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.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Positive News

I’ve never had a gambling addiction. And it’s a good thing. Because I don’t do well picking winners and losers – especially when it comes to recovery.

This came up for me again when I answered my phone and heard the familiar voice of an outpatient graduate, bubbling with excitement. He called to tell me that he’d obtained a position that day in a counseling center on the East Coast as a behavioral support technician.

He’s also remained clean since leaving TLC, has a part time job, a car, and lives a few blocks from the beach. His relationship with his family is on track, and he belongs to a fitness club.

This is particularly rewarding to hear because prior to coming to TLC Outpatient the client had been in several other treatment programs. He’d had so much therapy and counseling that he seemed to know as much about therapeutic process as many of our newer counselors.

While he was a willing participant while here, he also had physical and emotional challenges that seemed to limit his prospects for ongoing recovery.

Positive calls like the one from this graduate make everything worthwhile.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Re-Living the Past

Someone once said that you can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

And the habit of reliving the past is a prominent characteristic of those of us who suffer from addictions. We’re often so enmeshed in what was done to us – or what we've done to others – that we have difficulty finding a solution to our addictions.

Some of us rightfully feel guilty about what we've done. We've neglected our families and children. Lost jobs. Damaged our health. Been arrested. The list goes on.

But if we work the program the way it was designed we're able to come to terms with this history. The steps provide us with the tools to deal with our past.

In the promises it says we “will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.” That doesn't mean, though, that we wallow in what we've done. Nor do we spend much time dealing with it once we make amends.

Our mandate now is to live in the moment and enjoy the blessings of a clean and sober life.

Send comments to schwary@msn.com

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What I Need Is..

I would never go to the doctor and ask him to treat my broken leg and then tell him how to do it. Nor would I tell any other professional that I employed how to do his job. Probably the only thing I would talk to him about is the end result. For example, "can you get rid of this cold?" Or, "can you repair my car? It's making a funny noise."

And I use the analogies above because it seems almost unique in the addiction field that clients come to us for help – then tell us the kind of help they need. For example, they will say they don't like a certain therapeutic group. Or they don't like the way a certain counselor does their job. Or they think the program should have a different schedule. It's never the same thing with each client; they each have own ideas about particular aspects of the program that they don't agree with.

And my loving question for them is always pretty much the same: if you know what you need to recover then what are you doing here?

After all, our staff has a combined experience of more than 100 years dealing with addicts in a treatment setting. Probably somewhere in those years of experience they can find the answer to most any issue if only the client is cooperative.

Probably one of the better indicators of a client’s prospects for successful recovery is the willingness to participate in the program as we designed it

Send comments to schwary@msn.com

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Family Suffers

Days like yesterday can be frustrating, days when we deal with serious addicts who let their families and themselves down because they can’t do the hard work of recovery.

And it’s not that they don’t want it. Some have come from the other side of the continent to join our program. Their parents have bought plane tickets and spent other money to get them here. Then, once they arrive, they embrace their addiction again and keep using.

My heart goes out to their parents and families because I hear the pain in their voices as they try to comprehend.  We understand because many of us put our families through the same thing - until we finally got the idea that we're responsible.

Addicts sometimes get into recovery when parents and loved ones are worn down, burned out. When they’ve had enough. At that point they give up and often let their addict offspring sort things out for themselves. And that’s when change begins.

Hopefully the change comes in time.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wired Backwards

A call comes late last night about a young client who wants to leave the treatment program.

It seems that - all of a sudden - he needs to work. He owes his family. Pregnant girlfriend. He's bored. Needs to stay busier. The list goes on and on.

And the problem with this thinking is that when you run this idea by the normal square citizen they say "yes." A man does need to work. After all our country was built on hard work. Everyone respects the man who's willing to work. What could possibly be wrong with that?

What's wrong is that this man's issue is not working or finding a job. When he's not stoned out of his mind he works just fine. When he's not drunk he does great on the job.

His issue is that he can't stay sober long enough to keep a job or know what to do with the money when he does get paid. Like many of our newly arrived clients he’s wired backwards.

I told him the same thing I tell all of our clients. His only issue is staying clean and sober. Once he gets that part straight, then everything else falls in place.

