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, May 31, 2014

Birthday Reflections

Today I'm celebrating 75 years on planet earth.  And I'm grateful for having been around this long.

At one time – when I was in my 30s – I thought I wouldn't make it past my mid-40s.

The key thing to which I attribute my longevity is that I got sober going on 24 years ago, at 51.  Had I not done that I wouldn't have survived long at all.

The rest of the equation is that I live a healthy lifestyle.

·        I'm happily married to a lovely woman who takes good care of me. 

·        I have many friends and family who show me much love. 

·        I still work – albeit not out in 100° digging ditches – somewhere around 50 hours a week. 

·        For 23 years I've spent at least six hours a week in some type of fitness routine, whether it be weightlifting, bicycling, swimming, elliptical or some other kind of aerobics. 

·        I eat a vegan diet, rarely consuming even such animal products as eggs or cheese.

·         I have a mission in life, which is helping other addicts and alcoholics rebuild their lives – something I've been doing for 23 years.

·         I do Transcendental Meditation twice a day.

·         I write and read each day, and always am about three books behind.

·         I thank God each day for my many blessings and try to follow his path.

·         Gratitude rules my life.

Thank all of you for your good wishes
Click here to send John an email

Friday, May 30, 2014

Offering our Best

Because we’ve had a few clients relapse over the past few weeks staff members wonder what’s going on. Why the increase? What can we do about it?

Should we change policies? Add more services? What can we do better? Several questions and ideas flow around the table. Because we want success for our clients it’s heartbreaking when one makes the irrational choice to use again.

A challenging reality for us is that we’re an outpatient - rather than an inpatient - program. Because clients live next door in our sober living, they have freedom to come and go - within certain guidelines.

So those who aren’t serious about recovery sometimes revert to old behavior and pick up. But because of our testing program they only last a minute before we catch them.

One staff member reminds us to stay focused. We’ll always have a few clients who aren’t done yet, who have no intention to change.

We must offer our best to all the clients and hope that even the reluctant among them might get the message.

Click here to leave a comment

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The New Baby

A young man came to the treatment program with a goal in mind. And the goal was to show child protective services that he was in recovery and would be a fit parent for his child.

And for a while he did well. Over several months he had only one minor slip. As a result, he was building a history that showed him in a good light.

Then he became enamored with a woman who was also in recovery. At that point, it seems his priorities changed. All he talked about in counseling sessions was how much he loved this woman. She became the focal point of his life, his new Higher Power. He couldn't wait to complete his program to move in with her.

And while he paid lip service, It appeared he'd forgotten his goal of getting custody of his child

As his completion date grew near, he needed a report for child protective services. But, when he received it he wasn't happy with it.

Because the treatment team recommended that he spend another 60 days in treatment to get a better footing in recovery.

He disappointed staff members when he ignored the recommendation and left to be with his new sweetheart.

Click here to send John an email

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Half Measures

A client who's relapsed more than once drops a clean urine sample. In his case, though, that's not good because the sample is far above the temperature it's supposed to be. So we ask the client for another sample. And this time it's observed.

But he says he can’t pee. No problem, we'll wait. After an hour or so he's able to give another sample. This time, the test is positive for THC and other substances.

When we tell him he has a couple of options, either move to the Roosevelt house or leave, he wants to think about it. As if he had a basis for negotiation.

After he talks to his girlfriend they call their parents for money for another place to live.

We have a certain percentage of clients like this. For some reason they get into a treatment program yet want to get high.

And many of us who've been in recovery for a while find this strange. After all, what's the point of getting into recovery and still sneak around and get high? In other words, why use half measures?

If a person wants to get high they should do so. Why make a pretense? Why waste time in a recovery program, which is a stressful place to use drugs?

Most people I know who are in recovery a while didn't do so because they thought it was a good idea. They got sober because life kicked their butt and left them nowhere to turn.

In the 12-step literature it talks about "half measures." I believe the same should hold true for using. I think people should get high as long as they can so they can find out what works – and what doesn't.

Then maybe they can move into recovery.

Click here to leave a comment

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Getting it Right

We hear reports about clients who’ve moved on from the program. Not official reports, mind you. Just anecdotal stuff about how they’re doing.

