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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Medical Marijuana?

Sunday's Arizona Republic had an editorial about medical marijuana.

It cited an evaluation of 79 studies about marijuana for medical conditions.

It relieved pain for multiple sclerosis. But there's little evidence it helped other conditions.

In other words, the evaluation undermined the so-called positive effects of medical marijuana.

My take on the reports is it doesn't make a lot of difference one way or the other.

People who want marijuana have been smoking it for hundreds of years. It's available everywhere.

And while evidence doesn't support its use as a painkiller, I believe there's a placebo effect for those who think it's helpful.

And a placebo effect can be effective for those who think they're having less pain.

The bottom line is that the government lost the war on drugs long ago. Instead we should legalize most drugs for tax and treatment purposes.

While that may seem radical, we have de facto legalization anyway - whether we like it or not. Let’s turn prisons into treatment programs.

That would help tear down our corrections and enforcement bureaucracy - which is ineffective at best.

Monday, June 29, 2015

24 Hour Disease

Addiction's a 24 hour disease. When I shot heroin it wasn't just nine to five, five days a week. It was a full time job.

I'd steal money or merchandise to get my next fix. Then I had to find my connection before I got sick. I was running all the time.

Same when I drank. If I was upright and conscious I needed a drink. If you didn't have anything for me, or if I was broke, then I'd shoplift something to drink from a convenience store.

I was like a rat on a wheel. Running like crazy and going nowhere. Well, maybe to oblivion.

I bring this up because someone mentioned that I seemed busy yesterday. And I was. It started around four a.m. A young small voice whispering on the phone because she didn't want her family to hear her call for help. We talked and texted over several hours before she quit communicating. I hope she's alright.

Then several emails from across the country. Can you help my son? Can you help me? We're broke, but need help. Should I throw him out? Am I enabling him? How can I convince him to change?

These are heart-wrenching questions with a sense of urgency. So I venture my opinion without being judgemental - even though part of me wants to be.

To this long-term addict, the answer is obvious. But to the person who loves them - who has no experience with addicts - it's overwhelming. So I respond kindly and gently and hope that my words give them a shred of something helpful. And inside I pray the addict makes it before it's too late, before they die or suffer irreversible damage.

Later, other calls. One from a halfway house resident letting me know he finally found a job. Trivial to me, but big to him. So I congratulate him and am happy for him.

Being busy is life in the recovery business. It's not punishing work. Not digging-ditches at a 110 degrees. Instead, it's a steady grind of communication from the desperate and angry and sometimes ungrateful.

For protection I spray imaginary teflon on my brain so I can let things slide off and not stick for long - if at all. 

And I recall that a lot of kind people were there for me during the 42 years of my active using. And they didn't give up.

And that's why I'm okay being busy today.

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ego

The 12-step programs emphasize deflating the ego. And for good reason.

Because our inflated egos give us a lot of opportunities to fail. Many ways to get our feelings hurt.

Maybe we develop an inner dialog that goes something like "don't they know who I am?" That's ego. And trouble.

In our halfway houses we hear "I'm a grown ass man. They can't tell me what to do." More ego. More trouble.

The reality is that ego sets us apart from our fellow man. Builds walls. We often have clients who say they just want to be alone. To be by themselves. They don't need anyone. No one to tell them what to do.

But we all need each other in every sense of the word. Unless we become a survivalist and live off the land we need others.

We need them for the tangible.  We need those who grow our food. Build our highways. Our cars. Make our clothes. Who sell us food.  Run our schools. We'd be in poor shape without those who bring power to our houses.

And we need them for the intangible.  To sponsor us.  To listen to our problems.  To prop us up when we're weak. To cheer us on in the face of challenges.

Each of us depends upon others . And to think that we're important - or better than them - is an ego fantasy that creates suffering.

I keep ego in check by recalling how I trashed half of my life before embarking upon recovery. I keep it in perspective by thinking of the angels who protected my life in the drug underworld.  I remember how pitiful and needy I was when I showed up on the steps of a Mesa, Arizona detox unit.

