Recovery Connections

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

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Loving Ourselves

A client is angry at herself. She says she has no self-esteem. She's depressed much of the time. And she wants answers. Solutions.

So I suggest that looking at herself differently might help.

If we addicts inventory what we've done to ourselves it's easy to see why we're angry and depressed.

After all, many of us have pissed away everything. We've hurt our families. Lost jobs. Put ourselves in jails and prisons. Let others down over and over. Been homeless. Overdosed on drugs and alcohol. The damage we've done is sometimes hard to calculate.

What would we do - or want to do - to someone who did to us what we did to ourselves? It probably wouldn't be nice.

So many of us are understandably angry at ourselves. And it often expresses itself in depression, anger, and anxiety.

But having said that, how do we change this?

One way is to forgive ourselves because living in anger and depression serves no purpose. It keeps us stuck.

Forgiving ourselves, though, is but one part of changing our anger. The other part is to engage in practices that show we value ourselves and our lives.

We can begin by eating right, quitting smoking and exercising.

And we can go even further by engaging in loving kindness meditations. By doing this practice we direct love, compassion, and kindness to our innermost self.

This practice will help us feel better about ourselves - right away.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tolerance

Someone asked what I thought about Bruce Jenner's pending sex change.

I said I hadn't thought about it. Because I don't worry about what others do. As long as they don't harm anyone, who cares?

Plus, I pay little attention to celebrities. I have my own life to celebrate.

What people do with their lives is their business. I don't care whether it's about sex, politics, marriage, work. Whatever. It doesn't matter.

The media acts like Jenner and topics like same-sex unions have meaning. But I don't get why any of that should be my business.

The reality is that no one else's marriage or sexual behavior has changed my life one iota.

In spite of these changes in society's values I'm still able to do my job, support my family, vote, and live as I choose.

In the 12-step literature, page 84, there's a phrase that may apply. It says "Love and tolerance of others is our code."

Click here to email John

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Compassion

I saw an act of kindness in front of TLC's offices a few weeks back.

It seems that a homeless man, who hangs out in our area, had his shopping cart confiscated by police. They suspected it was "stolen." And it probably was. For sure he didn't buy it.

The story likely would have ended there. Except that the homeless guy's constant companion is his dog, a pet that's too old and sick to walk far. We often saw the dog riding in the cart on a blanket.

Then one day residents found out about the loss of the cart and came to my office.

They wanted to do a fundraiser to buy a new one. Because I thought it was wonderful that they had this kind of compassion I told them to go ahead.

Within a few days they'd raised $60 for a new cart - one that came with a plastic enclosed receipt in case the police stopped him again.

One may have their own feelings about the homeless. But it's wonderful to see addicts open their hearts to others.

Click here to email John

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pain = Change

Yesterday, as we're driving back on highway 85 from a weekend in San Diego, my wife and I pass the state prison at Buckeye. And I'm grateful I'm driving, and not behind those fences.

The dark boxy structures remind of the 16 years I spent in California institutions. Behind those fences was an alien world of negative values, of gloom, of depression.

And I wondered how many at this prison we passed today were like I was.  Because I blamed everybody and everything for my arrests. For my addictions.

Poor me. I was a victim of the system. No one understood. But I didn't even understand myself.

Deep down I had no sense of responsibility for my dilemma. It was my abusive childhood. The cops had it in for me. My excuses went on and an, fueled by a simmering anger.

The epiphany came when I had enough pain. Pain made me look inside myself, made me seek help.

And that help came in the form of a stay in a detox - then a year in a halfway house.

No longer was the world responsible for my heroin use and alcoholism.  For my lack of success.

And an interesting part of that change is that I quit getting arrested. Stayed out of jail. Started accumulating things.

I joined the human race and stayed out of prison.

Click here to email John

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Changing Perspective

A sense of gratitude helps us stay sober. It also contributes to our spiritual condition.

But where do we find gratitude when we think life is bleak?

Perhaps we're unemployed. Maybe we're in a halfway house. Perhaps our families don't speak to us because of how we treated them. Maybe we left school without graduating. There could be many reasons.

