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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Magic Pill

Family members often call or write, seeking the magic pill. The solution to addiction.

“How can I get him to stop?”

They’re at the end. They’re worn down. They can no longer support his (or her) drug habit. They’re emotionally wrung out watching their kid waste away. Slipping him money for a fix, a drink. Listening to the lies (or maybe truths) about drug dealers who are going to murder them if they don’t get paid. Watching their once innocent daughters get quietly dropped off by strange men in the morning darkness. Wondering if the midnight call is from jail. Or the hospital. Or the morgue

They ask for the magic pill. What to do? How can I stop the madness?

So I offer them what they crave. The pill that's come to us after years of research in the real life laboratory of addiction. The pill that’s now available to everyone.

It's pain. And it doesn’t cost money. But it’s not free, because one must find the courage to let their child - or whoever - suffer. Pay the consequences. Hurt. Parents must accept the pain of seeing their child sick. Angry at them. Maybe hating them.

Because nothing changes us addicts like pain. Going to jail. Living on the street. Shunned by everyone. Feeling nauseated to our core because we know what we need to do, but can’t find the balls to do it.

Let your child suffer. You may save his life. Kind of like when you spanked him when he ran into the street.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Complicit Parent

We tell a client to make a choice: either attend his individual and group sessions or leave the program.

The young man, who had been doing quite well for some time, decided his low-paying job was more important than recovery. And the baffling thing about it is that his father agrees with him.

It's baffling, because most parents choose to keep children in recovery rather than having them work a dead end job. Most, once they get past the enabling stage, realize the important thing is sobriety. Not a few dollars.

None of our clients came to us asking for help with employment. None came to us because they had problems making money. Most dragged themselves into our program because life as an addict wasn't working. They were beat up. Demoralized. Some were in trouble with the law.

None said "I need help getting my career on track" "I need job training." "My only problem is I can't find work." None of this came out of their mouths. Yet, after a few months of recovery, they convince their parents that the primary issue is employment.

While this may seem extreme, we look at every client as being in a life-threatening situation. We know the statistics about how many young people die with a needle in their arm. Or from an overdose of pills. Or from alcoholism.

For us it's as simple as that, recovery above all else.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Seeing the Signs

A long suffering mother has lived with her son's addiction long enough to know when he's starting to backslide.

He's not working. He's arguing with his girlfriend about custody of their child. He doesn't have a sponsor and isn't going to meetings. He's depressed all the time. Even though he's been clean for a few years she's starting to have anxiety because she sees the signs.

When she writes to ask about what to do she tells me what she thinks he should do. And her suggestions are right on.

She thinks he should get into counseling. He should start going back to meetings and find a sponsor. He should take any kind of a job he can get, even if it's flipping burgers. He should become responsible.

She said finances no longer allow her to help. Yet he makes her feel guilty because he says he's hungry and broke.

I suggest that she forget the guilt because she’s doing what she can. I hope she can convince him to follow through on her suggestions of what he should do.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Insanity Returns

A common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

I thought about this today when I heard of a former client’s exit plan. His plan is to first find employment. And then save enough money to move to a three-quarter house in another program – one that has few rules or guidelines.

The problem though, is that when he followed this plan a few months ago he had a needle in his arm within 24 hours of leaving TLC. As a result he nearly died of an overdose. He woke up in the hospital after a Good Samaritan called paramedics.

After leaving the hospital he came back to TLC, full of contrition. He said he planned to do better and listen to our suggestions.

And for a while he did. He went to groups. Found a sponsor. His attitude and demeanor were completely different. Once in a while even a little humility showed up.

His health improved and he often expressed gratitude that he didn’t succumb to the overdose that sent him to the hospital.

Then he comes up with the same plan.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chemical Imbalance?

A treatment client is never quite happy about the way she feels.

Almost every other week she requests to have her medication adjusted. She either wants more, or less. She can never quite find the right combination to keep her in balance.