As CEO of TLC people give me credit for helping others. And I quickly let them know that our success came from those who rallied around to make the TLC project the success it is today.

My world is made up of "we," not "I."  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hold Firm

A lot of nice emails this week. They were from readers who liked the blogs about being firm with addicted family members.

They said they'd taken tougher stances with the users in their lives. And the results were good.

Of course, at first their loved ones were unhappy. After all, they'd had a good thing going - someone to help them feed their addiction. Maybe not directly. But indirectly by providing a couch or bed. Food. Transportation. Pocket money. And so forth.

Reality is that loved ones often play us by wanting us to feel guilty and responsible for their addiction.

And admit it, sometimes we fall into the trap. Somewhere inside us we're sure we could have done better with those we love. Especially our children. Maybe had them in a better school. A better neighborhood. Maybe spent more time with them. Without much effort we can find a residual guilt somewhere within us about something.

But what does that have to do with today? Nothing. We can never make up for the things we didn't do. There's not enough money in the world to change the past.

We must have the courage to salvage the present. And we can't do it by being weak. If we love someone who's an addict we give them an ultimatum. Here's one that's simple and loving: nothing more from me until you get into recovery.

And mean it. The only thing you should do for an addict from that point forward is maybe get them to detox or treatment. Perhaps - and only if you can afford it - help with insurance or money for treatment.

Oh, they'll kick and scream. No matter if it's a child, spouse, or parent, they'll do their best to remind you of the past. About your shortcomings. Your missteps. About your many failings.

Love them enough to hold firm and maybe you'll save their life.

Click here to email John

Friday, June 26, 2015

Too many Halfway Houses?

Someone sent a link to a Prescott Daily Courier series about how many halfway houses are in Prescott, Arizona. Seems the citizens are in an uproar because of all the recovering addicts in town.

They say property values are going down. Homelessness is on the rise. Crime is increasing. Their children are in danger. On and on. For me it was deja vu.

Because in the mid-nineties here in Mesa, where TLC started, we had the same situation. The good folks of Mesa raised so much hell that the the City Council passed three ordinances to put halfway houses out of business.

One required a public hearing to open a house. Another wanted a 1200 foot separation between facilities. And a third wouldn't allow houses in the downtown square mile.

However, when the city tried to enforce the ordinance TLC in 1998 filed a Federal Fair Housing lawsuit. We were in court for over five years. And we spent over $100,000 on legal fees.

In 2003, the City settled with us and paid a portion of our legal fees.

And the settlement came about because substance abusers are a handicapped group. As such, the Fair Housing Act and other laws protect them from discrimination.  We must be allowed the same housing opportunities as other citizens.

Prescott's government knows the law and is reacting with caution. Just because citizens are upset they're not going to enact ordinances that violate Federal law.

Follow the link in the first paragraph. You'll see the emotion generated by this controversy.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

1800 Days...

For 1800 days in a row I've been posting this blog.

No misses. No matter what. If I'm out of the country I post. Sick, I still post. Uninspired, no problem. Tired, lazy, whatever, I get it done,

Obsessive? Maybe. I'm not sure, but when I started nearly five years ago I had a purpose. I wanted to publish a daily recovery blog for a year. And I knew the project would force me to be creative each day. And maybe help improve my writing.

Then it turned into two years, then 1000 days.

Each time I had a hundred more postings I'd think about it though. Should I stop? Maybe do something else with the 30 minutes to an hour a day that I spend on this?

What keeps me going, though, is the emails I get from those who have an addict or alcoholic in their lives. They'll say something about how the blog helped them deal with an issue. And for me that's enough.

So 400,000 words and some five years later I plan to keep posting. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Being Here

I read a story about a nun who had left a Buddhist monastery after several years.

Because she’d been away from society for so long she went to a therapist to help her adjust.

For one thing, she was surprised about how fast everyone was moving. For example, while at a subway station in New York she was amazed that everybody was running from one train to another.

