Archive for May, 2011

You’re Going To Charge Me For Missing A Session?

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Yeah. I am. Can we reschedule? Let’s talk about that later.

I hear ya. Yer doctor just lets you call and say you’re not going to be there and everything is fine. Same thing with the dentist and some other health professionals. Everything is jake. You call up, say you’re not getting there, they cancel your appointment and then you reschedule when you get the chance or whenever what’s bothering you kicks up again.

So what’s this about? Making sure that I don’t lose income? I’ve heard that before and the answer is, “Yes, but that’s not the main reason.” Some people stop at “Yes” and don’t hear the rest. Unfortunate. I do own up to it being, in part, about my income. Your fee is my income. I can’t double book the way physicians and dentists do so, when you don’t show, I don’t get paid for that period of time that I’ve reserved for you.

Ah, there’s another part of the “…not the main reason.” I’ve reserved the time for you. In most cases I can’t rebook the time. I realize this isn’t your problem, except that you want me to keep this time open for you every week, right? If you want me to release the time to someone else, I can do that, but then it’s that person’s if he’s willing to pay for it on a regular basis. Then you & I have to decide on a new schedule and, guess what, it’s still a regular appointment and, you guessed it, you’re going to pay for that missed session.

“Missed” session. Hmmmmm. Yeah, about that. If you don’t show up and you don’t pay it’s not a “missed” session. It becomes a “missing” session. What’s the difference. “Missing” sessions don’t exist. They didn’t happen, there’s nothing to note their passing and there’s nothing to talk about. I know you think there’s nothing to talk about if you miss a session, but that’s not true. There’s plenty to talk about and that’s why it needs to be “missed,” not “missing.” I’ll go further with that another time. Please just take my word on this one for now. If you want to think about it and tell me the difference please feel free to post a comment.

Now, about that rescheduling of our appointment. What are you asking of me with that request? Your asking me to fulfill your wish that you get a Mulligan. The “caring one,” as Harry Stack Sullivan labeled the infant’s primary care giver (often mom but not necessarily,) will do what is wanted. Your wish to be taken care of will be fulfilled no matter what the cost to anyone else. What are you asking of me? You are, in effect, asking me to cut my fee in half by giving you another session (the one you missed plus the”rescheduled” appointment) for the price of one session. Two for one. You’re presuming that I have the open time that will match yours and, maybe, that if I can’t match your time you won’t have to pay because you can’t reschedule and it’s my fault.

That doesn’t answer the question about rescheduling a session. That answer is, if I have time open and it matches your availability then, yes, I will reschedule. Once. Please.

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away I dated a woman who said, in response to my saying I felt “used” about something “Everybody uses everybody. Don’t abuse anybody.” Please.

Comments? Please feel free to post them below.

Anonymity a Quaint Idea? Not really.

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

The subject of an article in last Sunday’s Style section of the New York Times (“Challenging the Second ‘A’ in AA“) was the idea of anonymity within and outside of Alcoholics Anonymous. The article begins with the author stating his name and that he’s an alcoholic. With that in mind, and in a similar spirit, I offer you this piece of information:

My name is Jay E. Korman. My status of being, or not being, an alcoholic is not on the table, nor will it be contained in this article. I am anonymous, even to the extent that my anonymity is about whether or not I have anything to be anonymous about. How’s that grab ya?

See, it’s real simple. I’ve worked with substance users for years and continue to do so. Some are still using, some quite comfortably, some struggling, some not using (also some comfortably and some not.) The times article puts forth the idea that the principle of anonymity “…at the level press, radio, and screen,” contained in the eleventh tradition from AA’s book of essays about the Steps and Traditions, commonly referred to as “The Twelve and Twelve, was necessary when the organization was a few alcoholics struggling to stay sober and alcoholism carried a heavy stigma. Carried, as if there’s no stigma today. Therein lies the rub.

The people I work with aren’t authors, big name musicians, or artists. They’re working folk (sometimes not-working folk because they’ve lost jobs, families, apartments, etc. to the economic and social effects of alcohol) who aren’t out there in the realm of the creative and are expected to be more solid and reliable (artists, etc. please note: I’m not saying you’re not reliable. I’m saying that there’s an image that exists of how an artist’s life is somehow different from a factory worker’s in terms of being self-indulgent.) Being a drunk, drug user, gambler, or and other addiction-er (or an ex-whatever) isn’t celebrated the same way in a middle manager or a factory worker as it is in artistic circles. There’s still quite a stigma against someone who’s had “a problem.”