She's been in enough treatment programs - and knows enough about symptoms - that she usually gets what she wants.

When she tires of her current drug she'll have a good story. She'll need more. It’s not working. It makes her too tired, or too wired. Or it makes her sleep too much. It makes her head hurt. Or stomach. It makes her dizzy. On and on..

If she can just find the right combination life will be okay

She doesn't seem to understand that she probably wasn't born with a drug deficiency. She doesn't quite grasp the idea that the goal of the treatment program is to help her live – as much as possible -drug and alcohol free.

Until she gets the message her recovery will always be precarious.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Missing Gratitude

A client’s father is angry and stressed about his daughter.

“The only time she calls is when she wants something. Cigarettes. A new cell phone. Money.”

Another client’s angry at his mother, who’s taking care of his son while he’s in recovery.

“It seems like she’s always pissed at me,” he told me. “Every time I talk to her she’s on my case.”

Both of these children – really grown adults – have something to learn about gratitude.

In the case of the daughter, perhaps losing her sense of entitlement and giving love back to her father would go a long way with him. As it is now, he’s no longer willing to pay for her treatment. A few simple words of love or gratitude might have extended her stay in the recovery program.

And the client whose mother is caring for his son should understand that his mother already raised one family. Now she’s saddled with a teenage grandchild whom she loves – but who’s also a handful for a senior citizen.

I suggested that he start agreeing with whatever she says and look at her through eyes of gratitude. She’s a gift from God when he needs someone close to help him care for his son.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Unknown Joy

A man in aftercare group said something perceptive last night. And it came out while he was describing the emotional ups and downs he's been going through.

He said, "I think I'm comfortable in the emotional mess I'm in right now. Maybe that's why it's hard for me to change."

What he said, I believe, is true for many of us – both in and out of recovery. We've been in the same situation for so much of our lives that we become comfortable with it. Even though we suspect there might be some unknown joy over the horizon, we won't take a risk to get to it.

What if we fail? What if we're uncomfortable with new found happiness? Even thinking about doing something new can raise our anxiety. I'm safe right here in my mess. If I leave it I might not be able to get back to it.

And when we addicts get our anxiety levels up, we know what happens next. We find a drink or drug to calm us down.

Is that the fear underlying our unwillingness to change? A fear that change might lead us to relapse?

Click here to email John

Monday, June 23, 2014

12-Step Blessings

The topic at this morning's 12-step meeting was "what has the program done for me?"

There were many answers about the benefits of recovery. Everyone had different reasons for their gratitude.

In my case, my whole world changed when I got into recovery – in a positive way.

For one thing, I no longer had the sense of doom I had when I was drinking and doing drugs. I wasn't looking over my shoulder to see if someone was about to arrest me. I woke up in the mornings, rather than coming to.

I started thinking about what I was going to do with my life, instead of just drifting.

I had nothing much in a material sense that first year in recovery. But I was happy being alive and not having to pay homage to my addiction.

As time went on the program brought many blessings. I began to communicate with my family. I was able to repay everyone I owed money.

After that the blessings multiplied even more. When I was sober three years the courts granted me custody of my youngest daughter. I was able to build a successful recovery business and prosper as an investor. The program helped me stay sober through an ugly divorce. I remarried in 2011 to a lovely woman who's also in recovery.

I could go on and on with details. But the reality is the 12-step programs gave me my life back.

And for that I am ever grateful.

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ralph!

It's tradition in the 12-step programs to celebrate anniversaries. But most anniversaries are in the lower ranges: 10 years. 15 years. 20 years. 25 years. Once in a while, maybe 30 years and above.

So today, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of one of our venerable members, it's a unique occasion indeed.

Since he entered recovery he's carried the message to thousands in the program. He follows the mandate of the 12-steps by carrying the message - both by action and example.

This man has also served as my sponsor for the past 18 years. He's there when I go through tough times, which aren't all that often. But it's comforting to know, when I encounter things I don't understand, that there's someone there to put me on the right path.