Once a client’s sober for a few months it's amazing how life changes. They've saved some money. Bills are paid. Creditors back off.  It's surprising how money accumulates when it's not being taken to the dope man or to the liquor store.

Hopefully this young client will stick around long enough to see the miracles happen. Good things flow from a foundation of positive recovery.

Blessings show up: Jobs. Better relationships. Improved health. Self-esteem.  It only takes patience.

Comments?  schwary@msn.com



Monday, August 26, 2013

Inspiration

Sometimes we addicts feel sorry for ourselves and wonder how we’re ever going to get out of the mess we’ve created.

Here we are in a recovery program one more time, starting over. We might have felony convictions. Maybe we owe a mountain of child support. Perhaps we’ve racked up some more criminal charges. We might be in bad health.

Our family long ago quit speaking to us because we might have ripped them off – or maybe it’s simply that they’re disappointed. After all, when they brought us home from the hospital they probably had no idea they were changing diapers on a little drug addict or alcoholic. Not in their wildest dreams did they think they might be visiting us in a halfway house or prison.

Kind of depressing, huh? With all our issues who can blame us if we don’t succeed?  However, before you go down this road, let me share with you the story of Richie Parker. And after you see this video tell me about your challenges.

You see, Richie was born without arms. Probably no one would have blamed him if he’d given up. Maybe gone on welfare, waiting each month for his government check. After all, he’s “handicapped,” right?

But this man took a different course. He learned to drive his classic car with his feet. He learned to design auto parts on a computer – again using his feet. He learned to ride a bicycle.

Click this link to see his compelling story.

After you see this, think about the so-called challenges in your own life. I did.

Comments? Email schwary@msn.com

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Another Perspective

I have a problem If I depend on outside circumstances to make me happy. Because happiness is not about the outside. Happiness is about my insides. And I can change my insides by changing my perspective.

For example, If I wake up in the morning and look out the window and see a cloudy day I can make a choice: I can enjoy the break from the brain-numbing Arizona sun. Or I can look at it as a gloomy day and let it dictate my mood.

One way to change perspective is to develop self-awareness. For example, when I get too busy I can feel overwhelmed. And if I don't intervene with that feeling it can develop into stress and frustration.

If I stop and tell myself that how I feel is simply part of the business I started – providing services to 600 addicts and alcoholics – then I'm okay. Once I reaffirm that I made the conscious choice to do challenging things, then life is easier. After all, I don't have to do what I do. God has allowed to do what I do.

To change perspective simply stay in the moment and check your feelings. Change begins there.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Weighty Challenge

An ongoing challenge with many of our managers and clients - after they’ve been with us a while - is weight gain. And I’m not talking about three or four pounds. Some gain as much as 75 or 100 pounds over a few years.

Part of it seems to be that - for the first time in a long time - they’re living a routine life and getting regular rest. But others gain excessive weight because food has become their new addiction.

A few have said that they’ve given up drugs, but that’s a far as they’re willing to go. They find pleasure in fast food, sugary sodas, and pastries.

Sometimes though, when they’re tired of dealing with the lack of energy and the health issues associated with their weight they ask for assistance in living healthier.

And when I tell them that I stay healthy at 74 by exercising and eating a mostly vegan diet – which means no animal products – they usually have two predictable responses.

One is: “What do you do for protein?”

But when I ask them to tell me more about protein requirements they bog down pretty fast because few people are educated about how much protein the body requires.

The second question is: “What do you eat?”

And my answer is always “I know what you eat and it’s usually one of four things; either beef, pork, chicken or fish.” Then I go on to explain that there are over 185 kinds of vegetables, grains, and fruits available for those who want to try a healthier diet.

The idea of living life to the fullest shouldn’t include our stomachs.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Temptations

Just because we’re in recovery doesn't mean our old urges and temptations completely go away.

This came up in group the other day when a heroin addict who'd been clean over 20 years said he still has his predatory instincts.

"Sometimes," he said, "I see things sitting around and I automatically think that someone should steal them. And that someone used to be me."

And then he explained that even though he'd stolen nothing since he'd been clean, he still has the old wiring in his subconscious that worked for him when he was seeking something to steal to sell or trade for drugs. During his days of hustling for dope he was constantly on the lookout for valuables that people weren't keeping an eye on. So much so, that it’s probably a part of his past that will never go away completely.

