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, May 31, 2015

Grateful Birthday

Today I tell myself happy birthday because I turned 76 at around 5 AM.

I'm grateful to have arrived at this age. And to some degree I'm a little bit surprised that I survived this long - considering my history.

I don't know any heroin addicts my age. Oh, I know they're out there, but I haven't met them.

And the only reason I'm still around is because I got clean and sober January 14, 1991. That, plus I try to maintain a healthy and low-stress lifestyle.

Today I have gratitude for my life. I have a loving wife. I'm surrounded by kind and caring friends and associates. My children and extended family care about me. I have meaningful work helping other people get sober. And for many years I've enjoyed the promises of the 12-step programs.

What more could I ask?

I guess it would be that God grant me the blessing of being able to continue to do what I'm doing.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Reprogramming our Subsconscious

A challenge for us addicts is learning to love ourselves. Learning to overcome the negative messages of the past.

Maybe the messages started smacking us when we were very young.

"Why can't you be more like your brother?"

"You'll never amount to anything."

"You're too clumsy to play sports."

"This report card is terrible."

If we hear a drumbeat of these messages as a child they eventually penetrate our subconscious. And our subconscious is the operating system for our lives. We follow it's directions without thinking. Just like a computer program. This negativity may be part of why we became addicts.

Or maybe we had a good childhood. But our addictions have led us to beat ourselves up because of the path we took.

We look at our peers. They already have jobs. Homes. Marriages and families. Careers. Here we are, because of our poor choices, eating their dust.

Our family is starting to wonder if they brought the wrong child home from the hospital. We've let them down so many times. Maybe they won't let us in their homes or help us. Maybe they won't talk to us.

But the good news is this can all change. We can reprogram ourselves. We can put new positive messages into our lives. And the messages can be simple ones.

"I'm sober today."

"I'm not in jail."

"I found a job."

"I have 90 days sober."

These are basic messages we can give ourselves in new recovery. Later on, as we build a positive history, the messages can be more powerful. And eventually our subconscious has a new operating program - one that will guide us to even more success.

Loving ourselves as a human being - not just as an image in the mirror - is crucial to our success.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Relationships

I've met several people recently who are in challenging relationships.

They're suffering because the other person doesn't give them what they want. The partner may be no longer interested. Or else they're not giving back. The reasons vary.

As a result life seems bleak. Thoughts of their partner occupy most of their waking headspace.

A man in recovery - who's out of state - periodically calls to vent. He wonders what's wrong with her. He tells me her shortcomings. He doesn't know whether to leave or stay. There's pain in his voice. And he's focused on what he wants, not what she wants. But I don't give advice. It's something they'll have to work or out between them. He knows I'm someone who'll listen for a while.

If I did tell him anything it would be that relationships are difficult for even so-called "normal" people. So how much harder might they be for those of us who have the added challenges of recovery?

But if we approach our relationships with the idea of giving to our partner - rather than taking - odds of success increase.

It's harder to get in trouble when we're giving love, when we're enhancing our partner's life.  If we give them what they want it's likely they'll give us what we want.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Changing the World

When we help others change their lives we make a difference in the world. Not only the outer world. But also our inner world.

Many times those new to recovery say they want to become a counselor. To help others in recovery.

Then they'll outline their plans of going to school to get a certificate.

And I tell them that's a good idea. But I also tell them they don't have to wait til they get a certificate.

They can help others right now. And then they wonder how to do that. But it's not complicated.

Even if we have a day sober we can start helping others new to recovery.

When a newcomer arrives we welcome them. We help them feel comfortable in their new environment. We show them around the property. Where to do their laundry. Where the kitchen is. How to use the job center. How to get a bus pass. Give them clean socks. Maybe find them a bus route schedule.  This doesn't take education.

When we do this we create a supportive atmosphere where they feel like they belong. And this might be the little nudge that helps change their lives.

And it might sound grandiose that we're making a difference in the world. But maybe not.

