Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Baby

Congratulations to TLC’s newest parents upon the birth of their 7 pound, 13 ounce son – the latest addition to our recovery family.

While the parents are unnamed for anonymity’s sake, those who know them share their happiness at the arrival of a healthy child.

They both viewed the pregnancy as one of the blessings of living clean and sober.  And they’ve talked of their gratitude at having a second chance and being able to have a child together.

The new parents met a few years ago while both were clients of TLC, began dating, and eventually made a commitment.

We're all happy for you guys and wish you well as you embark on this new venture.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

12-Step Power

The healing power of the 12-step programs is never so apparent as when those in recovery tell their stories.

And the story last Sunday from a young woman at the podium was gut wrenching and moving.

She chronicled years of childhood sexual abuse by family members. Then a gang rape when she was a teenager. After that, years of alcohol and drug abuse that followed her into adulthood. 

However, the drugs and alcohol could never quite erase the memory of the damages done to her psyche. And she became so incapacitated that she finally sought help in the 12-step programs.

Today, she works as a highly skilled professional and has obtained an advanced education. She now has a period of sobriety that she treasures more than anything. She understands on a deep level that if her recovery goes so does everything else.

When those with less traumatic histories hear such moving stories it gives them confidence in the healing power of the 12-step programs.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Small Victories

A client on a weekend pass made a strong step toward continued sobriety.

The report is that a visiting relative offered him marijuana, which the client declined. Reportedly, he not only turned down the offer to get high - he also became angry at the person who made the offer.

Those of us who work with clients who exhibit this kind of progress got a small feeling of satisfaction at this report.

And while this may not seem a large achievement to those who are unacquainted with this client, to us it's great progress. Because when this client arrived in our clinic his prognosis was not good.

He was completely self-centered. Everything was about him.. He wanted everything. And he wanted it now. He didn't understand why the rules applied to him. He was constantly arguing. Responsibility was a word that wasn't in his vocabulary.

Eventually, though, after many setbacks he started to change. Sometimes he’d take one step forward, then two steps backward. On more than one occasion there was discussion among the staff about whether we should keep working with the client because it seemed so futile.

Yet today, the young man is looking toward going to school and resuming his life as a sober member of the community.

Small victories,. But we’ll take them.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Coming Back?

Sometimes it's easy to get an idea of who’s going to relapse and who'll stay sober.

This came up the other day with a client who'd returned to TLC owing a $600 balance from his previous stay. This time though, he showed up before he lost his job. He professed a serious desire to get clean. That when he got his first check he would clear up as much of his back balance as he could. And because we help addicts rebuild their lives we gave him another chance.

Instead, when he got his paycheck, around $800, he came to the office and said he wasn’t going to pay us. So he burned TLC for a second time..

Our prediction is that his dishonest behavior will lead him again back to the insanity of drugs and alcohol.

He'll keep burning people, ripping them off until he runs out of options. Perhaps in a while, he'll end up homeless.  And that's when he'll turn to us again.

And quite likely we’ll help. And he’ll be a client in the Hard Six program. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for us to reach the bottom.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Want to Help?

A client came to my office to tell me he was thinking of leaving because he was bored. He'd come back to TLC with the idea of helping others in recovery. But he said that all he was doing was working, going to meetings, and not much else.

I explained that because he had a college degree it would be easy for him to be certified as a substance abuse counselor by taking a few courses. But he would have to be patient for a while because we don't always get what we want when we want. And, of course, that's the conundrum for us addicts.

However the bigger point I made is that we don't need a degree help others. We don't need a certificate to reach out. If it's in our heart to be of service we can do that each day.

There are those around us who are suffering. It might not be visible. But many of those who walk in our doors are terrified. They don't know if they're in the right place. They have anxiety about everything. They project an almost visible aura of fear.

And that's when those of us who want to be helpful can be helpful. We can greet the newcomers. We can help them get a sponsor. We might give them a word of encouragement. Share hope, the same hope someone gave us when we arrived. These simple small things are helpful.

And if we do a good job of being helpful, God will find more ways of using us. He’s always looking for recruits to do his work.

If we truly want to be helpful we'll be busier than we ever planned.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Train Wreck

“The fact that you even know me means your life is a train wreck,” a manager told a client who's having difficulty adjusting to the rigors of TLC’s Hard Six program.

And it’s true that if one is acquainted with our Hard Six staff they’re pretty much at the end of their drinking and drugging career.

