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I found a journal I kept while working on an evaluation of two residential drug treatment facilities. Some excerpts:

March 2002: Just finished my first week! The director of the facility said there are no offices for me. I can have a computer, but no Internet access, because residents might use it (it’s contraband). We still haven’t started interviewing.

April 2002: My boss, Professor V, intervened. Now I have a cubicle right outside the director’s office– not sure if this is better or worse.

June 2002: Everyone wants to be in the study. They get two hours away from groups or work to do interviews with me, and I give them cookies. (One respondent told me that heroin addicts love sugar.) We are almost fully recruited with 100 respondents!

August 2002: My co-interviewer is leaving: she was having an affair with a resident. I’m going to cover both facilities until we hire.

October 2002: I’ve been interviewing in Brooklyn in the morning and Queens in the evening. It takes over an hour to get from one facility to the other, plus there’s a bus strike in Queens. One of the counselors, himself a program graduate, relapsed.

December 2002:  One of my favorite respondents, D, snuck out of the facility and relapsed. A counselor brought her back this morning and she looked terrible. She might get remanded to jail. I’m heartbroken for her.

January 2003: Had an interview yesterday with L, who absconded from the facility. I met him in a McDonald’s in Brooklyn. He was nodding out from heroin and could barely answer my questions. I bought him lunch and gave him his incentive payment: $30. He called me again today to see when I could interview him next. I told him not for 3 months, which didn’t go over well.

February 2003: We hired a new interviewer for Queens! A respondent told me today that doing interviews is more cathartic than going to group therapy, and that he likes that I just listen without giving him advice.

April 2003: Our new interviewer got fired for falsifying data. She took money from petty cash for incentive payments, but never got signatures from respondents that they’d been paid.

May 2003: Professor V told me the funding was cut on the project; we were supposed to do 2 years of data collection and 1 year of analysis, but now we have to stop collecting data in the fall and spend the last 6 months of the grant on reporting.

I left this job in August 2003 to go back to school. I still count it as one of my most interesting (and most difficult) projects.