When we help someone live a sober life we affect his or her future. The children may never see a drunken passed out parent who keeps going to jail or ending up broke.  When children only have sober role models perhaps they'll stay sober.

Simple acts of kindness radiate throughout the world. We can start now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Reminder

For a few hours after a dental appointment I'm not happy with the results.

There's a bit of discomfort. Nothing painful. But, you know, thinking about my mouth rather than business. Maybe pissed at the dentist.

Then, as I arrive at my next appointment I encounter a strange sight on the sidewalk in front of me. A youngish woman, with crutches and a brace on each limb is moving slowly toward me. She moves jerkily, like an injured spider. Like she has a neurological disorder.

Part of me doesn't want to look. But I make a point of speaking because it's rude to look away simply because I'm uncomfortable.

And she gives me a happy angelic smile as she says hello. There's joy on her face and in her eyes as if she's the happiest person on the planet.

I leave that encounter with a different attitude. Maybe gratitude. Maybe admiration at someone who has such a pleasant demeanor in spite of her challenges.

As I drive off I thank God for the example. Because it rarely fails that when I'm down I encounter a fellow human with real issues.

As a recovering addict it's important for me to remember that I don't always have to feel good. And also that there are many in the world who live with genuine suffering - not the fake kind we addicts like to conjure up.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Saving Lives

"Treatment saves lives..." Paul Samuels - Legal Action Center.

A front page article in the May 24 issue of USA Today is titled "Drug Overdoses Soar."

The story details interesting facts about addiction:
  • An estimated 44,000 a year die from overdoses. This is more than die in car accidents.
  • Of 22.7 million who needed treatment, only 11% received it in 2013.
  • 316,000 tried and failed to find treatment that year.
  • Only 2% of the 468 billion spent on addiction goes to treatment. The rest goes to hospital care, jails, and courts.
  • Every dollar invested in treatment saves $4 to $7 in costs for related crime, courts, and hospitalizations.
  • Patients are more frequently denied health care for substance abuse than for other medical conditions.
Most of us know there's not enough treatment. But I found it encouraging that USA Today is putting this on the front page. That's where it belongs.

The more people who know the costs of addiction, the more progress will be made. I think taxpayers are tired of paying for hospitalizing, and jailing addicts.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day we recognize those who lost their lives to support our freedoms.

I'm grateful to those who died. And I also reflect on those who returned with physical or emotional damage from their service.

We see them in our homeless shelters, on the streets, in jails, prisons, and halfway houses. Many suffer from PTSD or other psychological issues. Some have lost limbs and other functions. Many treat their pain and nightmares with drugs and alcohol. It's an attempt to forget.

Among our halfway house clients and staff we have many veterans. Some were discharged from service because of their addictions. Others made it through their enlistments. But they brought their addictions home with them.

Even though they came back with their lives, many have suffered ever since due to the stresses they faced.

There might not be much we can do in a direct way or in a practical sense.

But we can hold out our hands and open our hearts to this minority who agreed to defend our country.

Click here to email John

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Anger

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ~Mark Twain

This saying describes one of the worst things those of us in recovery can engage in.

Anger pollutes our minds and spirits. It ruins our day and clouds our judgement. It's hard on the body.

For this reason I seldom become angry. Not that I don't have emotions. But when I feel anger creeping up on me I quickly change direction.

 But how do I know it's coming?

It's usually happens when I'm afraid or frustrated or feel disrespected.  Maybe I got cut off in traffic. Or else I'm in a conversation and the other person is rude or demanding.

More than once I've asked someone who's raising their voice if I did something to offend them. I might say "It seems like you're angry. Did I say something to offend you?"

Each time I've done this the other person has paused, apologized, then gone on with the conversation. It works every time.

Another way to not indulge in anger is approach the world with an attitude of acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness.  We can view our fellow humans as being just like us. We all have off days. Sometimes we're short with others.  We never know what others are going through.  If we have this perspective then we're less likely to become angry.  It just takes practice.

Those of us in recovery must learn to deal with anger - and all our negative emotions - if we want to enjoy life.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Remembering the Past

One thing I don't forget is who I am or where I came from.