But what does go away, he explained, is that he no longer has to act upon the urge to steal – or to use heroin. Instead he is able to look around at his life today: great job, good marriage, good health, a circle of friends, and realize that there's nothing in the world that's worth jeopardizing the promises he's enjoying.

He says it happens to all of us if we don’t give up.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Is it Genetic?

Periodically clients do dishonest things, like steal from one another. Or lie. Or else leave without paying their service fees.

And I sometimes ask myself if this dishonesty evolves from a lack of ethics? Or does it develop from years of drug use and living on the fringe? Poor upbringing?  Maybe something deeper. Perhaps genetics?

In the last few months I’m leaning toward genetics because we've had more than one parent or relative sign contracts with us saying they would forward insurance payments to TLC – then fail to do so.

When we inquire about our funds, which are forwarded to the policy holder so they can pay us, we get a variety of answers.

Some say that they aren't sure who the checks are for. Others will say TLC is paid “too much.” Still others deny receiving anything.

And, of course, we’re able to follow the paper trail to see who received and cashed them – evidence we ultimately present in court.

But it’s sad to work with a client who’s trying to get sober and realize they’ll have an uphill battle if they return to a home where stealing is part of the environment.

Family members send their loved one to get clean and sober. Then they’re surprised when they return home to a negative environment and start using again.  They don't realize that getting sober is the ultimate exercise in honesty.

Hmmm

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Meeting Ourselves...

A client came to TLC outpatient clinic from clear across the country to receive treatment and all of a sudden wants to go back home.

That desire to return home is not unusual among our clients. Somehow they're surprised when they show up at a new place and find that they meet themselves when they arrive.

Kind of like "what are you doing here? I thought I left you behind."

They meet their addict self at the airport. Or the bus station over and over again, wherever they go. And this keeps happening until they confront their issues and get into recovery.

The reality for us addicts is that things never change until we start digging into ourselves and get into recovery. Somehow the idea, or the illusion, that changing locations is going to make a major difference is a myth.

To get into recovery we must face the painful realities of our life. We have to accept the idea that we’re addicts and alcoholics who need tools so we can change our lives. Is it painful? Yes, most of the time..

But when we confront our disease with courage, with conviction, then somehow the pain subsides. The rewards of recovery start showing up right away once we make the commitment to change.

All of a sudden our minds are clear. We start sleeping better. After a few weeks our families are receptive to our phone calls. We're not looking over our shoulders, maybe wondering when the police will show up.  We’re not hiding from bill collectors.

And if we continue living in recovery one day we’ll go somewhere, maybe on vacation, and be happy with the person who meets us when we arrive.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Powerless?

Powerlessness is a conundrum for many of us addicts.

Those with years of recovery say that powerlessness gives us genuine control over our lives. But how can this be? Give up control to gain control?

In retrospect, for many years I blundered through the world seeking solace and gratification through chemical relief. I somehow had the bizarre idea that I had control; that I was in charge of everything.

Drugs and alcohol created the illusion that I was running things because for a little money I could change how I felt – at least for a while. But at some point there wasn't enough money to create the chemical balance I was trying to achieve. I’d use whatever - until I was unconscious. Then come to and start the process over.

This quest for instant nirvana required more and more money. Money I had to raise through illegal activities that stripped me of my freedom over and over.

When I’d finally beat myself up enough to want to change I also found real power. I understood the beauty of accepting that I was powerless over all chemicals – and most everything and everyone.

Suddenly I came into the light of recovery, accepted who and what I was. And I began to enjoy the freedom of powerlessness - lifting the burden of no longer having to rule the world.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Heroin Power

Another addiction story.

A thirty-something woman - born in the United States - lived here all her life with her immigrant parents. For many years she was a wonderful daughter. And because the parents spoke no English she took care of their bank accounts. She made the house payment. She made the car payment and insurance payments. It was an arrangement that worked for a long time..

But then, somehow, the daughter was introduced to heroin. However, she maintained, not letting the habit get out of hand. Just chipping once in a while. Then one day the monster took control.

