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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Spread Kindness

An act of kindness may change the world.

The first week of January, 1991, I made a phone call from a detox center in Mesa, Arizona. The call was to a halfway house in the downtown area, a few miles away.

Because I was about to leave the detox center after 11 days, I needed a place to continue my recovery. But I had no money.

When I explained this to the man who answered the phone, he said, in a rough voice, "Did I say anything about money?"

He told me all I needed to get into his halfway house was a willingness to stay sober. Of course I'd need to find work. But they'd give me credit until I found a job and started paying.

His kindness had a profound effect. Because if they hadn't been willing to take me in with no money I'm not sure where I would've ended up. Maybe back on the streets at 51 years old. Or living under a bridge. Perhaps I'd have gone back to jail. Who knows the course my life might've taken? I never forgot how I felt when I realized I had a place to continue my recovery. It was deep gratitude.

That one act of kindness planted the seed for what later became TLC. A year to the day after I left that program I open the doors on TLC's first house in January 1992.

Since then, over 350,000 men and women have passed through TLC's doors. And they've been able to enter without money. Have all them stayed clean and sober? Of course not. But enough of them have changed their lives to make a difference in the world.

The people who have gone through TLC and stayed clean affect those around them. Their children and grandchildren may follow their example. A good example spreads far and wide - sometimes through generations.

So when you have an opportunity to be kind, do it.

Like ripples from tossing a pebble in a pond, you never know how far your act of kindness will spread.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Taking Care of Ourselves

A longtime manager yesterday told me the results of a medical procedure he'd had a few days before.

He said everything came out okay and I congratulated him. I also encouraged him to keep taking care of his health.

Over the years I've encouraged our staff and clients to do the same. And taking care of themselves goes beyond not using drugs or alcohol. It includes regular checkups. It includes finding insurance as soon as possible. Eating sensibly. Developing an exercise routine. Moderating stress.

More than once I've heard staff members say that they don't get checkups because they don't want bad news. But that's a head in the sand approach. One way or the other, if there's bad news we'll get it.

But if we care enough, we can maybe prevent a minor health problem from developing into something major.

Many of us in recovery have done atrocious things to ourselves. Sharing needles. Smoking strange substances. Putting God knows what into our veins. And it's a miracle we survived – because we all know someone who didn't.

When we get clean and start giving back to the world part of giving back means taking care of ourselves. When we rejoin society we start developing relationships with others – people who love and care for us.

After so much wreckage we owe our best to the world – and that means living healthy.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hurting Loved Ones

I could feel the pain in the man's voice. He was so upset, that even though he was 2000 miles away, it was like he was at my side.

He said he'd been dealing with his son's addiction for years. He'd sent him to treatment programs. He'd visited him in jail. He'd help him financially. He bought him cars. But nothing seemed to work.

Finally, he saw the halfway house program on this website. He knew it would be a perfect fit. So he bought him an airline ticket and we picked him up at the airport.

And he did all right for a few weeks. Then one day he disappeared. Soon his father got a call. His son told him there'd been a 30 man brawl at one of our halfway houses and because he was part of the altercation we discharged him. I told his father that never happened. But that a few people left because they refused to take a drug test.

After he left his father only had sporadic phone calls. He'd hear that he was in a detox center. Then maybe in another program. Once he called from a soup kitchen. When he called he'd beg for money or an airline ticket home. But his father didn't do what he asked; instead he wanted him to go back into the program.

There's a lot more that went on between father and son. But the point of all this is that most of us in our addiction never realize the pain and misery we cause those who love us. They can't sleep. They wonder if they're going to get a call in the middle of the night with a message that we died. They blame themselves. They wonder where they went wrong when they were raising us.

But it's usually never about what they did or didn’t do. It's about our self-centered egocentric behavior that says the only thing that matters is our pleasure. Our drugs. Our alcohol. Our immediate self gratification.