A client only gets into the program after failing at three previous attempts in the regular halfway house program. The only way they get a fourth shot at TLC is to become a Hard Six – an eighteen month commitment.

The challenges of the program include a six month (hence the name) restriction during which the client goes nowhere without a staff member, works six days a week, has only $5.00 pocket money and attends daily meetings and groups. Most don’t make it.

Those who hang with the 18 month commitment generally go on to success. Many graduate into working on our 65 member management team and often become our best managers. Some re-unite with family. Others go on to college. Some start businesses.

And maybe the reason they succeed is because they had the energy and fortitude to complete one of the most stringent recovery programs in the country.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Skewed Priorities

A young new client, homeless when he came to us, is concerned about everything but recovery. Instead of doing his best for himself and the family benefactors who are helping him pay his way he spends most of his time thinking about the impending arrival of a new baby.

He's so focused on this event that he doesn't show up on time for scheduled activities. Instead, he's off somewhere meeting his girlfriend. It seems that the last thing on his mind is recovery.

But the one thing he'll soon realize is that neither his girlfriend nor a new baby will keep him clean and sober.

It's almost painful to hear his rationalizations about what he needs to do with his life. He's failed other programs. And it looks like he's on track to do the same with our program.

The lesson we teach at TLC is that if one focuses on the primary issue, recovery, then everything else works out. Of course things never work out the way we expect and on our schedule. But the amazing thing, is that sometimes they work out much better than we thought they would.

TLC has hundreds of graduates who finally surrendered to the idea that they were addicts or alcoholics. Once they accepted that idea then everything else worked out for them.

I saw another example of this Monday night when I was talking to a client who spent many years walking prison yards and dealing drugs in the ghetto. Today he's starting his second year of college and pulled me aside for a minute to brag about the good grades he was getting.

And all of this happened because his primary focus was not on jobs, or a girlfriend, but solely on his recovery. And today he's reaping the rewards.

I hope this new client can follow his example, though things don't look to positive at the moment.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Being Grateful

A TLC client is very grateful today after a successful surgery that restored her vision.

When she first came to the program she could see. Then after being with us for a while, she relapsed, only to return several days later. Within a short period after her return she lost her vision to cataracts, being able to see only vague shadows. Her vision was so bad that other clients led her by the hand wherever she went. This support from other clients and managers helped her through the ordeal.

Her presence in the program brought out the best in many clients. A lot of those around her were able to be grateful for their own good health and vision. And there were others who were able to reach out to someone who needed help at that moment.

For me it was a lesson in gratitude to witness her trials and watching her undergo the anxiety of living in a recovery program in her condition.

When I see situations like hers I’m reminded to be thankful for the blessings of recovery and good health that I enjoy today.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Keeping On...

Eleven Hundred.

That's how many blogs I've written since June of 2010, when I started this project while on vacation in San Diego.

Originally my goal was to write 1000 blogs. But when I got to 1000 I thought there's no reason to quit now. And so I kept on going for this past 100. But now that I'm at 1100, where do I go from here? Well, I guess I'll keep going and see if I can make it to 1200.

Another goal when I started this was to force myself to write something each day – hopefully with a focus on recovery. After all, I go to the gym nearly every day.  So I need to work on my writing every day. And I've accomplished that.

But beyond those two goals I've achieved something else I really hadn't planned on. Many parents said that one of the reasons they sent their son or daughter to TLC was because of things they'd read here.

And that's one of the motivating factors for keeping this project alive. If just one or two people change their lives because of something they read here that makes it all the more worthwhile.

Plus, I love my readers.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Becoming Openminded

The speaker who qualified at this morning's 12-step meeting picked "open-mindedness" as a topic for those who shared afterward.

And I liked the topic because it caused me to reflect on how I finally finally reached a state of open-mindedness and got into recovery.

It was a long process. I didn't get sober until I was 51 years old. And I had to go through many levels of pain before I finally said "enough."

I lost homes. I went through divorces. I went to jail and prison multiple times. I spent a year in a mental hospital. I lost several high-paying jobs. But when I finally got done denying I had a problem I surrendered.

And I believe that's the same way it works for all of us who are real alcoholics or addicts. Most of those at meetings describe a fairly long period of trying different ways to drink or use drugs – without success.  Their histories parallel mine.

