Lola Bean - Posted on 05 April 2011

James K. Thomas - PNN Washington Correspondent

Above is the title and lead character name of a fictional short story I’m writing based on my own, very real, 12 years spent homeless.

Having never had any formal training in creative writing, I’m appreciative to the magazine here for it’ free journalism class and opportunity towrite and publish an article thus giving me the next step in seeing if it’s a hobby I want to get more serious about. Writing over the past 12 years has been my (peace of mind) in some very trying times! From having nothing and no where to turn to but a free sheet of paper and pencil found in the city library, so as to keep track of my many homeless self help program notes, appointments and substance abuse treatment suggestions;  to... my free yahoo email notepad where, for the past 2years I’ve kept a journal about my daily routines of seeking a Lifestyle Transition from such ways.

These personal digests are also where I pour out my most deeply opinionated thoughts about me and my intended actions towards my problems when these systems of recovery fail to be a significant place to do such soul searching.

“WHHAATT!?!?!” you demand in disgust. Free substance abuse treatment for those with no money and the free homeless self help system failing him.

“IMPOSSIBLE!” Those places are free so they can be nothing less than a help to him and if he looks at it any other way then he’s just being ungrateful so no wonder he keeps falling short of his transition plans. The programs don’t fail him, he, “Fails to Work the program.”

Yeeesss, Lord; after 12 long years of seeking recovery thru these two “Revolving Door” institutions.  I’ve come to believe it’s best for me to simply focus more on being responsible in good habits practiced such as, following “MY”, daily agenda “I” put down on those free sheets of library paper which I then deftly fold and carry around in my hip pocket for instant reminders.

I also believe being “Gut wrenching honest” in my (private) journaling about what I (Really) think is going on in this [Multi billion dollar, Vicious Business] of addictions treatment and Homeless self help (programming), has been extremely helpful towards my transition as well.

These habit forming practices have renewed the belief in me needed to create my hip pocket plans and carry them out thru thick and thin until success thus becoming a child blessed because he has his own. Within them there is the earnests I simply could not have with most of my so called treatment teams and homeless case handlers do to the cold hard facts of my situations. An example of this is when...I felt I couldn’t be honest about how I really felt and thought when a social worker I once had told me I was “Ignorant” when it came down to creative writing. She said this with a smile on her face and ring tone in her voice after I, with hope, timid pride, and passion in my eyes, shakily sought encouragement from her by merely mentioning my fledgling hobby done only to fill idle time.

The conversation took place during my initial intake session, rather the 30 minute grilling about ones life that usually takes place during these roasts. At the time Iso sorely felt that I needed the food, shelter, clothing and sanitary safe haven of the program she could provide or deny with one stroke of her pen that I didn’t want to offend her by saying anything that might put that in jeopardy; so.  About my scribble and knowledge of the discouraging label she covertly tried to put on me masked as non-harm filled intent. I simply dummied up and focused on what I did come there for which was the basics... the food, shelter and clothing she was freely given to give out to people like me but without the patronizing. Enough about my sad song of humility, I’ll balance those emotions out where I can be audacious and happy about these experiences and that is in my story.

Tramp trails the short story will center on hanz and his struggle with the system. There will be all the Doo Waa-Ditty and Nasty nitty-gritty of a dope fiend seeking repentance from his wicked ways. There’ll be players such as Black the dope boy, Lily white Lillian & Fire head red the prostitute. Not leaving out any ghetto love for anyone by way of the life’s color filled nicknames. There’ll be plenty of talk about “MASSA,” Hanz’s covert nick name for his bigoted “Master social worker” thru out his journey on the trail.

In my real life, not only did I have one social worker call me ignorant due to my truest belief that she really thought thru her own ignorance of reasoning that I didn’t know what the word meant. I had yet another be so crass about his, degreed higher learned 23 years of Formaning the Fields of homelessness that he made damn sure I, and I suspect anyone else concerned, was made fully aware of his accreditation by noting his credentials (MSW) in the opening and closing of every note he wrote me...
“I mean damn,” do you have to sign every thing like: “Mr. Thomas (MSW) so & so here; got your message that you’d miss our monthly case meeting due to job search reasons, these meetings are very important towards your progress so please contact me to reschedule... (MSW) so & so.”

I probably would’ve never even noticed his doing this on everything he wrote me but I and our meetings got to a boiling point where I could no longer turn a blind eye to his (antebellum at best) way of speaking to me and handling my case in general.
Hey look, not all us chronic cocaine cowboys have no more intellect than the rocks were smoking.  As a matter of fact,  most if not all of us, understand full well what is going on in our lives and the need to do something about it or it very well might be the things that kills us before our time.  Therefore, it being as serious as an issue as it is for us; the last thing we need is some, pedigreed handler making a career off this unanswerable disease we suffer from, speaking to us as if we're 3rd graders.