Of course, most of the reports are rumors. This guy’s doing well. Or this person’s getting high. This man’s back with his family and has a job. Or this woman’s going to school. A couple that fell in love in treatment and moved in together has started using – as predicted.  Crumbs of information.  Bits and pieces. Stories we’re not sure about.

Sometimes we hear from the clients directly. Usually they call when they’ve relapsed and want help. They’re remorseful and penitent. Some have picked up drug charges. One almost died of an overdose. They didn’t use the tools they picked up while with us. They want to try again.

They think we have special powers because we predicted what would happen if they didn’t stay clean.

But, we’re not clairvoyant.  We’re simply sharing our experience with them. Telling them what happened to us until we got it right.

Click here to leave a comment

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Conundrum

A woman applying via email to get into our treatment program begins by listing her challenges. And there are so many that the list goes on for over 300 words. And it's all one sentence.

She has migraines. She has fibromyalgia. She has a crushed disc that's bulging. She has psychological issues, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and so forth. My head hurts when I read it..

To combat pain she uses benzos, or prescription painkillers. Or street drugs when she can't fill her prescription

Also, she’s living in a car with her 20-year-old son. They're homeless for a while because she can't find a place that will accept her, her son, and her pet cat, Fluffy.

And her question for me is: will we accept her "therapy" cat. She hasn't found a program that accepts cats. And the cat is her only friend, the most important part of her life.

I answer that we can accept her - but the cat has to live elsewhere. We have a policy about pets for a few reasons – one being that some of our clients have pet allergies.

While I have compassion for this woman, I'm left wondering about priorities.

Click here to leave a comment

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Thanks for the Reminder

At Circle K for a coffee this morning and there’s a panhandler. His clothes are grimy and sweat stained. His hair matted and oily. His face says he needs a drink.

I'm grateful because I’m no longer him. I don’t need a bottle of wine. I'm not pacing on the corner nervous and jonesing, waiting for a delivery.

I'm not waking from a fitful sleep, plotting on something to steal. Or checks to forge. Maybe go shoplifting.

No longer do I fear a knock on the door, wondering if it's someone I ripped off. Or a parole officer I’ve been dodging. Or maybe a task force serving a warrant.

Today I'm grateful for peace in my life. I have people around who love me. I have a wife who's happy because I’m sober and clean and loving. The blessings flow.

No cloud of gloom and demoralization follows me.  I live in joy and freedom.

As I leave the store I give him a five to thank him for the reminder.

Click here to leave a comment. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Promises

A client is ecstatic because it looks like he's going to adopt the stepdaughter he's been raising for a few years. He and his wife have been going through court procedures for a while. Now it's down to the finish line. And everything looks positive.

But this is less a story about adoption and more a story of what happens when we're in recovery.

At one time this man was like most clients who come to TLC. His resume included a history of drugs and jails and being irresponsible. He was into self gratification. He ripped off those who trusted him. Not to be judgmental, but his future didn't look too bright to the rest of us.

Then something happened. One day the light went on. He started working the program - the 12-step program. And things started unfolding for him.

He's had a job with the same company for a few years. He was recently married and he and his wife have a child between them. He lives in a nice suburban home. He takes vacations once in a while. He’s experiencing happiness.

The miracle in his life can happen for any of us who are addicts. We just have to start down the path of recovery.

Click here to leave a comment

Friday, May 23, 2014

No Compromise

A woman's writes us about her stepdaughter, who's been sober for over three years. Then she goes on to describe her challenges in staying sober.

Among them was having to blow into it a locking device on her car for two years. At times the device would malfunction or say something like "not human." And when that happened her vehicle wouldn't start. Then she'd be stuck on a work site, often outside of the phone service area.

On top of that, for a time she lived with a man she'd met at a 12-step meeting. They worked and lived together until he started drinking again. At that point she told him to move on, continuing to stay sober herself. And she no longer sees him.

The stepmother marvels at the step daughter's determination in sticking to her sobriety. And the key words she used were that "she will not compromise."

We all could apply these words when facing challenges in recovery.

Because each of us must be uncompromising when life throws us tough situations. For us, the most important thing is our sobriety.

If we surrender that, we pretty much have given up on life itself.