If we really understood how our behavior affects those who love us we might have an easier time being in recovery.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

1500 Days...

The counter on the Google website says I've been writing this blog for 1500 days yesterday. That's a little over four years. Not sure why, but every time I add another 100 blogs it seems sort of a benchmark. So every time I add another hundred, I usually write about it.

I tell myself that I write this to keep my brain in shape. I use the analogy that it's kinda like going to the gym. It's an exercise in discipline and persistence. But instead of for the body, it's for my mind – to hone my writing skills.

Whatever it is, it seems also to be an extension of my obsessive personality. Whenever I like something I become addicted to it. That's what's happened to me with drugs. With alcohol. Exercise. Work. Anything that has a hint of feel good about it, I become addicted to it.

Sometimes when I think about writing after a tiring day I ask myself what's the point? Sometimes it takes 45 minutes to polish these words so they make sense. Even the next morning, I'll review what I wrote the night before and make changes.

Aside from self-centered motives I mentioned above, there's another thing that keeps me at this. And that's the parents and family members who write to say that reading the blog helps them feel connected to their loved ones at TLC. Plus, they get some insight into how the program works.

That's enough right there for me to keep doing what I'm doing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

R.I.P.

It is with sadness that we note the passing of Bob Berthelson, who had been at TLC for a little over five years.

Bob, who died of cancer at 79, had many friends at TLC. He lived in one of the Roosevelt properties in Phoenix.

Residents are holding a memorial ceremony at the Roosevelt house tomorrow evening.

Bob, known as "O.G." or "Old Gangster," considered TLC his family.

Godspeed, Bob. We'll miss you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dream Life

The topic in a halfway house group last night was "what does my dream life look like?"

And it was interesting that the most common dream among the men was to simply have a normal life.

None wanted to be rich. They didn't want a big mansion. They didn't talk about fancy cars. Or expensive vacations.

Instead, they talked of having an average house in a middle-class neighborhood. A marriage or relationship with a woman who understood them. And a job to support this lifestyle.

After group I thought for a moment that they might be lacking ambition. But then I reflected that the majority of us in recovery never had a so-called normal life.

Many of us spent our lives in and out of prison. Or moving from one place to another before the law caught up with us. In and out of relationships. Rarely a moment of stability.

And that's why a peaceful ordinary existence looks good to us.

The consensus of the group was that if they stay away from drugs and alcohol their "dream life" could become a reality.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Suboxone & Vivitrol

At TLC outpatient clinic we offer certain drugs to help clients get over their addictions.

And two of these drugs are somewhat controversial among those who know of our drug-free philosophy of the past 23 years. In particular, a drug that raises questions is Suboxone.

This drug reduces withdrawal symptoms of - and cravings for - opiates.  Clients use this drug only under our doctor's supervision.

The value is that addicts can work on recovery without cravings or discomfort. Unlike methadone, it's not for long-term use. Many addicts voluntarily withdraw from Suboxone after a few months.

Another drug we offer at the clinic is Vivitrol. This drug blocks both opiate and alcohol cravings. It requires only a monthly intramuscular injection. Those using it report no cravings.

Both drugs are expensive. But if they keep an addict from relapsing - or losing their lives - they're well worth the expense.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Any Lengths

In the 12 step programs we hear about "going to any lengths." And this, of course, means we'll do whatever it takes to get sober. And a few days ago, I met a man who seems willing to go to any lengths.

I first came into contact with him when his mother called seeking help. She said he was in a hotel in the deep South and was about to be homeless. She said he'd been struggling with alcohol and drugs for years. But that he never had any period of recovery at all.

After half a dozen phone calls between me and family members we made arrangements for him to go into one of our halfway houses. Sometimes it takes a lot of communication to put these things together. Especially when an addict or alcoholic is on the other side of the country, as this man was. After he got on the Greyhound and began the two day trip he kept me updated on his progress.

