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, November 30, 2014

Being Cynical?

Sometimes I wonder if I'm cynical. Or if I just don't have the spirit of Christmas?

This comes up because I saw coverage of Black Friday. There was a story of a woman who had pitched her tent outside a Best Buy store. She was there a week early to be sure she was first in line. Huh?

There were stories from Eastern states about those who spent the night in mall parking lots in their cars. They didn't want to freeze while they waited for the doors to open.  Really?

I tried to imagine if there was anything in a shopping mall so wonderful that I'd wait outside a store for even 15 minutes. I couldn't think of a thing.

Although I've never been a shopper I understand wanting stuff. Many years ago I thought the next new car or gadget would be it. But the novelty quickly wore off and it was on to the next thing. But nothing brought long-term fulfillment.

So maybe recovery has changed my thinking. Because for the past 23 years it's been more about learning to live in peace and tranquility. About having gratitude and helping others.

I believe in having the necessities, the basics and even a few luxuries. 

But I see no intrinsic value in joining the consumer rat race to chase the next wonderful thing. Especially if I have to wait in line...

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Enemy

I once in a while get sad reminders of how we're our own worst enemies. How we let anger and arrogance destroy our lives.

A person I was once friends with years ago had everything. A good marriage. Active in recovery. An advanced degree. A professional license. A beautiful home. A child in college. All the things that some aspire to, that many in this country dream of achieving.

Yet something shifted. Things changed for her. Issues from her past, maybe residual anger, maybe abuse, took control. And her life began to unravel.

She began mistreating family members and co-workers with verbal abuse, criticism, and emotional outbursts. She couldn't pay people enough to work for her. She alienated everyone in her life.

She finally lost her her marriage, her home, and her professional licensing

And when I learned of this recently a sense of sadness came over me because life is hard enough without us working against ourselves.

When I heard of her circumstances I felt only compassion because I know she has the potential to be someone different.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 28, 2014

Trees on Sale

Each year TLC sells Christmas trees across the Valley - starting today.

Our first shipment of around 1000 trees is on sale now. And we continue operations until Christmas Eve.

There are logistics involved. To make sure we have a supply for the day after Thanksgiving we place our order with the Oregon tree farms in July.

Part of the preparation is to make arrangements for security fencing, cash registers, a water supply, city permits, and 30 days of insurance coverage for the property management companies that operate the shopping centers where we set up.

A half dozen TLC managers oversee the project from beginning to end. That includes supervising volunteers, scheduling shifts, arranging transportation, re-stocking the lots from the supply location and making sure the money gets to the bank.

And where do the profits go? To Christmas bonuses for our 120 managers and staff members.

So, if you're reading this and need a Christmas tree call us at 480-833-0143 and we'll direct you to the nearest lot. We have several across the Valley.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Being Thankful

Last night I left the hospital with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

My wife and I had just visited the neonatal ICU where we met for the first time my six-hour old grandson, Wyatt. Even though he was born prematurely, he was already breathing on his own.

His mother, my youngest daughter, is doing well after a problematic pregnancy that kept her in the hospital for nine weeks.

As I welcome this newest member of our family I know I wouldn't have witnessed this birth had I not gotten sober nearly 24 years ago. In fact, had I not gotten sober I wouldn't be here today period.

I think that all of us who have been removed from the despair of our addiction can look around our lives and find much to be grateful for.

You may have additions to your family. You may have found a great job. Perhaps your health is returning. Maybe you're getting into a level of acceptance that's making your life much more enjoyable.

What ever it is, on this day of Thanksgiving appreciate the many blessings you have in your life.

As for me, I'm especially grateful to have a healthy daughter and a new grandson.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Good News

It was good news today when I talked to a parent whose son was with us a few years back.

While he was with us he was always in some kind of trouble. He relapsed more than once. He didn't like that he had to find a job. Sometimes he was late for curfew. He didn't get along with the others in his room. The food wasn't to his liking it. It was always something.