Click here to leave a comment

Thursday, May 22, 2014

R.I.P.

Perry Eason 09/09/1948- 05/20/2014

He was a client at TLC Roosevelt for over 2 1/2 years. He passed away from stage 4 lung cancer.

Three weeks before he passed, he told his caregiver that when he passes to please thank TLC.

He said this was the longest he'd stayed clean. And he passed away clean. He said he made his peace with God because of this and he was not scared anymore.

His friends at TLC wish him well and God speed on this next leg of his journey. 

Because he didn't run away when things got tough he serves as an example for the rest of us.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Carrying the Past

A middle-aged client speaks in group about carrying the burdens of his past. He walked prison yards for years due to his addictions. And when he wasn’t locked up he was often homeless.

He spends a lot of time reflecting on his history, sorting through the crimes he committed. The opportunities he missed.  The relationships he ruined.

He wonders if could he have done something different. Could he have changed his life and not wasted all his time in self-gratification?

This client is characteristic of many addicts. Though it gains us nothing, we waste time sifting through the wreckage of our past, looking for meaning.

But the only meaning we find is that this is something we don’t want to do again. That’s it. That’s the only value in digging into our bad memories. We see this moldering wreckage as something we no longer want to live with.

If we do this a lot we become depressed about the path we were on. As though we made a decision to grow up as addicts and alcoholics! We started out having fun and wanting to belong. Then we crossed a line and got lost in unfamiliar territory.. Our disease took over and we paid a heavy price.

Instead of his depressing reflection, someone suggests that this addict live in the moment. The past is dangerous territory, a place that most of us addicts will never be completely comfortable with.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

1401 Days

1401 days ago I set out to write this blog.

And I'm pleased to say I haven't missed a posting since I started in the summer of 2010.

My original goal was to post 1000 blogs as a personal challenge.

But being the addict that I am when I reached 1000 somehow I was unable to stop.

It sometimes is a challenge to complete a blog each day. At times I've been on vacation where there wasn't a very good Internet connection. And other times I've been in the hospital. Or under the weather. I've always been able to complete a blog, even if I had to do it on my cell phone - which isn't easy.

How long will I keep going? Not sure. I'll probably stop when I feel there's no longer any purpose.

Once in a while someone says the blog helps them understand what we do at TLC. Or it gave them the encouragement to keep going.

That’s enough for me.

Click here to leave a comment

Monday, May 19, 2014

Successful Women

For months our women’s houses, all 60 beds, have been full most of the time.

In response, we're opening 40 beds in North Phoenix. To protect anonymity and discourage stalkers we don't publish the address.

Our women's program is successful for a reason: dedicated and caring managers.

Visitors to the Mesa property enter an atmosphere of peace and calm. Clients show love and concern for one another. They take pride in the property - which is why the grounds are impeccable.

After 23 years in this business I know that what happens at this house isn't by accident. It's because the managers teach clients to behave and care for one another. And they do it by example.

Everything that goes on there is a reflection of management.

The women doing this job work long hours with not a lot of time off.  It’s not for money. They could make more at McDonald's. They instead do it for service. And for their own recovery.

Anyone serving in this field has the energy to succeed at most anything. But where else can one work and see people change before their eyes?

Click here to leave a comment

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dreaming

Over the years I've had a recurring dream. Or maybe I should call it a nightmare.

And it's not like nightmares others tell me about. Some people tell me about nightmares about falling. Or that people are chasing them. Perhaps they’re using drugs or drinking. Maybe they're drowning. Or they're lost. But mine aren't like that.

My dreams go like this: I'm living in a bad neighborhood. I don’t have a job. I don't have a car. The landlord's about to evict me. Sometimes in the dream I'll get into contact with a former employer or business associate and ask for help. Right before I wake up I'm feeling depressed and hopeless.

Then I awaken and find it's not real, that I was having a nightmare. And I feel good because I realize that I have the things I've acquired since I got sober many years ago – including a couple of jobs. My cars are still in the driveway. And my wallet's on the nightstand.

And of course, being a drug addict, I wonder where these dreams come from after years of successful recovery.

Could it be from my underprivileged childhood where I thought everyone had more than I? Does it come from my insecure life as a drug user, where every time I turned around I lost everything and went to jail?

