Monday, November 6, 2017

Hope for the Hopeless
Recovery options for those suffering from addiction in the Pocono area

Volunteers from local Alcoholics Anonymous groups pass through security at the Monroe County jail, a guard accompanying them to the library where, with law books and biographies surrounding them, they wait for a dozen or so inmates to file in. The meeting comes to order, members of AA explaining to inmates how Alcoholics Anonymous works, and the assembly is opened for comment and discussion.

A prisoner, serving his sentence for a third drunk-driving conviction, speaks up. “I don’t have a problem with drinking,” he says, “I got a problem with driving and getting caught by the cops!”
Several voices in the room chuckle, but not his. What is invisible to the alcoholic or addict cloaked in denial can defy reason.

“I have a disease that tells me I don’t have a disease,” replies Steven (not his real name) a member of AA with long-term sobriety. “My disease tells me it’s okay to drink.”  

Across town several days later, Dereck (not his real name) shares at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. “If you think you might have a problem with drugs or alcohol,” he says, “you do.”

Mind-altering substances, like alcohol and drugs, temporarily mask physical and emotional pain. More than half of opiate addicts received their initial exposure to narcotics through legitimate means in the form of pain relief or anti-anxiety therapy, becoming addicted in the process. Prescription drugs are expensive; people often turn to cheap heroin to bridge the gap.   

“Addiction, including alcoholism, is a chronically relapsing illness that cannot be cured,” explains Stroudsburg psychiatrist Dr. Robert Morrow. “Addiction alters brain function to the point where will power does not work against it. The good news is, people do recover; addiction can be kept in remission.”

Recovery is more than abstinence from drugs and alcohol; it requires a complete positive mental, emotional and physical change. The active addict, unable to exert internal self-control, must at first receive that control from immersion in sober support, including group meetings, therapy, medication, and wellness.  

Detoxification, the withdrawal period when a body rids itself of drugs, may be the most physically demanding and dangerous phase of recovery, but it is the vital first step in living a healthier life. The safest place to be during this stage is a detox center, such as Pyramid Hillside in East Stroudsburg, PA. Patients there receive medical treatment to help lessen symptoms and shorten withdrawal time, and are assessed to determine a course of long-term treatment.

There are several post-detox recovery options in the Pocono area. Inpatient centers Pyramid Hillside, and Pocono Mountain Recovery Center in Henryville, PA, offer month-long programs that separate patients from the daily triggers to use alcohol and drugs.

A month off from one’s career to check into an inpatient facility is not something everyone can afford, however. “Ninety percent of our clients have to work,” says Lillie Maldonado of B.E.S.T. outpatient recovery center, located on Sarah Street in Stroudsburg, PA.

Common threads run through all options. The whole person, mind body and spirit, is taken into account. “The most prevalent addiction right now is heroin, a pain killer,” explains Mike Arcangeletti of A Better Today outpatient facility on South Ninth Street in Stroudsburg, PA. In order to begin treatment, he says, the question must be asked: “What is the pain?” An overwhelming number of addicts and alcoholics have suffered trauma.

Not to minimize their effectiveness, but gone are the days of relying solely on twelve-step programs to help people recover. Cognitive therapy, trauma treatment, group therapy, pain management, phys-ed, filling emotional voids, challenging the mind… these are all part of the modern recovery program, as is prescribing non-addictive medication like Vivitrol to help prevent relapse. Nevertheless, “The twelve steps work best,” says Dr. Morrow. “There is nothing with better statistics.”

But Nadine (not her real name) a former heroin user clean longer than six years, did not recover using the 12 steps. After detoxing at a treatment center, she attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings but relapsed intermittently, struggling with her addiction for another year.

Weary of lying and scheming, alone, tired of being sick, Nadine could not continue the path she walked. Determined to recover, she opted for a medically assisted methadone treatment at Pinnacle Mount Pocono Medical, Mount Pocono, PA.

“The program is not for everyone,” explains Nadine. “It consists of psychosocial counseling, group meetings about topics like stress management, and one-to-one counseling.”

Today Nadine has her children, financial stability, and a house. “I am able to make rational decisions,” she says.

A person’s past does not have to be their destiny; a life of freedom waits for anyone determined enough to overcome. “When I look at this, I see it from a spiritual perspective,” says Arcangeletti. “We cannot punish the problem away. We must welcome the addict back home.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Art of Art

A how-to of arranging images in the home 

By Kevin Conroy
Art has the power to move us, sooth us, sustain us. From the simplest charcoal sketch to the boldest mural, humankind has surrounded itself with art from the pre-dawn of civilization. “It is intrinsic to our emotions,” says Artspace Gallery volunteer Jody Singer. “It speaks to who we are.”

Ordinary mistakes anyone can make may break its impact. Hung at the wrong height, or scaled improperly for a given space, even the best works can cast an unpleasant feel. Failing to plan a grouping can defeat its intended purpose. By following a few simple guidelines, though, everyone can bring out the best from their collection.