Finally he relapsed for a third time and we sent him on his way. Some thought his next address might be over in Florence, at the state prison.

And so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that he was doing well. He's been clean for 18 months. He now lives in another state in his own apartment. He has a great job and he doesn't ask her for money - something he did on a regular basis while with us.

She gives a lot of credit to us for what he learned here. And that's nice to hear.

But everyone who comes through gets the same information. In this man's case he decided to put it in action.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Talking to a Drunk...

A manager's phone rings around 2:00 am. When he answers there's heavy breathing on the line.

He suspects he knows who it is: a client who relapsed a few months ago and has been unable to find his way back.

The man calls again the next morning and starts chatting about the weather and other minutia as if he and the manager are old buddies. As if everything is normal. The manager tells him to call when he's ready to get sober and hangs up.

There is only one reason those of us in recovery talk with those who are drunk or using. And that's because we might be able to help save their lives.

There's a reason people contact us after they relapse. Part of it might be an attempt to put a normal face on their drinking or drugging. Maybe make things seem okay.

But I believe it's something deeper. They know that what they're doing is not going to end well if they continue. There's a nagging message inside that says that maybe we'll talk them back into recovery. The part of them that knows we'll tell them the truth.

Then there's the other part of them that doesn't want to hear it - the part that wants to keep the party going.

We can only hope this client gets enough pain and demoralization to get back to the program.

When and if he does we'll be here to help.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 24, 2014

Adding to our Recovery

The 12-step programs tell us to cease fighting - and that means anyone or anything.

I'm reminded of this today when a man at a meeting tells of his encounter with a rude driver in a parking lot.

He became angry when the driver beat him to a parking spot.

While he immediately found another space, he had thoughts of kicking the guy's ass.

But on later reflection he realized his anger served no purpose. It just left him upset.

As we grow in recovery we learn new ways of thinking. We learn to relate to others without anger. Without upsetting ourselves because people don't do what we want them to do.

When we first come into the rooms - and I was one of those people - we think everything’s about us. It's me me me and my my my. It's all about us and we know everything will be okay if the world would just do what I need them to do.

But after we stick around a while we realize we're just another speck on the planet. That there are 8 billion or so other people who are as important as we are.

As we move on in recovery we become kinder and more understanding of others. Instead of pushing them aside or getting angry, we show compassion.

As we give them compassion we add to the spiritual dimension to our recovery.

Click here to email John

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thankful

As Thanksgiving week is upon us we find many reasons to be grateful. And just what are we thankful for?

There are, of course, the obvious things: our loved ones, our health, our jobs.

But those of us in recovery know that these blessings are only a part of the picture.

Those of us who have worked our way out of our self-induced hell are thankful on a deeper level.

Because now we no longer live in dread. We no longer have a black cloud of doom hanging over us.

We don't have to lie to our families about what we did with money. We don't have to explain the strange people with whom we associate. We don't disappear for long periods of time.

Now our friends and families welcome us into their homes. They no longer have to make excuses for us.

We're rejoining the human race and for that we're thankful.

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's about Attitude

“Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw the mud, the other saw stars.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

This short quote exemplifies how our attitude shapes what we see.

Some clients come to us from jail or the streets and are happy to have a home where they can work on recovery. They are grateful for our modest housing and simple meals.

Others come to us, maybe kicked off mommy's couch, and are pissed off about everything. They hate the food. They don't want to work. No one's going to tell them what to do.

And, of course, you can guess who has the best chance of succeeding.

In early recovery I was grateful to those who took me into their halfway house.  I had nothing.  No money.  No job.  No car.  Just the clothes on my back.

The idea that other addicts in recovery would reach out and help me, changed my life.  My first year in recovery I worked an outside job and worked for them as a volunteer manager.

My attitude was - and still is - one of gratitude that I have a chance at a full life.

And that attitude has brought me many blessings.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dishonesty

A few days ago a TLC van bringing clients home from work was in an accident. It was so serious that it totaled our van.

Our driver went to the hospital with broken legs and other injuries. The three TLC clients walked away. There were no injuries reported by those in the other vehicle.

