Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

An "Accident?"

A man who's been in recovery for years has a problem with the "God" thing.

At meetings he says he's not sure what he believes. But he questions the idea of a Deity who manages the universe. And he voices it every so often.

But a while back he had an "accident" that might cause him to question his beliefs.

It happened while he was doing a chore around the house where he needed a ladder. And, because he's older, he normally doesn't climb. Sure enough, he ended up on the ground in some pain.

It turns out the fall didn't damage much more than his ego. But during medical exams they found a growth in his body. Further investigation showed he needed an operation.

And he’s now back in good health.

Since then I’ve heard him mention the "accident." And I got the sense that perhaps he's thinking a bit differently about the "God" thing.

Like maybe in the back of his mind he's wondering if Divine Intervention played a part in saving his health.

What do you think?

Click here to email John

Friday, January 30, 2015

This Moment

"The past cannot be changed, forgotten, edited, or erased. It can only be accepted." Author unknown.

One of the most freeing things we can do is accept our past.

Most of our clients show up with a narrative about what happened. Or who they used to be. Or the injustices done to them. Some spend a lot of time reviewing old memories, revisiting their suffering.

A most important passage in the 12-step literature is about acceptance. It's wisdom for the ages.

Once we accept what's happened, our burden lightens. We become freer.

Does that mean the bad that happened to us is okay? Of course not. Some of the trauma our clients have been through is difficult to hear about. It would traumatize anyone.

But an actualized person lives in this moment, dealing with the present.

Take inventory of your present moment. Do you have what you need right now? Food? Shelter? Friends? Job? Health? My experience is that everything's pretty much okay in this moment. We have what we need. And if we don't, we can figure our how to get it.

Or are you having difficulty staying with me in the moment? Did you scurry back into your warehouse of memories? Back to some familiar pain or misery?

If you want to be free join those of us who live in the sunlight of the moment. That's where our power lies.

Click here to email John

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wasting Time

I often get reminders of how drugs can devastate lives. And another one came this week.

When I returned from vacation I had messages waiting. And one was from an addict I met when I first entered a Mesa halfway house in 1991.

The message said that he was out of prison and wanted to hear from me. I called and left a message. I haven't heard back.

His story reminds me of how we can burn through the years if we don't get into recovery.

Since I met him in 1991 he's mostly been in prison. He'll be out for a few months, then pick up a new drug or theft charge. The judge sends him back for a few years. Then it happens again. I don't think he's been out for two years of the past 24. Almost half his life locked up.

And the sad thing is that he knows as much about recovery as anyone. He's attended meetings over the years. He's bright and personable. Speaks well, makes friends easily.

Everything he presents to the world says this is a successful person. Yet, that all goes away when he picks up drugs or alcohol.

If he calls back I'll encourage him to work a program and hopefully avoid another trip to prison.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

There's Hope

A woman writes about her grown son who's in jail facing drug counts.

He was once law-abiding. Then an accident hooked him on pain medications. From there he morphed into street drugs and a life of crime to support his habit.

After visiting our website she has hopes for his future.

And when I wrote her back I assured her that there’s hope. Because once we have enough pain we try to move away from it. Often when that happens we might find our way to recovery.

In her son's case, the trauma of being in jail and facing legal action could be the catalyst for change.

We have many clients at TLC who have survived situations like her son's. They've spent time locked up. Or they've lost their jobs, their homes, or their health. A variety of bad stuff happened.

But once they got serious about change and walked into the light, things started happening. The family's talking to them again. They find a job. They put on weight; get a glow on their face. They make new friends in recovery.

And their mothers can stop living in fear.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Today's Important

"What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it." Unknown

In my addiction I spent years drifting. I was a predator. And my goal was to find money for my next drink or bag of dope. I exchanged many days finding chemical gratification.

Today I choose to fill my days with positives - things to enhance my life. Work. Recovery. Daily exercise. Meditation. Reading. Writing. Eating well. Helping others. Being a contributor.

If we start our day with the idea that our time is important that changes what we do.

If we have the idea that God is at the other end of a time machine loading us up with days and minutes, we're wrong. The clock started ticking when we sucked in our first breath. In other words, we're pre-programmed to be here a certain time.

We have the option of pissing off those minutes doing all kinds of useless crap. Getting drunk. Doing dope. Loafing. Being a bum.