And this came up for me today when a client told me she was "honored to meet me."

Because I've been in recovery for 24+ years I don't let that stuff go to my head. In fact, it made me a little uncomfortable.

I've been taught in the 12 step programs to keep my ego in check. Plus, I believe that forces outside of myself have been responsible for much of my success.

It helps me keep perspective when I remember that I spent much of my first 50 years either incarcerated or using drugs and alcohol. And being a disappointment to those who cared about me.

So looking back today I realize how blessed and lucky I am to have the life that I lead.

While I've worked hard all during my recovery, I'm blessed with opportunity after opportunity.

In addition I have a loving wife. A great group of friends and business associates. A thriving business. My children and grandchildren are healthy.

And if I start thinking I'm important because I've been blessed then I risk losing it all.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Commitment

One of our managers tells her story. And it is an example of the lengths someone will go if they want to change.

When in court before she went to prison the last time the judge told her he didn't want to accept the plea deal she'd agreed to.

The "deal" required her to go to prison for five years. The judge thought that was an excessive amount of time for the thefts she'd committed.

But she told the judge that's what she wanted. She explained that she'd been to prison several times before. But each time she wasn't there long enough to make positive changes. She wanted to spend enough time to benefit from some of the programs offered there. So the judge granted her wish.

Now, more than a year after her release on parole she's working as a manager in our program and doing very well.

Her commitment inspires all of us.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Minutes of our Lives

"We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives."  Maya Angelou

Many clients come to me upset. And they describe that upset as being "stressed."

The being "stressed" is usually about the future. And it's always in their head. They're building narratives about what might be. What could happen down the the road. They never describe what they're feeling as something taking place this moment.

"I don't know if I'll have a job when I get back home."

"Where will I live?"

"I have a lot of bills."

"My family might not accept me." The list goes on.

The fears are often an unknown tangle of emotions they can't describe. And it seems to have a life of its own.

But when I ask them to take a few breaths and come back to right now, things change. Once they start breathing in this moment they begin to loosen up and relax.

When we live in the present - and stop rehearsing for a play that hasn't happened yet - we can enjoy these minutes of our lives.  And these are the only minutes we can count on.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Helping

I get home at 6:00 something last night. It was a long day of recovery drama at the office. Several unplanned emergencies. Clients having emotional meltdowns.

I'm looking forward to relaxing in the jacuzzi, soaking away the residue of the day. But then I open my email and find three pleas for help.

A woman writes about her alcoholic brother who's in jail. He needs help. He has no money. No job or other resources. Can we help? I tell her we can and how to get him in.

A father writes from a distant state. His son is an addict who's stolen from him and his family over and over. He's "a good boy" but the family is tired of him and his drug use. He wonders if he buys him a bus ticket will we accept him. I tell him to send his son, that we have a lot of people just like him.

The last email is from an opiate and pill user who's fallen several times and injured herself so badly she's had more than one surgery. She likes to mix alcohol with the drugs. She says her life is "a shambles." I call her number but there's no answer. So I send an email and let her know we'll help.

So after a long day I have the privilege of being able to help. Messages like these remind me of the chaos I created in the lives of those around me. Of the pain I inflicted on others because of my self-centeredness.

So I close out my day in gratitude because God has allowed me to be an instrument of change.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Power of Recovery

I spent this last Sunday evening with around 65 drug addicts and alcoholics at a wedding reception. It was in honor of a long time TLC employee and his bride.

There was no alcohol or drugs. There were no fistfights. No police showed up to cart people away.

Around a dozen sobriety babies and children were there, playing and raising hell as children sometimes do.

The guest list included former TLC managers who had worked with us over 20 years ago. There were current managers in the room, those who make things happen at TLC. Many in the room had well over ten years clean. A few guests had driven in from out of state.

Someone said I must be proud to have started TLC so many years ago. And I told them yes. But I reminded them that those in the room were instrumental in building the program over the years. No one builds an organization like this by themselves.