However, later that evening the three who said they weren't hurt went to the emergency room. Even though they'd said at the scene that they weren't injured.

This is a common scenario after an accident involving our clients. Even if they're not injured they'll later go to the emergency and return with a neck brace or pain medication. Something.

And the goal is always the same: to lay the foundation for a big settlement for their "injuries."  And maybe to get high.

We once had a fifteen passenger van rear ended at a stop light in the mid-nineties by a car going about three miles an hour. It didn't even dent the bumper. But the six or seven clients inside all rolled out claiming neck and back "injuries."

Our policy when clients do this is always the same: if you're going to sue TLC you must live elsewhere while you're doing it. So generally they end up living elsewhere.

And for us it's not about the money because we spend around $75,000 a year for vehicle insurance. Plus another $100,000 plus for general liability coverage. And that's whether we have a claim or not.

The bigger thing for us is that this kind of behavior displays a fundamental dishonesty that runs counter to recovery.

In the 12-step programs we learn about honesty. If a client lies about injuries or tries to scam us or our insurance company then we have a problem.

Each year we have a few claims from those injured on the job. Broken fingers, cuts, and other kinds of mishaps that occur on construction sites. And we're okay paying medical bills for real injuries. But we draw the line when injury claims are as questionable at the ones of a few days ago.

And in 23 years no one has received a dime for a fake insurance claim.  But they have ended up living elsewhere.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Embracing Anxiety

As a certified hypnotist I often get requests from clients suffering from anxiety.

They want to leave my office anxiety free, without fear of the future or the unknown.

But before we go into a session I explain that anxiety is as natural as breathing. Anxiety was a survival tool that allowed us to evolve into who we are today.

If our ancestors had no fear of what might lurk outside the cave entrance they might have been lunch for a hungry animal. So anxiety often kept us from real danger, from starving, or becoming victim of an ambush by another tribe. True danger was a constant in our history.

But in our modern world we often perceive more danger than truly exists. We're inundated with negative news because that's what sells advertising. Ebola. Terrorism. The economy. The job market. Or we build fear by ourselves in our magnifying minds

But for many of us hyper-sensitive addicts this input - whether from outside or self-generated - can create more anxiety and fear. It builds on itself until we're paralyzed.

To help clients I use ideas from mindfulness meditation - which teaches us to accept all our thoughts. To welcome them as normal. To view them as friends, then let them pass on.

And it doesn't make any difference whether the thoughts are anger or fear or joy or judgement. Whatever they are we accept them and let them pass like the clouds in the sky. Like bubbles on a flowing stream.

While they're in hypnosis I suggest they embrace their anxiety as natural.

And after a few sessions clients report more peace and serenity because they're no longer consumed with fear. Anxiety has assumed its natural place in their lives.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We think Differently

A friend who entered a Phoenix detox 23 years ago describes his talk with the intake counselor.

"He asked how much I thought the average person drank on Friday nights," he told me.

"A case of beer and maybe a fifth of whiskey," he told the counselor.

"Wrong," the counselor replied. "It's an ounce or less."

My friend told the counselor he didn't understand why anyone would drink only an ounce.

And the counselor told him he didn't understand because he was alcoholic.

It's difficult for those of us who are alcoholics or addicts to see others use anything in moderation.

I recall my dear departed grandmother drinking a glass of white wine at Christmas. But she didn't drink the whole glass.

"That's enough," she said, as she sat the glass down. "I'm starting to feel it."

And I sat there, wanting to cheer her on. To tell her to keep going. Even though I was a teenager, I knew the only reason to drink alcohol was to get smashed. Because I never drank for any reason other than to be out of my mind.

With almost 24 years sober I now understand the difference between an alcoholic and a normal drinker.

But at one time I thought that people who didn't drink like I did didn't know how to have a good time, that they didn't know how to party.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sober Housing

TLC offers sober housing to those who complete our program but want to stick around.

Most of it is close to our central locations. In Mesa, for example, we have 27 apartment units and several houses.

