually grow up himself.
          And as before, he found someone else to attempt a repair on his power cord. Attempt would be the word, because the kid who worked on it only made his job harder. Yesterday morning, he spent half an hour repairing the cord on his power adapter. He looked at Wax, this bad ass bald man and said, “I can’t pay you anything,” as he assumed.
          Wax replied, “I know what it’s like not to have a working laptop.” He smiled ear to Ross Perot ear. It was understood he’d be in debt to him, not a bad position to be in with a guy who can get things.
          With three days left before he’s out of the house, and no job, he was feeling some pressure. I guess that was excuse enough to do what he did tonight. The only question is: when did he start drinking? His drug of choice is meth, and being less than a week off restriction, he easily found some. He was acting kind of hesitant when he showed up at Nina’s Café, but Wax thought nothing of it at the time. Neither did drinking cross his mind when he sat down on his bag of bottles on the bench, thinking back now, one of which could’ve easily been vodka. They played online Poker, but not together since that’s not technically possible.
          When Wax arrived home, he was already in bed. He crawled into bed himself an hour later and quickly fell asleep. He was abruptly woken at 1:00am while he was singing along with the movie ‘300’ he was watching on his laptop. It was obvious from his joviality that he was more drunk than wired on meth, especially when he clumsily ran into a coat rack. Snowball, our cat, finally had enough of his drunk ass and crawled into bed with Wax.
          As sleep gave way to the realization that John was truly not sober, the thought that they’re in a sober facility and this is inappropriate slowly entered his conscience. But, since he was having a good time, in a pleasant mood, and not bothering his sleep all that much (at least not for what he had to do that next day, which was donate plasma), Wax wasn’t too concerned. He was obviously drunk and would eventually sleep it off. It was only at one point when he gave him his DVD of ‘300’ that he actually disturbed him. He gave Wax the impression it wasn’t his though. The fact that he told him three times that this was in trade for his service to his laptop that it occurred to him that he might have been drunk at Bella's Café, since he’d told him four times that he wasn’t actually there, but at an A.A. meeting.
          My other roommate, Red F., an elderly black gentleman who finally had enough of his drunk ass, tried to pick a fight with him. Red is a skinny old man who’d easily get his ass kicked by John, and was pissed off at his racial comments. He eventually woke Ray S. (who was probably sleeping with his hearing aids out) up who promptly kicked his drunk ass out.

(to be continued…)

Without Wax,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It’s Never Enough

Although he knew it would cause a loss of time, Wax kept chugging away at the Canadian Whiskey. He needed the time alone to gather his thoughts before facing the reality of the situation. Being evicted without a job caused him to crawl even deeper into the bottle. Make it come faster, he thought; the hammering buzz, the serene carelessness, then eventually black out. Cheap Whiskey in a plastic bottle allows his to squeeze more of it down his throat. It’s never enough, popped into his head from an old ‘80s song, Shell Shock by New Order.
          Flashback from just before treatment, Wax’s memory is jogged by a spiritual guest on ‘Speaking of Faith’ on NPR. His analogy is of having a cigarette after sex, as if having the most natural pleasurable experience of an orgasm wasn’t enough. This is the mind of an addict. These are the attributes we share.
          When trying to explain this feeling to June W., Wax realized she had no idea what he was talking about. His first response was to e-mail her the tune, wanting her to share in understanding this revelation. But later he realized that she probably doesn’t want to go into the mind of an addict. It’s too painful and represents all that she lost in him.
          Art Car reminds him that someone thought one bumper sticker wasn’t enough.