Twelve step programs stress principles before personalities. But there are personalities, like him, whose lives embody the principles of the program.

Happy birthday Ralph H!

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Businessmen

We built most of our TLC businesses after repeated failures. Over and over again we've created businesses that didn't work because they lost money.   Maybe ten of them.

We once started a mattress factory. We bought an expensive sewing machine. We rented a warehouse. We bought a large moving van to haul our product. We discovered we could make mattresses for $75 apiece. Mattresses that we could only sell for $50 a piece.

We once started a Mexican restaurant called La Esquina. Our first month we lost $25,000. Our best month we lost $5000. After losing $100,000 in the first year, we shut the doors.

A computer business we started closed when the only guy who knew anything about computers relapsed after defrauding us.

We had an air conditioning business that floundered after the only guy who knew about air conditioning took off.

We rarely talk about these things because we focus on what works. Today we have a 44 room hotel that generates revenue. We have a few small convenience stores that make a little money. We have a maintenance company that's profitable. We have a temporary labor company that does well. And the great thing about these businesses is that they also provide job training for clients.

At TLC we focus on the positive, on what works. That's a policy we’ve followed over the past 22 years.

And what’s our next project? We’re starting a tire shop at our Roosevelt property. It’s in a great neighborhood for used and low priced tires. If it works we’ll let you know. If it doesn’t, well…

Click here to email John

Friday, June 20, 2014

Paying our Way

A concerned mother gets in touch about her son.

He complained to her that we paid him minimum wage he while he was working with our labor group. And that most of his check went to pay service fees he owed TLC.

I told her that was true. That is the way we operate.

We hear this complaint often from our clients, and sometimes from their families.

In looking at this from their perspective this policy might seem unfair. After all, someone works all day and most of the money goes to pay service fees. What's up with that?

But there's a good reason for this policy.

Most of those who work for our labor group come in with nothing. No job. No work clothes. No tools. No money to pay for housing. No transportation.

We offer them an opportunity to get into recovery. We let them in without money. We provide peer counseling. We clothe them. We find work and provide transportation for them to get there. We feed three meals a day. And they get this on credit.

But when it comes payday and they only end up with a little money in their pocket they're not happy. And we understand that. But as soon as their service fees balance is zero they can find their own job. Then they can do what they want with their money - after they pay service fees.

It's a simple program. But it's one that's hard to understand for those who’ve been self-centered and into self gratification for much of their lives.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Responsibility

A former client, recently discharged for breaking rules, returns to collect money he says is "owed to him."

After our bookkeeper goes over over what we owe him for labor and what he owes us for services, it turns out he owes us.

Well now he's big-time pissed. And he raises his voice until he's asked to leave the office.

On his way out he drops a few f-bombs and makes other unpleasant comments.

This man's attitude has been getting him in trouble since he came to TLC.

Now there are usually two sides to a story. But he rarely looked at his part in his problems.

If it was something good he took credit. If it was something negative, he was a victim. He never took responsibility for bad behavior. And that was why we discharged him. Negative drama seemed to follow his path.

One thing I've learned about successful recovery – and successful living – is that I must take responsibility at all times. For the good as well as the bad.

Only then can I take steps toward change.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pain then Change

“What brought me to the program?” was the topic of last night’s group. And it elicited interesting responses.

One man said his life had spiraled downward to where he was homeless. Sometimes he found his meals in the dumpster. He was always depressed.

He said that once in a while people would offer to help, offer to take him to a detox. But he said he wasn't ready because he couldn’t stand the idea of not having drugs and alcohol in his body.

Another client said that what inspired him to get into recovery was that he’d run out of options. He found himself going from living in a house to living on skid row in Los Angeles. He said family members offered to help. But it took him a while to realize that he was powerless.

Another man said that for some strange reason he kept having opportunities to get into recovery even when he didn't have money or resources. And he found himself coming to Arizona from another state almost by divine intervention.