And during every call he seemed to have a high anxiety level, but he talked as if he were sober. Each time we talked I would encourage him to get back on the bus and keep heading our way. The last time we talked he was in Tucson and getting ready to re-board the bus for Phoenix.

A few times yesterday I reflected upon this man's determination to get sober. If he can maintain that determination after he gets off the bus in Phoenix he has a chance to change his life.

It's rewarding to be part of a story like this.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Euphoric Recall?

Ecstasy is upon her face as she talks of the first time she put a needle in her arm and felt the joy of heroin rushing through her body. Even though she's been clean for several months, her eyes glaze over as if she'd just fixed moments before.

Euphoric recall sometimes does this to people. Their countenance and demeanor reveal the subconscious power drugs continue to have over their lives.

As we talk about her disease I suggest that she not dwell upon the pleasure she once experienced. And I share with her my own defense mechanisms when euphoric thoughts arise.

I know that drugs and alcohol would still have a wonderful effect upon me – at least for a while. But then I play the tape to the end. And the end for me was always disaster. It was jails and prisons. Divorces. Bankruptcy. Poor health. Ongoing legal issues. Disappointed family and friends.

And even today, at nearly 24 years clean and sober, I don't entertain the idea that I can ever successfully use drugs and alcohol.

Instead, I feel good by building positive things into my life. I go to meetings. I meditate. I do yoga. I ride my bicycle. I swim. I pay attention to what I eat. I study. I work with others. I do everything I can to keep my stress down.  The result is that most of the time I feel great.

Once we leave the drinking and drug culture, we must build positive habits around our lives. That's our best defense against relapse.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Take a Breath

Sometimes I write a blog and expect no response. Like the one I wrote yesterday about communication.

But it resonated with a couple of people who shared their experiences with bad communication.

One was a man in treatment in another state who described his exchange with a counselor.

He said he needed a phone to take care of personal business. He said the counselor became angry and was rough on him.

He, in turn, became frustrated and things didn't go well after that. Other staff members became involved. And before long they threatened to kick him out of the program.

Because I got this second hand I'm not sure what happened. But one thing I am sure of is that communication never has to break down like this.

Whenever I'm in a confrontation with clients or staff I take a deep breath. I dial down the rhetoric.

I've learned to tell anyone anything without things becoming emotional. It's the simple idea that we treat everyone with respect.

I can speak to those I disagree with without raising the tone.

Anger never gets a good result. Because when we go there we not only have the original issue - we enter the danger zone of saying something we'll later regret.

Breathe.

Click here to email John

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Business Challenges

A business with so-called "normal" employees has challenges.

But at TLC - where 99% of employees are in recovery -the challenges sometimes seem bigger.

First, there's the daily routine of getting everything done - as in any business.

If a business bakes bread, makes widgets, or does landscaping, there's a rhythm or routine to it.

But because our job is to help those in recovery we deal with an overlay of emotional issues. And sometimes they make no sense at all. No rhyme or reason.

If may be clients upset about managers. Or, it's managers frustrated with clients. Or else managers pissed at one another over perceived wrongs.

Years ago we had a group at the corporate office to sort out a conflict. Our accountant at the time thought it interesting that we'd stop everything in the middle of work to deal with an issue. But we do it that way to cut through the drama and move on.

Probably one of our bigger jobs is to help sort out the petty issues and help everyone focus on our mission.

And that mission is to help recovering substance abusers rebuild their lives.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Feelings

Clients often use the word "feelings" when talking about what is going on with them.

"I feel like everyone's picking on me."

"I feel like they have it in for me."

"I feel like no one understands me."

But, when we live our lives only on the basis of how we feel it can be dangerous. Especially for us addicts.

For example, it was all about my feelings when I picked up. When I slammed the needle in my arm. When these things happened I was either depressed or angry. I simply wanted to feel better because I was in a funk.

I doubt if any of us ever made a logical decision to use drugs or alcohol. It was always about how we felt.