Without Wax (speaking in the third person),

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The State of Sobriety

Mr. Wax had many much more important goals to accomplish today than journaling, but when an overwhelming feeling came over him this morning, he set out to post his thoughts online. It had just been too long; a month and a half, almost two months since he’d posted anything really revealing. So, he promised himself to commit to one post per day, six days per week (on the seventh day, this bloGod™ would rest). Heaven knows, as well as his PDA, he’s built up enough material to write about.
          It’s been just over four and a half months since Without Wax has had a drink of alcohol. His feelings about this accomplishment are mixed, but mostly he thinks it’s not a great deed. He’s had a lot of help along the way. What’s helped has been the typically recommended support, like a healthy minded sponsor (that would be Stewart L.), fun and friendly meetings (Mar League), and a sober environment (The House) to which if you relapse, you’ll have severe consequences. What really worries Wax is how he’ll respond to relapsing out in the real world. His job really had a major impact on his lack of sobriety last time, so this too will be looked at closely.
          Suffering from wet-brain for the first three months of sobriety has caused him to avoid writing his thoughts out, since they hadn’t come as clearly as they did last time two years ago. Thoughts of readership dropping off had actually influenced the mind of Mr. Wax, not typically an admitted motivation for blogging. We miss your comments. Feeling afraid of journaling web-brained non-sense kept his from really wanting to document this clearly embarrassing stage in his recovery. Not feeling clear headed enough to ambiguously express his thoughts in words was not a major motivation. Not knowing if and when it would end scared the shit out of him.
          Using dreams for him have been more entertainment lately than cause for anxiety. He clearly remembered that buying a $7.99 0.75 liter traveler’s bottle of vodka would cost him exactly $8.75 with the extra 2-1/2% liquor tax added to the already 7% state sales tax. These are normal calculations Without Wax would go through when unemployed and broke in order not to embarrass himself at check-out. Even though his favorite liquor store regularly caters to such drunks, he still didn’t want to tarnish what little of his reputation he had left, as if he’s leaving his options open for future employment or something. One such local (within walking distance) liquor store actually refused him at the door after drunkenly slipping on ice across the street. He showed him: next time he attempted to buy liquor there he dressed in his best suite and approached from the side of the building. He was treated with respect, unlike the way he treated his expensive suite by stripped it off as soon as he arrived home, just to get that first drink down. When he woke he’d realized there was no need to budget since he had enough money for a large bottle of his favorite Jack Daniels.
          Housemates come and go with varying reasons. They all come to get sober, but we soon learn that’s not the most important thing for many inmates…err, residents here at The House. Speaking openly of embarrassing reasons to stay sober is at a premium here; for that you must find a good outside meeting. Many residents relapse and come clean, get on two weeks restriction and become resentful. This is one consequence that Wax would wane gracefully. So many other consequences keep him sober: June W.’s disappointment, sponsor’s grilling, homelessness, and the sheer falling from grace. The one thing he can really appreciate now is that consequence factor into his decision not to drink; this never happened before because, frankly, not many people cared. When asked bluntly if she cared about him, June’s response was hesitant, and less sincere than he’d expected. She said she loved him, but isn’t ‘in love’ with him any more. That wasn’t the answer he was hoping for.
          Darla V. was an experiment in futility. Can Wax seduce a woman half his age and get her to move in with him? Sure, if she a pot head.

Sleep all day, out all night
I know where you're goin'
I don't think that's actin' right
You don't think it's showin'

