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.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

There's Hope

At least once a month I receive a heartbreaking email or letter from an addict's family or loved ones.

They're looking for an answer. Any answer. They're at wits end, in a muck of frustration that colors their lives.

They never in their wildest imagination thought their precious baby would morph into a drug monster. Change into a criminal who would trade mom’s wedding ring and family heirlooms for drugs.

They sent him to preschool. Kindergarten. Enrolled him in sports. They applauded him in school plays.. Sent him to summer camp. Then on to good schools and college.

They did all the right things. At least they thought they did. But now they question themselves. Maybe we should have done this? Maybe we were too strict? Even though they were doing their best a nagging guilt bubbles up.

I tell them there's not much rhyme or reason as to why some become addicts. Children can be raised in a terrible environment and become wildly successful. Others live in the lap of privilege, yet do nothing worthwhile with their lives.

But the positive thing I tell them is that there's a solution in treatment. And in the 12-step programs. They seem comforted by that.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Good Outcome

A professional man with an addict daughter is happy because she's been sober and clean for over a year.

For a long time I saw him struggle with her disease. He blamed himself. Maybe he was too strict with her when she was growing up. He blamed his ex. He blamed the crowd she hung out with when she was in high school. Maybe they lived in the wrong neighborhood.

Or was it something else? He never wanted to put the responsibility on her – which is where it belonged.

But, after he spent a lot of money on treatment programs he gave her an ultimatum: that he would help her one more time. And that was it.

Maybe the cumulative effects of the many treatment programs helped. Or maybe his ultimatum turned her around.

In any event, she completed treatment. She found employment. She goes to meetings and hangs out with sober people.

Sometimes things do work out.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Valuable Lessons

A man who had never been to a 12-step meeting learned that addicts and alcoholics are just like everyone else.

When the court ordered him go to 10 meetings with signature verification he was apprehensive about who he’d meet in the rooms.

“I met people just like me,” he said.

As he sat in meetings he developed gratitude. He heard stories from those who faced challenges. Some had been in accidents. Others had been to prison because of drinking and drugging. There were stories of divorces and loss of jobs. And he realized his life was okay.

While with his wife at dinner one evening she wondered what people at meetings looked like. He said they look exactly like the people around them in the restaurant. And she was surprised. Her idea of an alcoholic had been someone who wore ragged clothes and drank in an alley.

He said that though his visit to court was for a minor alcohol violation, he learned valuable lessons from the meetings.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Building on Failure

Many times we feel crushed when we fail. Yet failure can be a positive. It can make us stronger and more resourceful.

This came up as I read a story about investors who lend start-up money to entrepreneurs. These investment groups don't fund projects unless they know everything about the project's manager. Aside from other experience, they want to know if the borrower has lost money - or failed - in previous ventures.

But they don't view this as a negative. Instead, it gives them insight into the borrower. In other words, this person can deal with setbacks. He or she won't disappear with their money. This is someone they can count on.

While this might not be the greatest analogy, it reminds me of how many of our staff members have had setbacks. Some relapsed more than once. Yet those who return and stick around go on to lead successful lives.

When their recovery gets rough they have the experience of past failures to draw upon.  And they don't run away either.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Treatment Relationships

Because we accept both men and women in our program we face challenges.

And it's not uncommon for clients to strike up relationships within a week of meeting.

Experience shows that these treatment romances don't end well.

For example, we haven't heard good things about the last five client romances. There are many rumors about what's been going on since they left. And while rumor is not the most reliable source, it's a sign that something's not right.

We hear of drug use. Drug dealing. Fights. Arrests. Homelessness. We don't want these outcomes for our clients.

Once clients form a relationship that's what they focus on.

They don't hear what's going on in group. In one-on-one sessions they want to discuss their sweetheart instead of recovery. The relationship takes precedence over everything.

