Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Where to Begin?

"I have never shoveled so much in my life" seems to be a good place to start. In the last 25 hours, I have gone out to shovel thirteen times. I'm not sorry that I did so; I never had to spend more than 30 minutes doing it, even when it was coming down at a 3-inch/hour rate. And as the day wore on, I was happy that I wasn't trying to heave gigantic piles of snow well up over my head. And when I was just out now, I stole looks around the neighborhood, and can only shake my head at how much work many of my neighbors have to do. The guy next door isn't in town, and two of their vehicles are parked in their driveway--and they are barely visible. The snow in the rest of the driveway is waist-deep. The people two doors down in the other direction didn't even touch their sidewalks; it looks like a literal snow fort was erected at that point of the block.
The plows have not been down my street even once since snow started falling yesterday morning. There's a de facto plowing in the middle of the street due to the hundred or so vehicles that managed to go by yesterday, and if the ban is lifted sometime today, I might--might--be able to get out of here going in the Riverside Drive direction, at a snail's pace. But I'm almost afraid to do that, because if and when a plow does go by, the mess will be at least head-high in the mouth of my driveway. No, that's not an exaggeration; I've shoveled out to about three feet into the street during the duration of the storm, and the snow is piled already head-high, like guard towers, on either side of the entrance. The snow might have stopped falling, but the digging out is going to be a major, major chore in the next couple of days.
A whole lot of shit is closed, and will be closed today, too. Price Chopper is six blocks from my house, and a walk is technically feasible (one of my friends is a block closer, and she said it took her two hours to get there and back on foot yesterday). And with three people here now, we went through a lot of food and drink yesterday. I actually am going to need milk and bread at some point today (oh, the irony). And I can truly say that I have never seen this area shut down completely like it is now. The county executive just extended the travel ban--not advisory, ban-- indefinitely about an hour ago, and I really can't say that it's a bad idea. And one of my fellow workers posted on Facebook that she left work yesterday afternoon (she works in one of the residential dorms on campus) and didn't get home until well after dark, getting stuck in the parking lot twice and two more times on the way home. And this seems as good a time as any to mention again. how glad I am to not be working at the group home now; in residential, you stay on shift until someone shows up to relieve you, and I know at least one person, that works for a state residential facility, that had at least twelve hours of overtime yesterday because the relief workers couldn't come in. I don't really know how this week's time sheet is going to play out. When I talked to my supervisor yesterday morning, she told me that as far as she knew, if we didn't come in yesterday we were going to have take time. That conversation took place about 20 minutes before the travel ban was put in place, so that might be changed (if I had left the house when I normally do yesterday, I wouldn't have gotten to work before the ban took place, so I don't really see how we can be penalized for not coming in anyway, but that's a decision that is out of my hands). Coming in today would be pointless, even if I could; I obviously am not going to work with the kids I had scheduled because school is closed and I am not going to drive out to Windsor and Nineveh to see them, and I am caught up on paperwork. I also was supposed to go to the dentist yesterday; that was mercifully postponed for two weeks.
The dog is a very confused life form right now. He likes to play in the snow, but the charm quickly wore off for him yesterday, and when he went out with me this morning, he just pissed on the side of the snow lining the driveway and headed in. Lauren and Sabrina took him to play in the yard yesterday afternoon, and he had fun, but he also exhausted himself; he's still wandering around here like a zombie and moving at half the pace he normally does. And I am sure he is wondering what in the hell happened to his world in the last twenty-four hours.
And this seems as good a time as any to bring this up. Lauren had a full day planned yesterday; her DSS appointment got cancelled, and she was able to report to her PO via phone. But Monday, her treatment provider--she is required to be in "treatment"-- told her that their recommendation was that she not live here and go to the women's shelter again. I will preface this by saying I was not present during her evaluation and thus do not know, other than what she told me, what she told them during the evaluation. It took place during the few days when it wasn't so good around here, and I'm sure that colored the interview. But it's been good here for nearly two weeks, we've adjusted to one another and life together, and there is no doubt in our minds that this is the best place for her. But her counselor nonetheless, in her infinite wisdom, has "recommended" that she move from her to the YWCA because supposedly this is not a safe and supportive environment. She told me she told them that she admitted to thoughts of using during that interview. Thoughts--no actions, nothing more than a temporary feeling on a not-so-good day..So, to review, she is supposed to leave here (and most if not all of her belongings), the person who has been her only steady support, in all senses, for the last several years of her life, and an environment where there is someone who has successfully adapted to life without substance abuse for eighteen years, whose daughter she has bonded with beyond all expectations, a home, and go stay in emergency housing at a women's shelter that 1) she has stayed in before and failed to maintain her clean time, a shelter that is full of people that use and that are very early in abstinence, a shelter located in the heart of the drug-using world of this area, 2) that she is going to have to leave within 30 days to find her own place--and all that she is going to be able to find are the same set of shithole apartments run by slumlords that she has had to pick from the previous two times she was staying in shelters, 3) that she is going to have problems paying for anyway because she now has a job and her income levels may not qualify her for full assistance in any event, meaning that 4) clearing up her past fines in order to be able to get her license back and actually possibly get a vehicle is going to be exponentially more difficult, and 5) it's going to cost her, and the county that is giving her rent assistance, more than twice as much per month as it is going to cost her to stay here.