The therapist asked her why. And she replied that in her belief system people were happy wherever they were. Thus, they didn't hurry to get somewhere else.

Mindfulness meditation teaches us the same thing.

We learn to live in the moment, to be happy wherever we are right now. And if that's the way we're living, then we're being mindful.

Many of us addicts spend our lives rushing from one place to another – looking for the next great thing. Trying to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Then we discover we're on a treadmill that leads nowhere.

We're already here. If we live in the moment, then we can enjoy our lives.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Responsibility

It's when clients step into the world of personal responsibility that they begin to change.

Sometimes – before they’ve had enough pain in their lives - they think everyone else is responsible. For their being homeless. Being on parole. Or divorced. Loss of job.  Health problems.

Many are with us because of outside pressure. Their families sent them. Their parole officer. Or they’re homeless and have nowhere else to go. If people would just leave them alone they’d be alright.

They ascribe their issues as being maybe “bad luck.” Or else “everyone’s out to get me.” It’s never about them. Because if it were, they’d have to do something.

We see a shift when they recognize their part in their problems. When they start developing gratitude. When begin to assume responsibility. When they stop trying to get a doctor to help them feel good.

But it’s sometimes a long and twisted path before they realize that they are the author of their own misery.

When they do realize that then they can become responsible for their recovery.

Click here to email John

Monday, June 22, 2015

41 Years!

Yesterday at a 12 step meeting I heard a great grandfather with 41 years sober share his story.

He had his last drink half a lifetime ago. Most of those in the room weren't born when he quit drinking.

Yet all of them listened to his story with focused attention.

He's an example of why the 12 step programs work so well. Even though he's been sober so long he cares enough about others to keep returning. To take the time to explain how recovery has worked in his life.  

And the message he heard when he came in, back in the day, is the same one newcomers hear today.

And that message is to go to meetings, clean house, and help others with their recovery. In other words carry the message, which is something he's been doing for over 40 years.

It was a privilege to hear him speak.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sober Dads

It does my heart good on Father's Day to look around TLC and see sober fathers.

I've heard some of these men's stories. And they spoke of their own fathers - who were addicts or alcoholics. Violent men who set a poor example for them while they were children. Men who abused their mothers and were sometimes absent because they were in prison.

Some of their fathers gave them their first drink or drug. Taught them to steal, fight, and be violent.

Still others never knew their fathers because of divorce or abandonment.

Today I see men who've stuck around TLC for ten years and longer. They've married and now have young children.

They're there for the children, nurturing them, spoiling them. Their mothers have never taken them to visit their dad in jail. They've never seen dad smoke substances, drink alcohol, or beat their mothers.

When I look at these men's lives I see how the blessings of recovery are filtering into the lives of their children.

And these children will grow up with an idea of what a father should be.

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Emotional Intelligence

There are many smart people in the world – a least with their high IQs and academic accomplishments. And we have some of them at TLC – both staff and clients.

Yet some have a hard time finding success. Because while intelligence is important, there's another kind that's equally important. And that's emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is: "The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions. And to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically."

Those with emotional intelligence get along better with others. They usually don't have emotional flare-ups. They make every effort to understand the feelings of those around them. They don't force their opinions on others - even when they know they're right. They look at the overall picture and understand the importance of everyone in their organization. The importance of keeping their own ego out of the way.

They use their communication skills to get the job done. Even when their co-workers are wrong or incompetent. They know how to get the best from them by being gentle and kind. 

They look at the big picture rather their personal desire to win every argument.

Click here to email John

Friday, June 19, 2015

Anger Management

A TLC manager who blew up when he got frustrated explains his behavior.

He tells me how his workers screwed up a construction project he was supervising. He'd put planning and effort into it. But they didn't follow directions. And when things went sideways he got angry.

After listening a while, I stopped him.

I didn't disagree that he might have been right. His crew didn't do what he told them. But none of that mattered. His anger is what mattered.