We never said "I think the logical thing I can do for my life today is to go to the neighborhood and buy heroin." It was always about feelings.

While feelings are a wonderful part of being human, they change like the shifting sands. Right now, reading this, I feel one way. Five minutes later, I might feel different.

We shouldn't ignore our feelings, we just need to be aware of them so we can make positive decisions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Changes?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we lived in a state of bliss and never had to move from that spot?

Then, of course, that old demon shows up - change. And we move off our happy spot. And rearrange our lives in an effort to recapture that nirvana.

Change was the group topic last evening because a few dozen clients are moving. For administrative reasons they're going to a facility ten miles away.

In reality, their lives won't change in a material way. It’s a nicer facility. It has a new kitchen and air-conditioning throughout. Living conditions are better.

The hard part is the unknown. They don't know the neighborhood. They're not familiar with meetings in that area. How will they meet with sponsors and sponsees? How will they get to work. On and on.

The lesson is that the only thing we can rely is that change is the one constant in life.

We lose friends. We make friends. We find a new job. We get promoted. Or fired.

We gain or lose weight. A new wrinkle shows up. A smattering of grey hair. It's a constant cycle - yet sometimes we act surprised or become frustrated.

We remain emotionally healthier if we accept that the only constant in life is change.

Embrace it.

Click here to email John

Monday, August 18, 2014

In the Moment

As we start our week let's focus on staying in the moment.

As we drive to work are we watching the road in front of us? Or are we angry at the driver who cut us off? Are we chewing on the argument we had with the boss last week? Or are we fretting about our bills?

If our mind is leapfrogging from one thing to another what are we doing about the present moment? Who's watching out for us when our mind is off skittering from one thing to another?

When my mind does this how do I get back to the present? I'll share a simple solution that works for me.

I come back to gratitude and do a quick inventory of my life. What am I grateful for? My health and recovery. A good marriage. Having the same job for 23 years. Healthy children and grandchildren. Enough prosperity to do pretty much what I want.

When I get into gratitude I find that I'm back to the center. And back to the present moment.

It's a good place to live.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

We Owe the World

As I see it, in recovery we make a commitment that goes beyond quitting drugs and alcohol.

When we throw away the bottle, the pipe, the powder or the needle we breathe a sigh of relief. The monster's at bay. We're not in jail. Or the hospital.

And for the first few months we're okay.

But then what? What about the rest of it? Am I still doing some unhealthy things? Do I smoke cigarettes? Or chew tobacco?

Am I loafing on my ass watching TV or playing video games all my spare hours? Do I eat mystery food out of bag handed from a drive-through window? In other words, am I still living an unhealthy lifestyle even though I've given up the worst things?

Why does it matter? It matters because just quitting our addictions isn't enough.

We've rejoined society. And now it's time to return the many blessings God gave us when she granted us life.

We must make amends to our families and friends. We have to repay a society from which we took everything to support our addictions.

And to do that we need to be at our healthiest and best to the return the favor the world has shown us.

When we start taking care of ourselves we start taking care of others.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New Woman's House

Around 10 years ago TLC opened its first women's house at 1045 East Main, in Mesa.

A few years later the women moved to Pepper Street, near downtown Mesa. Yet later, it moved to a different location, still downtown, where it is today. About 60 women live there.

Now, to  extend our services to women, we're opening a 50 bed facility in North Phoenix.

This location has been a long time coming. Normally, the way things happen around TLC is that we decide we need a new facility in a certain area. Then we spend a few years chattering and planning.

The main requirement for a facility at TLC is staff. And growing staff takes months – sometimes years.

The primary quality we seek is dedication to recovery. And lately we've been blessed to find women who excel in that area.

We have a core of women who carry the message. Everything else they can learn on the job.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Back out

Sometimes the news is bad. A former resident who'd been with us for years starts drinking again.

And because I know him fairly well I'm disappointed. For a long time he'd been doing the right thing.