Maybe these unresolved memories bubble up from my subconscious to play themselves out in my dreams. And perhaps – no matter how long I live a stable and sober life – they'll never completely disappear.

I suppose that, no matter how long we're clean, we bear some residual effects from the paths we were on.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Changing an Attitude

A client who’s regularly getting in trouble because of his anger asks for suggestions. He says that instead of thinking things through he flies off the handle. He says what’s on his mind at the time. Then later he has to apologize. Or else he gets consequences for his behavior.

Other times he may not have an outburst, but his anger shows in sarcasm and tone.

I suggested that he needs to change his underlying attitude toward others. After all, no matter what someone else says or believes they also deserve respect because they’re human beings.

If I view others - no matter how unworthy they may seem - with compassion, then I’ll treat them better. And when we start treating others better they sometimes transform before our eyes.

I showed him in the 12-step literature where it says “love and tolerance of others is our code.” If we practice what this sentence tells us we’ll find our anger dwindling – maybe even disappearing.

Click here to leave a comment

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sad Mother

I've been managing halfway houses and treatment programs for my 23 years in recovery. And yet I don't think I'll ever become used to the sad calls that come in from those seeking help.

And one came today from a mother in a Southern state.

Her twenty-something son had been using drugs and alcohol since his mid teens.

He's living in the car she loaned him because he's homeless. His stepfather booted him out of the house over missing property. He's constantly in trouble because he's hanging out - and using drugs with - an underage girl.

The son recently left on a trip to another state with three friends. Before leaving, they picked up drugs to hold them over. And before they got far, one of the friends died of an overdose.

She told of loaning him money. And of renting motel rooms for the night so he could take a shower and sleep in a bed. There was resignation in her voice. But I could tell that, in spite of it all, she still loved her child. Even though – in spite of her best efforts - he'd turned into an unrecognizable creature.

I offered our help. Hopefully, she'll be able to convince him to accept it.

Click here to leave a comment

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Acceptance

I've never read the "Operating Manual for the Human Being." But if such a book existed, I don't think there'd be a chapter entitled "We're Always Going to Feel Good."

Yet many addicts and alcoholics I know – especially among our clients – act as if they must feel good all the time. And if they don't, they're going to need a pill or drug or drink to get there.

Now, mind you, I'm one who likes to feel good myself. But I'm also realistic enough to know that life has its ups and down.

Often it seems that some in new recovery take their emotional temperature every few minutes. And if it's not exactly in the right spot, they have an issue. They might request a visit to the doctor, rather than waiting it out. Or maybe even take a trip to the psychiatric hospital.

The solution is to realize that - in spite of our best efforts - things aren't going to be always the way we want. And that's when it comes to acceptance.

In the 12-step literature it says that "acceptance is the answer to all my problems today." That phrase works for any of us who apply it.

And while it might seem counter-intuitive, there's power in accepting things exactly as they are. And that especially applies when we're dealing with our feelings.

Click here to leave a comment

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Primary Issue

Sometimes clients seem unsure about wanting recovery.

As an example, a client who wanted a job since he walked in the doors a couple of months ago finally landed one a few weeks ago. When he first came in he said he’d had enough treatment. He just needed to make money. He already knew enough about recovery.

Yet, since he’s gone to work he’s failed tests on more than one occasion. The first time he said he was at a company party and "accidentally" sipped an alcoholic drink. And because he wasn’t certain it contained alcohol he had to try it again to be sure. Yeah, right.

This is a man who's been in at least two treatment programs in six months. He has a family who cares enough to underwrite his treatment. The mother of his children is raising them without his help. Yet, he returns to his addiction in a short time.

He's a glowing example of what happens when addicts forget their primary issue: their addictions.

One reason I go on and on about jobs and relationships is because they're not our problem.

While it might seem an oversimplification our only challenge is staying clean and sober. If we do that everything else works out.

Click here to leave a comment

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Look at Positives

A client who's been homeless much of his life shares in group. He’s negative. He's never succeeded at much of anything. And he doesn't believe he has a future. His outlook is so gloomy that it permeates the room, leaving heaviness in the air.

Finally the facilitator asks how long he's had this outlook. It's been forever.