When I talk to these clients about the dangers of treatment romances they look at me as if I'm from another planet.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Recovery Relationships

A couple in recovery talks about their relationship.

Sometimes, when things get difficult, one of them will sulk for a week or so. Then, because they care for one another, they start talking again. They’re unhappy because these cycles are happening more often. What to do?

To help them, I point out statistics on marriages. Something like 50% of them end in divorce.

Though I haven't seen studies on recovery relationships, I think we addicts face bigger challenges than so-called “normal” folks.

After all, many of us show up in relationships with issues. And sometimes not much knowledge of intimacy.

But one resource we addicts do have that so-called “normal” people don’t is the 12-step programs.

We have meetings and sponsors to help us through rough patches – including in our relationships.

This couple might look there for help.

Click here to email John

Friday, July 25, 2014

Trusting God

Since the early days of TLC I've learned to trust God when things get tough. But it wasn't always that way.

Used to be, back in 1992, when we'd lose a key employee, I’d fret about who was going to manage for us. Who would fill in?

Inevitably, we'd find someone. But it wasn't without a moment of anxiety.

This topic came up for me this week when the managers of two of our largest facilities gave up their jobs, both in the same day.

Then days later we had to fill spots in the corporate office because two employees walked out.

So where did the new people come from?

In the case of the house managers we’re fortunate to have more than one person who can do the job. And they stepped up.

As to the office, a couple of people appeared who have been around TLC for a while. They're training for the new positions.

It's always worked that way for us - without exception. Just when we’re trying to figure out what we're going to do to keep things running, the right people show up.

These things don’t happen by accident.

Click here to email John

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Drinking Alone

A man who thinks he might have a drinking problem shares his story. As he tells it, there's a hint of tears, a quaver in his voice.

His wife left long ago and he's been alone since.  He watches TV evenings and weekends. Once or twice a year he'll attend a movie - by himself.

He has little contact with his children or grandchildren. The closest thing he has to friends is the people he works with. But even then, he doesn't socialize with them because they're married or have girlfriends. He feels out of place.

There's sadness in his voice as he tells of turning down their invitations for a barbecue or a trip to the lake.

He began paying attention to his drinking after he'd wake up in the night and drink himself back to sleep.

He hasn't had a DUI or lost a job over drinking. But he knows something's wrong when his existence is about beer and his job.

He’s tired of filling the void in his life with alcohol and isn't sure about where to start.

So I give him some suggestions.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blessings of Recovery

When my girls were in their teens, around 13 and 14, I invited them to work at the TLC offices so they could make extra money. Also, so they could learn something about the world of work. Plus maybe absorb something about recovery and the risks of substance abuse.

They’d rearrange files. Scan documents, Clean out filing cabinets. Boring work that no one else seemed to have time to get to. But they seemed to enjoy it. Once in a while they’d play pranks on the staff. Everyone liked having them around. Those were fun days.

As they grew older each went her own way. One joined the military, finished her degree, and eventually married the right guy. The other took a more adventurous route before finally turning things around. Now she's in college studying medicine, and raising her children. Both doing well.

Their lives are unfolding much better than mine did at their age. And I’m proud of them both.

And now, déjà vu when my 16 granddaughter showed up for work this morning.

Having her here reminded me that the blessings of recovery keep on coming.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Still Struggling

A man who came to us over 21 years ago - when we first opened - is still struggling with our disease.

Over the years he’s used a variety of drugs. This last time he came in – around ten days ago - his drug of choice was alcohol. We found work for him and urged him to focus on recovery.

But over the weekend he disappeared without explanation.

This man has a long battle with his disease. He went from being a highly skilled technician who could get a job on a moment’s notice, to an unemployable street person.

He’s pretty much estranged from his family. He owns nothing. He’s facing criminal charges. His options have become limited.

When I heard he'd left once more before even trying I was sad.

The lesson for me is that if I don’t keep doing what I’m doing I might be right there with him. None of us are unique.