He graduated from the program. He attended meetings and found a sponsor. He had a steady job. He bought things, including a vehicle. He found a lady friend. His life, for the first time in years, seems on track.

Then something happens.  Because we don't live in his head we don't know what. Maybe he was in trouble at work. Perhaps he was having financial problems. Maybe his relationship wasn't going right. We don't know.

All we get is second hand reports that he’s back out there.

What to do? There’s not much to do unless he returns and asks for help. Our hands are always out for those who want help.

In the meantime we pray that he makes it back to the rooms.

Click here to email John

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Control?

Control is an issue with us addicts.

To protect ourselves, we must accept that most of life is beyond our control. If we don't learn that we court disaster. Our grandiosity might destroy us.

I counsel clients with control issues to realize that we only control ourselves. That is, if we're lucky.

For years I controlled my life so well that I became addicted. My home was prison or jail. For about a year I was in a state mental hospital. I lost businesses. Got divorced. Went bankrupt.

When a counselor pointed out that I controlled things so well that I nearly killed myself, I had to agree. I couldn't deny the trail of evidence I left behind.

Once I figured out that God would let me know when he needed my help running things, life got much easier.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hope for her Son

I receive an email from a distraught mother.

She wonders what to do about her alcoholic son. He's in his mid-twenties, living on the streets. She's helped him get into a lot of treatment programs, but to no avail.

She goes on to tell about the person he used to be. He was an outstanding student in high school. He excelled in sports. A handsome and popular boy.

Now he can't keep a job. He has five children he can't support. His wife gave up and left a while back.

She talks of her dark nightmares: that someone will find him dead in an alley or empty lot.

She stumbled across TLC while surfing for help. When she found the site she had a glimmer of hope. Maybe this program was the answer.

And I let her know that if he wants to change we're here for him. That's what we do. We're willing to help if he's willing to help himself.

Willing. That was what everyone of us became before we walked into the light of recovery.

I tell her that if he simply becomes willing there's hope for him.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Practicing Change

A manager talks in group about wanting to change. He's angry at himself because he gets upset at how others behave. He lets their bad behavior weigh on his mind.

He doesn't like this aspect of his personality.

Someone suggests that it's about power and control. He doesn't disagree, but wonders how to be different.

A group member brings up page 417 in the recovery literature. It says, in part: "And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation -- some fact of my life -- unacceptable to me..."

It follows that if we want others to behave as we expect we'll live much of our lives in a state of frustration.

To be different takes practice. Just because we recognize our behavior doesn't mean it will change. 

Change takes practice.

When others don't do as we expect we ask ourselves if what they're doing is our business. If not, we need to leave it alone.

When we're able to do this our lives go much smoother.

Click here to email John

Monday, August 11, 2014

Important Qualities

A day after she arrived at TLC a new client is on the street corner washing cars to raise funds for the house.

The next day she's sent to a telemarketing job on the other side of the valley.

It's boiling hot this time of year in Arizona. She's living in a halfway house with 50 other women. Some living areas only have swamp coolers.

Yet she never complains. In fact, she expresses gratitude because she has the opportunity to work on her recovery. She's willing to help.

No matter the setbacks, she keeps her eyes on recovery. The inconveniences are secondary.

Even though she's been here less than three months, managers are taking a look at her. They think she has management potential.

So why would they think this about someone so new in recovery?

It's because they know the two most important qualities a manager needs. And those are gratitude and dedication to their recovery. And that's what this client has.

We have a lot of educated clients who show up at our doors. They have the credentials to manage. They might understand the mechanics of running a business.

But if they don't also have gratitude and a dedication to recovery it never works.

Click here to email John

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Each One Teach One

At one of the halfway houses last week I overhear a group leader talking to a small circle of men.

Because his voice is familiar, I pause for a moment to listen to what he's saying.

He's explaining how to act at 12-step meetings. He tells them how to do a job search. He talks of their responsibility to TLC - how they should pay their service fees on time. That they should encourage each other. He goes through the program guidelines.