And their recovery story is similar. They had a watershed experience where they realized they had enough. And perhaps someone suggested they go to a 12 step program and get into recovery. And that's when things began to change. The plot's always the same. Only the setting and the players are different.

And the open-mindedness I experienced when I first got into recovery has allowed me to change other areas of my life outside of recovery. Today I enjoy the success that eluded me through all my years of using.

And I attribute it all to the fact that I was open-minded enough to listen to what someone else had to say - another addict at that.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Surprising Maturity

A client who came to us as a spoiled brat surprised me the other day with her new found maturity and insight.

This young woman, not yet in her 20s, was extremely demanding and impetuous when she arrived. She was embroiled in disagreements with other clients. Whatever drama was going on in the house she was at the center of it. She was making unwise choices from the day she arrived. She wasn’t happy to be here.

She frequently was the subject of group meetings and one-on-one confrontations. None of us would have been surprised if she stormed off and didn't return. In fact, one time she did leave in a fit of anger, only to return several hours later once reality set in.

But the other day her house manager requested that I meet with her. That she had something she wanted to discuss with me. And when we met I was pleasantly surprised.

She was beginning to have anxiety about her impending graduation. She wasn't sure if it was wise for her to return home. She was concerned about the drama she might face once she was back with her family.

And at the end of our discussion we might not have reached a solution. But the point of all this is that the idea that she was even considering consequences is a huge step forward for this young woman. Because at one time she would have done whatever she wanted to do based solely on how she felt.

Sometimes the rewards of this business are found in small moments when we meet with clients who exhibit a surprising maturity after such a bumpy start.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Power of Acceptance

At the risk of being redundant I repeat that acceptance is one of the most powerful tools in the 12-step programs. On page 417 in the literature the author discusses acceptance quite extensively. It's an enlightening read for those who aren't familiar with it.

Acceptance is powerful because it brings us back to basics. When I’m in acceptance, no matter how painful it is, I have a new foundation. Once I'm there I can change my behavior or change the situation. But if I'm in denial and don't accept reality then things continue to be messy and confusing.

This came up today because a long-term resident got angry about being fired from a staff job, packed his clothes, and left. He called a day later and said something about "being kicked out." And then wanted to talk about it. But the reality is that there's not much to talk about if he's going to start the conversation with a lie.

His behavior reminded me of myself before I got sober. I never accepted the fact that I was an addict. Or an alcoholic. Everything was everyone else’s fault. I didn't accept responsibility for anything.

But an interesting thing happened when I finally got sober and accepted that I was an alcoholic and addict. My world changed. Opportunities opened up.. I stopped going to jail. My bank account grew because I wasn't taking money to the dope house. Within a year, I was able to start my own business. Family came back.

When and if I do talk to this former resident I’ll tell him what happened when I got into acceptance.. Maybe he'll listen.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Copy the Successful

I find it interesting that addicts ask us for help then after they're around a while they tell us the kind of help they need.

This is not unusual among our clients – both in the treatment program and in our sober living houses.

Addicts come to us with virtually nothing. Yet within a matter of weeks are telling us exactly what they need to stay sober. They don't like the way we manage the program. Even though we've been running the program pretty much the same way for the last 21 years.

Now I'm not saying we do things perfectly. Nearly everyone on our staff, top to bottom, is an addict or alcoholic in recovery. And we make our share of mistakes. But we believe our experience with our own addictions, plus our time in recovery, qualifies us to help others with similar problems.

Reality is that if people knew what they needed they wouldn't be with us in the first place. For some reason their life wasn't working and they came to us.

Maybe it's part of the disease. Maybe it's a form of denial. Maybe it's a control issue. Who knows?

My answer is always pretty much the same: If you want something in life hang around those who are successful at it. It's not complicated.

If you want to get fit socialize with gym rats. If you want to be thin, watch what thin people eat. Want to make money? Copy what the high earners do and you’ll have it. The successful are never perfect but they go beyond their mistakes until they succeed.

When I wanted to get sober I listened – not to my dope fiend alcoholic brain – but to those who had what I wanted.

I didn’t always agree with them. But I agreed with them enough to stay sober.



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Start with Gratitude

Gratitude is the foundation of a good day.

If I awaken and count my blessings I’m starting off right.

Sometimes in early recovery we may ask, what could I possibly be grateful for?