The facilitator gives feedback. He suggests that it would be as easy for the client to look on the positive side, rather than looking negatively at his life.

We often deal with clients like this. They spent much of their life using drugs or alcohol. They've been in prison. Or on the streets. They no longer have a relationship with their families.

Their entire lives are a series of setbacks and failures. When they look back they have nothing to feel good about, a dismal resume.

We suggest that clients like this learn to live in the present. Maybe start building on their current sobriety as something to feel good about.

Once we get a habit of looking at the positives – no matter how small –we've taken a step toward changing our focus and our future.

Click here to leave a comment

Monday, May 12, 2014

Praise for Mothers

Many years ago, before I became enlightened, I had an attitude toward mothers. Now don't get me wrong. I loved the idea of motherhood. I loved my dear departed mother. I was grateful to her for standing by me during my active disease, prison terms, and the rest of the mess.

But I still had an attitude. The attitude was this: I couldn't understand why some mothers lamented about how difficult it is to raise children. What was the big deal about feeding them, bathing them, and sending them off to school? Piece of cake. But eventually I understood. And on a deep level.

It happened like this. When my youngest daughter was less than five years old I had custody of her every other week until she became school-age. When it came time for her to go to school I decided I wanted her full-time. So after an 18 month battle the court awarded me full custody. So, here I was, a single parent working in the corporate world. And a full-time father to a first grader.

When I had her full-time I developed a proper regard for mothers and what they do.

For one thing I had the idea that when you told kids to do something they did it. Wrong. For example, I would expect her to sleep in her bed, rather than on the couch in front of the TV. After a few frustrating months of failed negotiations, a friend with children asked me what difference does it make where she falls asleep? And really it didn't.

It used to be a mad rush in the morning getting her ready for school. I'd braid her hair, fix her breakfast, and get her clothing ready. One day a brilliant mother gave me an idea. First she said I wasn't too smart or something like that. Then she asked why I didn't bathe my daughter and get her clothing ready the night before? I tried it. And sure enough, it worked. The early morning stress went away.  Hmm...

Another concern was how little she ate. Instead of eating, she'd play with a color book. Or trot My Little Pony across the table while her food got cold. One day, in frustration, I threw My Little Pony across the room, breaking off one of its legs. And, I never heard the end of it.  For what seemed like years, when she got angry at me, she would holler "and you broke my Little pony!"  And, in spite of my frustration she never starved or developed malnutrition.

So mothers, today I understand exactly what you do. And I appreciate it. My 10 years as a single parent left me chastised. With the advice of several mothers I raised a daughter who today is a successful human being.

Thank you.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

H.A.L.T.

In recovery it's important that we learn to keep balance.

In the program we often hear the acronym H.A.L.T., which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.

When we experience an excess of any of these states we're not enjoying our recovery – in essence our lives.

So how do we monitor ourselves in our busy workaday world?

One way is to develop a routine. To keep from becoming hungry we eat something in the morning, which many don’t do because they're not hungry. But we need to put something in our stomachs lest we find ourselves becoming irritable at small things.  Maybe we keep snacks at our workplace, or have cereal before leaving the house.

To avoid becoming tired there are several things we can do. One is to exercise. A regular exercise routine keeps our stress down. It gives us more energy and vigor to go throughout the day. We can begin meditating. Or taking naps. All of these can make a difference and keep balance in our day.

It's one thing to quit drinking and using drugs. The next step is to learn to enjoy our recovery a day at a time, as much as possible.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Passing the Test

A client who started college after he was with us for some time sent an uplifting email. In it, he said that he'd stopped by my office, but I wasn't there.. Anyway, he had come by to tell me that he'd passed his college math exams.

It's always gratifying to hear about success. However, in this man's case, it's especially pleasing.

For he had come from mean crack neighborhoods to TLC. His resume included years in prisons and jails. He finally came to us when he realized his lifestyle wasn't getting him anywhere.

He began working hard to change his life. He started attending meetings. He found a sponsor. When things got tough he summoned the perseverance to keep on.

As to the math classes, they were part of his college curriculum. And they gave him the most difficulty. Yet he kept on, utilizing the help of tutors and studying hard.

We like hearing of his success because it proves that our mission is working.