We also have sober housing in Phoenix, Tucson, and Las Vegas. There's always a waiting list. As soon as one client leaves another is ready to move in.

This housing is popular because many clients have felony convictions. And in Arizona it's tough to rent anything livable if one has a record.

Some sober housing clients have been with us for ten years. Even though they can afford to move, they enjoy the safety of being accountable and sober.

Most of our sober living clients are single men. However, we also have families that are trying to get their lives back together.

Our arrangement with sober living clients is that they must submit to drug testing on demand. Also, none has a lease agreement; instead they pay a weekly service fee. That arrangement allows us to discharge them without notice if they relapse or fail to pay.

It's a system that's worked for over 22 years.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 17, 2014

Synthetic Drugs

A halfway house client seems high so he's asked for a urine sample. And, to everyone's surprise he comes up clean.

However, because he continues acting high he's discharged from the program. A modified e-cigarette in his possession contains an unknown substance.

This happens more often these days. We'll test clients but they are clean. Even though they appear drunk or high.

Much of this is due to new generations of spice and other synthetics. There are no tests for some of the newer ones.

When we discharge clients for using these chemicals they protest. The say they're legal. Or that we can't prove they're using.

But we don't care if a drug is legal. Alcohol is legal. So are prescription drugs.

Sometimes family members question our policies. Non-addicts wonder what the harm is in using something legal. But it's not about legal or illegal. It's about changing our addictive behavior and getting clean so we can have a good life.

If clients are smoking anything other than regular tobacco they're out. And, of course, alcohol or opiates puts them out also.

We have no issues with those who want to drink or use drugs.

They just can't do it at TLC.

Click here to email John

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Accepting Responsibility

"And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone...” the Big Book.

I like this quote from the 12-steps because it's straight up. It's so black and white there's no doubt what it means. Ceased fighting. Anything. Anyone.

I dangled this phrase in front of two addicts yesterday who had been fighting one another since they met. Not a physical fight. But talking smack and creating turmoil in their apartment unit.

While in group each wants to indict the other by citing what the other had done. And each time that happens I guide them gently back to focusing on themselves.

It's typical for our residents to place the blame on the other party. But I always ask them to identify their part in the issue. Because that’s the only part they might be able to control.

When I focus on my part in communication breakdowns things become clear. Not what the other person did or said. But what was my role?

When I find my role and accept responsibility, the fighting’s over. I can make amends and live in peace once more.

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dealing with Pain

A reader writes tells me she feels “like a hypocrite" because she goes to recovery meetings while on pain medication for her back.

She feels trapped between pain and addiction. She can't stand the pain. Yet she's afraid she'll slip into dependence.

And her issue is real for all us addicts.

When I had stomach surgery 10 years ago I shared her concerns. When I awoke after surgery I felt so good I thought I'd gone to heaven. I was in joy and bliss and wrapped in a blanket of ecstasy. Every cell in my body was shouting "yes."

I asked what they'd given me and the nurse said dilaudid - which is a heroin addict's dream.

I said not to give me any more of it because I'm a opiate addict. But the doctor said I needed it because I wouldn't heal as well if I were in pain.

However, they lowered the dose quickly, then switched me to less addictive painkillers. So I safely made it through without relapsing. And with ten days I was taking only Ibuprofen.

In this reader's situation I’d follow medical advice. But, I would also explore natural remedies that might help. Some of these include yoga, meditation and visualization.

Also, she could discuss this issue with her sponsor or other members of her recovery group. They have likely confronted this same issue and may have ideas for her. And that's what the groups are for.

Something my sponsor told me about taking pain medication has stuck with me. He said that if I was asking myself and others whether I should take it then I probably wasn't abusing it.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 14, 2014

Success Story

The man who came to my office today looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place him at first.

And that was because he was wearing a suit and tie, looking every bit like a banker or lawyer.

Turns out that he's a TLC graduate from a few years ago.

He now has his own limousine service and stopped to say hello and tell of his success.

