|Thursday, December 02, 2010 - OHS Re-Entry 6||link to this entry|
|I arrived at OHS anxious to finish this last hour of the 18 month program. Once again we had a full, 15-person group. One person arrived about 5 minutes late and was told he wouldn't be admitted for the evening but was cool about it and just asked about the schedule for the make-up groups.|
In the waiting area before the group got started there was this tall black guy who looked like Snoop Dogg (not saying all tall black guys look like Snoop but this particular guy happened to) who was talking a lot of shit about how he knew this counselor and what a bitch she was and how he was going to tell her off, etc, etc. He never did outright tell her off but he did make a lot of irritated sighing noises once the group got started and had a smartass comment in response to most of what the counselor said. I was anticipating some dramatic scene upon his getting kicked out of the group but he managed to ride it out in its entirety. The counselor was very patient with him and toward the end of the group told him to "stop showing off" at which point he did just that and even seemed to lighten up and respect the counselor more. Sad that a grown man should need to be dealt with in the same manner one would handle a bratty toddler.
The first few minutes of the group were devoted to dealing with various people's questions and situations. We then did our check-in, which went very quickly, and managed to get through the entire group in about 10 minutes while the counselor was handling paperwork.
Then, per usual, we spent the bulk of the group just shooting the shit. Most of the conversation revolved around what people had for Thanksgiving dinner. And the majority of that conversation focused on frying turkeys. 3 or 4 people in the group had fried turkeys for Thanksgiving. This invariably led to some fried chicken comments at which point I couldn't help but notice I was one of only two white people in the group.
One guy who fried a turkey mentioned some sort of handheld hook he used to lower the bird into the oil. Tall Angry Black Man kept talking about "the ladder method" where, apparently, you set an A frame ladder over the vat of oil and use that along with a rope to lower the turkey down. This cracked up a Mexican dude in the group who made the comment, "Hey, grab that ladder! We 'bout to fry up this turkey!" I doubt that comes across as funny here as it did in the group.
We spent the last 15 minutes filling out the worksheet for the evening. This one was on self-esteem and how it's been affected by whatever changes we've made over the course of the program. I think it was the same worksheet I filled out during my first re-entry group. If not, it was very similar.
Myself and one other person who was also finishing up tonight stayed afterward to fill out the last bit of paperwork necessary for finishing the program. To my surprise, that only took about 5 minutes as the counselor had us fill out our (small) part of it and put it in our respective files to finish with the rest of the night's paperwork later. She told us that we can expect our certificate of completion within 10 days. Then I was out the door and FUCKING THRILLED to be done with this program.
|Thursday, November 04, 2010 - OHS Re-Entry 5||link to this entry|
|Our usual counselor was back again tonight and we had another full group with 15 people in attendance. Hot Girl #1 is finished with the program and it was the last group for Hot Girl #2. We had 3 new people start. The counselor spent a good 10 minutes talking about how, if you miss a group and have to do a make-up, while you technically can go to any make-up group you should really go to the same day/time slot since you're more likely to be admitted as it's first come, first serve and they are generally pretty full. I've said it (multiple times) before and I'll say it again: alcohol programs are a recession-proof industry, folks|
We went around the room doing check-ins but didn't quite make it through everyone. Most of them were fairly short and there wasn't much reported that was noteworthy (including the check-in of yours truly). It was one guy's second group and he was talking about how, since transferring, he's received a "mystery fee" and he doesn't know why he's being charged. I briefly related my experience with being credited from the Union City program at an older, lower rate and then charged at the Oakland program with the newer, higher rate. I told him that if that's what's happening in his case he may be able to get the fee waived like I did.
With about 15 minutes to spare we stopped the check-ins and chit-chat and the counselor handed out the worksheet for the group. This month the topic was Relapses and how we can prevent them. The first question asked for 3 areas of our life where a relapse is possible. I ignored the fact that since I haven't given up drinking it's not technically a relapse and answered the question with 3 variations of "places that are not my home where I would be drinking". The next question was how can we prevent a relapse. Um.. don't drink and drive for $1000, Alex. "But you did it before!" Yes, yes, but I was willing to risk it before. I'm not willing to risk getting popped for a third one. No bueno.