Again, I will say that I was not present at the interview and don't know what all was said. But I can tell you that based on the information I do have, this is a colossally stupid, short-sighted, and possibly morally compromised decision. This is as safe as safe gets for someone in early recovery; I am not a perfect person by any stretch, but one thing that is sure about my house is that it is and will remain a drug-free place. After eighteen years clean, and with me still being a functional part of a fellowship here, living a life centered around recovery, drugs and the possibility of getting drugs are simply not part of living here. The YWCA is full of using people, drugs are readily available within the facility, and she is surrounded by people there that are ambivalent at best about living drug-free, and that have no real idea of how to live without drugs even if their intentions are good. I am aware that for many, the optics of this situation--younger woman living with an older man--are not ideal. But the track record here ought to count for more than it apparently does. I have been a part of her life for over three years--and the only times she has been able to move forward and stay clean have those periods of time when we were together. Not to mention, the only emotional and spiritual support she has received when her life has fallen apart due to using and incarceration has been me. She isn't 100% happy with me all of the time, but what relationship is that not true of? I get frustrated, too, but I am also learning as we go. I am unsure of our own future, and all the things that concerned me a couple of weeks ago are still on the table--but I also am committed to her, I have adjusted my own expectations as needed, and I am devoted to her best interests much more than anyone else in the world, even her own family. And I am stable and secure, and this environment is not going to markedly change. I simply do not see the benefit of making her start from scratch, in essence, and making her life infinitely more difficult on all levels.
But a term of parole is following treatment recommendations, and she really doesn't have a choice at the moment. The weather has intervened, obviously, but at some point, very soon, she is going to have to move out, and not to a better place, in any sense of the word. I have my suspicions that this decision is based on less-than-savory considerations, too. The YWCA is a major part of the chemical dependency treatment cartel around here, dependent on the revenue from DSS for rent assistance to pay it's bills--and what better way to keep beds full than to have your partners in "treatment" mandate that clients with no ability to say no live there, even though it has proven for many years to have limited at best success rates for those clients? And even if that is no consideration, or a minor one, just the intellectual hubris of someone with book knowledge only of addiction and recovery thinking that their views and feelings are more valid than the practical value of being around someone that made it through the minefields of transformation from active use to a drug-free, productive life? This entire situation is an indictment of the entire treatment process--they mean well, but 1) they don't know much of anything about recovery, as opposed to treating active addiction, and what living a recovering life actually entails in practice, and 2) their vested interest in their treatment recommendations is huge--and it is infuriating to listen to each and every member of that "treatment" establishment deny that this is the case.
I've said that all as dispassionately as I am capable of right now. I do not want to make her situation worse, and her PO, too, is bound by the parole agreement to enforce the treatment provider's recommendation--I want to emphasize that we have no beef with her parole officer. And I have enough recovery underneath me to understand that I cannot recover for her, that whether she makes it or not is on her. But I do not see the virtue of making the process more difficult than it needs to be, especially when it involves putting her in situations where she has not been able to make it previously...Our own relationship was already somewhat fuzzy. But my commitment to her is not, and on some level, I am always going to be committed to her. My love for her is genuine, and hers for me, for that matter; that doesn't necessarily translate to Happily Ever After, we both know, but it's there. And a lot of my distress is based on an undeniable truth--namely, that if this "professionals" opinion is wrong or morally compromised and it ends badly, her life goes on without any change. Whereas ours is absolutely turned upside down, and permanently affected.
And it irritates me profoundly that someone has this power to drastically change lives based on a 45-minute interview with someone she never met before, and the power to dramatically change the life of someone--someones; Sabrina has become very close to Lauren, too--she has never even met. And that anyone has this kind of dictatorial power over people's lives with so little reason and so little oversight is a huge, huge flaw in the system. I will leave it at that.

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