Click here to leave a comment

Friday, May 9, 2014

Better Health

A big step in restoring health happens when we address our primary issue: our addictions.

Many of us took this step only when life forced us to change. We lost our job. Maybe we lost our home. Our health was failing. Perhaps we picked up a DUI. Maybe we separated from our mate. In any event, things were bad. Then we decided to change.

So we cruise along for a while in recovery. We go to meetings. We get a sponsor. And life becomes better, much better. Our appearance improves.

But many of us don't go much beyond our recovery in dealing with our health. While it's a great thing that we put down drugs and alcohol, there's more to living healthy than just not drinking or using.

Many addicts come in all sucked up because they haven't eaten for a while. So they make up for lost time. And before long it begins to show. It's not uncommon for those who come to us to gain 15 or 20, and sometimes, as much as 100 pounds within a couple years. They continue to smoke. And most don't exercise.

We have clients who've been with us a while who develop either adult-onset diabetes or heart problems. And in most cases these are lifestyle issues, as opposed to something they have no control over.

One of the more challenging issues we face is how to help people with health issues. Many don't feel they have the power to change. They've never been into fitness or nutrition so changing anything about their health seems an insurmountable challenge. Their mode of living has been all about self gratification – anything involving self-denial or self-discipline runs counter to that.

However, there are good books on how to improve health, including how to reverse diabetes. Click here for one of them

Click here to leave a comment




Thursday, May 8, 2014

Medication?

In a society where there's a pill for everything, some addicts play the game well. Many who come to us are- or have been - on multiple medications. I remember one confused older gentleman a few years ago who was on 22 different prescriptions.

They speak of their conditions as if they were living entities – as if they were separate from themselves. They use terms like "my depression." Or my "ADHD." "My bulimia." "My eating disorder."  Some find identity in these conditions.

And they have the lingo down pat. Multisyllabic names of medications roll off of their tongues. Some sound like pharmacists, they've used so many prescription medications over the years.

When they behave badly they often blame it on their medication.  They need more.  Or less.  Or a different kind.

It can be frustrating when dealing with recovering addicts who are on medication. Many request certain drugs because they know the effect. And the issue is that – while they may have a diagnosable condition – are they trying to control their anxiety or depression? Or are they making another vain attempt to escape reality? In other words, substituting one drug for another? We can only conjecture.

Is medication the best choice when one is trying to learn to live in recovery?

Click here to leave a comment

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Surprise

Yesterday, while filling in for another counselor, I had a session with a client I hadn't dealt with before. And since this was at the last minute I didn't have time to review his file. So I asked him to tell me about himself.

He began by saying how much he'd gotten from the program in the past 65 days. He was happy to be clean for a few months. He now had started a new career, and was doing well. In fact, he confided, he might soon have a more responsible position with better pay.

He talked enthusiastically about a new woman in his life, who also is in recovery. They have much in common, similar goals and tastes.

He also spoke of his family background and where he went to school.

And how about his recovery? He said sobriety was the foundation of his life today. And he knew that nothing else would work if he didn't stay sober and work the program.

When the session ended I congratulated him on his success and told him to keep up the good work. It was great to see an upbeat client - one experiencing success.

Afterward, before I prepared a report about the client's progress, I decided to clear my email.

To my surprise there was a message from the laboratory. The client I'd just seen had tested positive for alcohol a few days earlier.

Another reminder of the cunning and baffling disease we live with.

Click here to leave a comment

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Congratulations

Great news today from my youngest daughter, who's five weeks pregnant. This'll be her first child, an event that some of us thought would never happen.

I'm happy because now I'll have grandchildren from each of my children. And I'm happy for her because she's wanted a child for some time; I know she'll be a great mother.

For me this is an example of how blessings unfold in sobriety. When I got sober 23 years ago I just wanted to escape the pain. Nothing more. I didn't look down the road to predict the blessings that have come into my life.

Had anyone asked me to draw a picture of what my life would look like 20 years ahead it would have fit into a small frame.

And now a new member of the family adds to the blessings.

Click here to leave a comment

Monday, May 5, 2014

Amends to Ourselves

I was listening to an audio book about recovery while riding my bicycle yesterday morning. And I’m recommending it.