The rest of the worksheet was similar to the other ones, basically just asking about the progress that we've made. Well, I haven't driven with any alcohol in me since getting arrested this last time so pretty good, I suppose. I finished up the worksheet, handed it in, watched the clock until the group was over, and was out the door.
Only one more group to go! I am eagerly awaiting December so I can finally be finished with this program. It has been a long 18 months.
|Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - Ignition Interlock Device Experience 2||link to this entry|
|I've had the IID in my car for 6 months now. I was wrong about the embarrassment factor. I'm mostly over it but would be lying if I said I didn't try to hide it as much as possible. People don't really seem to notice or care much. So far I've only caught one woman staring at me and once I looked at her she quickly looked away without any kind of scornful or judgmental look my way.|
I've had to take my car into the shop for routine maintenance a few times and always insist no one else blow into it or start it but me which hasn't proven to be a problem. Most of the mechanics get a kick out of the thing and ask a lot of questions. A few have never even seen one in a car.
It's not often I drive more than about 45 minutes but in the course of the past few months I did take one road trip that was a 5 hour drive each way. I was curious about how often the IID would beep me to retest but it was just an extension of the usual pattern. About 5 minutes, give or take, into the drive it would beep for me to blow into it and from that point on it was basically just every 30-some minutes.
After a while you kind of start to get a feel for when it will go off. There are also different beeps to signal it initializing, prompting you to blow into it, signifying if you passed or need to re-test, etc... So once you get used to the different beeps and can recognize them you don't even have to look at the thing while you're driving.
|Thursday, October 07, 2010 - OHS Re-Entry 4||link to this entry|
|Our usual counselor was out tonight so they combined our group with another re-entry group. That left us with 17 people in the room and apparently there is a state law or regulation that limits the groups to 15 so they had to stick two of the people elsewhere.|
We kicked things off by going around the room doing check-ins essentially per usual but the counselor didn't care when out last drink was. When we got to my check-in I said that things are going well (which they are) and that I spent a weekend in Vegas last month. That prompted the counselor to launch into a lecture about how we need to think about changing our ways and implications about how we're destined for another DUI if we keep drinking at all. Counselors tend to try to steer you away from drinking in as non-judgmental a manner as possible but this was much more blatant than usual.
The counselor kept using the phrase "your relationship with alcohol". It's a pretty common saying I've heard throughout the duration of the program, especially in regard to urging us to evaluate our relationship with alcohol. I quite like my relationship with alcohol. Sure, she's not perfect, but she doesn't talk back, she doesn't cheat, and she's always there for me. I just wish alcohol had bigger tits and knew how to cook.
The price of the program was something that was brought up again due to an issue one person in the group had. The counselor admitted it was pricey but tried to sell us on how cheap it was in terms of the going rate for counseling. Her argument was that if we spent this much time in professional therapy it would end up costing us much more than we're spending at OHS, which is true, but there's a reason some people begin a private practice as a psychiatrist and others go into programs such as OHS where a large portion of the discussion centers around who made the biggest mistake during last Sunday's football game. I'm not trying to say all OHS counselors are idiots but, come on, credit where credit is due.
On a related note, the counselor was giving us "facts" about how alcohol affects your BAC. She claimed that each drink requires 4 hours to process and they don't overlap at all. Therefore, according to her, if you have 4 drinks then it takes 16 hours before your BAC is back to normal. That is not true at all. I purchased a handheld breathalyzer after getting this last DUI and I always make sure I'm at 0% BAC before blowing into the one in my car. These days if I'm drinking I either catch a ride with someone or stay the night wherever I'm at but there have been a few times I've attended an event, had 2 or 3 drinks, and just waited to be back at 0% BAC. Typically it takes an hour per drink after my last drink before I'm good to go. It certainly does not take anywhere near 4 hours per drink. Plus, your metabolism, gender, activity level, how much you've had to eat, etc. all come into play. I'm all for learning something while in this program, but let's at least get our facts straight.