Soon she was draining the parents' bank accounts. Savings and checking dwindled to nothing. She stopped making the house payments. And eventually the bank took the home. But because the parents didn't understand much about America she was able to convince them it was a paperwork mess up with the government. And because they loved her and trusted her they accepted her story. She even had a story about what happened when the finance company repossessed the car for lack of payment.

Eventually, a relative tipped off the parents. But not in time to keep them from going broke.

After that the woman went to a detox and started on the road to recovery. In her wake though she devastated the loving people who trusted her with their life savings and home.

If she stays clean it’ll be a long time before she can afford to make amends. And even longer to rebuild the trust her parents had in her.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Frustrations? Or Lessons?

There are different ways to look at challenges in our lives. We can look at them as frustrating irritations. And ruin our day. Or we can see them as opportunities.

One of the best examples around TLC is when we deal with frustrating clients. We can let them drive us up a wall. Or else we can take a different perspective.

For example, today I was having a session with a manager who was proud of himself because he'd made progress in learning patience. Instead of getting frustrated or blowing up at a client's mother who had a lot of questions, he instead suggested that he call her back the next day with the answers - as the situation was not a 911 that required immediate action.

In previous meetings with this manager I'd suggested that he look at challenges as an opportunity for growth. I told him he should ask God what he was supposed to learn when he encountered a troubling person or situation. After all, frustration and challenges can be our best teachers. We seldom grow when we're sitting around filing our nails or swatting flies

And the nice thing in looking at life from this perspective is we become proactive. Instead of letting people or emotions run over us, we instead welcome these opportunities for growth.

And even if we can find no growth or lessons in our challenges, we’ve approached them in a low-stress manner. And we’re able to save our energy for the next opportunity or lesson that God presents us.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Father's Dilemma

A prominent professional - whom I've known for several years - calls to talk about his heroin addict daughter who’s relapsed after more than a year.

His voice trembles as he tells me about her changes of behavior. Not showing up for work. Avoiding his phone calls. Sudden calls for financial help for “emergencies” like car repairs or overdue bills. Her pattern has changed. Things are missing from the house. He tries to ignore the gnawing feeling in his gut that says things aren't right. Then the paraphernalia in the bathroom, the burnt spoon, and the cotton balls. There’s no longer doubt.

A call to me and a question: what to do?

And because he’s a friend it’s hard to tell him what works. Don’t enable her. Make her leave your house. Get her to detox.

He agrees these are good ideas. But in the forefront of his mind is the specter of fear that if he gets tough he might not see her again. That she might be found somewhere dead from an overdose.

There’s no easy way to give him advice because these are hard choices for a parent to make. So I share with him that when everyone stopped helping me, enabling me, I started seeing the guy in the mirror as the problem.

Only then did I start on the path to recovery.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Untimely Passing

A young client is torn with grief when she learns that her boyfriend of many years died the night before with a needle in his arm.

Others in the program, including staff, offer condolences and make efforts to support and comfort her.

For those of us in recovery there’s no starker reminder of the deadly disease that lives within us. When people in their twenties suddenly die because they were unable to find the path to recovery the event reminds us of who we are: addicts with a deadly disease that is – at least for the moment – being held at bay because of our efforts to recover.

Hopefully we’ll all do more than pay passing attention to this young man’s untimely death. And perhaps renew our efforts to rebuild our lives on a rock-solid foundation of recovery.

Our heart goes out to those who were close to this young man.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Find something Good

A twenty-something client shares an inventory during a counseling session in which he’s pretty hard on himself.

He’s done little with his life. He’s only finished high school. He feels guilty about the death of a young relative who died at a young age; guilt over the way he treated her at the end. He has no job skills or training. He feels aimless. He’s tired of being a burden to others.

So how does one encourage a client with this kind of resume? This bleak outlook?

In the case of this client he mentioned gratitude to a family member who’s supported him emotionally and financially for years during the chronic illness that limits his activities. This family member has helped him navigate the medical bureaucracy and spent major money on treatment. And the expression of gratitude was so heartfelt that he teared-up as he spoke.

I pointed out that in spite of the negativity he expressed in his inventory, his gratitude in itself is a positive emotion that could enhance his life. A touchstone that might help him see some potential in other areas.