I live in this halfway house without air conditioning. My parole officer acts like he wants to put me back in prison. I don’t like the food. And another addict in recovery, who hasn’t been sober long at all, is telling me I have to find a job - or go to day labor.

And while all the above may be true, we can still find much to be grateful for if we make a small effort.

My list takes little effort at all: I’m grateful for my marriage. For my loved ones. For my friends. My health. The freedom to make good or bad choices.

Watching the news provides a gratitude checklist. I’m not caught up in a meaningless war. I’m in a country where I can express my opinion without going to jail. I live in an economy that – even in down times – is the envy of much of the world.

If we take the simple small step of awakening with gratitude then we’re going to have a great day.

Start your list...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Courage to Return

A TLC client who once managed one of our largest houses spoke in group about how he felt after returning from a relapse.

He said his gut was in knots for weeks after he returned. After all, a few days earlier he'd been managing the house and helping 100+ clients with their recovery.  And then he returned to undergo the embarrassment of having relapsed and starting over.

However, he said everyone was supportive after his return. In fact no one said anything negative.

And this is an important lesson for those who go out and are afraid to return. Often clients say they didn't come back for a few years because they were embarrassed. Finally, however, things got so bad that they were forced to return. And when they did, no one treated them poorly. Everyone respected them for being willing to take another try.

One thing we learn in the recovery field is that relapse is part of the process of getting sober. After people relapse so many times and try to use drugs or alcohol in a controlled fashion they come to realize that there must be a better way.

And that's when true sobriety takes root.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Lenses of Recovery

A family member - who’s not an addict - asked why my blogs all relate to recovery.

And the answer’s simple: because 100% of my life is based on recovery.

I came to realize long ago that my eyes must be upon recovery. Without that, everything's at risk.

Therefore I look at the world through the lenses of recovery. If something impacts me in a negative way I immediately pay attention. Recovery for addicts like me is a way of life.  No half measures.

I don't go to bars. Or nightclubs. I don't associate with those who are using, even family members. My only contact with those under the influence is to help them get to detox or into a program.

I do a 10th step throughout the day so I don't accumulate resentments and anger. Then life flows smoothly

Because I paid a heavy price for my addictions I never risk a return to using. While this may seem a dogmatic and strict way to live, it works for me.

I know others who've been sober 20 plus years who've let their guard down and relapsed. Some didn't make it back.

None of us are immune. And that's why I live recovery.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hostages

We had another example this month of emotional hostage taking.

This time it was a young man who’d enjoyed a privileged upbringing. So privileged that his family was giving him enough allowance to underwrite his drug habit. And they didn't pay much attention until he started really getting in their pockets because his habit was out of control. He started selling their stuff. And drop the F bomb when they would question him or suggest he get help.

At that point they turned to us. And it's always a problem when people arrive at our program with issues of entitlement. Drug use is bad enough. But when coupled with an entitlement mentality it's difficult to overcome.

We've had clients from these "privileged" backgrounds walk in expecting us to wait on them hand and foot. They’re looking for the mint on the pillow. They're angry at everyone. Especially their parents. They have all the answers. Because they were raised getting their own way they expect to have their way with us. But that's not how it works at TLC.

We start out, both in the halfway house and in the outpatient treatment program – with the idea that the client is personally responsible. In counseling sessions we don't talk about others. We talk about the client. That's because the other people aren’t in our program. And even if they were - it still wouldn't make a difference in terms of the client getting better.

We might agree that the parents are jerks. Or that no one understands. But the reality is that nothing can be done about that. It's always about the client and their level of personal responsibility.

My heart goes out to parents who lament and grieve over the pain their almost adult children cause. In these situations it’s near impossible to give them an answer.

Our suggestion is to let the addict hit bottom. Suffer enough pain so they're willing to change.

However, there's always the risk the child won't survive. So what do you do? If you don’t want to be tough are you willing to remain a hostage? It’s a difficult choice.

The situation sometimes solves itself when the parents exhaust their retirement money trying to help their addict child. Or else when the child ends up in jail or the cemetery.

There are no easy answers.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Following the Rules

While on vacation I realized that my grandchildren are much different than I was at their age.

This came upon me after an incident over some fireworks which some of our group had brought to set off on the beach after sunset.

It was an amazing display even though it was short-lived. But it was long-lived enough to attract security personnel because fireworks - unknown to us - are prohibited in that area. Even though they never found out who’d set them off they were looking for the culprits. But they never found them;

A few days later someone suggested setting off the rest of the fireworks. But right away my grandchildren and their cousins began to object. None thought it was a good idea. They thought security might come around again and we'd be in trouble.