No matter where we are in life or what we do, someone's not going to meet our expectations. Some things are always outside of our control.

Our children do dumb things. Our boss is a moron. We have financial pressures. It seems like we never have enough time, always hurrying from one thing to the other. And there's much more.

But anger only compounds matters. It's hard on our health. It can harm our relationships. And after we engage in it we have an emotional hangover.

We must teach ourselves how to defuse anger. We can learn to take a few breaths. We can reframe situations that typically set us off by asking ourselves "Is this important enough for me to get upset about?"  We can learn to meditate or perhaps take up yoga.

Living with peace and calmness benefits us - and those we live and work with.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What's Important

When addicts are serious about recovery they're not too concerned about amenities. Oh yeah, having a fancy place to recover that's like a nice resort is great.

But the environment is secondary for those of us who came in broke. We're happy to have a bed and something to eat. A place to shower. Someplace to be while we put our lives back together.

When I got clean in 1991 my first stop after 11 days of detox was a halfway house in Mesa, Arizona. I had no job. No car. And literally the clothes on my back.

They gave me a room with three other guys new to recovery. The mattress was thin and old. There wasn't a box spring, just a sheet of plywood under the mattress.

They had the same breakfast every morning - milk and cereal. No lunch. And a hot meal in the evening.

But because I had no place to turn I was grateful to those who ran the place. They took me in with no money and provided the basics. They had me attending meetings, both at the house and in the community. It was a good recovery environment.

They let me in without money. And I'm still impressed that someone would offer a homeless addict this kind of help. And with no guarantee they'd get paid.

I've learned over the past 25 years that those who are serious about recovery will go to any lengths. The living conditions aren't important - the recovery atmosphere is everything.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Being Accountable

I've received a lot of questions this week about addict family members. Are they using? Are they clean? How to deal with them and so forth.

A mother wonders if her unemployed son is using or not. She's been giving him money until he starts working, but isn't sure how he's spending it. He quickly goes through whatever she gives him. He seems to always have an excuse about where the money goes.

She says she can't be sure if he's using unless she drug tests him. Which is apparently something she hasn't done.

My suggestion would be for her to drug test him to keep him accountable. After all, she's supporting him and paying his bills. The least he could do is lower her stress by going to a testing facility like TASC, then showing her the results. That way she'd know he's clean.

Also, I think that if she gives him money he needs to account for what he does with it by providing receipts. That also would lower her anxiety level.

Because she's supporting a grown addict she has every right to know what he's doing with the help she gives him.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Loving them to Death

Last Sunday I posted a blog about helping a loved one who's an addict.

Then yesterday I receive a tearful call from another relative of an addict. Only she has a different scenario. And that's because there's extended family involved.

I give this caller pretty much the same answer I gave on Sunday. But this situation has a twist because one relative is a holdout. She says the family shouldn't be tough on the addict. That they shouldn't force him to get clean.  She says if the rest of the family won't help him, then she will.

The caller wonders how to deal with this complex situation. And it isn't easy to answer.

But my suggestion was to have the family confront the holdout. Explain that her help may result in the addict's death. They may lose their loved one because one person doesn't understand the danger he's in. 

Often family members say they fear the addict will hate them for forcing them into recovery.

But I've never heard one person in my 24 years of recovery say they hated the person who forced them to get clean. No matter who the person was.

In fact, the only thing they express is gratitude.  I know, because someone forced me to get clean. And I've always loved them for it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mindfulness

Over the past months we've brought mindfulness meditation into the TLC Outpatient program. And clients have reacted well.

And we hope to offer it to the halfway house clients by the end of the year.

So what's the big deal about mindfulness? And what's it about? Isn't it just another woo-woo Eastern practice?

The definition of mindfulness is "fully aware of present experience - with acceptance."

And many clients say they already are aware of present experience with acceptance. But studies show otherwise. One showed that 47% of the time our mind is somewhere other than in this moment.

Much of the time we're regretting the past. Or somewhere off in the future. Fantasizing about something fun. Instead of being in this precious present moment. Which is the only time we have.