Or we can use them to make ourselves and the world a better place.

For me the last option is the most rewarding.

Click here to email John

Monday, January 26, 2015

We can Help

Before writing this last night I checked my email.

Several requests for help had come in from the TLC website. I forward them to our intake desk.

One touched my heart because the writer sounded desperate. It was from a veteran in another state. He was afraid because he was about to be homeless. He wrote that he'd lost "everything"

He'd battled the demons of depression and alcoholism for years. He didn't know where to turn.

I could relate to what he said. Because that's how I - and many of our clients - got to the doors of recovery.

We had no where to go. Depression and anxiety were our only friends. Lousy ones at that.

So when I read this man's words I said "yes!" Because when we're at that state we'll do anything to stop the pain. We'll hit our knees and pray to God. We might look for a detox. Anything to get out of the mess we're in. Even if it means going to a strange state, as I did when I came to Arizona from California in 1982.

If this man travels the 1500 or so miles it'll take to get here he'll find others just like him. And he'll find courage in the idea that they once lived as he was when he asked us for help.

We'll see if he makes it here so we can help him.

Click here to email John

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Being Mindful

If I'm mindful throughout my day life goes smooth.

But what does mindful mean?

The best definition I've been able to find is "fully aware of present experience, with acceptance."

In other words I stay in the moment.

I'm not depressed because I'm not thinking about the past. I'm not excavating through the garbage heap of history that I've accumulated over the past 75 years.

Nor am I taking perilous ventures into that space off in the future where we're always wondering what's going to happen to us.  So no anxiety.

Instead, I’m firmly grounded in the moment - loving life just as it is.

But what about these random thoughts that keep popping into my mind? Every time that happens they take me out of the moment.

I simply acknowledge them without judgment. Then let them pass by like bubbles drifting on a stream.

But what if they come back again? Same thing. I acknowledge them and let them go, without resistance or judging them.  They're just thoughts and once in a while they pop up.

And they might keep coming back because that's what they do. But we let them go and stay focused in the moment.

And what's so great about the moment? Well, the moment is great because that's where we live our lives. It's the slice of time where we might have some control over our existence.

Too many of us, far too often, spend our time reminiscing on war stories – mulling over the "good old days." Or else we're off in the future thinking about a better place we'd like to be– a fantasy land that doesn't exist.

I practice living in the moment. And I’m learning that it's a great place.

Click here to email John

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The TLC Difference

There are many great treatment programs for those in recovery.

Some are fancy. On the beach, catering to the rich. Psychiatrists. Private rooms. Massages.  Fine meals. Mint on the pillow.

At the other end of the scale are programs available to those on government insurance. No fancy housing. Five or six to a room, large groups. Limited one on one counseling.

So how is TLC different? Where do we fit in the scheme of things?

In terms of amenities we're somewhere in the upper third. Adequate housing with two clients to a room. One on one counseling at least once a week. Groups five days a week. Recreation facilities. Massages. Fitness programs. Yoga. Facials and massages. Art classes. Movies and field trips. Meditation training.

But beyond program structure and amenities we're different from other programs.

And that's because 98% of our staff members are in recovery. And some of them have been with TLC for 20 years and longer.

The board of TLC didn't sit down one day and say let's start a program and make money.

TLC Treatment Clinic evolved because we wanted to offer more services to our clients. The answer was to open a state-licensed clinic.

So the clients who live with us have an advantage. They're surrounded by a staff that knows recovery on a personal level. Our staff can relate to clients because they're working on their own recovery. They sense when someone's about to relapse and will confront them.

At our clinic there's no bureaucracy. Clients can talk to a counselor - or the CEO - by just knocking on the door. There are no artificial barriers to communication.

For us it's more of a mission than a business. And our stated mission is to help recovering substance abusers rebuild their lives.

Click here to email John

Friday, January 23, 2015

Luxury Problems

Three to four times a year my wife and I get away for a week, sometimes two. It's a way to clear our heads of the drama of the treatment business. And get some rest.

But this year we thought we'd try something different from our usual trips to Mexico and go to Costa Rica.

And the reason we picked Costa Rica is because we placed the winning bid for the vacation last February at a charity auction. And we were pretty excited about going - especially after reading the pamphlet.

A week in a jungle villa! Overlooking the ocean! Stunning views! 80 degree temperatures. Sounds like paradise. And some of it is.