One easy way is to change our perspective.

And while I never recommend that we compare ourselves to others - it can help us find gratitude.

But the others we compare ourselves to aren't those we think have it better than us. We don't look at those with money, position, or great jobs. That won't work.

Instead we look at those with challenges. And those challenges can be physical, emotional, financial, or something else.

There are a myriad of others who face challenges. They may have been born with a genetic condition. Or they live in an economy without opportunities for education or financial success.

When we look at how good our lives are compared with what some deal with, then we surely find reasons to be grateful.

Click here to email John

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mindfulness Stuff

"Fully aware of present experience - with acceptance" - Mindfulness definition

In recent months we've introduced mindfulness meditation into our Outpatient Treatment program.

Each group features a segment of mindfulness meditation. And it's well-received.

In time it will also be in the halfway house program. Hopefully by year's end.

So how does mindfulness help? In many ways. It lowers stress, blood pressure, drug relapse and more. It has a positive effect on many aspects of our lives. Both physical and emotional - if we can separate the two.

There are literally hundreds of studies about it.

Jon Kabat Zinn, of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, has been studying it for over 30 years. And UMass is the home of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

Is it difficult? No. All we do for formal meditation is to find a comfortable seat. Either cross-legged on the floor or seated in a chair.

Next, we focus on our breath as it enters and leaves the body. This is difficult to do for long. Thoughts enter our mind. We acknowledge them without judgement - then return to the breath.  More thoughts enter.  We acknowledge them.  Then go back to the breath.

It can be frustrating because most of us can't focus for long. But, as I've learned, we don't get graded on how we meditate. Any meditation is good.

We just need to set aside 15-20 minutes twice a day to reap the benefits.

A great free resource with downloadable meditations is mindfulness-solution.com.

Click here to email John

Friday, April 24, 2015

Happiness

I found a definition of happiness that makes sense.

It goes like this: the less distance there is between what we have - and what we want - the happier we are.

I interpret this to mean that if I'm okay with what I have now then I'm happy.

But, if we have the perspective that when we get to the next great thing we'll be happy, that's a problem.

How do we get into this trap? Well, I think part of it is that our human nature is to move from pain to pleasure. After all, that's how we survived and evolved as a species.

The pain of hunger led us to find the food we needed to survive. Cold led us to find the warmth of shelter. The pleasure of sex led us to procreate.  But then things got skewed.

Because our modern marketing machine has drilled into our subconscious that we'll be okay if we just have more of the right stuff. The better car. The bigger house. Certain clothes. The right woman or man. The right look.

The media overwhelm us with a constant stream of images of things that'll make us happy once we get them.

But it it's a myth. If we think pleasure and material things will make us happy then we're fooling ourselves.

Because once we get what we thought would make us happy we find it's the new normal. Then we need a bigger hit. Then a bigger one after that. It's never enough.

In my case, there's no distance between what I have and what I want. I have a loving wife. My children are doing okay. There's a circle of friends. We have a decent home. We are in a business that allows us to help others get their lives back.

I'm okay with what I have.

Click here to email John

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Failing the Test

Over the years we've done hundreds of substance abuse evaluations of those who've failed drug tests. Some were pre-employment tests. The rest were random tests of a company's employees.

Probably 98% were doing safety sensitive work. Maybe for the railroads. The airlines. Or in the trucking industry. Usually they involve some aspect of transportation or support services.

The interesting thing is that nearly every one of these clients didn't know how the drugs got into their systems. It's a mystery. Very few admitted making a bad decision.

The number one excuse is that they were at a party and someone slipped something in their drink. Or they were at dinner and the hostess served pot brownies. A few were with women who were using cocaine and somehow it got into their system. Others were around a pot smoker and accidently inhaled.

What I wonder though is why these kind of accidents never happened to me in my using days. I used to always look for a way to get high at someone else's expense.

But in 42 years of drinking and drugging I can't recall a time where someone slipped something into my drink. Or a time where I accidentally got high by being around someone who was using.

Maybe I'm behind times.  Or else people are becoming more generous with their drugs.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's about Attitude

At a clinic yesterday for a blood draw I was in a waiting room with several others.