It seemed like he listened.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Options

A mother, whose son is soon to be paroled from State Prison, sent an email asking us to help him receive treatment.

When I asked if they had insurance she said she didn't. However, she still wanted him to receive treatment.

And this is often a dilemma for family members who want help for their loved ones. Because they’ve never dealt with these issues they don’t seem to understand that providing treatment is an expensive proposition.

TLC Outpatient Clinic has half a dozen professionals, including doctors, who are well-paid for their services. Then there’s a support staff of therapists, behavioral technicians, drivers, cooks, and security staff who help care for the clients. About a dozen people in all.

In an era of entitlement programs and government care sometimes people think treatment might be free. Or at least at minimal cost. But that’s not the case. We have to pay employees. And, of course, we pass those costs on to our patients.

The communication with her ended when I referred her son to our half-way house program – where thousands of addicts and alcoholics have learned to live sober over the past 21 years.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Strong Woman

An elderly woman stopped me as I was leaving my daughter's church in California this weekend and said "Thank you for raising such a wonderful daughter. She's such a blessing to us all."

I smiled and thanked her. But because it was neither the time nor the place – or even necessary – I didn't burden her with the fact that I had little to do with how my daughter turned out.

During her formative years - and into her teens - I was so caught up in my heroin and alcohol addiction that I was usually locked up somewhere. And when I was free, I either showed up and played Santa Claus or else didn't show up much at all.

In my absence she was raised in a very challenging environment of drug dealers and users. But somehow she never succumbed. She told me that she promised herself that once she was an adult she’d never live the way she was raised.

And she hasn't. She's served the Lord for most of her adult life. She never dabbled in drugs and alcohol. She never slept around. For many years she was a single parent of my oldest granddaughter and dedicated her time and energy to raising her until she left home.

Eventually she married my son-in-law and they had two children of their own. She has a side business as an aesthetician, runs a women's ministry, works a full-time job, and nurtures her two youngest children.

While I’d like to take credit for how she turned out, she became who she was only through her own strength of character and the grace of God.

And I’m so proud of her.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Re-wiring the Brain

When thinking of things for which to be grateful one needn't look far.

It can be as simple as having fresh air to breathe. Having a job. Good health. Friends to call on. Being alive one more day. Being trusted by others. Having a good marriage. Enjoying nature or a sunset.

The list goes on and on…

The point of looking at life through the lens of gratitude is that it changes our attitude. Instead of joining those who think the world sucks, we carve a new path by living in a world of bounty and joy and infinite possibility.

Looking at life with gratitude is a skill we can develop to keep us happy most of the time. Research has shown that viewing life this way re-wires our brain structure for happiness

Our outlook brings us quality – or lack of quality – depending upon where we focus. Living in gratitude will continue to add to our happiness.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Words of Respect

As a general rule, if we talk to our clients like we talk to our boss we’ll have no communication problems at all.

This comes up periodically at TLC when clients complain about being “disrespected.”

When we get these kinds of complaints more than a few times we usually pull the manager into the corporate office. Then we suggest that he or she talk to the clients the same way they talk to us – their supervisors.

And if that doesn’t work we usually find ourselves looking for another manager.

Something each human desires, even the most uncooperative and problematic, is to be treated with dignity and respect. And for a manager to last at TLC that’s something he or she must practice.

I recently dealt with a client who was a constant problem. He was angry and fearful. The managers were over-reacting to his behavior. And, as a result, their communication with him broke down because of their frustration.

I talked with the client for awhile – all the time treating him with dignity and respect – even though his behavior didn’t merit it. Within days, he did a complete turnaround.

Sometimes a few simple words, delivered with respect, make all the difference.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

More Gratitude

While in Orange County, California this weekend to speak at a church anniversary function we stopped at a nursing home to visit my former brother-in-law - who also was a long time drinking and drugging buddy in the sixties and seventies.

He’s been in the home for ten years, after suffering a stroke while in jail on a drug charge. Since the stroke, he’s been confined to a wheelchair and seldom gets away from the facility where he’s living

While visiting him is a nostalgic journey back to the seventies, it’s also a lesson in gratitude. Spending time visiting him in the midst of the suffering and sick is a stark reminder that many in the world face serious challenges

As I left there it was with a sense of gratitude that I chose a different path so many years ago. After seeing him I realize that I have no issues at all in my life.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Reason to stay Sober

At a treatment program graduation this evening a client who is returning home to a northern state said that he wanted to "stay sober for his three-year-old daughter."