But the promoters left something out of the pamphlet.

For example they didn't mention that the Villas are at the far edge of the earth with few services in the area. At the end of steep and winding rock and dirt roads.

There's a small country store with limited stock. Also, there are two restaurants in the area. Sometimes they're open.

The trip from the airport, described as a "short" two and a half hour drive, turned into four plus hours for a 70 mile trip.

It took that long because the road is two lane (bridges are one-lane) and winds through several small pueblos. There are no street lights. Nor are there reflectors in the highways.

In this part of rural Costa Rica people walk on the roads wearing dark clothing. Or they ride bicycles without reflectors. Sometimes they’re standing, drinking and smoking. And they don’t move over. I had to drive 40 kilometers an hour to avoid killing anyone.

Something else not on the pamphlet was the part about insects. Because my wife suffers from entomophobia we might not have come had we known of the many legged creatures that live here. (Duh. It's the jungle stupid. But we didn't think that through either.)

So we killed scorpions in the bathrooms. And some brown round flat things that run fast up and down walls. Also, when my wife went to the store there was a fat tarantula on the front door. It didn't help when I told her they weren't dangerous.

Everything said we won't do this trip again. When we get away we like to veg. We resolve problems all week at home. So a "vacation" that presents challenges about things we take for granted at home is not that relaxing.

However, we did get to practice acceptance. That counts for something.

Click here to email John

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Young Man?

Most days there's little to upset my serenity. I roll along, immediately accepting whatever comes my way. Life's pretty smooth after 24 years in recovery. 
 
However, once in while I get sidetracked when someone says something ignorant. And it happened again last week while I was paying for a cup of coffee at a convenience store.

As I approached the counter the cashier greeted me with a goofy smile. Then she said "And how are you today, young man?"

I think I looked surprised. Why would she say something like that? Because I'm over 75.

And I'm well aware that no one would mistake me for young because I have mirrors in my house. I can see the gray hair. The lines in my face. Plus I still have a beat-up copy of my birth certificate.

So maybe she was trying to be nice in a mindless sort of way.

But the problem with us old people is that we find such greetings to be patronizing. Kind of like telling me I'm old - but wrapped up like it's a compliment.

A nicer greeting might be a simple "Hello, how are you today?"

Now I'm going to go call my sponsor, who's a "young man" of 80 and see how he deals with these comments.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's about Talent

This is nothing I'd get drunk over, but once in a while people are hard to understand.

For example, the story about the academy awards. Some are upset because of no black nominations this year. I mean the publicity is all over the place, including the cover of USA Today.

This rabble rousing activist from New York is leading the charge. Like there's something going on behind the scenes.

Now I'd pay attention to this if he were also outraged that basketball or football teams are not made up of the right amount of white guys. But somehow sports venues escape his attention.

The reality of the entertainment and sports worlds is that the color that matters is green. If minorities are hot at the box office - as they often are - then they'll get the nomination.

If white guys are putting up baskets or making touchdowns they'll be on the team. That's the way the world works.

In other words, it's not about bias. It's about who has the talent.  And talent sells tickets.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Miracle

"There are two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein

To all of us - addicts and non-addicts – Einstein offers the wonderful option of looking at the world with fresh eyes.

If I look at the world as if everything's a miracle then I see beauty everywhere. The flowers springing to life in the morning sun. The technology in my car is a tribute to man's ingenuity and cooperation. The roads I drive on are a symbol of community effort. The 12-step programs are a lifesaving template handed to us from previous generations.

My fellow humans are God's handiwork rather than competitors or irritants.

And if I look at the world as if nothing were a miracle then life goes from bright colors to black and white and gray. I'm living a mechanical existence that has no flavor or meaning. Almost depressing.

I choose to live as if everything is a miracle.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Needs more Pain?

A woman calls to get into our halfway houses and is given the phone number for an intake. However, she cut the interview short because, as she said later, "They kept asking me questions."

Apparently she wasn't okay with giving us information about her drug and alcohol history. She felt the intake process was "invasive."

Her attitude is characteristic of some of us before we get clean. Many of us get to recovery because others might be pushing us. Because we're doing the world a favor we're not willing to put up with frustration of any kind.

My suspicion is that this woman hasn't reached bottom yet, hasn't had enough pain. Because when we're hurting and someone reaches out with free help we take it. And without question.