It's one thing to come up with an idea. It's another thing to have a circle of people to help you implement the idea.

That gathering this last Sunday was more than a wedding reception. It was a testimonial of the power of recovery.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Angry Relatives

I often receive emails from angry relatives who blame us because their loved one didn't get clean at TLC.

The last one was from a woman on the East Coast.

Her sister was with us for a few days then left for some reason.

But the woman was angry. She thought it unfair that her sister had to pay to be with us. She said she was told her sister could be with us for 30 days before she had to pay anything.

And while that may be what she thought she heard that's not the way TLC operates.

Part of her angry diatribe included an attack on our staff, who were a "bunch of thieves."

Also, she was complaining about the sanitation, the food, and the fact that we were "living off of the downtrodden."

I used to get angry when I got emails like these. But as time went on I realized that there was a lot of emotion behind messages like these.

These family members are in so much pain and anger that it muddles their thinking. They get the idea that if conditions were perfect their loved one might get clean and sober.

Eventually they'll come to realize that recovery is not about external conditions. It's not about the perfect rehab. It's not about the living conditions. It makes no difference if the rehab is on a beautiful beach in Santa Monica.

What matters is if the addict has had enough pain to make them want to change.

It's hard to make families understand that the responsibility for change lies on the addict.

They finally figure it out when they're tired of their loved one living on their couch making excuses.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Recovery and Love

When a couple married for the second time this past Friday it was an example of how recovery changes lives.

They first married around 28 years ago. But it didn't last long.

He'd had a meth and alcohol habit for over 20 years. She wasn't an addict.

Even though she loved him she had to get away. She was powerless to help. And she could no longer watch him disintegrate before her eyes.  To see him destroy his brain and body with meth and alcohol.

In March 1992 he entered recovery. Then he married a few years later.

That marriage ended around 2008. After his divorce he began talking with his former wife. In a short time they were living together once more.

But now, after eight years of being together, they remarried.

And the only reason this remarriage took place is because he decided to get sober 23 years ago.

Another miracle of the program.

Click here to email John

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Not my Amigo

"Your ego is not your amigo" graffiti seen on Phoenix wall.

A friend sent me a photo of the above message. And I thought, what a perfect way to describe that troublemaker that resides in my brain.

That overbearing messenger that says, "Go on, you can do it!"

Or, "You don't have to take that crap off those people! Don't they know who you are?"

Ego is what gets our feelings hurt. It's what induces us to buy a bigger car than our neighbors. Or to buy a house we can't afford. To spend money we don't have. And causes us to be angry and defensive when people don't tell us what we like to hear. It's that little terrorist in our mind that doesn't allow us to be wrong.

How do we keep our ego under control? It takes constant vigilance and maintenance.

When we get into meaningless spats with others can we just tell ourselves that the outcome makes no difference? That it's not important who's right or wrong?

Can we listen more than we speak?

When I'm able to control my ego - or at least curb it - then life goes so much more smoothly.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Congratulations Kevin

Too often in this blog I offer stories of those with problems. Those who didn't make it. Relapses. Overdoses.

And that's because the reality of addiction is that many of us - if not most - don't succeed.

But there are exceptions, those who fight for their recovery. Those who face every challenge to overcome their past.

And last night one of those Hard Six graduates received his degree from a local community college. And he's been accepted as student at ASU this fall.

Sometimes I was around as he struggled with his studies. He would shake his head and wonder if he could do it. Yet he kept on, studying into the night.

He did what was necessary. He had the help of tutors. He had the encouragement of his sponsor and friends in the Hard Six program.

This is a man who walked prison yards for years because he liked crack cocaine. He lived on the rough side of life until he decided to do something different.  And he did.

Congratulations Kevin. We're all proud of you.

Click here to email John

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Here & Now

Have you ever wanted something with all your being? Wanted it so badly that you dreamed about it? Tasted it? Wanted it so badly that it took over your whole being?

I'm sure you have. Most of us have. I have.

In my life it was many things. As a kid, a certain bicycle. Or later on, if my business was bigger I'd be happy. Or maybe a Porsche or BMW would do it. A certain amount of money would do it.  It was always something.