The author, Mel Ash, writes of the importance of step nine of the 12-step programs. He says it’s vital that we make amends. But that we should also make amends to the most important person of all: ourselves.

For one person we hurt while using alcohol and drugs was ourselves. Thus, our name must be on our amends list along with the others we harmed.

Some may feel we’re being egotists or self-serving by doing this.

But reflect for a moment. Many of us - me included - damaged our health for life. We robbed ourselves of time with our families. We were poor examples for our children. Many of us spent years in jail over drugs - this writer included.  The list of damages is long.

So when we come into the light of recovery we make amends to ourselves.

How so? For starters we forgive ourselves. And as part of the process we resolve to treat ourselves better.

We take advantage of the healing power of meetings. Perhaps we seek therapy to build our self-esteem. We reward ourselves when we do well. We quit beating ourselves down.

Click here to purchase or review "Zen of Recovery."

Click here to leave a comment

Sunday, May 4, 2014

No Threats

We discharged a client yesterday for threatening his roommate.

When I told him to pack his things and prepare to leave he protested.

At first he said he didn't threaten him. Then he said, "specifically, which threat are you talking about?"

I told him it didn't make any difference what threat I was talking about. I explained that we don't allow anyone to threaten anybody in the program.

Then he tried to bargain. He said that he’d "cooled down" and that there would be no more problems. He went on to explain that he has some things going on and he was just upset. But by then it was too late.

And it was too late because when one client threatens another it interferes with that person's recovery. And we make every effort to provide a place where clients feel physically and emotionally safe.

Plus, when someone makes a threat we never know if they intend to carry it out. Our responsibility is to protect everyone.

Click here to leave a comment

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Gratitude Message

A client from five years ago who left owing TLC money sends an envelope with a check. Included in the envelope are photos done on a home printer on typing paper.

One photo is a selfie of him with a big smile. Another is of his well-furnished living room. Still another shows the inside of his garage and captures his late model car and motorcycle.

Also there are a few lines of gratitude.

He thanks us for helping him "to realize that I can get through life sober and drug free." He also thanks the blue shirts who picked him up off the streets in Phoenix, "because without those guys I wouldn't be where I am today."

He closes by saying "I sent these words and photos to show what can happen when we let go and let sobriety have a shot at the steering wheel."

He’s another example of how our lives change once we get into recovery.

Click here to leave a comment

Friday, May 2, 2014

Another Attaboy

We recently received this postcard message from the parents of a successful graduate. I omitted the names to protect confidentiality.

"Dear John and Dawn –

Thank you for the care, concern, comfort, opportunities, guidance, direction and a holistic approach you have provided for our daughter in a quest for a healthful life. Your efforts have been tremendous.

We want you to know we will continue to support her in the best way we can in the future.

We pray she will reward all in the circle with life commencing and good behavior. Thank you"


Their daughter, a middle-aged professional, faced her share of challenges before graduating. She had problems sleeping. She broke a bone. Another client had a psychotic episode and threatened her.

But she stuck around. She used our services to her advantage. And today there are rewards in her life: She now has a relationship with her grown children. She has an apartment. She’s back at her old job.

Postcards like this are gratifying to the whole staff.

Click here to leave a comment

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A common Bond

A client tries to avoid responsibility when confronted about his behavior. He becomes argumentative. He plays semantic games. He tries to change the subject.

Then why is he here? He's here, he says, because he must complete treatment before he can return to school. As an aside, he reminds everyone in the room that he has a high IQ.

At that statement everyone rolls their eyes. Especially those who have some recovery time. Because what this client said about being intelligent is typical of those not yet fully in recovery.

Probably the most obvious trait of those who aren't serious is they tend to look at the differences between themselves and others. And that can be fatal..

One thing we often hear in the rooms is to not look at the differences between us. Instead, look at what we have in common: i.e. our disease.

This is important because when we look around the rooms we find people from different backgrounds. All economic levels. All ethnic groups. Educated and uneducated. We seem different.  But if we take a closer look what we see is people trying to save their lives. That's the common bond, what holds us together.

Until this client grasps the idea that we’re all in this together, he's going to have a rough time.

He may even have to do more research before he gets the idea.

Click here to leave a comment