During the final 15 minutes we filled out our handouts for the week which, this time, centered on career and education. I usually describe these from memory but I took a picture of this one with my phone so I could copy the questions verbatim:
1. The goals you have for your career are:
2. If under employed or unemployed, what do you need to do to better your employment or find employment?
3. Do you need to further your education to attain a position in the employment field that would be most satisfying to you?
4. If you answer yes, have you checked into what you need to do to get started?
5. If you answered no on either question above, please write your barrier:
6. The steps you are willing to take to get started on your goals are:
7. Indicate your progress or lack of progress regarding your employment. Also indicate any referrals you may need.
It amuses me that the questions start off relatively neutral and then just progress to assuming your career is, at best, nowhere near where it should be or you want it to be. Number 5 is especially offensive or hilarious depending on your viewpoint. Why do they just assume that you don't already have an advanced education? Sure, not everyone with a DUI is a rocket scientist but not everyone is an idiot either. It's actually a pretty broad range of people.
|Thursday, September 02, 2010 - OHS Re-Entry 3||link to this entry|
|I'm halfway through the re-entry groups now. I sat next to the same hot girl (who will now be referred to as hot girl #1) mentioned in the last entry. I don't think she remembered me at first but several minutes into the group there was a spark of recognition in her eye.|
There was another hot girl (hot girl #2) who wasn't in the group last month but apparently knows hot girl #1 from previous groups. Hot girl #2 would be hotter if she weren't anorexic. Or maybe she does all kinds of drugs.
Three people started re-entry tonight and one guy was finishing up. Graduating the program should be a bigger deal but since you don't get to know people in re-entry nearly as much as people in the 35 weekly group sessions, it doesn't really seem quite as momentous.
The counselor reiterated the point she made last week about how this was our last chance meaning that another DUI would be mandatory jail or prison time. She also told a story about a guy in the program who recently woke up in the hospital due to a brutal fight but couldn't remember any of the details. All he knows is he went out drinking and then woke up there. I think she prefers scare tactics.
One of the new people to the group said this latest DUI was totally unjustified. Her story was that she got stopped for swerving after dropping her cell phone and reaching for it. She claims she was sober but the cop gave her a field sobriety test and made her blow into the breathalyzer after seeing that she already had a DUI on her record. According to her, she blew into it and looked at the result before handing it back to the officer which pissed him off to the point that he arrested her, charged her with DUI, and then didn't allow her to take the official BAC test back at the station and claimed she refused. She also said she got a lawyer but was still convicted but that doesn't make sense to me. The DMV will revoke your license either for a DUI or for refusing to test but I think the court can only convict you of a DUI if they have proof of your BAC which they shouldn't have had. The story seems a little far-fetched but if it really happened like that then that's pretty messed up.
After about 40 minutes of chatting the counselor handed out the worksheet for the evening which consisted of a handful of questions related to health. It mainly asked ways we can improve our health or lifestyle. My answers were boring variations of "drink less, workout more".
3 to go.
|Thursday, August 05, 2010 - OHS Re-Entry 2||link to this entry|
|I finally had my second re-entry group but it was not without some unexpected hoops.|
After filling out the transfer paperwork (which was just one page) they said that the main office would be contacting me within a week to schedule my next re-entry group. After about 10 days went by with no call, I decided to call them myself. When I related to them what I was told, they responded with, "Uh, no, that's not how it works."
We set up an appointment for them to call back a few days later once they could get a hold of my file. Okay, no problem.
They called as scheduled and then proceeded make an appointment for my orientation.
"Uhh, orientation? I'm almost done with the program. Why do I need another orientation?"
"We need a separate file for you for this office."
"But you have all my info and I already know how everything works."
"It's required by the state."
Fucking bullshit. I don't think I've written about the orientation on here but it's brutal. It's 4 hours of filling out paperwork at a snail's pace and watching an orientation video. The paperwork isn't that complicated but since it's a mix of intelligent people, average people, and ghetto retards they have to handhold everyone through the process and move at the pace of the slowest person. So for anyone with half a brain or more you're basically just sitting there most of the time wishing you could stab the eyes of the person who just asked, "Where it says 'Days Jail Time', does that mean how many days of jail time you got?" (I swear that was actually asked.)