But when I got those things the novelty wore off before long. Then it was on to the next great acquisition. My head was off in the future, savoring, planning, anticipating.

Only when I was in recovery for a time did I start living here and now. Being in the moment - for better or worse.

Today I mostly stay in the moment. I can get things done because I'm dealing with now. Whether it's comfortable or not.

I know there might be wonderful things ahead. But today I'm waiting until they get here. If I don't I'm going to miss this moment, this slice of life that God has given us.

Now I awake in the morning and I'm grounded in the day. I have the realization that there's no moment better than this one - so I'm going to savor and relish it.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Letting Go...

"Letting go a little brings a little peace. Letting go a lot brings a lot of peace. Letting go completely brings complete peace." Ajahn Chah

A resident sits in my office upset and stressed. He tells me his narrative and wonders how to feel better. How he can stop living with depression and anxiety.

And I talk to him about getting into acceptance of the moment. Of the way things are right now. To let go of wanting things to be different.

His expression says the idea intrigues him but he doesn't know how to let go. And I tell him to forget about the things he wants, but doesn't have - the things that are making him miserable.

Then I tell him the story of how natives in Borneo trap monkeys by cutting a small hole in a coconut and putting a banana inside. Once the monkey reaches in and grabs the treat he can't get his fist out unless he lets go of the banana. But most of them don't and get captured  - still holding the banana.

All we have to do is let go of those things that are making us miserable and we'll feel better. But sometimes that's hard to do.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Demoralized

Over the weekend an email comes from a fellow-blogger who's contemplating suicide. The message shocks me into writing him back.

In the email he links me to his latest posting. In the posting he talks of relapsing. He says that he once made a commitment that if he couldn't get off of drugs he'd do himself in. Plus, he mentions not wanting to get old.

Out of concern I write him back right after I read the message. I include my phone number.

After further communication it seems that he's not quite ready yet. But he was thinking about it.

And the import of this is how our addictions demoralize us to the point where we think of taking the ultimate step. Thank God he didn't.

I don't know this man well. All I know really is that he was in rehab for a while. That he had writing talent. And that we struck up a sometime communication via email.

But even though we have a tenuous relationship, it's a jolt to the system when someone we know suddenly threatens to not be here. To do away with himself.

And it reminds to be grateful that I got into recovery before I went that far.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What we Offer

In the recovery field we sometimes disagree about the best way to help an addict or alcoholic.

Some believe that all a person needs is 12-step meetings.

Others think that counseling and/or drugs are the answer.

And my belief is that there is no one solution. I think we should help anyway we can. Different interventions and combinations work for different clients.

At TLC Outpatient Clinic we offer a variety of recovery services. We have intensive therapy as the primary focus.

But we offer more. We have 12 step meetings, yoga, art therapy, gardening, esthetician, massage, hypnosis, fitness, mindfulness practice.

Each has its adherents.

But I believe that whatever we can do to help addicts is worth pursuing.

The help one gets from counseling needs little explanation.

Families sometimes ask how the other things help?

12-step meetings help by allowing one to see how others succeed in recovery. It's great peer support.

The more esoteric, like meditation, massage, and yoga, help clients relax and focus. They learn how to feel good without drugs. They get in touch with their bodies and their innermost selves.

And if you ask 100 clients what impacted them the most you'll get a variety of answers.

So we approach addiction on several levels doing as much as we can to help others succeed.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Leading the Way

Mother's Day reminds me of who leads the way when it comes to recovery.

Nine of ten emails come from mothers of addicts or alcoholics. The phone calls I get are from mothers 90 percent of the time.

"What do I do with him. Can you help?"

"My daughter's about to get out of prison? How can I get her to your place?"

"Am I enabling him by letting him live with me?" There are many variations of these questions.

They come from love and concern. From women who are truly baffled by what drugs and alcohol have done to the baby they brought home from the hospital. The child they fed, raised, and educated with great hopes morphed into a stranger they don't recognize.