Hopefully she'll get enough pain to bring her into recovery before she gets into serious trouble.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Teaching the Kids

During a business phone call last week a man asked what TLC is about.

When I told him we're a recovery program he talked about his two step kids, one 19, the other 20.

Neither works. They smoke pot. One's been in trouble for using meth. They live on his couch, watching TV and playing video games every day.

They don't clean, cook, or do laundry. They contribute nothing. They just hang out.

On his way home from work they’ll call and ask him to bring fast food. That really irks him.

I suggested that he send them to TLC. That way they could learn responsibility. He kind of hesitated when I brought that up. And I made a few other suggestions that didn't seem well-received.

Finally I changed the subject because I realized the kids weren't the problem.

Something I learned long ago is that parents teach children how to behave. If we ask them to be responsible, they will. If we let them be slackers, they will . If we don't guide them they take the path of least resistance.

I offered the father my phone number, but I don't think he wrote it down.

Click here to email John

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Nice Birthday

Warm feelings all day as the congratulations rolled in on my 24th birthday. Texts, emails and phone calls from family and friends. It was wonderful.

And all that love reminded of how rich life has become in 24 years.

Back when I first got sober 1/14/91 I had few contacts. My disappointed mother, who loved me in spite of myself. Children I didn't raise - who still loved me. A sort of girlfriend who didn't want to hear from me. That was it.

Today I have over 150 numbers in my contact list - an indication of the blessings in my life.

Besides having no one I was close to, I also had no resources. Money. Car. Insurance. Clothes. I was at the bottom in every area of my life.

But as I stayed sober things slowly changed. My circle of friends grew - 99% of them in recovery. My finances improved to the point where I was able to do more for my family and others.

I met my dream girl in 2004 and married her in 2011.

Because of my experience I heartily recommend recovery to anyone who has issues with substance abuse.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Nothing will Change

A television show in our area a few days ago focused on the heroin "epidemic."

It aired on every station and received a lot of advance publicity. Users and non-users alike watched and talked about it.

Did I watch it? No. I did record it. And maybe I'll look at it sometime when I'm bored. But probably not.

So why am I so cynical about this issue?  Don't I care about the "problem." The "epidemic." Young people dying?  Going to jail? Of course I do. After all, I'm in the recovery field.

But as a 75 year old heroin addict I also know there's nothing new here. Nothing to see. I've been watching this kind of publicity since the 1950's.

Announcers will interview police. Healthcare workers. Prison officials. Politicians. Parents. And, of course, for affect they'll have a couple of real live addicts who talk about their ruined lives.

That's it. The ratings are great. And everyone will chatter about how serious this is. We'll wring our hands and agree that we have a big issue in our society. Blah, blah, blah.

End of story. Nothing different will happen. This I promise.

At the end of 2015 there will be more young dead addicts in our cemeteries. The judicial system will be suffering from constipation trying to process all the addicts. The problem will remain.

The issue is that politicians don't have the guts to do anything about it. Punishment and criminalization are the predominant means of dealing with drugs. After all, tough on drugs is what gets politicians in office. Why would they take a chance on anything else?

Click here to see what some other countries are doing about heroin and other drugs.

Click here to email John

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Most Important Step?

I overheard a conversation the other day about which of the steps was the most important.  And those involved couldn't agree.

But in my mind the most important of the 12 steps is the first one. In fact, it's the first half of the first step that we must be clear about.

Because once we admit we're powerless over our substance of choice then we have something to work with. As our heads clear and the drugs or alcohol leave our systems we can progress.

Yet purists will likely say the steps all have the same weight. That no one of them is more important than the other. I disagree.

While I believe all the steps are important, those who can't get that first half of the first step right are stuck. They can't succeed at the rest.

Conversely, I've known those who haven't drank or drugged for years who have done little work on themselves. But because they quit using their lives got 100% better.

What they're missing though, in my opinion, is the richer recovery they would enjoy if they completed all the steps.  That's when they get the good stuff.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

24 years...

Today, the 14th, it will be 24 years ago that I walked into a detox in Mesa, Arizona.

It was about 10 o'clock in the morning and I was trying to escape a life of desperation.

My addiction had beaten me into a state of submission. I had no money. I was wearing everything I owned. In summary, my life was a mess.