For some reason their willingness to comply with the rules resonated with me. I realized their willingness to follow guidelines and rules will help them avoid finding the same path their parents and grandparents took.

Because at their age anytime I was told I couldn't do something it was on. I always did what I wanted. And I paid a heavy price over and over. And this attitude continued when someone suggested I shouldn't use alcohol or drugs. I spent forty years trying to prove them wrong.

Hopefully my grandchildren will maintain their attitude when they are offered drugs or alcohol.

And there's a good chance they will because when we left for home the fireworks remained on the table -unlit.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lucky Enough...

“If You’re Lucky Enough to Live at the Beach, then you’re lucky Enough.” – Sign on the wall of our vacation condo.

Vacationing at the beach is relaxing, a fulfilling break from the mid-summer heat of Arizona. But for me it’s more than a break.

At the seaside there’s such a connection to God’s power. To the rhythm of the universe when one is within hearing distance of the waves breaking on the shore. When one is witnessing the myriad forms of animal life that depend upon the sea for the their existence.

One looks beyond the surf and sees the lights of vessels going to who knows where? Maybe to a port a mile away? Maybe to the other side of the world beyond the horizon?  One is reminded of the immense world in which we live.

Here I’m aware of my powerlessness, of the insignificant speck I am in the flow of life. And I become even more grateful for my blessings.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Right Person

I noticed that a co-worker spent several minutes each day on the phone with her grandmother, who was at the time nearly 90 years old.

Much later she told me she’d called her each day for many years because she was someone who’d never given up on her – even when she was at her bottom.

The kindness and love this woman showed her grandmother was an indication of her character.

I sometimes hear the lament that it’s difficult to find a good person to spend our lives with. But I believe a place to start is to pay attention how a person treats others – particularly the powerless, the weak or those who have nothing to give.

Most treat the boss with respect or are nice to someone who might help them advance. But how do they treat the elderly, the sick, the homeless, those socially inferior to them? That’s a real indication of their spirit, love, and compassion.

By the way, I was fortunate enough to marry the woman who called her grandmother each day.

And I was right about her because she treats me with all the love and kindness I could ever wish for.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In the Moment

Many clients use their past as a reason to not change.

“I was an abused child.”

“My spouse left me.”

“My father was an addict.” On and on…

This is the template for further self-destructive behavior. And sometimes it guides us back into the addiction that brought us to our knees in the first place.

So does this mean that traumatic events are unimportant? Not at all. But staying stuck on them can mean an unfulfilled life of addiction, broken relationships, and an unproductive existence of not enjoying our potential.

Even though bad things might have happened they serve no valid purpose now. No matter how scarred or traumatized we were it doesn’t do much for us to honor this part of our past by focusing upon it.

How to live in this moment is our real assignment.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Addiction Romance

Some of us, before sobriety, were in questionable relationships. We were involved with those with whom we had nothing in common - except drugs or alcohol.

We entered into pseudo relationships with those we’d never introduce to our family or friends before we became addicted. These weren’t necessarily bad people. In fact many were just like us: addicts whose first love was an immediate fix or drink.

Once we’re sober we wonder who these people are? These vestiges of our immediate past? The only thing we shared before was a drink, a pipe, or a needle. We might have professed passionate eternal love - but it was our mutual love of the drug or drink that kept us together.

And in early recovery we sometimes try to fill the vacuum left when we quit drugs by getting involved in recovery romances. Those rarely work out either because two needy recovering addicts rarely make a whole mature person who can deal with the vicissitudes of recovery.

Usually the weak one will pull the stronger partner down, rather than the strong one helping the weaker one survive.

Recovery is an individual process that takes personal strength.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Different Dimension

As we move along the road of recovery we adjust to new realities. Among these is that we now live in a new time dimension..

For example, when I was in my disease and seeking heroin and alcohol everything was an emergency. I needed a drink and I needed it now. My head might be throbbing from the night before but somehow the only answer was to pour more alcohol into me so I could achieve chemical homeostasis. And when I achieved that then I would have the courage to hurry up and steal something I could sell or trade for heroin before I became too dope-sick to function.

I was a rat on a treadmill. Running, always running, to get high. But somehow I never got to where I wanted to be: in that life-changing blessed euphoria of the first drink or the first fix.

