Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Meth

I finished reading Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town yesterday. It’s about Meth, Speed, Crank or whatever your favorite name for it is and it’s impact on a small town.

My experience with speed was back in the early 70’s. We called it white cross for the score that divided the small white pill into quarters. On occasion I would buy a hundred lot and would use them every once in a while and would sell some. If I remember, you needed about five of them to get going.

I was aware that you could get really messed up by speed so I never went on a binge and it never became a big part of my life. From what I read in Methland, I would guess that the stuff I had wasn’t as powerful as other stuff that was around.

The Colorado Meth Project has a slogan, Not Even Once. Good meth is very addictive because of the changes it makes in the brain; it causes an intense rush of pleasure. Here is what The National Institute on Drug Abuse says:
Dopamine is the brain chemical that allows us to feel pleasure. Meth unnaturally raises dopamine levels to more than 10 times the amount caused by life's normal pleasures, including eating and having sex. In stimulating this dopamine release, Meth creates an intense rush of pleasure. This powerful rewarding effect is a major part of the biology of Meth addiction.
The slogan is good. What if once leads to forever? What if the rush is so good that you decide you can’t live without it even though your body is being destroyed, you have lost everything, you are going to prison or just got out of prison?

Another thing that sets meth apart beside the intense pleasure is that for a while at least, it makes you incredibly productive. I remember at sixteen years old finding out I could stay up all night and then go to work the next day. Many Americans have found out that meth lets them work double shifts and still have a life. It works for awhile until everything falls apart.

As I thought about meth this morning I thought about addiction in general and I thought about myself. The drug I fell in love with was marijuana. Thankfully when I became a Christian in 1973, the transition to life without pot didn’t involve the physical withdrawal of so many other substances. My love for marijuana probably kept me away from addiction to many other drugs I experimented with. One thing I know though: I loved to get high.

I became a Christian towards the end of the Jesus Movement. In turning to Jesus most of us turned away from drugs, alcohol and tobacco as those things were viewed as sinful. While I will have to admit that there isn’t a Bible verse that covers absolute prohibition of alcohol and tobacco, I’m glad that is the way we felt. I don’t think I missed a thing by not indulging in those things.

I will not drink alcohol these days because I don’t want to risk falling in love with it. That may sound weak but I know myself too well to feel otherwise. I may find it comforting during difficult times or maybe the love of a buzz would lead to some other disaster.

Not Even Once can be a good slogan in many other areas of life too. There are many sex and porn addicts who wish they had never taken the first look. Do you know if you will be able to continue as a casual drinker if you make alcohol a part of your life?

I love good coffee and I know it is a stimulant. There was a time when I avoided it for that reason. I drink coffee in the morning and in the afternoon, two cups each time. I don’t drink to avoid sleep or instead of sleep. I buy the good stuff and grind it right before brewing. It’s a pleasure I enjoy. If I become addicted to coffee I probably won’t lose my job, steal from friends or beat my kids.

There are many things that resist the hard rule. Some things are plainly sin and others require a lot of thought. “Is it wise” is a good question. “Could this lead to danger” is another. It’s also good to have people in your life who can view you from the outside. They may see what you cannot.

Philip

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Anxiety

Anxiety: An unpleasant state of mental uneasiness or concern about some uncertain event.


Here is my story of anxiety this week. It all started Monday morning.

I had done a computer backup during the night. When I looked at the computer in the morning I knew something was wrong. It wasn’t on and wouldn’t come on. My first thought was that the backup had killed the hard drive. For a little while… okay, for longer than that I have heard a click coming from the hard drive. I knew that is a bad sign of impending failure. I also thought it could be the mother board. I tried many times to get it to turn on but it wouldn’t.

I decided that I can’t let this problem determine my day. I decided to continue with my early morning routine which is going through my prayer list. After I was done I did a quick Internet search and was reminded of the power supply which should have been my first thought. I noticed the fan wasn’t turning so it seemed that the power supply was probably the problem. I went to work at the normal time and picked up a new one on the way home. I put it in and was back in business. Wow, what a relief.

I knew I needed to replace the hard drive. I planned to pick one up Tuesday after work. I was trying to keep this problem in its place but it was growing inside of me. On my way to work Tuesday morning I felt sick. I could not believe I was letting this computer problem turn my world upside down. I prayed for God to help me. I felt like canceling my job.

I called to mind some things I have been learning lately. This is from the book, Telling Yourself the Truth.
    Anxiety is:
  1. Fear in the absence of real danger.
  2. Overestimation of the probability of danger and exaggeration of its degree of terribleness.
  3. Imagined negative results.
I could see how all of these were playing into this situation.

I got home too late Tuesday night to do anything about the computer. It seemed to be working okay other than the fear that the hard drive will die. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I just let it go, didn’t feel anxiety about it and hoped I wouldn’t forget to work on it. So Saturday morning I figured it was time. At the suggestion of a computer tech I downloaded a program that clones one hard drive to another. If all went well it should be very simple. The old drive would be duplicated and the new one would work just like the old one. I didn’t believe it. My past experience is that easy upgrades on the computer usually end up with collateral complications.