In retrospect, the best place for an addict to start rebuilding his life is from the bottom up. That was me. I was at the bottom and willing to listen to what anyone told me.

The things they told me were simple. Take drugs and alcohol out of my life before they killed me. Go to 12-step meetings. Find a sponsor. Work on changing my life.

It took about a week or so before all this started to soak in. It took that long for my brain to clear some of the fog.

After 11 days I was discharged to a local halfway house that accepted me even though I had no money.

It was the beginning of a new life.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Personal Inventory

"Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it."

Doing a 10th step as we go through our day keeps us out of trouble. Plus, it makes us aware of how we're behaving.

So how do we do this?

For example, if we're short with a coworker, we immediately apologize. That way we defuse a potential conflict.

Even if we're not sure we were wrong in the situation, it's easier to make a quick apology and move on. That way we keep the stress down.

The other part of taking a personal inventory is that we keep focus upon ourselves. Too often, those of us in recovery look outside for answers to our problems. And my experience has been that I am the author of my own misery. Nearly always.

When I travel through life with the idea that I'm responsible for my own behavior that behavior seems to get better over time.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Another Benefit

A major benefit of the 12-step programs is sobriety.

But did you know that following the program can also boost your immune system?

This is because carrying the message is an act of kindness. And studies have shown that doing kind and positive things helps our immune system.

Huh? You might ask. Where did you come up with this?

The evidence comes from the phenomenon known as the "Mother Theresa Effect." And it was the subject of a Harvard University study.

For years Mother Theresa and her sisters worked in terrible slums. Sanitation was poor. Disease was rampant. Yet, their immune systems protected them. And scientists attributed it to the work they were doing.

Even those who watched videos of the nuns at work experienced increases in immune function.

While there are many reasons to be in recovery, there's always room for one more.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

R.I.P.

The call yesterday from a former client's mother was a punch to the gut.

When I saw her number I hoped it wasn't bad news.

But when I heard her voice I knew it was. The worst.

Her son, not yet 25, died that morning.

My voice was choking as I gave her condolences. And I don't know what I said. But in these situations I always feel clumsy and inarticulate. What do I say to a woman who's lost her second child to the same genetic disease?

After we hang up I reflect on her son.

He arrived here from the East Coast and spent over a year with us. I think it was the longest he'd been clean.

Within a few weeks he'd endeared himself to everyone – staff and other clients.

He was cheerful and pleasant. In spite of the fact that he knew he wouldn't make it to 30.

The addicts among us admired him. Because we wondered if we'd stay clean and sober facing what he was facing.

It was my fortune to have him assigned to my caseload. And over the year I'd see him for an hour a week face-to-face.

He didn't talk much during many of our sessions. Maybe a paragraph or two. He'd sit across from me with his zen-like attitude and quiet smile.

When he did talk it was about his love for his mother. Or how he missed home. Or his pets. Or a few of his friends. Sometimes it was about video games or movies. At times he'd talk of the sister who'd passed away from the same disease. Once in a while we'd talk recovery.

I never pushed him on anything. At first I thought he'd enjoy better health if he worked out, meditated, and ate better. But he didn't think the same thing. So I left it alone.

Instead I listened to him. And I visited him on his frequent two-week hospital stays where they'd work to restore his breathing.

I'm grateful to have spent a year with him. He taught us acceptance - something we strive for in recovery. He showed us how to wear life loosely, not making big deals of things. He taught us about courage.

When he'd leave my office he always left me feeling I'd gotten much more from him than he did from me.

Godspeed, my friend...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Psychic Hotline?

A client who relapsed seems surprised when a manager's predictions come true.

Because when he left and started drinking the manager told him what would happen.

"You're going to lose your job, your car, and probably get a DUI. Maybe go back to prison." There were other predictions also. But those were the main ones.

And sure enough, before long the former client lost his job. Was sleeping in his car. Got a DUI. The prison part will have to wait until he goes to court. But that's the likely outcome considering the client's history.

Some think we have psychic powers when our predictions are so on target. But it's really a no-brainer when it comes to relapse.

There are only so many things that can happen. And they all involve loss. And the loss is always in primary areas of our lives: relationships. Jobs. Health. Freedom.

So, it's safe to make these kinds of predictions.

Still, it's okay for clients to think we have psychic powers. Maybe they'll pay more attention.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Not Boring

Running a recovery organization like ours is hard work. But, it's never been boring.