All their stories had pretty much the same plot – only the details differed. Life was good. They started using and enjoyed it for awhile. Then bad things kept happening that brought pain into their lives.

And the pain was always the catalyst that helped them to change.

Click here to email John



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Angry Clients

When we make halfway house clients leave they’re sometimes angry at us.

And they express their anger in different ways. Some call the city to complain about the property, the living conditions, or the food. Sometimes there’s an inspection and we may have to change something. But we always get a clean bill of health.

Sometimes they take more bizarre measures. For example, one man spent time at the state capitol trying to find a politician who’d pass a law to close us down. We’re still here.

Several years ago a man we discharged sat in the parking lot across the street from the Mac house office for several days. He aimed an imaginary pistol at us out his car window. Finally, the police told him to go elsewhere.

Another former client – a man I’d never met - spent a few years railing about me and TLC at 12-step meetings. After a while he finally got drunk and disappeared.

Even though these clients express anger at TLC, I believe they’re mad at themselves. One more time they’ve failed to change. And rather than look at themselves they blame anything or anybody.

And every so often they summon the humility to return and try again. And we still help them.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Unmotivated

A client who's been with us on and off for a year admits she used heroin Saturday night.

"I don't know what happened," she explains. "The next thing I knew I was high."

Because she's had a chronic bad attitude and has relapsed twice in the last month the staff discharges her. At some point we must take a position, regardless of what the client says about wanting to stay clean.

In the case of this client she'd had a negative attitude for a few months. She refused to get out of bed in the mornings. She missed groups. She didn't take part in house activities. In spite of several staff interventions she wouldn't change. Thus, her discharge.

It's difficult to give up on someone as long as there's a possibility they’ll change. But in the face of excuses, such as her explanation that she didn't know "what happened," the choice was inevitable.

One thing we know about relapse is that it doesn't just "happen." When we relapse we're an active part of the process. No one holds us down and sticks a needle in our arm. Or pours alcohol down our throat. Or forces us to take a handful of pills.

We're always an active part of our relapse. Just as we are active participants in our recovery.

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Recovering Fathers

This Father's Day I reflect on TLC staff members who are fathers.

Some had children when they came to us. Others have children born after they came to recovery.

Many of these new fathers grew up in abusive situations. Maybe not physically abusive. But perhaps their fathers were absent or used drugs or drank. They provided little guidance about how to live. They were emotionally absent.

Even though they lacked good role models, they're doing a good job as fathers. And I think it's becauase they show their children love.  And parenting from love has a better chance of success.

The love shows in their behavior. They display pictures of their children . They're excited about family vacations. They’re enthused about their children's progress and what they're doing.

Because they're sober they're positive examples. Their children haven’t seen them drunk or high. They haven’t seen them in handcuffs. They don't see dad fighting with their mothers.

They’re on a different path, one founded in their recovery.  And the recovery spreads to their children.

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Throwing it Away

A young heroin addict, who'd been clean for some five months, violates his curfew by staying out overnight.

When he returns the next morning he says he was on the phone with his girlfriend the previous night and that she "sounded funny.." He said he panicked and went to her apartment to see "if she was all right." He wanted to make sure she wasn't sick.

Turns out she sounded funny because she was using heroin. He said he took her drugs and started to flush them. But once he had them in his hand he was unable to do so. Instead, he used them himself.

His actions violated what is common knowledge in the 12 program: we never go on 12 step calls alone. For exactly the same reasons this man shouldn't have gone by himself. If he truly went to help her, then he exposed himself to danger.

And even though he was dirty, we offered him the opportunity to go to detox and start over. Instead, he elected to go back to his girlfriend's apartment.

And we know the rest of the story.

.Click here to email John

Friday, June 13, 2014

Back at It

While driving home from the office yesterday I see a woman on the street who looks vaguely familiar. Then I recognize her as a former client. She's with a man wearing a slingshot, covered in tattoos, who's doing the prison stroll. Even though it's over 105°, they're in a hurry to get somewhere. My gut tells me they're headed for the connection.