While some purists might question staying sober for others, I've always been a firm believer that anything that helps us stay clean and sober is positive. I see people get sober for love. Because of religious beliefs. For health. And to me, none are bad reasons.

Perhaps if we get sober for another person it helps us rise beyond our own petty self-interest. We realize that we have a responsibility to someone besides ourselves. And this can be very healing for a self-centered, self-absorbed addict or alcoholic who's never considered anything but their own self gratification.

Often we rampage through life in total disregard of others. So it was refreshing to see this graduate put the interests of his child at the forefront.

We wish this client well and know that if he keeps his promise he’ll enjoy a fruitful life.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Growing in the Program

Some clients – as they deal with drug or alcohol issues – find themselves in the grip of a new addiction: eating.

I've seen this many times over the past 20 years where a client gains 50 or even 100 pounds. Some seem to view eating as entertainment or recreation. Then one day they realize they have a new issue.

Then I witness as they start fighting a new battle with weight loss – which is a serious and difficult challenge for anyone.

Because I’m a vegan whose biggest problem is gaining weight it's difficult to relate. I realized a long time ago that if I eat too much of anything I just plain don't feel good. And I didn't get into recovery to feel bad about anything.

We suggest that they make healthy choices. For some, if they're motivated, we offer gym memberships so that they can also exercise.

I suggest that they don't look at food as entertainment or recreation. If they look at food as fuel and nourishment for their body - which is a sacred gift from God - then they might think differently about it.

I also suggest they look into the health benefits of a plant-based diet, which is explored in great detail at foodmatters.tv or view the video “Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.”

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mother's Pain

A lengthy email from a distraught mother is full of fear and anguish. So much so that instead of responding by email I call her.

She thanks me for calling and tells a familiar story about her 26 year old son who’s in the grips of a heroin addiction.

He was in a religious program for over a year and stayed clean for about three months after leaving. Then he picked up again.

Like many parents she’s full of guilt and anxiety. What’s the right thing to do? She’s afraid he might take his own life if things get much tougher. A friend of his died of an overdose a few weeks back. They have no money, nor do they have insurance. Fear has her mind working overtime.

She says the family probably enabled him to some degree. And I tell her that happens a lot because most parents don’t know what to do when they find out their child is a sick addict. The instruction manual that came with the baby didn't say anything about drug addiction. So how could she know what to do?

On top of his addiction the boy has no training or job skills. I tell her that fits right into the TLC client profile.

I encourage her to send him to detox. And then if he still wants help, send him to our halfway house. If he’s truly willing we can teach him the basics of recovery, help him find a job, maybe even get him into school after a while.

She’s going to tell him about us.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Changing...

A client called late one night full of anger because a manager had disciplined him for his behavior. He wanted to see me first thing in the morning to sort out what had happened, implying that he wanted my help to set the manager straight.

I told him I’d see him at my office as soon as I arrived.

However, when I awakened the next morning there was a text message from the client, apologizing for calling me so late the night before. And the message went to say that that he and the manager had talked and that everything was okay – that he realized that he’d been acting like a “dope fiend.”

This is great progress for this client. Because when he first arrived he was full of anger and ego and didn't want anyone telling him anything. He hated group. He disliked his counselor. He hated his probation officer. He was so frustrated that he seemed like he might burst into tears at any moment.

The idea that he was able to evaluate his behavior and admit that he was wrong gives hope that he’ll be able to continue learning how to live sober.

And that’s what our clinic and our program is all about.



Monday, August 5, 2013

New Therapy

Hypnotherapy is a new service we offer to clients at TLC Outpatient Clinic.

So far, a handful have undergone hypnosis to help them quit smoking or chewing tobacco. To date these clients are 100% successful.

And of the four managers who’ve participated, three of them are smoke-free - one for five weeks. Those who’ve participated in anger management, stress-reduction, and weight-loss hypnosis report progress in those areas.