Most waited their turn without complaint, messing with their phones. However, one middle-aged woman was upset.

Even though she'd only waited minutes, she complained. What was taking so long? She had other things to do. Why weren't more people working there? Things like that. No patience.

In the middle of all this a young man rolls in on an electric cart. He's hunched over the handle bars. He struggles to coordinate his arms and hands. Plus he has trouble raising his head to talk to the receptionist, who was quite patient as she helped him with his paperwork.

But it was impressive to see this man's attitude. His cheerful words filled the room. He thanked the receptionist. He waited his turn with the rest of us without complaint.

It was a complete contrast to what had gone on before he came in. It was like a message from God.

Even though my day was going well, this man's demeanor made it that much better.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Motivation

A man sends a message about how much he's using. He describes downing a lot of drugs and alcohol day and night - like most of us did.

He asks for help and wonders if TLC would be a good place for him to get clean.

And my response is that of course it's a good place to get clean. But then I'm partial to what we do here so what else would I say?

But the reality is that with the right attitude a person can change their life wherever they go.

I've seen addicts get clean by only going to 12-step meetings. Others have changed by going to church. Some fall in love.   

For most of us support and structure makes a difference.

But the key to all of it is motivation.

Click here to email John

Monday, April 20, 2015

Caring for Ourselves

How did we start our day?

Did we awaken well-rested after a good night's sleep?

Did we set aside time for ourselves? Did we pray or meditate? Take time to do yoga? Or go to the fitness center?

Did we have a nourishing breakfast? Maybe some fruit and oatmeal?

If this is the way you started your day, congratulations!

If you didn't, maybe you're one of those who slept until the last minute because you stayed up late watching TV or playing video games.

Maybe you only had time to grab a donut and coffee. And no time to ease into your morning because you had to rush to get to work.

Sometimes life keeps so much pressure on us that we don't find time to be good to ourselves.

But if we allow this to become a habit life has less joy, less color.

If we regularly hit the floor running, we need to re-think what's important to us. I mean where are we going that we always must hurry and neglect the most important person in the world - ourselves.

We should plan our day so that we have time to care for our needs. Time to relax. Time to work-out. To eat well.

If we don't do it, who will?

Click here to email John

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Email Exchanges

Over the years I've been in long email exchanges with those who want help from TLC.

Sometimes it's the addict themselves. Other times it's their family or friends. And sometimes these exchanges go on for months.

And once in a while I'll be at one of the properties and meet them. They'll introduce themselves and thank me for guiding them to our doors.

It happened again the other day while I was at a house meeting. A very nice person, accompanied by a sponsor, reminded me of our emails. And after hearing a few details I remembered the person.

Most often though, I never know if they made it. Because if they do arrive they're usually at an outlying house and we never run into each other.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to those who have written me. I recall a man wanting help who was living in his truck in a rest area; I think it was in Oregon or Washington.

He seemed helpless and depressed. He'd kind of given up. He said he was drinking a lot.

Each time I'd give him a suggestion of how to get here, he'd tell me why it wouldn't work. I told him to hitchhike, but he didn't like that idea. I told him to try churches or Traveler's Aid, but he didn't know what to say. I told him to walk and he didn't like that idea either.

I wanted to give up on him because he kept making excuses. The only reason I didn't is because he kept writing, which meant that some part of him wanted help.

You never know. Maybe one day he'll walk up to me at one of our house meetings and tell me how he got here. But probably not.

Click here to email John

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Women's Program

At an awards ceremony at the women’s house in Mesa last Thursday I thought about when we began housing women in 2004.

We had some anxiety. For one thing we were wondering if we could keep the men and women separate. Plus, we knew we didn't know how to manage women.

So an early challenge was to find strong women to take charge.

After some trial and error, we were fortunate to find women willing to do the demanding work of helping others.

A strength of women in recovery is that they seem more emotionally bonded than the men. At the women's houses there's a tone of family-like support and inclusion. They openly show concern and love for each other - an important part of recovery.

It was refreshing on Thursday to see women receiving awards. Expressing gratitude for their recovery. Caring about one another.