There was no alternative so I scheduled the orientation for a Saturday morning a couple weeks later.
The orientation was, of course, slow and painful. I had to repeat 3 or 4 times that I wasn't new to the program and was transferring from another office. 4.5 hours later I was one of the last people to leave but finally had my next re-entry group scheduled.
The day before my 2nd re-entry group I got a bill in the mail for $100. But I also had a credit for $75 so the net amount due was $25. This confused me since I paid off the program in May and at the orientation they said they would be waiving the transfer fee. On a side note, the transfer fee is actually $70 to transfer out of one office, and $40 to transfer into the other office.
I got to the Oakland office early to ask about the bill. The guy at the front desk (where they normally handle payments) referred me to one of the finance people in the back. After a 10 minute conversation with her that basically amounted to her telling me she doesn't know why I'm being charged, she said to ask my counselor.
Once the group started I asked the counselor about the bill and she said that she doesn't handle any of the finances. Great. 3 people who don't know what the fuck is going on or why I'm being billed. After wasting the group's time for several minutes more I finally got the counselor to agree to walk me over to the supervisor at the end of group to talk to him.
The group itself went how most of them do: loosely sticking to the topic of alcohol with some joking around and shooting the shit thrown in for good measure. The paperwork and administrative nonsense to deal with is annoying but the groups themselves aren't bad; sometimes even fun.
There are only 8 people in this particular group and one of them is this really hot girl who sat next to me and made a good deal of eye contact. I'm going to try to put the moves on her. How cool would that be?
"So where'd you two meet?"
"Our 18 month alcohol program."
We filled out a worksheet about goals regarding our family as it relates to our completion of the program and drinking in general. The funny thing is that one of the questions asks you to define 3 goals. Then the next question asks about your progress. My answer to that one was, "I have yet to make progress on the goals I just set."
At the end of group the counselor took me over to the supervisor. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail but the bill was basically due to transferring out and then back in. When you transfer out, they credit you for any activities paid for but not completed. Then when you transfer in, they bill you for whatever it is you have remaining. But in this case, they were crediting me at the old program rate and charging me at the new program rate. And since the program cost has gone up since I enrolled, that's where the extra money due was coming from.
I calmly told the supervisor that I didn't think it was fair to credit me at one rate and charge me at another. He said that he would talk to his supervisor and get back to me.
He called me the next day and said that they're willing to credit me at the new rate as well so my balance is back to $0 now. Sweet. Hopefully that will be the last of the little administrative surprises to take care of.
4 more groups to go.
|Sunday, June 27, 2010 - Ignition Interlock Device Experience 1||link to this entry|
|I've had the breathalyzer in my car for about two months now. It works pretty well for the most part. You have to blow through it for a few seconds, then blow and hum at the same time for another 7 seconds or so. It's a little picky about the humming--it has to be a relatively high pitch and of a decent volume. I assume the humming is an additional way of making sure it's a person blowing through the device and not compressed air or something.|
The training video for the device says that it beeps you while driving in random intervals of about 5 - 15 minutes to re-test. In my experience so far, the intervals vary more like from 2 - 30 minutes. It also doesn't seem completely random (and technically, most random number generators aren't purely random anyway but that's a whole 'nother can o' worms). It tends to follow a pattern of:
1. Initial test to start the car.
2. Re-test after about 5 minutes.
3. Re-test after about 30 minutes.
It seems like short intervals between re-tests are always followed by long intervals.
I got over most of the embarrassment of having the device within the first couple weeks. I'm still a little uncomfortable if someone is right by my car when I start it up, but for the most part I don't really care. I think in another few months I won't even think about it anymore.
One annoying thing is when the device beeps for a re-test just as you arrive at your destination. But it's really only a 30 second delay or so. I can live with that.
I've also been having a little fun with it while driving. 99% of the time I have music playing in my car so when I get beeped to re-test while driving, I hum in the same key as whatever song is on and pretend I'm playing a breathalyzer solo.
