Seeking Peace at Three in the Morning

So, here in the blue comfy recliner
By my bedside, I sit
Not reclining at three
In the morning
Drinking a cup of chamomile tea
Trying not to create problems
That cannot be solved.

I hear the word
Like a bell that will
Not stop tolling of its own
And there are no windows to close.

At each toll
I hold my breath
To turn clamor

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The Art of the Journey

A writer in Towson recently asked the following question on Avvo:

“Is there any way to get probation reduced after period of time? I have been on probation for 6 months out of 2 years for a fake id charge. I have not failed a drug test and have completed all necessary classes and requirements. Is there anything I can do to get out of the remaining probation or am I stuck with it for a full 2 years. Thanks.”

Probation is a time out without the detention. It is a gift. An opportunity to make changes so that the bad choices of the past do not get replayed and recycled endlessly into the future. A Judge gives a man the chance to avoid jail by taking rehabilitative actions under the watchful eye of a probation officer. Probation is a long breath that is deliberately out of sync with the dance of life around you. Given life’s many opportunities to act selfishly, probation asks you to slow thoughtless behavior down to a crawl and think about the consequences of your actions. The writer of this question had been impatient. He did not want to wait to become eligible for an identification card that accurately showed his age. Now he is impatient again and wants to cut 18 months off the Judge’s order to serve 24 months probation.

Here is the full text of my answer to him on Avvo:
Judges have reasons for the terms they impose as conditions for probation. The judge in your case wanted to have you accountable for two years in exchange for releasing you into the community and not locking you up. He believed that two years of accountability were necessary to assure that you would continue to make better choices after the two years were up.

To persuade a judge to change those terms, you will need to present compelling reasons. An attorney can help you determine whether you have compelling reasons, or with some effort, whether you can develop compelling reasons. Mere inconvenience is not a compelling reason. Disliking your accountability to a probation officer is not a reason. Completing the actions on the judge’s to do list is not, in itself, a reason. Simply going to court and telling the Judge that he was wrong by eighteen months, or three quarters, of the time that he believed you needed probation, risks presenting yourself as immature, self absorbed, arrogant or all three.

Judges see probation as a privilege and not an entitlement. The way you pose your question, the words you have used, suggest that you are not yet ready to stand in front of a judge and, by answering his questions in court, persuade him that you are ready to put the rights of others at least on the same footing as the things you believe you are entitled to. You don’t talk about how the last six months have made you less of a risk to other people. Instead you direct attention merely to what you want: “to get out of” probation, not to be “stuck with” the full period imposed.

Your words don’t even show you take full responsibility for the behavior that put you before the court. You are not on probation for a false Identification “charge.” You are on probation because you were convicted for using an identification that had been altered so that you could obtain privileges that were not yours.

Judge’s listen carefully to the words people choose. An attorney can help you to develop more persuasive reasons to grant your request and help you articulate the progress you’ve made so that you can express yourself to the judge persuasively. For example, your attorney might suggest that you perform a period of voluntary community service and that you consider how giving back something to the community made you reconsider your accountability to others when making choices for yourself.

Talk to your attorney, ask him whether he believes you have a compelling case and what you can do make a compelling case. Then, if and when you request a modification, you will have the best opportunity to demonstrate that, by your added efforts, you have achieved the maturity the judge was looking for — ahead of schedule. I wish you well.

Life, and every project we embark on, is a journey. We often begin with expectations. We want to do certain things. We want to see certain places. These are our destinations. If we forget that we are on a journey, we will miss much of what lies between the place we start and the destination we seek.

Here, the writer of the question fixed his eye on the destination — something he could get with an ID card that misrepresented his age, possibly alcohol. He did not see that the journey to the ID card would take him through arrest, conviction and probation. Now, he was ready to jump to the end of probation because he could not see the journey the judge wanted him to take. Do you remember what it was like to take a small child on a trip that took more than five minutes? Can you hear the voice of the child in the back of the car? “Are we there yet?”

I wish you well.