As I walk on, I reflect on the man running the group. When he first came he was often in trouble for his behavior. He couldn't keep a job. He often overslept. There was always something negative.

But after a few months he changed. He didn't get consequences. He kept his area clean. He showed up on time. He did his chores and paid his service fees. He moved to a higher level. He began helping others.

When we see clients change their behavior, as he has, we know our mission is working.

Click here to email John



Saturday, August 9, 2014

Carrying the Mess

My advice to others in recovery is to "carry the message, not the mess. "

But sometimes I don't follow my own advice. And this happens when I'm busy and unaware.

Like yesterday I'm sorting out an accounting issue and in comes an email. I don't usually read emails as they come in because they distract me.

But I read this one, maybe because I wanted a break from what I was doing.

Anyway, the writer was frantic. Stranded somewhere in another state. Strung out on who knows what. Everyone hated him. Broke. No one would help and so forth. The same long story we all told before we got sober.

So I made suggestions about how he could get help and get here.

He had reasons why they wouldn't work.

I gave him more ideas.

Nope, they wouldn't work either. And he had several reasons why they wouldn't.

Finally, I realized we were going in circles. I'd given several creative suggestions, only to have him tell me why they wouldn't work.

When I noticed how I was getting involved in his drama I pulled back.

At the end I told him we'd have a bed for him in the halfway houses. But he'd have to figure out how to get here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tough Program?

Many think our halfway house program is tough.

After all, we ask residents to do difficult things.

For example, they pay rent of $110 a week. They must have a job, or other income. They have to abstain from alcohol and illicit drug use. No stealing. No threats. No violence. Keep their living quarters clean. Go to meetings.

While these are like things people do in the real world, addicts and alcoholics often find them difficult.

After all, we get many residents who've never had a steady job. Some have never had their own apartment. Or owned a car. They don't know how to open a bank account. They've never paid rent. And I'm talking of people in their thirties and beyond.

And the sad part is that many of them learned this lifestyle from their families.

Parents have asked why we would ask their baby to get up at 4:00 am to work on a labor ticket. They think it's cruel and unfair. They change their mind though when we suggest they should take them home.

The only tough part of our program is that we ask residents to be responsible.

And until we're ready, that can be difficult.

Click here to email John

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Rigid about Recovery

When I was sober fifteen years an old using buddy from California found me on the internet.

He told me he hadn't used heroin for over ten years.

He'd been working in a treatment program for a long time and wondered if I'd like to get together with him and his wife.

At first I agreed. But when it came out that he still drank once in a while, I declined his invitation. I think it hurt his feelings because we'd been friends for some time. And I haven't heard from him since.

A commitment I made when I got sober was to not do things that might jeopardize my recovery.

That means I don't hang out in nightclubs or bars. I don't attend events where drinking is the main activity. I can be around social drinkers when necessary, like at a wedding or fund-raising banquet.

Even when my son relapsed a few years on alcohol and heroin I stayed clear of him for the two years he was using.

Rigid? Dogmatic? Yes, because my sobriety set me free.

And I never want to jeopardize that freedom.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Finding Gratitude

An addict wonders what he has to be grateful for.

He's living in a halfway house. His family's not speaking to him. His kids are somewhere with his ex-wife. His parole officer's threatening him with arrest if he doesn't clean up. He's broke and doesn't have a job.

He goes on and on while I suppress the urge to tell him to stop whining.

Instead, I share with him what I do when I drift toward feeling sorry for myself.
Instead of going there, I look at the world around me. When I do I always find a reason for gratitude.

For example, this morning I saw news coverage of the war in Gaza. Innocent people are dying over the question of who worships the right god.

That one news item reminds me that while I live in an imperfect country, at least I can believe whatever I choose. No one will blow me up for my beliefs.