And because we take anyone who claims to want sobriety, we attract a diverse group.

You'd never see our halfway house clients in those slick ads for recovery programs on a California beach. Because most of our clients have fallen through the safety net.

In fact, 99% of our halfway house clients have nothing when they get here. No money. No insurance or car. Little clothing; some have no shoes. Many have no identification, so it's hard to put them to work.

Yet we've kept doing this for 23 years because our mission is to help recovering substance abusers rebuild their lives. And frequently clients start a new life.  Yet others are ungrateful.

But I digress.  Let me get back to where I started - about hard work and not boring.

Today I get to the office with plans to clear my desk and get on to pending projects. Then, bam! We're served with a lawsuit.

Now that's not unusual.  Because we live in a litigious world where a successful lawsuit can put someone on Easy Street. And angry addicts sometimes express their resentments with legal action. So, we've had our share of lawsuits - though they're mostly frivolous and go nowhere..

But the lawsuit today was the first of its kind for us.

A transgender former client filed a lawsuit from prison claiming he was sexually assaulted and raped at our Roosevelt house over a period of time. And that our staff was aware of it, but did nothing. And he wants over a $100,000 in damages - not much for such a serious allegation.

So, even though this is a frivolous action, we still have to turn it over to the insurance company. Then we have to spend time getting witnesses and documents together until it goes away.

Like I said, sometimes this is hard work. And definitely not boring.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

On Loan from God

"Everything we have is on loan from God." from 12-step meeting.

This sentence has stayed with me since I heard it over 15 years ago.

I like it because - among other things - it sums up the idea that everything is temporary.

Now mind you, I enjoy the finer things. Nice automobiles. A fine home. Great vacations and so on.

But I'm also realistic about material things. I know they can leave us, as fast - or faster - than we acquire them.

More than once in my pre-sober life back in last century I'd be driving down the street in a new car. I'd have a pocket full of money. I'd be living large, then law enforcement would intervene.

Before I could blink I'd be in handcuffs. Life would change before my eyes. My fancy car would be gone. My luxury flat. My freedom and everything that goes with it.

I'd wake up the next morning in the County Jail. Wearing crappy clothes. Eating off a metal tray. I'd find myself living in concrete and steel buildings behind high walls for long periods.  

The point of all this, is that while I like material things, my experiences have taught me to not fall in love with them. Eventually the new car ends up at the recyclers. Someone else will live in my nice house. My grandchildren will rule the world.

It's okay to have nice stuff. It's not okay to think that the things we have are who we are or what life is about.

Our real value in the world lies in what we do to lift others up - to make their lives better.  This is the essence of being human.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Trusting God

I've always had a strong belief in God.

Yet many coming into recovery find trusting God to be a strange idea. At meetings they may say they have "trouble" with the higher power thing.

Even though they created their own misery, they find it difficult to trust anyone - let alone a Higher Power.

But I think finding a power greater than ourselves is vital if we're to grow in the program.

But how do we do this?

There are many ways. We can look around and see the hand of God in our survival. We made it into recovery. And that's a miracle because most of us were saved in spite of our best efforts to kill ourselves.

We can look back at a time when our ego told us that we were God - and at the piss-poor job we did of running things.

I was one of those. And I was so incompetent at running the universe that I ended up addicted. In prison. In a mental hospital. Divorced. Bankrupt. The list goes on.

Then I surrendered 24 years ago and gave God his job back. And life got better right away.

Even before recovery found me, I believed in God. But I took exception to the way he (she) did things. It wasn't on my schedule. What showed up wasn't good enough. I wanted it my way and wanted it now.

Today, trusting God is not an issue. While at times I still wonder why things aren't on my time-table, I take a deep breath and flow with whatever's going on.

And what shows up is exactly what I need.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Feeding the Spirit

A former staff member who decided to return to TLC as a manager explains her decision.

She left her job at our corporate office a while ago because she wanted more money. While TLC pays a living wage, employees can earn more elsewhere.

So she found a job with a major corporation and did well. She made great money and had regular hours.

Still, something was missing. She realized it while talking to her former boss, who asked how her job was going. While it was going well, the reality was that she needed more in her life. That's when she decided to make the change.

What she needed was a mission that was larger than making money. And she knew she'd find it if she worked for TLC.