It was sad to see because this woman did well for a minute. Eventually though, she'd get impatient and start complaining. About the groups, the other clients, and the fact that she had to be accountable. Finally she'd get frustrated and leave.

The first time was to move in with her boyfriend, whom she'd met in treatment. But before they could get together he heard she was using and cut her loose. Eventually, she got tired of what she was doing and returned to the program.

This last time she left it was the same scenario. Impatience. Complaining. Then she found Mr. Wonderful and it was time to go again.

It pains me to see those we've invested time in back in the middle of their addictions. Hopefully she'll get enough pain to come back and get it right.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Off Center

A new staff member, who's been working for us less than a week, stays up all night and searches his room for missing money. He turns his bed upside down. He looks under his mattress. He looks in the trash. He searches the whole place.

He keeps his roommate awake half the night.  He makes veiled threats about what he would do if he finds out who stole his money. Finally the night security guard shows up and the man's drug tested because his behavior suggests he's using meth. Surprisingly, the test is negative.

And the next morning he finds the money in a compartment in his wallet. He says that whoever stole it must have returned it while he wasn't looking.

Because of his bizarre behavior, we fire him and move him to one of our other facilities. And within a few days we have to discharge him from there because he continues acting strange.

Because we accept any addict or alcoholic who asks for help we sometimes get clients like this man with problematic behavior.

By problematic I mean they often face an array of problems. No communication skills. Anger management issues. Poor life skills. Low self-esteem. Hygiene problems. Educational deficiencies. No job skills. The list could fill the rest of this page.

Now we expect that many who show up will face challenges. After all, if they were normal and well-adjusted they wouldn't come to a halfway house and ask a bunch of recovering addicts for help.

And when they're a little bit off-center we help them get back on track. And we mostly do it by relating their behavior to their disease. After all, in the halfway houses everything we do is peer counseling. We don't hire professionals for that part of our program.

But, sometimes a client is too far off-center for us to help them.  In those cases we usually refer them to a psychiatric facility where they can receive appropriate treatment.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Keeping Balance

TLC runs well because we have dedicated managers – all in recovery. There's no way we would be where we’re at now without the sweat and toil these folks give us.

Some have been with us for years. They work long hours. They don't earn much. Yet, they're dedicated – sometimes almost to a fault.

So periodically we have to intervene to keep them from burning out. And at TLC intervention usually takes the form of making them take time off to rejuvenate themselves.

Sometimes we give instructions before they leave, telling them not to call back to the house and try to manage remotely.

We encourage managers to take a break each day, to get some down time. Maybe take a nap. Or see their sponsor. Anything to get away for a few hours.

But balance is difficult to teach an addict. We know they're learning to take care of themselves when they say, "I need some time off." Or "I need a break, I'm getting burned out."

And we encourage them to ask for what they need.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We help the Willing

The recovery literature suggests that if we have doubts about being alcoholic we should try some controlled drinking.

That's why at TLC we take people back who have relapsed. Our experience is that those who relapse have more willingness when they return. Life has taught them a usually harsh lesson in what works and what doesn't.

This came up for me because I received an email from a mother who who asked if her son could return. Seems he left last year because he didn't like the rules. And he's been drinking since.

Of course, I appreciate her being nice enough to ask. But many of our clients have been with us more than once. And others – usually those who end up in our Hard Six program – have been here many times.

Our philosophy is that we never give up on the willing. Many of us know from personal experience that the idea of living without drugs or alcohol seems crazy. So the fact that a client would leave and use again is no shock.

We found that each time a client relapses and returns he generally is a better person. Once he's been beat up enough, then he can make changes.

He becomes willing.

Monday, June 9, 2014

How to Help

How do we help when a person faces a devastating loss?

Someone close to me received a phone call today about a cousin in an eastern state killed during a home invasion. The man who died had several children, some in college.

What can we say to someone whose childhood playmate dies during an attempted robbery. A robbery that would probably have netted a few dollars at most?