To my cynical surprise, it did go easy. I installed the new hard drive, ran the program, did a reboot, it copied everything over and about an hour and a half later I had a new hard drive running with all my programs and data. I was excited, an emotion I don’t let myself feel very often.

At my Samson Society meeting last night I was glad to talk honestly about how I had been feeling this week both about the anxiety and the excitement I had felt. If I wasn’t among such good friends I would have felt silly; how ridiculous that I had been so worked up. But that was the reality of my week and it felt good to share it with others.

Well this morning it was time to do another scheduled backup. I turned on the external drive, started the backup program and as soon as it started to make the Volume Shadow Copy, the horrible Blue Screen appeared with an error of "Bad_Pool_Header" Stop 0x00000019.

I restarted the computer and as soon as I tried the backup again, the same thing happened. After the error report was sent to Microsoft, it returned a recommendation of upgrading the mouse/keyboard utility. I decided all this would have to wait until after church. I would try to put it out of my mind.

After church I downloaded the update and installed it but the problem persisted. I tried a couple other things but still no resolve. Back on the Internet I started searching for a solution. In the back of my mind I was wondering just how bad the problem was.

I found a discussion about the exact problem I was having. A solution was presented that seemed somewhat complicated – it made me nervous – what if it makes the problem worse. I kept on reading and someone else came up with a resolution that seemed much easier to do and many others concurred that it worked. I took a few deep breaths, followed the directions and soon the problem was gone. Tonight I will find out for sure when I do a full backup.

Just for reference, here is a link to the problem and the solution in case any of you ever encounter it. For the resolve, look for post #70 on page 4.
Volume Shadow Copy Causing STOP 0x00000019 "Bad_Pool_Header"

As I look back I see many lessons in this whole thing. When I encounter the unpleasant state of mental uneasiness or concern about some uncertain event, I need to keep things in perspective; it’s probably not as bad as my mind says. I need to let others know what is going on, both in my mind and in whatever problem I am facing. Hey, they might have a solution and they can pray with me. I also need to trust God; He is much bigger than the problem and delights in helping His kids. I need to calmly persevere and ask a lot of questions; someone else has probably already gone through what I am facing.

So that was my week. Thanks for listening.

Philip

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Don’t Need You


There are some really cool clouds in the sky tonight. Click the image for a bigger picture.

I’m thinking about one of the biggest battles men fight. It’s the Lone Ranger, the isolationist, the “I did it all by myself” battle.

Somehow we have been deceived into thinking it is some kind of virtue not to need other people. Many times it is the last resort to ask for help.

I talked with an old friend last week. He tried to kill himself last year. He now has over $300,000 in hospital bills. It took a lot of friends and doctors to put his life back together. People tried to help him before and helped him after.

Something bothered me about the conversation. He credited God with helping him and made it clear that he didn’t need a book or meeting to get well. It almost seemed that the unspoken thought was that he didn’t need other people to help him either.

I worry that he views himself as a self-made-man. I worry that he might not be as strong as he thinks. I worry that he is not surrounding himself with the people he needs.

Advice is another thing we need but many times resist. We know our way is best and that can keep us from consulting others. I’m trying to learn this lesson myself. I’m trying to make it a regular part of my life to let others know what I’m doing and thinking and to see what they think about it. I’m finding a wonderful strength in that.

What we find is that God built us to need other people. He doesn’t want us to fight alone or to take credit for doing it by ourselves. The Christian life is to be one of dependence on God and others. None of us have what we need to live alone. We are incomplete without the other members of the body.

I am proud to admit that I have friends who make my life much better than it would be without them.

Philip

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What I See Now


This is the view from my porch this morning. There is a full moon and beautiful colors in the sky. It’s a great Labor Day weekend, we have already done some fun things, ate some great food and there is much ahead.

Yesterday for lunch I made Pizza Margherita on the grill. It is a classic; dough rolled thin, fresh tomatoes and basil from my garden, olive oil and mozzarella cheese; simple and delicious. For dinner, my oldest son took us out as thanks for helping him move this week.

In a few hours we will go to church which I love. There is something so great about worshipping God with a huge crowd of people. After church there is a festival with barbecue and other fun things.

Tomorrow we will go to some friend’s house for lunch and fellowship. I am really looking forward to that.

Back to the picture: one of the things I enjoy most is getting up in the morning and being able to sit on the porch as I wake up with a cup of good coffee (Village Roaster). The birds start to show up at the feeders and there has been a squirrel that will come up to the porch and take peanuts out of my hand. Most mornings I spend the time going through my prayer list. That is such an adventure; I talk to God about the needs of friends, the problems in the world, and the need for wisdom, guidance and blessing. Then every day I get to see those prayers answered.

It won’t be long now and the weather will push me off the porch and back into the house. It’s a hard transition I usually resist; first a long sleeve shirt and maybe a coat then finally a storm or snow will force me inside. It’s never the same just looking out the window.

Life is like that too. We spend too much time looking out the window and watching things go by. It’s much better to get out in the middle of what’s happening where you can hear it, smell it and participate in it.

Well, time to look at the Sunday morning paper, another favorite activity of mine.

Philip

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