Posted in Journey, Listening, Probation, Road | 2 Comments

Recovery and the Art of Listening

A writer in Baltimore recently posted the following question on Avvo:

“If a rehab patient is misdiagnosed with alcohol dependency by a counselor is there any action he can take? Some one I know is in rehab for testing positive for marijuana on a urine screen. He was sent to rehab and although he said he never drank over a few beers every night he was diagnosed with alcohol dependency and now is forced to screen for alcohol also at work.”
Answering a question on Avvo presents certain challenges. Here, the writer did not disclose who he or she was. Was he the patient, a friend of the patient, a family member? This is important because I wanted to get my message across. Talking to someone who is personally suffering is different from talking to someone who has a different kind of pain from watching his friend suffer. I think of the people who are at least once removed from the actual problem as collaterally damaged by the problem. A primarily injured person may not hear my message unless the collaterally damaged person takes it to him. In addition, the collaterally injured person may have to reshape my reply in order to get the primarily injured person to consider, or act on, it. In effect, getting the message across often requires persuading more than one person that the message is worthwhile.
I also need to admit that when I answer a question on Avvo, I am also writing for myself. The writing process requires me to think deeply and try to hear what a writer is really saying — not just hear his words. Here, the writer seemed to be saying “there seems to be something wrong with a process that requires you to submit to treatment that may not be warranted.” That really was the root of the problem here. The person in rehab could not yet appreciate focusing on the entire substance abuse problem. The person asking the question, assuming it was someone other than the person being treated, wanted to help. When a person is in the midst of substance abuse, he is not ready to hear a message that urges treatment and sobriety. If I could answer the question effectively, I had an opportunity to empower the writer to help the patient during the transition from abuse to sobriety. This kind of opportunity gives my life meaning.
Answering Avvo questions also makes me mindful of the roles that people play in my own life. Life is not always pleasure. Sometimes, I have learned to listen to voices other than my own. The practice of thoughtful answering reminds me to thoughtfully listen.
Here is the full text of my answer on Avvo:
You have asked whether a person who is required to screen for alcohol at work has recourse if he has been “misdiagnosed with alcohol dependency.” This question may actually be an employment law question if the patient’s private employer is requiring the alcohol screening as a condition of employment. If that is the case, I’d urge you to post this question in the employment law forum. 
Since your question sounds like the patient may be in rehab to fulfill a court requirement, such as a sentence imposed by a judge in a DUI or CDS case, I will go on to answer the question. The patient could retain an attorney for the purpose of seeking modification of the alcohol screening procedure. The decision whether to seek modification should only be made after answering honestly all questions asked by the attorney and waiving privacy rights to permit the attorney full access to medical records and doctors who have examined and treated the patient. In addition, if the attorney believes it is important for the patient to undergo testing by a privately retained medical professional in order to show that the alcohol diagnosis was made in error, the patient must follow the attorney’s advice. The attorney will most likely need a more qualified expert opinion to demonstrate that the original diagnosis is wrong. 
Before assuming the burden of trying to show a misdiagnosis, however, I’d point out the obvious. The fact that the patient said he “never drank over a few beers every night,” taken alone, certainly does not show that the diagnosis is wrong. The patient’s admission actually supports the diagnosis. 
It is quite common for persons who abuse alcohol to justify their use as “not unusual” compared to the general population or “no more than I can handle.” It is quite common for them to lie about how much they actually drink to others and to themselves. Alcohol abuse is insidious; it creeps up on a man. Very few people wake up one day and say to themselves, “I am going to start drinking in excess because I want to lose control of my life to alcohol and put my relationships and my job at risk.” 
In the case you present, the patient actually admitted drinking a few beers every night. That statement supports a diagnosis of alcohol dependency and it would be reckless for an alcohol counselor to ignore it. The patient may have made the statement because, confronted with other indications of his abuse by the counselor he could not deny his alcohol use — but wanted to minimize it. It is also possible that finding himself getting the substance abuse treatment he knew he needed, he knew he needed to disclose his alcohol problem while he had the chance to meet that challenge at well. I do hope that this patient meets his substance abuse challenges and becomes all he is capable of becoming. Many people with substance abuse issues are actually extremely intelligent and capable of being very productive. That intelligence and productivity can be completely disempowered by substance abuse. Once they become sober, such patients can have the world open to them. I wish this patient well.
If you know someone who suffers from substance abuse, getting that person help is a challenge. Your immediate goal may be to get that person to listen when he is not yet ready to hear. In reality, that must be your longer range goal. Your immediate goal may be to get that person to hear. If you are now trying to meet that challenge, or if you’ve had some success with it, I am interested in hearing from you. Together we can begin to change life sentences of substance abuse to life sentences of recovery.
I wish you well.
Posted in Addiction, Listening, Recovery, Substance Abuse, Writing | 2 Comments