To create a sound foundation, professional framing is essential. “Make the frame work for the piece, and work with the d├ęcor at the same time,” explains proprietor James E. Morgan at Morgan Gallery of Fine Arts. Frames should complement, not distract. “If the furnishings are heavy, contrast them with movement and interest,” says framer Sean Turrell of Turrell Custom Art Framing. “There is no one way, every piece is individual. Framing is like jewelry; the artwork is primary.”

The most common mistake made by beginners is positioning art too high on the wall. Galleries and museums tend to hang paintings at approximately eye level, or centered 60 inches above the floor. At home, of course, accommodation must be made for furniture and architectural detail, such as a mantelpiece or chair rail.

Take scale into account when choosing which pieces to hang where. Although open space feels more elegant, an undersized picture in a wide space will feel underwhelming. The other side of that coin is clutter. Be certain to leave some negative, or empty, space.

Walls are not the only place for art. “Leaning a canvas instead of hanging it turns a two-dimensional piece into three dimensions. It becomes an object,” says Turrell. Lean a picture on top of a mantle or sideboard and overlap it with a sculpture and leafy plant to lend a feeling of sophistication.

“Use an easel to angle a painting as a solution for a corner,” says Ellen Kerz of Ellen Kerz Interiors. With several pieces to display, plan a grouping. “You can place a large piece in the center as a focal point,” says Kerz, “and surround it with photography or smaller watercolors and oils. “No rhyme or reason over the sofa or sideboard,” she says, “even a stair wall. How busy you want it depends on how much space you have.”

Lay the grouping out on a bed or floor first; doing this will allow for endless changes before the first nail is driven. It will lend a sense for how it feels. Determine the horizontal center of the grouping before beginning to hang, then match it to that 60” wall height to keep the center of the cluster at eye level.  

Some additional practical advice: To keep images permanently straight, hang them on two nails placed apart, about two-thirds the width of the frame. When displaying watercolors in a bright, sunlit room, pay the few extra dollars for UV protective glass to minimize fading. 

A budget is only common sense, so consider estate art and less expensive prints and etchings to add variety. Education is not necessary. “Acquire images with an emotional connection,” suggests Morgan. “Find key pieces that fit the feeling of a room.”
“Dog portraits warm up a room and make it feel like home,” says Kerz.

When beginning a collection, consider accenting with utilitarian items. Hang a quilt and old farm tools with painted folk-art. Music-themed images might benefit from worn-out dancing shoes displayed with old musical instruments. Search far and wide for just the right piece. “When you see something that coordinates, grab it!” exclaims Kerz.

Aesthetic judgements are at once sensory, emotional, and intellectual. “It has to do with humanity, the appreciation of something to share,” explains Morgan. “The artist’s perspective is different from the rest of society.”

Art creates value to its surroundings, and its surroundings increase art's intrinsic value. “Art shows life and beauty,” says Singer. “It transcends the reasons why we need or want it.”

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Storm Harvest


A Pennsylvania fruit grower weathers one of the worst storms in memory

They didn’t have long to wait.
The National Weather Service broadcast warnings of a fast-moving storm producing three-inch hail and hurricane force winds. With no way to prepare, Joe O’Hara and his son Patrick took shelter as the onslaught roared into their orchard. They covered their ears from the biting noise of hail on the shed where they hunkered down.
An orchard, a fruit orchard, is a complex system. Each variety of tree requires specific training: some are trimmed to open the inside, some spread out to open branches to the sun. Each row must be kept at a height that will allow sun to strike the next row. Every one of their 40,000+ trees are pruned by hand, thinned by hand, tended to like children.
In the silence that followed the storm, the O’Hara’s surveyed their damage. Boots crunched hailstones blanketing the ground.

Wiped out in minutes...  
Off the Beaten Rack
A Review of Noir, Indie, and Cult Classic Films


By Kevin J Conroy, staff writer

Toward the end of The Room's two-week, two-theater premier, a sign in one of the box office windows proclaimed:
“No Refunds”
Enticed by that, 5-Second Film's Michael Rousselet screened it, to become enraptured. He watched The Room four times in three days, and contacted so many friends and acquaintances the theater was packed for its final showing.

Called the worst movie ever made, the “Citizen Kane” of awful film, The Room grossed $1,800 during the premier despite a six million dollar production cost. Yet with its inauspicious beginning in 2005 the Room has, for all the wrong reasons, become a worldwide phenomenon. Over time books have been written about it, major publications reported on it, New York’s WNYC Radio “Studio 360” aired a special about it. A movie about The Room is scheduled to be released in December of this year. 

Similar in spirit to The Rocky Horror Picture Show,The Room quickly entered the midnight circuit. Participants shout and throw spoons and footballs during the movie, a tradition begun by Rousselet and company during the premier. But an essential difference between Rocky Horror and The Room is this: Rocky Horror knows it’s a joke.

There is something magically wrong with this movie. Written, directed, produced by and starring Mr. Tommy Wiseau, The Room feels like a messy wreck on the highway: we know we should not look upon such misery, but who can resist? The watery plot cannot buoy the wooden acting, limp sex scenes, technical flaws, or dialogue written by someone who seems never to have had a conversation with another human being...