Click here to email John

Monday, July 21, 2014

Learning Moment

A man doesn't behave too well at a 12-step meeting yesterday.

He's makes comments from the floor while others speak. When it's his turn to share he rambles on. Finally, the chairperson glares at him. He gets the message and sits down.

At first, I find myself becoming irritated. But then I catch myself and realize it’s a learning moment.

So what do I learn from someone behaving inappropriately?

In this case, I recognize the challenges that some face in social situations.

I also decide that I shouldn't be judgmental. That I should stay on my own side of the street and pay attention to my own behavior.

It’s also an opportunity for me to appreciate again the design of the twelve-step programs.

The program welcomes anyone who has a desire to quit drinking or using. There's not a lot in the literature about how to behave at a meeting.

As I leave, I’m grateful for the many blessings I’ve received from the program these past 23 years.

Click here to email John

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Halfway House Business

A woman who wants to help others asks about starting a halfway house.

She wonders how to do it?

So I give her some ideas about where to begin.

First, one acquires a house. Puts beds in it. Finds addicts and alcoholics who want to live there. And that's pretty much it, isn't it? What's so hard about that?

If only it were that simple.

But many don't take into account the hours it takes.

One must consider everything from bedding to bus passes. Do we feed them? Do we make them buy their own food? And what about laundry? Do we provide a machine for them? Or send them to the laundromat? What about pillows? Towels? Toilet paper?

Then there's the thing about services. What about groups? Do we send them to 12-step meetings? Provide in-house groups? Or both?

There are myriad questions when one wants to operate a business dealing with people. Zoning considerations. What if they get sick? Do we help them find jobs? How do they get to work? The list goes on and on.

This is where I begin to lose many people. Because they wanted to talk about noble actions. Doing good for others. About sharing their philosophy about how others might live their lives and stay sober.

The things I'm telling them sound like hard work. But that's the helping business. It's about doing a lot of nitty-gritty work for sometimes unlovable people.

When I get to this point their eyes usually glaze over and they thank me for the information.  So I wish them good luck and move on.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Staying Calm

Someone asked the other day how I remain as calm as I do.

I explained to her that it took a lot of practice to develop  a calm demeanor. And I didn't become calm because I wanted to be some kind of monk. I changed because it became too painful and stressful to be uptight and angry. And even though I haven't been that way for years, I remember how anger caused me problems.

Most of it came from wanting to be right. Which is to say it was about my ego. And also - while still in my disease - I disagreed with everyone about everything. I thought the world was against me, that someone was out to get me. That attitude makes one defensive. And that was me.

Remaining calm equals getting what I want in life. And what I want comes more easily when I approach things in a calm and peaceful manner. For example, I rarely tell our employees what to do. Instead I ask for help. And while I could use my big voice and order them around, things go better when I ask for help. They respond with less resistance.

And maybe the other part of being calm is that I'm lazy. After all it's a lot of work to get angry - then work myself back to peace of mind.

As much as possible I avoid taking that detour by deciding to remain calm.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Grateful Graduate

The following letter came from a recent graduate:

"Dear TLC,

When I first came to Robson, I had lost – no given up – my children, everything that matters. I no longer had anyone left due to the control drugs had over me.

Then a stranger guided me year from Phoenix to Robson Street. I see now he was an angel as well as one of your staff members. The work that's done here - truly from the depths of my soul - I feel is God's work. I walked onto the property scared, lost, alone and hopeless. The welcome I received was so loving, something I didn't expect for someone like myself.

Unfortunately, I was still a bit delusional and I left three times with only five months of recovery. If it weren't for the compassion and understanding of TLC, which gave me a third chance, I don't know if my children would have a mother today. After coming back– they pushed me harder. But the patience and tolerance it must've taken to handle all my breakdowns and outbursts is unbelievable.