Today in recovery I no longer live in a state of constant reaction to the pushy demands of my addiction. Today my life is lived with a degree of planning, of doing things on a schedule that I make.

Not one imposed upon me by my screaming hungry nerve endings. My time flows smoothly.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Share your Light...

* Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”  Bhudda

The above quote reminds us to carry the message to others - to share the joy of recovery with newcomers who need our help.

Most of you with time in recovery do exactly this. But many in early recovery may think that because they have only a week or two they have nothing to offer. But that’s a fallacy.

If one has only a week, that’s seven times as long as someone just walking in the door, confused and lost. Our duty is share our light with them. Tell them it can be done.

Often newcomers see members who have the wisdom of thousands of days of sobriety and are intimidated by such success. They can’t relate.

In my own case I had just entered detox and heard a speaker who had ten years. Somehow I couldn’t connect. But later a rough character – with only six months – served as an example I could follow.

Never think you have nothing to offer. Your days, weeks, or months of experience will resonate with a newcomer who needs someone to lead them on the path.

Light their candle.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Visiting Angels?

My grandmother used to tell me to be careful how I treated others. That we never knew when a visiting angel would pass through our lives.

Of course, being a kid at the time, I thought she was just weird. But now, some sixty years later, I believe she spoke truth.

This thought came to me the other day when I was at a 4th of July gathering and struck up a conversation with a man who happened to be a friend of Bill W. He’d been sober a few years longer than I.

And because we were among the few guests who weren’t drinking, we took the opportunity to talk of our early days of sobriety..

And the visiting angel thought came up when he told me how when he was in detox he met a doctor who later employed him and who was a great help in his early struggles with sobriety. He credits the influence of the doctor with helping him begin his recovery journey.

As our conversation evolved we started talking of “accidents” that sometimes happen in our lives that turn out to be blessings – appearing almost of divine inspiration.

And then he went on to tell of how he survived a recent bout with cancer. But he said that even though the surgery was successful he had a residual anxiety that was troubling. He wanted to get rid of it.

At that point I told him I was a certified hypnotherapist. And that I could teach him a technique to help overcome his anxiety. So we had about a 20 minute session, which seemed to work well.

Afterward he said that for the first time since the surgery he’d experienced total peace and relaxation. And that he thought our meeting was no accident.

After our session he told me of experiences he’d had before surgery. He said that on two occasions in the weeks before the operation strangers would approach him in public places to tell him he’d “be alright, that he had a lot of years ahead.”

And while this may sound strange and esoteric I went away from that gathering pleased to have met this man. He’d been through so many challenges in his life - and in his recovery - that it was inspiring. His story is a reaffirmation of the idea that if we stay sober and work on our recovery we can overcome most anything.

And sometimes an angel might help us

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Break Time

A tradition for the past 15 years is to spend a week in Imperial Beach, California with my children and grandchildren, around a dozen of us. 

We rent a couple of condos on the beach and don't do much but hang out, play, and relax. It's a time for us to catch up. And it's a great way to beat the mid-summer heat in Arizona. At least for a minute.

So by the time anyone reads this we'll be in 40° cooler temperatures. Not to rub it in or anything..

And I would never be able to enjoy times like this if I hadn't finally surrendered and went into detox over 22 years.  And that's really the point of this blog, to carry the message to those TLC clients who sometimes wonder what's the point of sobriety?  I mean I'm sober. But so what? What's next?

And what's next - if one has the patience and is willing to work hard - is a great life where one can do anything they choose to. It simply requires patience and ongoing sobriety.

I've seen over and over again that those who stay sober achieve their goals.. Many go back to school. Some are reunited with their families. Others might start a business. The opportunities are unlimited if one just starts living one step at a time.

We simply have to reach for it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Back to Work?

A former Hard 12 client who left TLC several months ago because he was desperate to get back to work called for help. He thought he was about to die from drinking. He wanted to go to detox.

When our guys arrived at the apartment they found several empty half-gallon vodka bottles strewn around. The utilities had been shut off for non-payment. The place was sweltering. Plus he was about to be evicted.

And he was right about being near death. He was so weak he had to be carried out. When he gets released from detox we’ll likely take him back because that’s what we do. Help people until they can help themselves.