-- Funk #49 by Joe Walsh

          Darla would get home at 4:00am and sleep until her shift the next day at 10:00am, or for twelve hours if she had no work that day. The first thing she’d do once she woke was make her morning call for ‘trees’, her anti-police slang for marijuana, like they wouldn’t know. It was the most important thing to her, to get high, priority #1. That’s when you can tell someone’s truly addicted. Having someone like that in my life was safe for me to use. Her car was car-jacked at gunpoint when she was in an area she was not supposed to be looking to drugs from dangerous people. Shit like that doesn’t happen to people normally. She’d constantly park her car in a tow-away zone and have her dad pay hundreds of dollars to get it out of impound. When Wax told her he was being evicted and checking himself back into treatment, she was the only one in his life who wasn’t proud of him. In fact, she gave him a look like, ‘rehab’s for losers.’ He wasn’t too concerned that she too would have to find some where else to live, but then she never contributed to rent even when it was necessary. She won’t be missed.
          To him, she was confirmation of his masculinity and sexual prowess; that he could seduce a woman half his age. Never mind that he’d never done so fully present, neither him nor her. When he picked her up at Hunan Garden that night, he bought her Long Island Ice Teas while he drank club soda. He remembers feeling this power he’d never experienced before, making advances sober, considering many alternative ways to pursue this chance encounter and calmly, wisely choosing just the right thing to do or say…and remembering it the next day. When she stumbled off her barstool, he’d sensibly convinced her to allow him to drive her car home. It relieved him of the guilt of getting her too drunk to drive, but shifted the burden on him. Not having a valid driver’s license caused his heart to jump into his throat when he passed a cop car going the opposite way. Just as he noticed the cop, she’d asked him to make an illegal U-turn. This is how many DUI occur: someone drunk gives bogus directions and the driver obliges. Had he been drinking as well, he’d have violated probation and her car would be impounded. She was most likely carrying, so she might have been arrested too.
          There’s a simple way to avoid all this clatter and cutter and ridiculous ritual: just do the right thing. That’s what he’s decided on doing from now on.
          Although his sponsor doesn’t give much credit to Rubik, his cube has had a profound influence on his pre-employment days. Even before the fog of wet-brain cleared, in his first two weeks of sobriety, he’d remembered how to solve the 3x3x3. It took him a while to recall all the moves from childhood, but when it came back, it was like a flood. Solutions 8 – 10 minutes at first, but his personal best of just under two minutes was his ultimate goal. After achieving this, he was hampered by both the speed of the cube itself and the tedious solution he’d memorized. The latter is something he’s working on with help from the Web, but as for speeding the cube, he located several Web sites, Instructables being one of them, that had given conflicting ways to clean, lubricate, and in general speed up the cube. Today he’s come up with what he thinks is the best solution so far: disassemble the cube, sand all surfaces with 400 sand paper, spray with Teflon silicon lubricant, and let it dry several hours. His personal best was 1:34, but now it’s down to 1:24 and dropping; and that’s only because he’s not used to how loose it is. Suffice to say, it has been a tremendous source of confidence for him…and a wonderful conversation starter to boot. However, he’s having second thoughts about bring it on an interview next time…he doesn’t think it helped.
          Diabetes has been a major concern for Without Wax. He’s still surprised that after all the damage he’s done to his organs (liver, kidneys, spleen, etc.), there isn’t more damage. He’s not diabetic, not yet. He’s been diagnosed prediabetic, which means his glucose levels are high, but not high enough to be considered diabetic; so he’s borderline diabetic. If treated like type II diabetes, he’ll avoid becoming diabetic. That means eating less, avoiding complex carbohydrates, and exercising. It could be managed by taking diabetic medicine, like Metformin. But, if he can avoid such medicine by doing the other things, he’ll lift a large burden from his liver, since it has to work overtime. How Metformin works is not fully understood, but it is the most prescribed drug in the United States. It often causes gas. He is now seeing a primary provider doctor who has not decided on medicine just yet, but wants him to loose 50 pounds.
          What’s important to him is that he’s healthy enough to still donate plasma. He’s been going way out of his way to donate in the suburbs. It takes a full six hours out of his day, twice a week; something he wouldn’t be able to do once employed. But now that his doctor has cleared him for plasma donation, he’s off the deferred list at City Plasma. One of the nurses there, Rehan N., really has it out for him; she swears someone once heard him talking about living in a sober house. Being an alcoholic or addict excludes you from donating plasma. He believes that being an alcoholic is an anonymous affair and none of their business. And she basically believes he’s lying to her, which he is, but can’t prove it. All the other nurses really take a liking to him; he uses this to hit on them. This is dangerous on several levels: he really shouldn’t start a relationship, but most of all not with an employee of City Plasma who could discover he’s living in a sober facility, which would end his plasma donation probably everywhere. He donates for three important reasons: $260/month, his health and sobriety, and the service commitment…in that order.
          The distraction of beautiful women has started to overwhelm him quite a bit lately. Having coffee at his favorite Internet café has its benefits: beautiful women. At first, he thought being so overweight would be a major turnoff, but all it has done was make him more insecure. Now that he’s become more confident, he’s finding women are more likely to start up a conversation. One thing leads to another and the flirting starts…and we’re going to leave it at that for now.
          The most important thing for him right now is finding a job. He’s got feelers out there, but no bites. If he doesn’t find a job in two weeks, he’ll be out of The House. If he moves into a place, he’ll no longer qualify for General Assistance (GA), which pays for first month’s rent and deposit. He has a sober house lined up, but he’s agreed with the landlord not to move in without a job. The GA lady says if he moves in to a sober house without a job, he no longer qualifies for assistance. So, in short, things would be much better for him if he gets a job soon.
          The effect of his housemates leaving constantly has had little influence on his sobriety; he’s learned to stay with the winners. Most leave just because they can’t handle living with 27 other addicts and/or alcoholics, but many relapse. He’s had several roommates relapse, one of which happened in the room with a bottle of vodka, but that’s another story.
          His 4th Step is due today, but he’s putting it off in order to blog. He feels this is something he has to get off his chest before he gets resentments and fears off his chest in his fourth. It’s waited this long, it can wait another day.
          As far as his sponsor is concerned, again this is a totally other story that deserves its own post.
          He thinks of June a lot, can’t help it…thinks of what it would’ve been like, what it could be like with a sober him. Was she, is she attracted to addictive personalities? Would it not be fun for her any more with a man who cannot drink? He has to live with these questions for the rest of his life.
          What he has realized is that he really does want this anonymous feedback on this part of his life. The personal face-to-face feedback at meetings is important, but there’s a value to anonymous emotions expressed here. He only wishes his comment count would increase, so please contribute.
          Oh, and about the photo, he thought it would make a fitting tribute to his last visit to Suburb Plasma. This is what Midwestern adolescent suburbanites do for fun on a Friday night.

Without Wax (speaking in the third person),