And the wonderful part of the women's program is that it now functions on its own. It's a long way from 2004.

Today there are around 75 beds for females, divided between Mesa and North Phoenix.  And these beds wouldn't be available without the dedicated women who manage them.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Seven Years!

A staff member reminded me yesterday that today is a longtime staff member's seventh birthday.

And I told myself, "No way, that guy just got here a little while ago."

But it only seems that way. And that's because we're all so busy around here.

This man started with nothing, coming to us after spending time as a guest of the state. He was there for something to do with illegal substances.

From the beginning he worked hard. He volunteered and helped wherever needed. And eventually he became the go-to guy for our construction and maintenance projects.

Today he and his fiancee have a young child, a decent home, and are enjoying the benefits of recovery.

We congratulate him on seven years. And thank him for his many contributions to TLC's success.

Click here to email John

Thursday, April 16, 2015

It's not about Me

As we mature in recovery we move from being a self-centered addict to a grateful human being.

This came to the forefront today after I spent a few minutes with an addict in new recovery.

His conversation was full of me, my, I feel, I want, I need. Not a word was about anyone else.

Unfortunately, his conversation isn't unique. Most of our new clients start this way.

If you asked them to draw a picture of the universe they'd be the planet at the center. Everything else would be revolving around them.

But after a while in recovery we start making breakthroughs. We come to realize that we're not always going to feel wonderful. That bliss is not the normal human state. That sometimes we suffer and suffer some more. We even come to recognize that most of that suffering is in our head, of our own making.

Soon we'll start helping others. Comforting newcomers to the program. Doing things for others without letting them know about it.

We rejoin the human race. And recognize that in the scheme of things none of us are that important. 

When we get there, that's when we start growing up.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

About the Money

Often an angry halfway house resident - usually on the way out - says something about TLC being "all about the money."

And, because they're leaving, there's rarely a chance to share a little insight about our finances. Not that it would make a difference. Because anyone who thinks $110 a week is a lot of money has never supported themselves. They don't have the frame of reference to understand.

For $110 a week we offer a recovery environment. Three meals a day. A room. Linens. Clothing, if needed. Work - or help finding work. Transportation help. In some cases, for those who have been around a while, we even provide dental and vision care.

Yet, in spite of what they're receiving, some clients become blinded by anger. They forget that TLC took them in when they were homeless, hungry, and broke. They forget that we gave them credit for a few weeks until they could find work and get paid.

So, when they come to the office on Fridays to pay service fees they're surprised to find that they owe us a few hundred dollars. And that's when their attitude shifts and they might leave angry.

Sometimes, though, they find that wherever they are they must pay something. And often these same people will swallow their pride and return to us. And we take them back.

Many of them remain and become responsible and sober. And that's what it's all about.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Moving Boundaries

"The boundary of what we can accept is the boundary of our freedom" Tara Brach

Some of us become trapped in narratives from our past. And because of that we live in unhappiness and dysfunction.

For example, most at TLC have a long history of drug use. Of crime. Of irresponsibility. Of not having accomplished much in their lives.

And if they identify with this negative history - as many do - then it's hard to go beyond. And those who do, must put forth a heroic effort to change.

But if we move the boundaries of our thinking we can change our lives.

Instead of telling ourselves that we're an addict, an ex-con, or a loser we can reframe our thinking. We can instead tell ourselves something different that may change the course of our life.

We could start looking at our past as a series of wrong choices brought on by whatever. Maybe we had an abusive upbringing. Perhaps we hung out with the wrong people. Maybe we had no moral compass as a child. The reasons we lived the way we did aren't important now. The past offers no solution.

It's important for us to write a new script. One that says "That's who I used to be. Today I'm taking a turn, going on a different path. I'll recreate myself."

A simple thought exercise like this can re-shape our view of who we are. When we do that, change is easier.

Click here to email John

Monday, April 13, 2015

Finding Acceptance

The weekend didn't exactly start out my way.

It began on Friday night. While still at the office, I get a text about a crisis at home.