Still, no matter what, I wasn't given up on. Because of that I'm a success. TLC not only provided me with the structure my life desperately needed, it also restored my self-respect. It has brought me closer to my children and my Higher Power. And, most important, it introduced me to the 12-step programs, There, for the first time in my life, I feel safe and comfortable being just me.

They gave me a chance, not to barely survive, but to truly live.

I no longer wish to race to the finish line. Instead I tried to enjoy this new journey with peace of mind and a humble heart. I have purpose now! I'm not only 11 months sober. I'm happy, joyous, and free just for today. I'm now moving into a program where my children can be with me. I cannot put into words how grateful I am for all of you. TLC not only saved my life, it also taught me how to save my own.

Love always,"

 (name omitted for anonymity)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Becoming an Example

An addict who’s lost many in his family to drugs and alcohol finally got sober a few years ago.

Once he entered recovery life got better. He stopped going to jail. He quit stealing. He stopped dealing drugs. He’s been sleeping indoors for a long time – and at the same address. He’s had the same job for several years and receives regular raises and bonuses.

One day he found a woman with whom he clicked. They got married a while back and are raising children.

He's no longer just another member of a dysfunctional and dying family. He’s become an example for the relatives who still survive. He’s the person they turn to when they need serious help.

And he’s responded, going out of his way to help them into recovery. And he’s helped them in other ways.

Sometimes we’re privileged to see what happens when someone gets sober and breaks the chain of addiction as this man did.

His children are growing up with the idea that they can do positive things with their lives.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Trusting Again

A client who's hurting over the breakup of a relationship asks for a solution.

"How do I get over it?" She asks. "And how do I trust anyone again?"

And my answer is not much solace.

I tell her, in a general way, that whenever we deal with others on a personal level we risk pain. And that's because when we have friends, or lovers, we expose our vulnerabilities.

The longer we're in an intimate relationship the more we expose ourselves. Our likes. Our dislikes. Our fears. Our secrets. Our dreams. And if the relationship continues this information can be the glue that holds us together. But if the relationship falls apart then what? We've exposed our innermost selves, our love, with this person who's suddenly become a stranger.

This alienation is so painful that one might wonder - as does this woman - can I ever trust again?

I leave her with the idea that relationships, like much of life, can be risky. But if we want to live fully and have an actualized life we must be willing to accept the prospect of pain.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Grown Ass Man

An addict’s furious because he didn't get his way.

"I'm a grown ass man and I'm tired of people telling me what to do," he said.

Then someone in the group pointed out that the reason he's in a halfway house recovery program is because he can't manage his own life.  In essence, he pays TLC to tell him what to do.  And some of the time he doesn't like what he's told.

This is a common theme in our groups.  Clients are with us for three or four months and they start becoming resentful when managers tell them how to behave.  How to clean their room.  How to dress.  How to seek employment.  Sometimes, how to talk to another human being.  Sometimes, to just slow down.

After the pain subsides and addicts get a little clean time under their belt they tend to forget how rough it was out there.  They forget what brought them to TLC.  They forget how demoralized they were, how unmanageable their lives were.

We can always tell when someone is growing in the program.  When they're given advice they welcome it.  They appreciate the idea that another human being cares about their welfare enough to talk to them about how to live.

When we addicts get to that point, and become teachable, then we have a chance.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Losing our Rights

A client is irate at her family because of the way they're raising her children

After not seeing her children for years because she lost herself in a haze of drugs and alcohol does she have a right to be angry?

She 's angry with them over a few things. In particular, she's upset because they changed the children's last names. They also changed changed their religion.

As a counselor, how do I respond when someone's distressed over something like this?

I offer her some reality.

I tell her she abdicated her rights years ago when she immersed herself in a life of drugs and alcohol.

She seemed to accept this.

But she wasn't quite so accepting of my next suggestions.

That was when I told her she should be grateful to them for caring for her children. And that she should also thank them. She froze up.

We addicts put our lives on hold when get into our addictions. And we expect everyone else to do the same.