There's no explanation at all for such senseless brutality. There's no way one can wrap their brain around something like this.

One may fumble for words to console, but words at times like this are inadequate.

My first reaction is to want to fix things, make everything better. But there is no better, no fixing things. When acts of depravity rupture our lives there's no template of past experience to help us make sense of them. They live in our consciousness, waiting for us to find someplace to put them. But there is no place for this kind of news. So it festers there until we find some kind of numb acceptance.

The only thing I can offer is support and love. And I believe that's all we can do when those in our circle, our friends and our loved ones, face challenges.

We embrace them in hopes that our presence will comfort in this time of pain.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

God's Will?

Over 20 years ago I asked my first sponsor how I would know I was doing God's will rather than following my own will.

He said I’d know because my life would be running smoothly, that I wouldn't be running into roadblocks and dead ends.

Being a skeptical newcomer I had my doubts. Because he'd been sober for many years I guess I expected something philosophical and lofty. But no, I got something simple about roadblocks and dead ends.

But eventually I had to admit he was right. But only after butting my head a number of times and suffering serial bouts of pain.

Now. many years later I’m amazed at how smoothly my life unfolds. If I try something a few times without success I start asking myself is this God’s will? Or my will?

If I’m achieving success then I believe it’s God’s will.

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Summertime

Suddenly it seems that summer is upon us.  Kind of like opening a door.  For a few months it's been great springtime weather.  Then all of a sudden we go outside and this heavy mantle of oppressive heat imposes itself upon us.  On top of whatever else we're thinking about, there's this constant presence that reminds us we live in a desert.

The heat even affects those who are still using.  Once it's over 100° our 700 beds stay pretty much full all the time.  Drugs and alcohol take an even heavier toll when it's hot.  Those who relapse get beat up pretty fast and return right away.  Especially those who come here from back East or from the northern states.

The wimps among us who work in the office don't complain too loudly.  That's because a large percentage of those who work for TLC – like the maintenance and construction guys – spend much of their time outside. They're not too sympathetic when those of us who work inside whine about the heat.

One of the blessings of being in recovery for a long time is that some of us are able to get away for a few days.  That's what my wife and I did this weekend.  We made some flimsy excuse about having business in San Diego so we could spend a couple of nights in 70° weather.

I'm always mindful that I'm able to do things like this because I got into recovery so many years ago..

Click here to email John


Friday, June 6, 2014

Gratitude's for Everyone

The other day I received a lesson in gratitude from a long-time business associate.

He retired this year from a 40 year career in banking. And his retirement was partly for health reasons. One thing he divulged to me – which I hadn't known – was that he has kidney problems. As a result he undergoes dialysis three times a week.

When I told him it must be tough to undergo dialysis three days a week his answer surprised me.

He said he has a lot to be grateful for when he compares his health to others at the clinic. He's met people there who've had limbs amputated because of diabetes and other problems. When he looks at their lives he's grateful for what he has, even though he faces challenges.

I guess his answer surprised me because I live in this narrow world of addiction and recovery. And I probably have developed the idea we addicts own gratitude.

And, of course, that's not true. Gratitude is a universal spiritual principle.

And it was refreshing to get a lesson from a non-alcoholic.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Avoiding Danger

When I first got to recovery I lived in a halfway house and it affected me a lot when someone relapsed. I'd be depressed and wonder if this recovery thing really worked.

People I was close to and went to meetings with would be doing fine one day. Then the next morning they'd be nowhere around. I would hear later that they started drinking or using drugs again.

I got through this by talking to my sponsor. He used an analogy that has stayed with me. He said that in recovery we must look at ourselves as being in a battle, in a war. If someone has fallen and we can't help them, we move on.

Lately some clients have experienced the same thing. Some of those they've been close to have graduated. Then within a short time they might hear a rumor about a relapse.