Turns out my wife had just gotten off the phone with the vet, who told her to take one of our chihuahuas, Jose, to the emergency room. And she wanted me to meet her there.

Anyway, they needed to keep Jose overnight. I left an open credit card and signed some papers.

But as I leave the hospital my head is chattering. How can they charge so much to treat a 12 pound dog? We could have gone to Mexico for a week for that kind of money. I mean it was as much as for treating a human. And the dog doesn't have insurance. And maybe he should get a job. Or go on welfare. Not serious thinking, just my monkey mind going here and there.

Then, saturday morning my wife is having serious pain. She'd tripped over a box in a dark room a few days earlier, causing extensive bruising, and neck pain when she fell. She wasn't improving, so off to the emergency to have her checked over.

And I had the great idea to go to a hospital that's never been real busy at previous visits. But this wasn't one of those times. The waiting room was full.

There were some there in crisis. One was moaning. An elderly man was going in and out of consciousness as his family comforted him. Mothers were holding sick babies. A lot of suffering in a small area. Stress was in the air as the staff struggled to decide who was in the worst shape, who to treat first.

In a short while I moved to acceptance and gratitude. I was grateful my wife was able to walk into the hospital. That her situation didn't seem as serious as some in the waiting area. That we have the resources to care for ourselves. That we live in a system where health care is available.

Instead of grumbling, I spent the wait time studying for a course I'm taking, writing a blog, and reflecting.

By late afternoon I was able to leave for an hour to retrieve Jose from the animal hospital. He was jumping with joy to be going home. And after that I went back to the hospital for my wife who was told to rest and put ice on her injuries.

Even though the weekend wasn’t what I’d planned, I was able to find acceptance and gratitude for the blessings we have in our lives.

Click here to email John

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Life's a Bitch

We usually get a strange look from our addicts when we point out that life has its share of pain. That sometimes it's a bitch.

The idea of floating through our days in a state of bliss is the addict's dream. Addicts act as if they have a divine right to always feel wonderful. And many of us sacrifice everything to attain that ideal.

Some of us lose everything in our quest to live with ongoing ecstasy. Marriages. Jobs. Homes. Health. Even our freedom and dignity.

Only serious loss or pain forced us into change.

So if we can modify our thinking a bit, we have a better chance to stay clean.

That modification includes accepting the idea that things aren't always going our way. That challenges are part of all our lives. Pain. Loss. Sickness. Sadness. Depression. These are threads of the human fabric.

If we accept this reality, then when bad days show up we're not surprised.

We won't tell ourselves that the unpleasantness will last forever.

If we can do that we won't use our body for chemical experiments that never turn out well in the long run.

Click here to email John

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Not Giving Up

"If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through." Chinese proverb.

At TLC we never give up on those who are trying. Because we know that one day - if they survive their relapses - they'll succeed.

I thought of this today when I ran into a client who's left more than once against our advice. When he saw me he hung his head and looked away, Probably hoping I wouldn't notice him.

But I did. And I told him I was happy that he'd made it back. That he shouldn't feel bad, that at least he's still making an effort. And I meant it.

Because when I see someone who keeps coming back I know that somewhere inside is a seed of desire. And that desire to change will put them on the path of recovery.

As long as we never give up there's hope for change.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The work of Recovery

A friend who's been sober for over two decades was talking to a young woman who recently lost her father to drinking.

She asked how he'd gotten sober. While, in spite of her efforts to help, her father had died.

Though my friend felt bad, he couldn't answer the question. Because, without knowing her father, he could only venture a guess.

But my experience with those who remain sober is that they put in a lot of hard work.

They get involved with some kind of a structured program. For a few, it's a church. But most of those I know it's a twelve step program such as AA.

No matter what course one follows it takes sustained effort.

My friend, for example, has attended meetings for years. He sponsors others. He has a sponsor.

He's dealt with demons from his past - most of them in his head. He's made amends. He helps others. In other words, he's immersed in recovery.

In my opinion, those who succumb to this disease haven't found the will to change.

 Or maybe they weren't as blessed as those of us who found the 12-step programs.

Click here to email John

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dangerous Job

Many dangers confront clients in new recovery.