But when our addictions come first we abdicate our rights to everything we left behind.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

O.D.

It’s all over the news this week about a heroin overdose death.

The press loves the story. That’s because the victim was a Google executive who overdosed on his yacht after shooting heroin with a high-priced prostitute.

But in Arizona opiate users die all the time. In fact, over 120 opiate addicts died in this state in 2013. They're so routine there's rarely anything in the press. There's nothing newsworthy about something as common as the death of an addict.

Because it happens all the time.

They're found blue in the face on the floors of cheap motels along Van Buren. In fields around the city. In the back seats of cars. Sometimes in nice homes in Scottsdale. In the family bathroom. Every setting.

Because they're not wealthy executives for major corporations no one knows. Like addicts for years, they been dying anonymously, mostly alone, maybe a needle still in their arms. Maybe their families care – if they’re still in touch.

The news will die down until the next prominent user dies. Law enforcement will dust off their “war on drugs” speech. The nice people will blame the prostitute, not the victim.

In the meantime, there’s some good news.

Once in a while some of us get tired of the misery. Sick of trying to find enough dope to feel normal. We get into recovery and start living like other boring so-called normal people.

Then we find that boring is good so we stick around.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

It didn't Work

Not long ago a client’s father agrees that it’s time for his son to leave the program to work a minimum wage job.

So the client, against the advice of the clinical team, moves out to go to work.

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work too well. Yesterday the father calls to see if the son can come back to the program. He'd lost the job. Then he got drunk. Now he’s at a motel, still drinking.

This is a scenario that we’ve seen play out again and again over the past 23 years.

A client comes to us suffering from the effects of drinking and using. He, or she, has lost virtually everything. No transportation. No job. Broke. Demoralized.

Once the client starts feeling better the new goal is to go to work.

Now it’s almost un-American to suggest that someone should wait to get a job. After all, work’s a good thing. Isn’t it?

And of course it is. But only once everything else is in order. In this client’s case, as soon as he started working, he began missing meetings. Missing therapy sessions. Being late for meditation.

When confronted about how work was conflicting with his treatment he made the decision to give up treatment.

Hopefully he makes it back so he can finish what he started.

Click here to email John

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blessing of Recovery

For around 20 years our family has enjoyed a week each summer at the beach in California

Most of the grandchildren weren’t born when we began.

This tradition started after a friend of mine – who has over 30 years sober – told me he took his family each summer. He’d been doing it for a long time. I liked the idea so much I stole it from him.

Not everyone in our family makes it each year. Sometimes other responsibilities interfere. But usually there are about 15 of us sharing three condominiums fronting on the ocean.

It’s always a time of getting reacquainted, of spiritual renewal.

It’s also a time of gratitude for my recovery because none of this would've happened if I hadn’t walked into the rooms of recovery in 1991.

Click here to email John

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Helping

Moments after sunrise during an early morning walk I pass a woman sitting on a concrete bench. Beside her is a small carry-on bag and other items.

My brain starts taking inventory. Homeless? Hungry? Mental? Meth addict? Alcoholic? Dangerous? Panhandler?

Answers come back: Too clean to be homeless. Outweighs me by 100 pounds so she’s eating somewhere. Too calm for a meth addict. No bottles in sight, so maybe not drinking. Probably mental.

I stop my brain and turn around to offer help.

Yes, homeless. Not an addict. Waiting to qualify for disability. No one will help her because she’s childless. On and on.

Then I quit asking questions and suggesting solutions because I hear a departed sponsor’s voice.

He’d say if someone’s life is bad enough that they’re collecting money on the street I should help.

When I’d suggest they might be a hustler with a Mercedes parked around the corner and live in a penthouse he’d say the same thing.

So I follow his advice and hand her a bill.  And my day went just fine.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Finding God

Today I’m reminded of a client who questions the idea of a Higher Power. Not that he thought he was God. But he grew up in a Godless home devoid of spiritual influence. So he has little frame of reference.