He recently bought a new Escalade, which he parked in front of our office. He also recently moved into a new condo in a gated community in East Mesa.

It was nice to see his success, because when this man came to TLC he had nothing. He was like the majority of those who come to us. But he worked hard, went to meetings, and eventually got into management.

These are the visits we like. When we see former clients use the tools they picked up while in our program it validates what we do.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Reminder

Yesterday a manager came to my office carrying a small black box under his arm. It contains the ashes of a former employee who died a month ago of a drug overdose.

As he places it on the corner of my desk I'm again reminded of our deadly disease.

Often in TLC groups I'll point our that we're in a life and death battle with our addictions. Each of us.

Yet sometimes I'll sense that the words fall on deaf ears. That maybe clients think I'm being overly dramatic to make a point.

Though our business might look like any other to passersby, inside our walls we work to save lives.

We provide a stream of information, education, meetings, and groups.  But sometimes the clients aren't ready.  Or else don't quite get it.

And when that happens we might get notice of another addict who didn't make it.

Or maybe someone delivers their ashes.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Living with Peace

"Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace." Joan Borysenko

It's important for us to choose whether we'll have stress - or peace - each day.

In my case, I choose peace. And here's how I get there.

I don't use an alarm clock to awaken. Usually around 4:00 am I'm pretty much rested so I awake. If I'm not ready to get up I may drift off for another half hour or so. But usually at 4:00 I'm awake.

Next is 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation. After that I'm in my home gym for an hour. The routine always includes a half hour to an hour of yoga. Four days a week I mix in a half hour of weights or elliptical or swimming.

Then it's a mostly raw vegan breakfast.

This morning routine gets my day started in a low stress mode.

At my office I do one thing at a time. I don't believe in multi-tasking. We can only focus on one thing at time; it's either this or it's that.  I don't hurry.

If paperwork is interrupted by a client or staff member, I re-focus my attention because people are more important than paperwork. I usually must take a few deep breaths to help me switch modes and change my thinking.

Sometimes my mind wanders back to the paperwork. But I tell myself it'll wait and then focus on the person in front of me.

Doing one thing at a time keeps me in peace.

I never argue with anyone about anything because I don't like the stress. Instead of arguing, I ask for clarification. Most differences get resolved that way. And I stay in peace.

There are other things I do to be peaceful.

But they all involve taking care of myself.  Part of that is to not hurry.  To stay in the moment. Not eating junk.  Not drinking sodas or caffeine.

My suggestion - if you're interested in having peace - is to structure your own daily routine to minimize your stress.

Experiment until you get it right. Then don't let the expectations of others change it.

It's a practice that'll bring you many benefits.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Honoring our Veterans

Today we honor those who served in our military.

This means a lot to my wife and me because many family members are veterans.

My wife's family has 13 veterans. The oldest is her 94 year old grandfather.

My family includes an uncle who was in the major naval battles of the South Pacific. One of those was Guadalcanal.

Then there's my 29 year old daughter, who receives 100% disability after her service in Afghanistan.

At TLC we have many veterans, both men and women. Some work for us as managers.

Today we’re grateful for all those who put their lives and health at risk in the service of our country.

Regardless of our political beliefs or feelings about war nothing diminishes the sacrifice of our heroes.

We thank them today.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Same Boat

"We may have all come in different ships, but we’re in the same boat now."  Martin Luther King Jr.

The saying above, of course, is from the civil rights era. But it easily applies to those of us in recovery.

In the 12-step programs we meet people from all walks of life.

I've met ex-convicts. Doctors. Homeless people. City councilmen. Real estate executives. Panhandlers. Rocket scientists. The rich. The poor. The educated. And the mentally challenged. Together in one room.

And the great leveler for the diverse people among us is that we're powerless. We're in the rooms together because we share the common challenge of trying to stay clean and sober.

And the brilliance of the Founders is evident in how we are able to assist one another to move from desperation to the safe haven of recovery.

We recognize that we're all in the same boat - and on the same journey.