Two other convenient things about the device are:
1. It's pretty easy to hear. Even with my music turned up it's not hard to hear it beep. If you have a badass aftermarket system (which I don't) then it may be difficult to hear but I think for most stock systems it shouldn't be a problem.
2. There's a 6-minute countdown timer when you get beeped to re-test. For the first two minutes it beeps every 15 seconds or so. Then it starts beeping every 5 seconds. It's nice to have a little bit of time to delay the re-test if I happen to not be in the most convenient location while driving.
|Friday, June 18, 2010 - OHS Re-Entry 1||link to this entry|
|I think I jinxed myself with the "smooth sailin'" comment. I arrived at OHS on a Friday evening actually excited to begin the last leg of this program. I only had Monday or Friday evenings to choose from for the Re-entry groups and I chose Friday since it was a later time.|
I saw a guy who was in my regular group sessions and started the program a few weeks before me. That was cool. We chatted a bit before the re-entry group got started.
"I have some bad news," was the counselor's initial statement to the group. He then went on to explain that due to "personnel issues" they would be cancelling the Friday evening class. I assume "personnel issues" means the counselor decided "Uhh, yeah.. I don't want to give up my Friday nights." We were all given the choice to enroll in one of 4 other group times. Unfortunately, they all started at either 10am or 5pm.
I just started a new job and can't make any of those times. I wasn't the only one in the position of having a scheduling conflict either. Even 6pm I could make, but not 5pm.
The counselor went around the room asking for people's preference. When he got to me I just told him I can't make any and would be transferring to the Oakland office. I don't know exactly what groups they have available but it's the main office for this county and I know they have more groups available than at this branch office.
We spent about 40 minutes of the hour just going through paperwork and group times for people. I thought they started everyone in the group at the same time but it was one guy's last re-entry group and a couple of other people were in the middle of them.
The handout for the group was a short questionnaire regarding how our self-esteem has improved as a result of changes we've made during the course of the program. Loaded question much? I just wrote, "N/A. My self-esteem was never low prior to, or during, this program."
The counselor went around the room asking people about their answers but we ran out of time halfway through everyone (which was about 15 people total). I was in the half that wasn't called upon.
After the group was over I spent some time with the counselor and his boss filling out the transfer paperwork. They said they would waive the transfer fee since it wasn't my fault that the class was cancelled. That was nice. I forget how much the transfer fee is but I don't think it's all that outrageous anyway.
Hopefully everything works out with the transfer. I don't really mind if it delays my program end date. I have my license and that was the main goal anyway. I just need to knock off these last 5 re-entry groups now.
|Tuesday, May 18, 2010 - OHS Face-to-Face 26||link to this entry|
|The counselor was a little late to tonight's face-to-face but once we got going it was a pretty quick meeting. We already did the paperwork for the re-entry groups so he just asked the usual questions and verified that I have everything else completed, which I do.|
So at this point I'm done with everything required except the 6 re-entry groups. I also finally paid off the program this month (about $1700 total). Smooth sailin' from here!
|Saturday, May 15, 2010 - AA Meeting 44||link to this entry|
|I finished out my AA meetings at another Saturday meeting. Wet brain guy was there this morning. I was sitting across from him and overheard him talking with a woman next to him. He seems more lucid than in past meetings. Good for him.|
The speaker was a young woman. She grew up in Utah but wasn't Mormon. She said that she felt out of placed and "always felt like something was missing." She essentially filled in the gap with alcohol from the time she was a teenager. She claimed that from the time she began drinking it was full bore: chugging hard liquor, blackouts, etc. She had a number of hospitalizations and arrests before finally getting sober.
There are some common threads in the stories the speakers have but their personal and family backgrounds vary quite a bit. I think it's pretty commonly known that if you're parents are alcoholics then you're pre-disposed to be one as well. But it's definitely not the case that if your parents are not alcoholics then you're safe from becoming one. I guess that's a pretty obvious statement from a logical standpoint since it has to start somewhere, but actually hearing first-hand accounts that prove it are worth noting.
A lot of people related to the speaker's story and shared the parallels the rest of the meeting.
Done with all AA meetings!