I suggest that if he’s seeking evidence of God he needn't look far.

For example, as I write today, I watch the surf from the deck of our condo in Imperial Beach.

And above the shoreline is a swirling cloud of small white birds hovering over the breaking waves. Once in a while one dives into the water and emerges with food. It’s a beautiful scene. It's one an artist might capture on a canvas.

And in settings like this I see the hand of God.

Even though I’m living in this cocoon of technology, in relative luxury, a hundred feet away is the complex majesty of our Creator.

Those having problems finding a Higher Power need only look at the simple miracles around them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Life's Mission

Still on vacation, I awaken early this morning, maybe around 3 AM, to loud screams coming from the beach.

At first I think I'm dreaming. So I start to drift back to sleep. Then another scream. And loud voices.

So I jump up and go to the blinds, thinking I'm witnessing a murder. Ready to call 911. Adrenaline pumping.

When I look out, I see three figures. Two are embracing one another, screaming. The third is running around them in a circle waving his arms and hollering at the two who are in each other's arms.

As my brain starts to awaken, I realize that these three guys are either drunk or high. Probably having some kind of lover's quarrel.

Eventually they seem to work it out because the noise subsides. Or maybe they took it further down the beach.

I unsuccessfully try to go back to sleep. But instead I sink into a reverie about how alcohol and drugs have been a central theme in my life since I was a young child.

First it was my father's alcoholism. And later it was my own as I did my best to not become my father. But I not only became a drunk like him, I also became a heroin addict.

And when I eventually got sober and clean at 51 substance abuse remained a central theme of my life.

Maybe it's karma. Or maybe it's God's will that alcohol and drugs are at the core of my life: either as a practicing alcoholic or addict. Or in working with addicts and alcoholics or the past 23 years.

In any event, it’s turned into a mission that has likely saved my life.

Click here to email John

Monday, July 7, 2014

Simple Answers

A couple in recovery have relationship problems.

Though it didn't happen overnight, they recognize they're drifting apart after years together. He's grown a profitable business he started when they first married. She returned to school and is now successful in her career. They have two teenagers that take a lot of time, what with sports and other extracurricular activities.

At the end of the day, they're both drained and just happy to be able to relax. Even though they love one another, the magic that brought them together has eroded because of their responsibilities.

So how do they get back on track? It's not that difficult if they're both motivated.

Using tools that helped them succeed in business and career, they can turn it around. For example, he keeps a calendar of things he needs to do each day. Same with her. In her career she has to schedule her time for sometimes weeks ahead. And they both make these plans because they know what they're doing is important.

They need to apply these planning techniques when it comes to their relationship - the most important thing of all.  They must plan time together. On a daily basis, it can be something as simple as coffee together. Perhaps they could take turns and surprise one another with a weekly rendezvous. The possibilities are pretty much unlimited.

But the reality is they must make the marriage a priority if they want it to continue.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Lucky Enough?

The sign on the wall of the San Diego condo we’re staying at for the next week reads: “If you’re lucky enough to live at the beach, then you’re lucky enough.”

I’m not sure of the mind-set of whoever made the sign. Maybe he toiled in a sign factory that cranked out thousands of signs.

But I’d like to think it was someone who was grateful for where he lived and who made the small sign to express gratitude.

If I made a sign it would likely say something like “If I’m lucky enough to be alive, then I’m lucky enough.”

Because if I hadn’t gotten sober 23 and a half years ago I would’ve missed all this.

I wouldn’t have met my wife. I wouldn’t have the circle of friends and associates who’ve supported me through years of building our recovery business. I wouldn’t have reunited with my family and know my grandchildren.  I wouldn't be drifting to sleep tonight with the sound of the surf in the background.

Click here to email John

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Not showing Up

When a client missed his appointment yesterday I was mildly surprised.