Anyway, before I get too far into how pissed I’ve gotten at these flat out denials of mutual adult respect due to nothing more than social stigma and stereotype, I’ll relieve myself by getting back to what I’ve found that releases me from such strongholds, my creative writing.

My leading man has three last names and they respectively represent 3 major areas of life in his and my journey thru and eventually out of homelessness. I have personalized our path as “The Tramp Trail.”

Now, before you “A-HA HA HA” yourself in saying...
“Well, if he was homeless on the trail he’s writing about then he must include himself as a tramp;”
to that I would say,
“I absolutely am not a tramp!”
I’m a “PROFESSIONAL TRAMP,” there’s a difference!

You see, when your a regular tramp you do things like dummy up for the sake of getting what you think you need, but when you become a professional tramp, you may write about, but most importantly, become aware of the necessity to confess with your mouth what you really believe about “MASSA” and his outdated way of transitioning folk off the trail, but in truth are doing a much better J.O.B. at providing themselves at least a low middle class income.

Speaking of which, let’s get to the facts & figures that my story is all about and that is,
”Modern day substance abuse treatment is outdated and the Homeless self help system needs an enema.”

FACT#1 as it relates to HANZ; the 1st name of my unreal, made up man, but in my real life the name represents the vast majority of addiction therapists and homeless case managers I’ve had thru out my journey on the trail.  These folks spend maybe 2 years in college and earn an entry level $45,000 a year so they can sit on their duff behind a desk and call me ignorant because I’ve never gone to college and at my general labor most only earn minimum wage.

Or; as another one who gets paid by an institution, who pays her with your tax dollars, sarcastically said to me after I confidently mentioned to her of my revelations about the differences between lapse, relapse and how I can use that information to learn from my past as far as what I need to do in either case. She, intending to tear down my opinion said, “OH... I didn’t know there was a difference between lapse and relapse. I’ll have to speak with my colleagues about this.”

Woman, the difference is 3rd grade...
Lapse is a noun meaning people, places and things personalized, while relapse is a verb meaning action!
In all words, wino, the terms break down like this...
To lapse means me having a year clean & deciding to go down to Ray’s boom, boom, room and have a drink or two with the boy’s...
To relapse means; I hijack a beer truck and ransom the driver for guess what? ... more beer.

I’ll save that kind of talk for my short story.  The article talk here I believe to be much more important and that is;
“If you don’t know the differences then how can you advise your clients on the proper type of therapy that’s best for him or her?!”
Like the “one size fits all” recommendations of DR...
“Let me confer with my colleagues on how to speak English.”
The “New quitter” is an article in Psychology Today magazine [July/august 2011 issue] and it has this to say about lapse and relapse.
When G. Allen Marlatt a (professor of psychology & director of the addictive behaviors research center at the University of Washington) started working in an alcoholism ward in the 60’s, roughly 70% of the clients he saw bounced in and out of hospital based treatment programs. [BUT] “Addiction counselors weren’t supposed to acknowledge the high rate of relapse.” The thinking was talking about that would “just give people permission to do it” Marlatt recalls. Frustrated, he began studying how successful quitters maintained there sobriety over time. “We found that many had slips or lapses and were able to get back on the wagon again,” says Marlatt... and I’ll stop right there.

Could it be that the 18 months abstinence I had when I had a lapse I may’ve needed to just say “O.K., no problem, I’ll simply stay away from Ray’s Tavern and think deeply about where ever else I may’ve went wrong as I continue to do what I was doing before I took the drinks; OR!!!  Do as my therapist at the time advised me.  He said that because of the slip I was in a dire situation and that I needed to “stop thinking and let someone else think for me” because “my plan had failed!” He also advised me that in his professional opinion I possibly needed to begin taking Naltrexone or Antibuse medications to stop the drinking along with a lengthy inpatient treatment stay, at least.  And if not most definitely needed to double up on my outpatient treatment, which, by the way means job security for him.

That’s the advice, I, living in a perpetual state of humility about that one drink religiously followed after a lapse for 9 of the 12 years I’ve spent homeless as a result of my disease of addiction.  But for the past 3 I’ve simply read up to date (Free) library material such as this article which validates my sacrifices for and now lived by opinions and I’m a lot happier camper about my incurable disease of addiction as a result.