Relationships. Temptations to use. Getting a job.

What? Getting a job? Going to work? What's that about? How can that be dangerous?

After all, what's more necessary and American than having employment? We need to eat. Pay bills and fines. Be responsible.

It's true. We must work to survive. But for those in early recovery - more often than not - it's the path to relapse.

Clients sometimes leave our program early - having found work - and think they have the answer. They've been clean for a few weeks. It's nice to have money. Working feels good.

And, on top of that, mom and dad think it's a good idea also because they're tired of supporting them.

But after a month or so of working - without recovery support - things change. Life seems kind of flat. Maybe boring. There's not quite enough money to do much more than pay the bills.

There is enough, though, to buy a six pack. Maybe a little smoke. Or a few lines. And besides, I've been working hard. I deserve it. Hmm....

And there begins the cycle again.

The reality is that if jobs kept us clean and sober halfway houses and treatment programs would close down.

There's a time to leave and go to work. But it's not before we have several months grounded in recovery.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Same Story

At a 12-step meeting a man with less than a year tells his story of recovery.

Even though there were some in the room with 30+ years, they all listened intently.

Because even though the man had much less time in recovery than they did, he told their story.

He talked of how he started drinking in his teens and soon was out of control. He spoke of losing educational and career opportunities after drinking became his priority.

And it was only when he lost everything that he decided to change.

The interesting thing about the 12-step programs is that the plot is always the same. Only the details differ.

First came abuse. Then something happened to make us want to change. And life became better.

These stories unite those of us in recovery - stories of a common disease that will kill us if we don't change.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

R.I.P.

Over the weekend we hear of the untimely death of a halfway house resident who left around six years ago.

It wasn't unexpected. Because a few weeks ago her drinking partner called our office. He said he didn't know how to help her, that her drinking was killing her.

One of our staff told him that - because he was drinking with her - he couldn't help her. That he should get her medical help instead. Apparently that help came too late.

This is another tragic example of two alcoholics in early recovery going against good advice. When they started living together no one thought it was the best idea.

At TLC we always advise against relationships too early in recovery. Under the best of circumstances - even among "normal" couples - relationships can present problems.

But add in the dynamic of addiction or alcoholism and the odds become even longer.

And in the case of this couple, recovery fell by the wayside.

Click here to email John

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mother knows Best?

Over the years of operating TLC I've come to realize that problem parents often raise problem children.

While I know that DNA isn't always destiny, it sometimes seems that way.

For example, over the past month I've had three mothers contact me. And they were all upset about the same thing. Basically it was that we expect their child to be responsible.

We make them work. We ask for drug tests. They don't like our menu. We have them attend meetings. We wake them up early. We're too strict. These are just a few examples.

In other words we put structure into their lives. Something they likely didn't get at home, otherwise they wouldn't be with us.

Some of these mothers don't understand the concept of letting their child be responsible. They still want to manage their environment. And what they do with their lives.

If this happens more than once with the same parent I usually make a suggestion. And that is that since they seem to know what the child needs they should take them home with them.

So far none of them have followed that suggestion.

Click here to email John

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Thoughts

This Easter I'm grateful to live in a peaceful country. One that doesn't suffer the same religious strife as many others.

In the news this week we learn of over 100 Christians slaughtered at a Kenyan university. Terrorists targeted them for their beliefs.

The countries around Israel want to wipe them off the map. Simply because they're Jews.

Most of the strife in the Mideast is over religious differences. And many innocents suffer  and die as a result.

But in our country, those who celebrate Easter may do so in peace. They can worship in security.

And those who practice no religion are free to not believe in anything - if that's what they choose.

In spite of the many difference we see in our society, we can find much to be grateful for when we look at other parts of the world.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The real Story

TLC's reputation's not all that good in the recovery community.

Former clients talk about us being mean. About our managers selling drugs to the clients. About us making people work. About clients using drugs. Cockroaches. Bedbugs. About us putting people out because they use drugs or drink. The tales go on-and-on.

In fact, at one time the Department of Corrections quit sending residents for a while. The reason: parole violators would tell the board that everyone - including managers - used drugs at TLC.