Surprised, because he used his credit card to finance his evaluation, something he said he couldn't afford.

Besides, he'd called a few days earlier to make sure we still had an appointment. When I assured him we did, even though it was on the Fourth of July, he said he'd be there.

Well I waited well past the time of the appointment, taking care of minor paperwork that had accumulated on my desk. And while I waited, I reflected on my own history when my addiction started becoming serious.

I did the same thing he did. I'd make appointments I didn't keep. Nor would I call – as this client neglected to do. In fact, I don't think anyone expected me to be anywhere on time for any reason.

My life was a series of missed appointments and unfulfilled commitments.

It was only when I stopped showing up for appointments with judges and parole officers that things got serious. I hope this man's life turns around before things get that serious for him.

But I wouldn't count on it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Another Reason for Gratitude

Happy Fourth of July!

For years, holidays never meant much one way or the other. As long as they didn’t get in the way of my using, I was okay.

Back then the best thing about the Fourth was that someone would have a barbecue and there might be plenty of free booze. In that case no one would be critical of how drunk or high I was.

Now life is different.

Today I appreciate our Declaration of Independence from England in 1776 - and the freedoms it brought us.

I go to gratitude. Because my loved ones and I aren’t living in the Mideast or Africa, where life for some is a day-to-day struggle for existence.

Instead I live in a country where I can say whatever about the government without going to jail or disappearing.  Where I have an opportunity to prosper.

I'm grateful to live in a country where I enjoy the blessings of a second chance at life.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Success

Last night an addict graduated from TLC's outpatient treatment clinic after successfully completing four months.

And he was a different human being from the man who first showed up. His eyes were clear. His skin looked healthy. He'd gained about 35 pounds. His grooming was impeccable.  He's starting school in the fall – with the goal of becoming a teacher. And he has a new girlfriend, with whom he'll be living.

Some forty people, including family members, treatment clients and staff were at the ceremony.

Several clients spoke to wish him well. His father also spoke, his voice full of hope for his son's future. It was moving to see him express love and support for the son who'd struggled for so long with his addiction.

Events like this give hope to the rest of the clients – those who are doing well – and those who are struggling with the challenges of recovery.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Acceptance

Each year around this time I get opportunities to practice acceptance. And it happens like this.

SAMSHA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, starts its annual survey of recovery programs.

Each year they send surveys to each of TLC’s properties. The long forms take about a half hour to complete. This is how the government updates its nationwide directory.

And for several years I did the paperwork. But then after a few cycles of this I wondered why. I did the paperwork but TLC wasn’t put in their online directory. So because we weren’t in the directory I started tossing the questionnaires in the trash.

When the surveyors asked why they weren't getting their questionnaires back I told them: we're not in the directory.

They said it was because we need approval from the State. And they gave me the name of the approval person. But in three years she’s never called back - even though we have several licenses and permits across the state.

So, I’m looking forward to phone calls from nice bureaucrats over the next few months. They'll plead with me to spend six or seven hours providing information for their database.

And I’ll practice acceptance by not getting angry at them. Then I’ll say no.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Back Home

A manager flies home on the weekend to visit relatives and attend a funeral in his home town. And it was the first time many of them had seen him clean and sober.

He had some anxiety about the trip, even though it was only a few days and he was to be in the company of family.

While there he had to travel past old haunts, drug houses where he once used crack. Places that reminded him of his using days.

He said that while he didn't have an urge to use, it was hard to stop himself from looking at these places. Kind of like when one can't keep from looking at a wreck on the freeway.

His visit took him into new territory, dealing with his relatives and children while being clean and sober.

Sometimes he had to use his program to stay out of family business over which he had no control.

It was a revelation to his children that he’d been using since before they were born - some thirty years. They were able to see a different side of him.

On Sunday he was happy to be back at TLC, where he's spent most of his sobriety. And he's also happy about plans made with his family to have regular reunions.