Facts #2 & #3, rather my opinion about: me, my diseases (substance addiction & the social ill homelessness), what I’ve done about them, past, present, future, the pseudonym of my leading man AKA the aggregated interpretation of my real life struggle for transition from the trail they represent creatively consolidated in my “Hood Ride.” Thrill Ride of a short story about mine and his miss-adventures called “Tramp Trails.”
Whew!!! It was rough getting that out and if you don’t understand I apologize. As I said I’m new to writing this stuff and thinking about someone actually reading it, so pleeaassee, bear with me.

There’s two more reference articles [Scientific America magazine] march 2011 issue & article “Tru Grit” & no it’s not about the new movie. It’s about new research proving the routine resiliency of our minds to simply bounce back from all adversity over a routine 3 or 4 month period.  Then there’s [Scientific American Mind] magazine September/ October 2009 issue & article the “Social Cure” which validate my belief that it’s better for me at this point in my lifestyle transition to become part of groups & societies more in line with the lifestyle I want as opposed to the long time substance abuse treatment and homeless self help program grouping that’s the main suggestion to do and is the (Mandatory Minimum) of these institutions in order to get their help with basic needs.
These 2 articles I’ll tie in to the last 2 names of my made up man as facts #2 & #3 in the same way I did fact #1;  however.  These two’s will be done in a part two of my article.  That is, if I don’t get shell shocked into not doing it as a result of “whatever come may” about this one here.

In closing...
1st of all; I give condolences to the family and friends of professor Marlatt of the psychology today article in my fact #1.
I read in the Seattle Times 17 march 2011 issue he passed away recently. Being the true advocate he was for “Pragmatic Idealism” (which works) based on research, and could open the many different ways and closed doors needed in helping us addicts with our disease; them being helping us right where were at whether it be: actively using, abstinent and desiring to continue in moderation or whatever else the case may be for the addict suffering. He fought thru his career for this way of helping us in the face of tremendous opposition from his colleagues & folk in the know in general whom felt only the “Moral Model” of recovery with its, hush, hush policies about the all to true reality of relapse & “abstinence only” as the only goal that works and worth striving for, was the only way.   This man, a visionary & luminary in his field, will be sorely missed, I’m sure.  Hell, I miss him now and never met him.

2nd, I don’t think I significantly explained what and where the tramp trail is, which is:
3rd & Yessler Seattle up and out at 6am from the DESC shelter. City ride free or walk the few blocks north to work source (3rd & vine)
for, an office environment viable to seek employment. 12 noon it’s Down to millionaires club (western & wall) for a free Dicky burger lunch and possible J.O.B. for the day.  But if not I can put my mind at ease with a brief break in Steinbruer AKA Native park near the market a few blocks away. There, us homeless mix, mingle & blend in withSeattle curious, ocean going, tourist, Starbuck eyed Seattleites and Seattle’s finest, SPD on horseback.  There also, humanity, we all can get along, because, the bird’s eye hilltop scene of Elliot bay is so serene that  it keeps what would normally be a Motley crew of socially illed emotions and behaviors at bay.
Then it’s on back down the way to real change magazine (1st ave & main st) where this homeless man knows he can make the change needed for a $5 stay the night, across the way at the bread of life mission.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the two most important stops on the path that us homeless denizen, but the average citizen merely works at or is only a visitin.
The library; (4th ave & spring st) where information on all is @ our disposal on the, how to find our escape from the, harsh realities of homelessness when we have nothing and no where else to go.  Last but not least the greyhound bus station (9th & Stewart) where, if need be Us, nomad minded thrill seekers can blow town headed for higher ground in our transition process; or. Arrive anew in the newness of this new A.O. with new attitude of hope in tow about our sought after Real Change. Every metropolis downtown has one where might yours be in your neck of the woods.

I've read the lines and in-between fixated on the page to make sure I didn't miss a thing, reading and re-reading, mesmerized by the honesty and sheer power of the content. It's when I got toward the end and realized we're both in Seattle and I know of the areas you mention, and I wonder if I've seen you, passed you on the street. I am truly amazed by how I stumbled on Tramp Trails -- via a mural I photographed in a San Francisco alley in 2009 that has on it, and today I came across that photo and decided to check out the website, and became engrossed in the articles, and then Tramp Trails caught my eye ... and I can't wait for the next installment. Nice job!

Great writing,James you got it!

Thank you for the TRUTH like its never been told!!

Publishing as a stepping stone...and it happened...realistic realizations hip pocket plans Great beginning on tramp trails...antebellum, good word...good at quoting others...long sentences great descriptions in tramp trails

welcome James for a 1st article this is the work of a vetran, thanks for sharing we need these stories to be told


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