The real story's different. Those who fail in our program seldom take responsibility for why they left. They're not going to admit they refused to work. That they failed a drug test or wouldn't pay their rent. That they threatened another client.

The real story is that we're not a place where people can be lazy or do what they want. We have a strict code of behavior and tough rules. No drugs. No alcohol. No sex on the property. No threats or violence. Pay service fees. Work. Attend meetings and groups.

When clients figure out that we're not going to tolerate bad behavior, they leave - often with our help. And when they leave they blame everyone but themselves.

Having said that, do clients get high once in a while? Of course. We run an open program where people work in the community every day. People also get high in prison. And they have fences, gun towers, guards and dogs.

The reality is that we spend over $50,000 a year on urinalysis and alcohol testing. Plus we search rooms and clients whenever we suspect drug use.

As to sanitation, we contract with pest control companies and have heat rooms in all our districts. We have an ongoing eradication program to deal with infestations.

We’re proud of our operation. And our door is always open to anyone who would like to get acquainted with what we do and how we do it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

What we're About

A halfway house resident, recently freed from prison, shares his story.

He says the judge sent him away for drug trafficking. When he comes up for release he has nowhere to go except back to the hood. And the parole officer won't go for that. So he comes to TLC.

Once in our program he stays clean. But it's not easy. Because he's from the metro area he sometimes runs into old friends. All of them still in the game.

They want to front him a few pounds so he can make some quick money. Old girl friends from the drug world are willing to spend time with him. But, even though he's tempted, he declines. Because he knows where he'll go if he accepts their invitations.

Instead he stays in the program and does what's suggested. He goes to meetings. He attends groups. He does day labor. He passes his drug tests.

His family doesn't know what to think because he was always involved in using and dealing.

Sometimes it's hard. But he likes the idea that he's no longer living in fear. Always looking over his shoulder.

He wants to stick around for a while and take things slow. This new life is strange to him.  Yet he likes the idea that maybe he can stay clean and escape his past.

And I share this because this is what TLC's about: giving people a chance to do something different with their lives.

Click here to email John

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Losing Gratitude

About 95% of the halfway house clients who come to us are homeless. And without resources.

No job. No money. No credit. Many have no identification. Some have only the clothes they're wearing. We often pick them up because they don't have a car.

But after they're with us a few weeks things change. They get food and rest. We help them find work and get their identification. Outfit them with clothes. After they're with us a few months, we even help them with dental work and glasses.

And most of those we help are grateful. Especially those who are serious about their recovery.

But a small percentage, once they start feeling better, begin to complain about the conditions. We make them work. The food's not to their liking. Their room's not nice enough. The complaints go on.

And sometimes they get their family involved - if the family is still talking to them.

When the family chimes in, it's always about how poorly we're treating their baby. We feed them too much pasta. Why do they have to have a roommate? Why did we serve beets and chicken twice in one week? Some of the residents have been in jail. Why do we charge $110 a week?  There are a variety of complaints.

Usually the complaints stop when I gently remind them that a few weeks earlier their sweet child was living behind Circle K. Or in a park. Or maybe on a bus bench.

And that the only food they got was from either shoplifting, St. Vincent de Paul, a dumpster - or panhandling.

The complaining always stops when I suggest they let them come back home.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Drug Dreams

Once in a while I have dreams that remind me of who I am: an addict. Oh, they don't happen often. Maybe once every few years.

But it kind of surprises me that I still have these dreams. Especially after having been clean for 24 years.

And there's never anything going on in my life that seems to precipitate them. In fact, when I had this dream I was on a relaxing three day vacation in Rocky Point. Just enjoying life in a condo with a view of the Sea of Cortez. But then I awaken with a smudgy memory of using heroin with some people I don't even know. Then I'm relieved when I realize it was just a bad dream.

It wasn't a big enough deal to me to want to talk to my sponsor about it.

But it did make me recognize that embedded deep in my subconscious, in the mix of old memories, there still lurks an addict.

And that's why it's important for me to never forget where I come from. And to use the tools I've learned in the 12 step programs as insurance that I'll never return to those dark days.