Yet they hang on to hope.

I've listened to mothers who have lost a child to addiction. Their pain, even years later, is visible, palpable.

And when I share their stories with some of our residents and clients they say they never want it to happen to their mom.

But, tragically, it sometimes does.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ultimate Loss

Over the years I've met many parents who have lost a child to drug overdose.

It's probably one of the more moving experiences I've had in this business. What can we possibly tell someone who's faced such a loss?

I can only tell them I'm sorry. Then there's an awkward silence because it's hard to go anywhere from there.

We can only be supportive and offer our help. But there's little we can say to ease their suffering. We can just be there.

One thing I do use from this experience is to tell other addicts about it. To emphasize to them the impact such a loss has on a family that's torn forever.

Most of us addicts are self-centered and don't consider the effect our use has on others. Our pleasure is our only concern. So what if it has a negative impact on others?

But if we describe the suffering of those left behind it might make a difference. Maybe make an addict think before he puts a needle in his arm.

Click here to email John

Friday, May 8, 2015

A good Life

When I awake this morning it's with a feeling of wonder about how good life is.

I feel gratitude for my recovery. Happy to be living the promises of the 12-steps.

Then it's a mindfulness body scan for 20 minutes. Afterward a stint of slow yoga. No hurry about anything for the first hour. Just quieting my thoughts.  Breathing in the day.

Around 6:00 a.m. the dogs change the mood when they come to get me. Even though I have the door closed I hear them sniffing. They know I'm awake. They know my routine. I decide to feed them because if I don't they'll keep fussing.

As I go downstairs with them they're jumping and barking with anticipation. They act like the food is gourmet, even though it's the same canned stuff they've eaten for years.

Once they're fed I prepare for work, read the paper, eat a breakfast of raw stuff.

As I go through this routine I reflect. Things are simple. I have 24+ years of recovery. My lovely wife is still dozing in the other room. My job allows me to help others live their dreams. God has blessed me with the resources to do anything I want in life.

What more could one ask?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Half Measures?

In the 12-step literature is the phrase "half measures availed us nothing..."

I was reminded of this today because we have residents who want it both ways. They want to live in a recovery program, but still get high. Some want to be healthy, but still eat poorly and not exercise. They want to smoke, but they want to quit at the same time. They want to change how they feel - and do it right now - the lazy way - with substances.

And it's hard for me to be nice when lives are on the line. I don't say that for dramatic effect. We've buried hundreds of addicts over the years. So when I say lives are on the line, I speak truth.

Many of those who died I knew well. None believed that drugs, alcohol, or poor lifestyle choices would take them out.

I've had men tell me they don't want to die with a needle in their arm. Yet a few months later they're dead. I've had others tell me they'll never drink again - yet they die of alcohol poisoning in an empty lot. It makes me angry when addicts make a half-assed effort to change.

If we want a good life we must fight for it. We work for it. We listen to others. We learn to accept a little emotional pain. We deal with fear and anxiety.

And we don't do anything halfway.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tough Love

Usually it's the mothers who write heart wrenching emails about their children. But this time it's a dad. He's distraught because his son has once again relapsed.

He said the son was with us for a while. Then he started using and we threw him out of the program.

His son had excuses for his relapse. For example he said his roommates were using and that got him started.

The son is homeless on the hot streets of Phoenix. But the father told him he would no longer help. All he's willing to give him is moral support while he recovers.

The father said it was one of the toughest calls he had to make, telling his son he could no longer help until he got into recovery.

The father did exactly what I recommend all parents of addicts do. Withhold financial help until they make the commitment to clean up.

As the parent of an addict, I understand how parents become torn. When my son was strung out on heroin I helped him get into a program. But that was it. While he was using he was on his own. And now he's been clean for a few years, and is working a program.

Life sometimes requires us to make tough choices. We love our children, but we don't want to love them to death. And if they get clean they'll understand why we were tough on them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Measuring Happiness

The distance between what we want - but don't have - is a measure of our happiness.