This man is a classic example of our male clients who think their only problem is work. They usually say things like “I have bills to catch up on.” Or, “I’m behind in my child support.” Or, “I need to help my kids.” The rationalizing goes on and on.  It sounds good.

While it may be true that these are the kinds of obligations we all face, we’ll never take care of anything until we get clean and sober.

Over and over in my counseling sessions I point out that those of us who are real addicts have only one problem: our disease. If we make recovery our priority everything we need will be provided.

It says so in the Promises.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Moving On...

He was homeless in Arizona for some eight years. Once in a while he'd find a place to crash for a short time. But eventually he was evicted from those couches also. He once told of coming home and finding his belongings tossed in the front yard. He accepted that is a message that he should move on.

Eventually he got tired of the pain and found a program that accepted homeless addicts and alcoholics who had no money: TLC.

He stayed three years, the last two of those years as manager of one of our larger properties.

And this week he announced he was leaving. But instead of doing things like addicts sometimes do, just disappearing, he instead gave a 30 day notice. Very mature. Very grown up. Real mainstream stuff.

And so where's he going? Seems that he's found a job with a large mining company that pays $19 an hour. And his girlfriend of a few years is already there and has an apartment for them..

For self-centered reasons we’re going to miss this man because it's hard to find managers with his dedication. He's been someone we could always rely on to make the right decisions. And when he made the wrong decision he was willing to accept criticism with humility and do things differently.

His story is what TLC is all about. He was the epitome of our typical new client: no money, not much future, and not a lot of hope.

But he grasped the opportunity and rose to the top. We wish him well in his recovery, in his job, and in his relationship with his sweetheart.

Enjoy the Promises....

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Another Example

Yesterday a manager celebrating five years at TLC came to my office with gratitude.

He entered TLC the day he walked off the prison yard. He had no money. No place to go. Only the clothes on his back. It was his first recovery program. What he did have, though, was a strong resolve to change the course of his life, a compelling desire to quit using methamphetamines.

And he did. Instead of returning to his pre-prison life, he became immersed in the 12-step programs. He started working with TLC's construction crew.

And he’s been doing pretty much the same thing ever since - a day at a time. Within a short time he became a crew leader, and today’s in charge of TLC’s construction and maintenance. He never says no, he never quits until the job is done.

His efforts to change have brought blessings. He and his sweetheart- also a TLC graduate – share a home and are expecting a child any minute. When he talks of his relationship - and their baby - his eyes sparkle and one can sense his joy at this gift from God.

This man has taken advantage of the opportunity he was presented, the chance he was given.

Any client who wants to succeed at TLC can ask him how he he’s doing it.  Because he’s another example of how our program works

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Insanity?

There's nothing about alcoholism that make sense.

Yesterday, a man who’d walked Arizona prison yards for over 30 years - on lifetime parole - was discharged from the program after he used his first paycheck to buy a bottle of vodka.

Six months ago he was homeless, broke and drunk. His life was in a shambles. He was desperate for help.

During his first several months in the program he was a good worker. He had humility. He had a sponsor and he seemed grateful to be sober. He accepted the hardships of the hard six program without complaint. Then he got a job and a few dollars in his pocket and it was all over.

There’s no aspect of his behavior that has any connection to logic or sanity. He has no money. He has no home. And as far as anyone knows he doesn't have any real friends. So he faces the prospect of being homeless and drunk in 113° heat.

It says in the 12-step literature that the “insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again.” That appears to have happened in this case.

Monday, July 1, 2013

See the Flowers

Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson's saying will work well for any of us.

And I believe the "flowers" of which he writes means the many things in our lives that can teach us lessons.

For example, it never seems to fail that when I'm in a snit about something, God puts a lesson in my path.

It occurred again this morning when I went to my office to update a project only to discover the air conditioner wasn't working. Mildly irritated because I had to turn around and return home, I looked over at the dumpster behind our building and saw an alcoholic I know working very hard to find aluminum cans or anything else worthwhile in the trash. At the time it was about 109° and muggy.

Immediately my attitude changed. I realized my minor frustration was nothing compared to what this man must be experiencing. He probably was working that hard so he could buy another bottle. And he reminded me that today I'm sober and not in the dumpster beside him.

I think we all can benefit by looking at the many positives in our lives. By stopping for a moment and being grateful for the health we have, for the prosperity we enjoy. For the opportunities that abound around us.

In a world where so many suffer we benefit when we look for the “flowers” that Emerson described.