Of those who don't participate, many are skeptical about whether hypnosis works because their only exposure is what they’ve seen on stage or on television.

To them I explain that hypnosis is really self hypnosis. I ask them to think of me as the passenger in the car with the map - while they’re the ones doing the driving. I’m only a guide, giving them directions.

When I use this analogy they find the idea easier to grasp.

It’s a blessing to help clients stop smoking – a habit that kills 440,000 Americans each year. More than die from all other diseases combined, including plane and automobile accidents, suicides and homicides.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

How to be Happy

If we addicts need anything, it’s the key to happiness.

So a good source of information for us is most anything by Shawn Achor, one of the world’s leading researchers on the subject of happiness.

His TED lecture on happiness on Netflix got over 3.8 million views. He currently has a new lecture on PBS called “The Happiness Advantage.” He also has happiness books on Amazon, among them “The Happiness Advantage..."

In his Netflix lecture he describes five important ingredients for those of us seeking positive change:

  • For thirty days write down three things for which we have gratitude.
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Random acts of kindness

As an example, his research shows that if we take two minutes each morning to write down three positives that within 30 days our brains become rewired for happiness. We learn to scan the world for the positive instead of succumbing to negative influences in the news and the world around us.

Often in the rooms of recovery gratitude is the topic. Now even science supports gratitude as key to better living.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

One More Time

The voice on the phone was tiny, hesitant, and seemed far away.

Even though she'd left several months ago in a fit of anger and relapsed, she realized that the one place she'd gotten help was at TLC. And she'd stayed sober and clean longer with us then she had at any other period of her life. And because she'd gone home and relapsed she was reaching out once more.

Sometimes when situations like this arise with a client who's relapsed and been problematic and wants to return it's tempting to say no. It’s easy to suggest that they go somewhere else because we know they might bring the same issues when they return.

But the flip side is that we've turned clients away because of their history with us. Then we hear they died of a drug overdose in a field or an alley. And in our sadness we wonder if letting them come back one more time might have made a difference. We'll never know.

But who wants to take the chance when we can always discharge them again if they're unmanageable? It's not an easy call. But where we usually draw the line with bad behavior is if the behavior is affecting the other clients to the point where it interferes with their recovery.

Hopefully this client will do better this time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Changes

A client who was arrogant and uncooperative six months ago when he arrived at the outpatient clinic, graduated today. And the humility with which he spoke at the ceremony indicated how much he'd changed in those six months.

When he first arrived he knew virtually everything. He knew what he needed. He knew how to deal with his probation officer. He needed to hang out with his girlfriend instead of being at groups. Most of us believed, that with his attitude, it wouldn't be long before his probation officer took him back to jail. And a few times he got serious consequences for his behavior.

On one occasion he was moved to another facility for a while, to a part of the program that is much more rigorous than the outpatient treatment clinic. And that might have been a watershed moment for him, living in those circumstances. Because when he returned he was a different person. Even though he appeared reluctant, he did what was asked of him and started making progress.

Today it was great to see him graduate. His success shows us that we need never give up on even the most problematic of clients - no matter how frustrating and unpleasant it can be to deal with them.

We wish him well in his new endeavors.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The "Simple Life"

Clients in aftercare were asked to describe their dream life.  What would it look like?

The facilitator was surprised at the answers. While he thought they might dream of owning Lamborghinis or enjoying lifestyles of the rich and famous, that wasn't the case. Instead, their dreams were pretty mundane. Almost all said they wanted a "simple life."

And the simple life involved having a wife or significant other, someone they could "grow old" with. And a home. Plus a job that would let them support themselves.

The facilitator pointed out that there were probably thousands of people within a few miles who were living this very life. After all, the so-called average person lives exactly this lifestyle if he or she chooses to do so.

The idea that most of the addicts and alcoholics in this group have this vision illustrates the challenges that we face with our addictions. Because most addicts and alcoholics, until we get into recovery, have only one dream: and that's to be as drunk or as high as possible for as long as possible. And the idea that we can quiet that demons within and escape to a simple middle-class life seems almost impossible for some of us. Because it's something many of us have never been able to achieve.

The key to the so-called simple life is hidden in plain sight. We find it in the rooms of recovery.