For example, we may want a perfect relationship. But if our partner's not participating, we can be unhappy.

If we want money, but aren't doing well financially, that can make us unhappy.

The distance between our circumstances and our dreams can be depressing.

In counseling the first thing I try to learn is what a client wants that they don't have. That tells me what's going on.

Once we define this we can proceed. I ask if what they want is realistic. And often it's not.

But if it's realistic we can discuss a way for them to get it. For example if it's a better job maybe they can get more training. Or they might seek work in a field that pays better.

If it's a better relationship perhaps they can enter counseling - or else accept the partner as they are.

The real path to happiness is to lessen the distance between what we have and what we want. And it's that simple.

Acceptance of where we are in life is a powerful tool for happiness.

Click here to email John

Monday, May 4, 2015

R.I.P.

We note the passing of Christian B., 23. He was a former Roosevelt resident who succumbed to our disease April 18, 2015.

Tuesday, May 5, residents will have a 7:00 p.m. service to place his name on a rock in the house memorial garden.

His untimely death reminds us all of the dangers awaiting us if we return to our addictions.

We send our love and condolences to his family and friends.

May he rest in peace.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reunions

Many of our clients express concerns about ever getting back with their families. In fact that may be their number one worry.

They've spent so many years using that everyone's cut them loose.

Some have gotten divorced. Others lost touch. Many have spent years in jail. Some were on skid row. Each story is different.

Yet, there's nothing as heartening as seeing a reunion.

A few years ago, one man - sober a while - showed me pictures of grandbabies from two daughters. He hadn't been in their lives for around 20 years. And now they wanted him to fly up and visit them. He had tears in his eyes as he told me.

I bring this up because I had a relative get in touch recently, someone I haven't seen in some 15 years - when she was in her early 20s. We were never close because her father and I had a strained relationship. But I know we wouldn't be in touch had I still been using. Now we're getting reacquainted.

My counsel to those in TLC is to be patient. Those who once loved us may be back. They probably never stopped loving us. But it became too painful for them to watch us killing ourselves.

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Living in Gratitude

So we start our weekend with gratitude. But for what?

First, be grateful for the people around us. Our families. Our friends. Our employers. Our brothers and sisters in recovery. Those who bring our food to the market. Those who prepare our food when we eat out. The workers who maintain our highways and the power grid. The police who help keep order. You could add hundreds more to this list.

I bring this up because sometimes we addicts feel alone. Like we're not part of anything.

Our interaction with the world may have caused us pain. Our drug and alcohol use isolated us from the mainstream. Our families and friends rejected many of us - and for good reason.

Yet we only feel the sting of rejection. We don't look at the whole equation and realize that we earned their anger. We shattered relationships with our self-centered behavior.

And because of this rejection we want to be alone. We don't want to risk hurting ourselves again. We're living in a cocoon to protect our tender insides.

But gratitude will cut through these feelings of rejection. It'll make us feel a part of the human race. We'll stop feeling sorry for ourselves and stop nurturing our pain.

That's how we can start the weekend.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

No Power

One of my bigger jobs as CEO is to keep the peace.

At least once a week staff members get into it about something. And usually it's trivial. Nothing earth-shaking. I can't remember disagreements between employees ever being about anything substantial.

Maybe it was the way something was said. Perhaps it was a sideways look. It could have been a misperception. Sometimes it's about turf.

And how to deal with these dustups? Usually I suggest that we have no power. We're powerless over everyone. Co-workers. Friends. Husbands. Wives. All are volunteers. They're in our lives by their own choice.

We also have no power over those who work for us. Those we pay to be on the job 40 hours a week. They're also volunteers in the sense that they could be working elsewhere.

To be free we must realize that the only power we have - if we're lucky - is over ourselves.

Once we recognize that, then we have this wonderful sense of freedom. We no longer have the responsibility of managing the universe. It's a big load off my life when I practice this.

When I look at others as being volunteers then I'm grateful for their presence. And being thankful that I don't have to manage them.

That gives me a lot of free time to enjoy life and work on myself.

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