Click here to email John






Sunday, November 9, 2014

A New Story

"At any given moment, you have the power to say: This is not how the story is going to end."  Christine Mason Miller.

A client who failed a drug test at work is quite anxious while at my office for an evaluation.

Among his concerns is that he won't be able to continue his career. He doesn't believe he'll be able to afford the time he’ll be off the job before he's cleared to return.

"I might as well forget my career," he laments. "I'll just have to start over doing something else."

I suggest that he shouldn't project into the future. After all, he hasn't even started the process and he's already seeing his life in ruins.

As the saying above points out we have the power to decide how our story will end.

We can write out a sad tale of failure, visualizing ourselves on the scrap pile of life. Or we can be the hero of a success story where we get everything we need - and more.

If we've written a narrative in our heads that says we can't stay sober, we can change it. We can write a new tale that that features us in long term recovery. And enjoying the benefits and freedom of a sober existence.

If your life's not going well, create a new story. And let it have a happy ending.

After all, aren't you the author of your life?

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Perspective

"Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses."  Proverb

Life is a matter of perspective. We can look at our challenges. Or, we can pay attention to our blessings.

If we're having a bad day we can turn it into a good day using simple techniques.

Stop comparing ourselves to others. This is a futile practice because someone always has more - or less - than we do. They're either richer or poorer, smarter or dumber, stronger or weaker. We're rarely exactly on par with anyone.

Develop a sense of gratitude. There's a multitude of reasons for gratitude. I have my marriage. My health. My job. Friends. My children. A home. Loving family members who care about me. Look around your life and make your own list. You might surprise yourself at how long it is.

Do something for someone else. Mail a check to a charity. Hand money to a homeless person and don't worry if he'll spend it on alcohol or drugs. Volunteer at a hospice or soup kitchen. Give someone a ride. The simple act of giving makes us feel better.

These are techniques that have worked for me over the years.  Be creative and figure out your own ways to change your perspective. 

 Your life will be richer for it.

Click here to email John





Friday, November 7, 2014

Wants vs. Needs

"Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck." Dalai Lama

Many of us addicts confuse wants and needs.

Transportation is a need. A new car is want.

Clothing is a need. A new wardrobe is a want.

Nourishment is a need. A meal at a fancy restaurant is a want.

And the list goes on and on.

For us addicts getting what we want - especially right away - can ruin our lives.

For example, many in our program want to earn a lot of money right now. They "need" it for this or that. Then the next thing we know they get a fat paycheck and spend it at the dope house.

We had a sad experience recently with one of our halfway house clients who did a great job while working with us for over a year. But somewhere along the way he got sidetracked by the idea of wanting more.

He left in an outburst of anger. He found a job that offered a better income - along with a place to live. He got what he wanted.

But within six weeks he was dead of a drug overdose.

At TLC we meet the basic needs of those halfway house clients who stay with us. But we counsel them to not confuse "needs" and "wants."

If they continue to work a program they will always see a natural improvement in their lives.

When we're spiritually ready, the Universe provides us with with a cornucopia of blessings - including many of the things we want.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Letting Go

"Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward."  C.S. Lewis

After working for years with addicts in recovery I've found that our biggest challenge is letting go of pain.

For 17 years I've conducted a group where many men are still dealing with their past.

They may be reliving a bad childhood. Or still angry at an ex who tossed them out or betrayed them. Maybe they want to re-connect with the kids they abandoned years earlier. It could be most any kind of painful experience.

And my suggestion is always the same: learn to live in the here and now.

No matter how painful our past, revisiting it won't make it better. Instead we compound it by wasting our time going over and over the same thing.

Is that the legacy we want leave behind? That we spent our lives stewing about something bad that happened to us?

God has given us this beautiful slice of time that we live in at this moment. Why waste this gift on things we can do nothing about?

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Accepting Everyone

For the past 22 years TLC has accepted everyone who shows up at our door. All applicants need is a desire to stay clean and sober and change their lives

We've had addicts show up in wheelchairs, or on crutches or with other physical challenges. We accept them as long as they're willing to comply with our guidelines.