Some even want to go find the person to see if they can help. We advise against this because it can be dangerous to go around someone drinking or using drugs. They expose themselves to the possibility of arrest. Further, they also risk their recovery by going to a motel or dope house to rescue someone who's using. 

Those who have relapsed or who are using made a conscious decision to use. They need to apply the knowledge they already have. They know how to find help without us putting ourselves in danger.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Racism?

A halfway house client complains about racism. He says that a house he lives in has gang members and that he's in fear. He adds that other clients are in fear also. He says one left because of the situation

I've known some of those he's talking about for over 10 years. And I don’t believe him. But I agree to look into his allegations. As it turns out, there was a shred of truth in what he said.  Seems that one man showed up at morning meditation wearing clothing that might identify him as member of a certain group. Some of the language he used during the meeting also indicated his bias.

When confronted about his behavior, the man said he was only joking, having fun. However, his behavior wasn't funny at all. It offended some who were there. And, as a consequence, we told him to apologize to the house at last night's meeting.

However, when I told the client who'd complained to me about the consequences, he blew up. He was extremely angry about the man's behavior. He was irate and asked if that was all that was going to happen to him for the remark that he'd made.

So I asked what he wanted me to do. Discharge the man? Put him on the streets? Call his parole officer? After all, there are only so many things we can do in these situations. And if a man is willing to make amends, change his behavior, and apologize, what more can we ask? TLC is about changing behavior.

Yet, nothing would please this client. And his level of anger made me wonder about his own attitudes to those of other racial and cultural groups.

One thing we've always done at TLC is assure that everyone feels safe and accepted.

And while we can't control hearts and minds, we do have some control over how clients behave.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Being Good to Ourselves

A TLC employee does a great job. No matter what assignment we give him, he does it right. Does it quickly. Meets his deadline. He rarely complains about anything.

Yet, when I call them into my office he usually arrives in a state of anxiety.

"What did I mess up?" He’ll ask.

"Did I do something wrong?"

Or, "Am I going to get fired?"

I'm always surprised when he asks these questions, because firing him is the furthest thing from my mind. He's one of our most valuable employees and it would be hard to replace him.

Usually I'm calling him to my office to ask for a report about a client. Or I have some other project I want him to work on.

After I assure him he still has his job then I can proceed with business.

Insecurity and poor self-esteem are often issues with addicts.

But there comes a time in our recovery that we must recognize the good we do. We have to pat ourselves on the back and say "I've done a good job."

And that's not ego, that's about recognizing when we do well. When someone continues to pay us that's a pretty good sign we’re doing a good job.

It's not ego to recognize the positive we do as long as we don't exaggerate or get puffed up about ourselves.

For us addicts that’s a dangerous thing.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Program Success

We find the power of the program in the voices of its members.

And yesterday, I heard one of those voices at a speaker meeting.

I'd met the speaker when he entered the program about three years ago. He had a long history of drug use, jails, and lost opportunities due to drugs and alcohol.

As he said at the podium, he was a man who didn't think he could get sober. He believed his habit was so much worse than others in the program. He'd spent many years locked up. He'd slept in parks. He'd stolen. He was a man who would use any drug available.

But as he started going to meetings and listening, he met long-time members whose lives paralleled his own. He began to emulate them.

He worked hard. Went to meetings. Volunteered at the program. He went to school and next year will get his degree in counseling.

This man is another example of how the program works.

Click here to leave a comment

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Priorities

A client returns to the program after a relapse and still doesn’t have his priorities straight.

A condition of his return was that he’d give up his job and focus on his recovery. Or at least take a leave of absence.

But instead of giving up the job, he elects to leave.

Unfortunately the choice he made is not unusual among our clients.

Many will choose working a job over working on their recovery.

And the challenge with this is that they often get support for their decision from family and friends. After all, our society believes in hard work. What could be wrong with that?

But for addicts work is a way of denying their addictions. After all, if I can hold a job, how much of a problem do I have?

This is the answer: If a job will keep them sober how did they end up with us?

Click here to leave a comment