But we don't have to look at a foreign country. We can look around our own city and find those with challenges - mental, physical, or financial. And sometimes all of them at once.

When you’re feeling down look around you. You’ll find reasons for gratitude.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Real Fire

At the office we sometimes use the term "putting out fires" when someone asks about our day.

This means, of course, solving issues that need immediate attention.

But yesterday we had a real fire at our Roosevelt property.

The fire department put it out right away. There was damage to two rooms and loss of personal items.

A short in the electrical wiring was the possible cause.

Even though there's thousands in damages, I came away grateful there were no injuries.

Also, I'm thankful we have a quick thinking staff. They took charge and got everyone out of harm's way.

My first instinct while driving there was to focus on what might happen. We could lose the whole building. Where would we put the clients? My addict brain kept chattering.

Then I took a deep breath. I already knew everyone was safe. We have great insurance. We have open beds at other locations.

Even though this is a minor setback, things could have turned out differently.

And I thank God they didn't.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to Basics

A woman who's been sober for several years said she had to get back to basics.

For most of her recovery, life had been smooth.

She reunited with her children. The company she worked for many years rehired her.

She found a new relationship with a man who understood and accepted her disease. They bought a home together.

And then things started to get rough. She and her boyfriend were at odds. She began having disagreements with her employer. Her children were angry at her. Dark clouds were gathering over her life.

She asked her sponsor what could be going on. And the sponsor asked how many meetings she'd been attending over the last few months.

And that's when she decided to get back to basics.

She'd stopped doing the basics that had contributed to her success.

Now that she's going to meetings her life is getting back on track.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Good Examples

As part of my recovery I often make a gratitude list.

And when I do I find that the simplest things sometimes make it onto the list.

For example, our two Chihuahuas - Jose and Lucy - made it onto the list this week.

Now the dog owners among you will understand my gratitude.

But for those of you who are not, I'll explain.

While I'm not one who attributes human qualities to dogs, their behavior is still an example for us humans. Especially us humans in recovery.

They're much better than I am about letting go of resentments. One moment they they'll be fighting over a bone. Five minutes later they're rolling around and playing together

If someone had snarled at me like that I'd be pouting for a week and whining to my sponsor. But they just get over it.

When I show up after a long day, they never ask where I've been. Or what took me so long because they're hungry. Instead, they welcome me with leaps of joy.

They're an example of total acceptance and unconditional love - things I'm still working on.

Click here to email John

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Helping Clients

Sometimes our halfway house managers don't know what to do when clients break the rules.

They're upset when one relapses. Or comes in late for curfew. Or gets involved in a relationship with another client.

The knee-jerk reaction is to discharge the client. Or perhaps give a punishment that doesn't match the offense.

My counsel to them is that clients don't come to us as healthy, well-adjusted, human beings. After all, they come to us in hopes of changing their behavior.

And while we don't have the power to make them better, we do provide guidance so they can improve their lives. We try to help them to the point where they can check their own behavior and avoid relapse.

As long as clients are trying to change – even if they at times go sideways – I believe we should work with them.

We should only discharge them if they have a chronic bad attitude. Or, if their behavior threatens other clients or the integrity of the program.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Showing Respect

Over 10 years ago, we had a supervisor who struck terror wherever he went on the property. He would shout at managers and clients. He would talk down to them. He would disparage them.

One day, when I accidentally overheard him berating a manager, I called him to my office.

I told him if I ever heard of him talking to anyone like that again he was gone. All I wanted to hear was how nice he was treating everyone.

And for the next few weeks I got good feedback. He was treating everyone well.

Then one day he came to my office and resigned. It was too difficult for him to change. So he was going to find another job.

Since that time we make it point to teach managers how to talk to clients and other employees.

No matter what someone has done, even if it's wrong or stupid, we ask that they treat them with respect and dignity.

We do nothing positive when we raise their stress level by being rough on them.

And in the process we raise our own stress level, all of which runs counter to recovery.

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