Also note: There is still the problem of what happens when a recovered celebrity who has gone public falls off the wagon. That too is public and for every person who says that the celebrity was at fault for not “working his program” there is at least another (usually someone who was looking for a reason not to join a recovery group) who says that it’s the fault of the program and therefore won’t be joining it because “it doesn’t work. We won’t discuss, in this paragraph, that the problem may have been that the celebrity was “working his program” but not “working the program.” There is a difference. What I’m saying here is that a public failure by a celebrity is a failure for the fellowship of recovery because, as the Twelfth Tradition states:

“Anonymity is the spiritual foundation…ever reminding us to put principles before personalities.” The Times article puts forth the idea that “no one ever talks about it” much. Maybe that’s the problem of why people think it’s OK to out each other or themselves in a public way. The tradition says “principles,” not “principals.” It ain’t about the players, it’s about the game, youse guys. When it becomes about the principals ¬†recovery becomes dependent on the strength of the people representing it on a (very) public level. AA doesn’t advertise (except the occasional PSA) because another tradition states the tradition of “…attraction rather than promotion.” When a celebrity outs himself about his recovery from his “disease” he’s promoting himself, sometimes his latest creation, and a program of recovery for saving his life, career, whatever. Wonderful. Tell it at your next meeting to your fellows. You’re supposed to be telling it to save¬†your ass and “carry the message to the alcoholic (addict, whatever) who still suffers.”

Is AA going to disappear because the author of that article, other authors, musicians, artists have outed themselves (and others in the process)? Not immediately. What disappears is the spirit of service to the fellow who still suffers without any reward other than saving your own ass in a way that no one else ever could. Is AA harmed by the celebrity who engages in public disclosure? To some extent it is (here’s that stuff I didn’t talk about in that earlier ‘graph) because it acts as negative publicity just as sure as ________ __________ (fill in your favorite recovering performer’s name) being a success in recovery will act as positive publicity. As the spirit of service disappears so does AA, or at least “good AA. (see the web article about Gresham’s Law and Alcoholics Anonymous to see what I mean by “good AA.”)

Don’t kid yourself about this: being a substance user, even a former substance user still carries plenty of stigma, especially among the working classes. It’s considered a failing, whether moral or character or personal strength or…. It’s nice to be able to have a cavalier attitude because you and your cohort celebrate your new-found freedom (and your continued years of freedom.) See if they weep with you or walk away from you when that freedom is lost. Better yet, take a look around at the rest of the people who aren’t part of your cohort. See what effect their actions have on their ability to live their lives.

So, to repeat: My name is Jay E. Korman. I don’t tell patients whether or not I’m in recovery, or drink (drug or whatever) because it’s probably not going to help them, and I’m certainly not going to tell you because that’s not going to help you, either. What I will tell you is that I have a profound respect for the disOrganization of Alcoholics Anonymous, both for the work that it’s members, service committees, etc. do for themselves (and others,) and for the fact that the organizational structure truly works for its members in a way that very few others do for theirs. The members control the board, not the other way around, to make sure that the needs of the members (on an organization wide level, not an individually punitive or aggrandizing level) are met, have been met, and continue to be met.

Maybe instead of doing away with, or ignoring, the traditions the “breakers” could spend more time discussing the benefits of them. I’ve heard it said that the steps are a “suicide list,” because they keep the (ex) drunk from killing himself, and the traditions are a “homicide list” because they keep others from killing the (ex) drunk. That alone sounds like a good reason to keep them.

As for anonymity within AA, that’s just silly and was never supposed to be the rule. How else can you go visit one of your fellows in the hospital if you don’t know a last name? It’s not about being anonymous to each other. Members of the fellowship don’t wear masks at meetings so they can hide their faces from one another. Can you think about what you’re doing and saying when you stay anonymous to each other and saying “that’s the tradition?”

“Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Throw a nickel on the the drum….” I heard Judy Henske sing it years ago when I was a teenager. Don’t proclaim it. Be it.

Coffee and fellowship is in the anteroom immediately following the closing. For all those who care to join….