We also accept those with emotional challenges, including those who are bi-polar or schizo-effective.

The only addicts or alcoholics we don't accept are those with arrests for sex offenses or arson. And this, of course, is for obvious reasons.

Accepting such a diverse group requires much patience and tolerance on the part of our managers. And with rare exception none of them are trained professionals.

This came up for me while I was at a 12-step meeting last week where one of our residents was sharing. After a few minutes I could see that he was quite troubled emotionally.

As I listened to him I had a moment of gratitude for the manager of the house in which he was living. I know that residents like this man require special attention. They require a lot of time and patience on the manager's part.

Fortunately we are blessed with that kind of staff.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Transitions

A long-time manager was talking about Thanksgiving because each year he hosts dinner for 15 to 20 guests. And most of them are TLC staff.

It's a tradition he's followed for nearly 20 years. He says that every few years the guest list changes. And that's because those who first show up don't have families. Or much of a social life.

But after they're around a while they get married. Soon, they're hosting their own celebrations in their own homes with their own guest lists.

This anecdote embodies on a small scale what TLC is about.

Most of our clients come to us with nothing. Maybe a few clothes in a trash bag. An arrest record. No license or identification. Some with nothing all. Flat broke. Drugs and alcohol took it all.

But if they stick around and work our program things start to happen for them. They get a sponsor. Find a job. Start building relationships and a network of friends.

Transitional is part of our name and these are the kinds of changes we love to see in our client's lives.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 3, 2014

Anger

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."  Buddha

I came across this saying a few days ago while reading about anger.

And anger was on my mind because an upset parent who didn't get their way dropped the "F-bomb“ on me about five times. Then she finished me off with a "mo-fo."

Needless to say, the depth of her anger took me by surprise. It's rare that my communication with anyone these days descends to profanity.

And maybe I took it as a personal failure because I try to never let a conversation take the turn this one did. But it is what it is.

In any event, anger has never been productive for me. In my younger years outbursts of anger ensued when I didn’t get what I wanted when I wanted. And what followed was a lot of drugs or alcohol to assuage my feelings.

For addicts and alcoholics anger is the toxin we must run from as if it were a real poison.

Today, when I encounter an angry person I extend compassion because I know they're suffering and in pain.  And I silently thank them for re-enforcing my commitment to live a life of calm and peace.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Changes

One thing we can count on in life is change.

Buy tickets for a vacation in the sun, then you learn that the weather forecast for that week is rain. And it's too late to change plans.

We think the market's going up. But it goes down.

The long-time trusted employee in whom we have complete confidence turns out to be as human as the next person.

Life deals us surprises all the time. But if we keep in mind that life is always about change and more change - the unexpected won’t rock our world.

For addicts life changes can tip us over unless we cultivate a manner of thinking that gives us resilience.

When we live with the idea that something new is going to happen, then when it does we’re not shocked. We tell ourselves "I expected that,” and move on with our lives.

It's rarely what happens that changes our life. It's our reaction to what happens that determines how we'll live.

And that perspective can help us stay clean and sober.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Doing Great

By chance I run into an addict I've known for some time.

I'd heard tht he'd relapsed a while back.  That he'd begun using again.  But I still wasn't prepared to see him like this.

The last time I saw him, in early summer, he had a job, a car, and a place to live.  At that time he went to meetings, was into fitness, and was upbeat about everythng.

The change was shocking.  He was downcast and wouldn't look me in the eyes.  His shoes were raggedy and his clothes looked as though he'd been sleeping in them for a while. He had an odor of old sweat about him.

When I inquired about how he'd been he said he was doing "great."  The same answer I used to give when my life was in shambles and I didn't know where to get my next fix or drink.

Before we parted I offered to take him to detox, to help him get on his feet.  He declined, saying he'd be okay.

He did accept the little bit of money I gave him.  Then he walked away as if he had somewhere to be.

I went about my day, grateful for my recovery.

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