Reckless Words

We live in a Global Community. We have a responsibility to that community. It has become reckless to play to a particular community with incendiary language while ignoring the effect of that language on the rest of the world. And yes, the rest of the world may include the deranged, the troubled, the angry, the frustrated and the disenfranchised. Who continues to poison a well that he and his children must yet drink from?

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How Does One Respond to Beck

Glenn Back has now compared the victims of the Norway massacre to Hitler Youth.

There really are no words to undo the damage that Beck does with such a comparison.

Instead, I recall a story I heard from an Elder when I visited the City of Lost Souls.

Within the City’s gates there lived a man so lacking in compassion that even the rocks crawled away from him. Seeing this, a child asked his mother, “Why do the rocks flee from this man?” The mother said, “Life is a lesson. Even the most base man has a moment of lucidity. The rocks know this to be true. Not a single rock wants to be the one the man crawls beneath in that single lucid moment.”

A single lucid moment for Beck. A teachable moment for Beck. A moment to see the error of his ways and begin to make things right.

And if he fails to make things right? If is fine. The moment of lucidity would be a fitting punishment for him.

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The Incredible Selfishness of Being

The children in the House of Representatives have chosen to the ignore the crack in the debt ceiling above them. They are being reckless. Their recklessness is transparent. You can see the selfishness inside of it.

We have been getting an education on the consequences of failing to reach a reasonable solution concerning the debt ceiling. There is no point in repeating the competing arguments here. It is more helpful to simply call these children of the House what they are — selfish children. Immature. Unable to delay gratification. Unwilling to see the harm behind their demands. They want what they want. And they want it now. A child’s rant. A passive aggressive tantrum.

And a coward’s fear.

They believe that they were elected to say “No” — at any cost. They are afraid that they will not be returned to office if they say “Yes” to a political solution. Political solutions require compromise. No one wins with an imposed solution that breaks the backs of their opposition. Soon enough the man with the broken back, like every dog, has his day. Choices are reversed. But only after great and unnecessary pain.

The truth is that they were not elected to say ‘No.” They were elected because people were hurting and angry and decided to show their hurt and anger.

These freshmen were not elected because they were brilliant. They were elected because they were different.

That is the sum of it.

They can say “No.” They have the power but not the wisdom. They will lose the power when they cause even more harm. The voters will be hurt and angry again. They expected better. They will take away the power from these children who lack wisdom.

These Tea Party “Patriots” think they are at the forefront of a movement. That is what they have been manipulated into to believing. They are really no different from a cult. They have a need to be recognized as having “the calling.” If they look carefully at who really benefits from a “no new taxes” mentality, they ought to be able to figure out who is manipulating them into this economic and politically suicidal posturing.

When this recklessness passes they will be gone. And they will be fortunate if no one remembers their names. Otherwise, their children will suffer. Unintended consequences for unintended victims.

A parent is reckless. The child suffers. Sad and entirely avoidable.

Posted in Law, Memory, Patterns, Road | Tagged , | Leave a comment

There is No Reason in the Desert of Delusion

The GOP wanders in the desert. Sons and daughters of immigrants who have forgotten where they came from and at what cost. Delusional in their denial of their own responsibility for the economy inherited by the current president. Scapegoat the immigrant and carry the burden of the disproportionately wealthy who live off your backs. You have put your memories to sleep. And for what?

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