She knew helping other addicts and alcoholics would feed her spirit.

So today she's managing part of our women's program and is finding what she came for.

We wish her well and welcome her return.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Helping Panhandlers

I read an irritating story in yesterday's paper. I was about panhandlers who ask for money at intersections and freeway entrances.

The writer tried to disguise the story as an impartial examination of the issue. But the tone was more about it being a bad idea.

One quote grated my nerves. That came from someone who suggested panhandlers might buy drugs or alcohol with the money. Duh. Of course they might. In fact that's likely what most of them do.

One city official thought motorists shouldn't give money. Instead they should donate to a charity that helps addicts. Or give them a food voucher. Yeah, right.

My take on this is that we should always offer money when people ask. No matter what it's for. Alcohol. Drugs. Food. Diapers. Whatever. It's not my business what they do with the money. It's between them and God.

My sponsor told me long ago that it's okay to give money for alcohol. He said they might get done drinking that much faster. And get to the point where they'd seek help.

If someone's life is so bad that they stand on a street corner with a sign I don't care why they need money. I'm going to help them

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Compassion for Self

"If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete." Jack Kornfeld.

This quote reminds me of clients who say they have no self-worth or no self-esteem.

Some say things like "I care about others. But I don't care about myself."

And I always question this. I believe compassion for others starts with compassion for ourselves. We can't give what we don't have.

Now it's sort of understandable for the addict who shows up after a string of failures. They're still recovering from the beating they put on themselves. Losing jobs. Getting divorced. Going to jail. Suffering the consequences of their addictions. Not much to feel good about there.

But after awhile we must get a grip on ourselves. And come to realize that it's human to fail at times.

We must accept that we're all imperfect beings who never do everything 100% right. If we can accept that, then we open the door to being good to ourselves.

Once we begin showing compassion to ourselves then we can start caring about others.

Being compassionate to ourselves doesn't mean that what we did to ourselves and others was okay.

Instead it means that we're able to accept our human failings as part of life and then move into compassion for others.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Work Habits

A frustrated halfway house manager laments about the work habits of our clients.

Sometimes they don't dress appropriately for the contract jobs we perform. Don't show up on time. They wonder why they must work. They might even sleep on the job. Or perhaps walk away to return to the streets and get high.

We remind the manager that many who come to us never learned to work. Their parents might be addicts who never held jobs. Maybe their only income was from dealing drugs or stealing. Their role models were slackers and addicts who taught them to slide through life the easy way.

We often say that part of our job is raising other peoples' children. Only these children are grown men and women who came to us from years of addiction or stretches in prison.

Those who hang in there and do what we say often turn into good workers. And the positive feelings they get from work turns into positive feelings about other areas of their lives.

When they get to this point they may have a chance to stay in recovery.

And helping them get to this point is what we do.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Positive Encounter

Today, while my wife and I are at a drive through for coffee, there's a familiar face at the window.

While I'm not sure where I know her from, it turns out she's a former TLC client who's been sober six years.

In the few minutes at the window we learned which house she was at, who her house manager was, and how her life is today. It was a refreshing encounter.

While I never doubt the value of what we do at TLC, there's nothing like tangible evidence to re-affirm that what we do has an impact.

It's not unusual to be around town on business and to encounter TLC graduates whose lives are going well.

And the interesting part is that they don't have to say how they're doing. It shows in their eyes. In their demeanor.

Sometimes they'll be on the job. Or driving a nice vehicle. Perhaps with their family.

I always leave these encounters with a sense of gratitude. And I thank God for giving me the opportunity to help others change their lives.

Click here to email John

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guaranteed Success

Here's a simple guaranteed formula for success in 2015: give people what they want and they'll give you what you want.

If you want a good relationship with your wife or husband be a loving and kind mate. They'll give back.

If you work for a company, don't just show up and punch the clock. Instead, give it your all. Soon your boss will see that you're trying to make the company profitable. You'll get rewarded with more responsibility and more money.

If you want recovery, help others into recovery.  The Founders of the 12-step programs gave away recovery and in turn stayed sober.

This works not only on a personal level, but in all areas of life. For example, TLC gives addicts a place to rebuild their lives. In turn, TLC has become one of the largest programs of its type in this country.

Help others lead more successful lives - on any level - and you yourself will enjoy success.

It's simple.