So why not escape painful thoughts? Move mentally to a more pleasant state of mind?

Part of it is because we never escape the unpleasant.  We only perceive reality in this moment. Therefore we escape nothing.

Nor do we experience future pleasure in this moment. That doesn't happen. It's fantasy.

What happens in the moment is reality, the grist of our lives. We can't escape. It's part of our human fabric.

Mindfulness helps by allowing us to see the thought stream. Mindfulness allows us to look at these thoughts without judgement. To accept them just as they are. We see them. Then we let them float away like bubbles on a stream - with acceptance. And after a certain time our brains rewire. We stop being so reactive to thoughts.  They're just thoughts, they're not reality.

Thousands of studies over the past 30 years show the positive results of mindfulness practice. They're all over the internet.

Click this link to read more on how mindfulness impacts relapse prevention.

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Help or Harm?

"When the addict in my life asks for my help how do I discern help from harm?"

A reader emailed this question to me yesterday. And this is one of my favorites because loved ones really don't know what to do.

The line she must draw is simple: if the help she gives moves the addict into recovery then do it. If her help allows the addict to procrastinate and continue with the addiction, then don't give it.

For example, paying for treatment is helpful. Sending the addict to see a doctor who specializes in addictions is helpful. A ride to a recovery meeting is helpful.

Allowing an addict to sleep on the couch isn't helpful. Loaning a car to an addict isn't helpful. Giving money for any reason isn't helpful. The addict will buy drugs with it. Giving them money to keep them from "being sick" isn't helpful either. No matter how much pain they seem to be in.

The examples might be helpful, yet I know loved ones have emotional ties that make it difficult to be firm.

It's easier if one realizes they're no longer dealing with their loved one. They're dealing with someone who's possessed. Someone in the grips of an overwhelming compulsion.

Addicts lie to loved ones. They steal from them. And they do this in spite of their upbringing. In spite of their best intentions. The focus of their lives is about feeding the addiction. All else is secondary.

My own experience is that I didn't change until everyone quit helping. When they got tough. That's when I realized I had a problem. 

And while I was pissed off at them at the time, I later was able to thank them for saving my life.

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Thanks

Today I return home with gratitude after two days in Portland, five in Seattle.

This time off wouldn't have happened without those who take care of business while we're gone.

Outsiders give me a lot of credit for what goes on at TLC. But I tell them that nothing would occur at TLC without the staff that cares for our 700 clients.

Outsiders look at TLC and see houses and apartments. But they don't see the behind the scenes work that makes things function. The teamwork that helps people into recovery.

Ten percent of those at TLC work for the program. Managers. Assistant managers. Drivers. Cooks. Night security. Labor group. Corporate officers. Data input. Mechanics. Phone solicitors. Store employees. Donations. Maintenance. Construction. Treatment staff. And more.

I'm grateful for this team that allows us to spend time away.

Click here to email John

Friday, June 12, 2015

Blessings of Recovery

A few weeks ago I asked a bank to refinance some TLC apartments to lower the interest rate and save money. Yesterday they said yes.

The loan committee not only approved the project, but added that they were "impressed" with our operation. And they opened the door for more loans if we're interested.

I bring this dry boring stuff up because it has to do with recovery. At one time banks wouldn't talk to me. Or loan me anything. When I first entered recovery nearly 25 years ago I couldn't even have a bank account.

In fact, one time when I tried to borrow money for a house the banker hurt my feelings. He not only refused a loan. He also said the bank wouldn't loan me money "even if J. Paul Getty co-signed for me."

Today life’s different. During the past few weeks two other banks have requested meetings to see if they can lend money for our projects.

What does this have to do with recovery? Everything.

When I first got sober I had 76 cents. No credit. No assets. No car. No job. A high school diploma. Three felony convictions.

But by staying sober and working hard things changed. With the help of sober managers and business associates, TLC has built a good reputation in both the recovery and business world.

It shows that success is something any of us can achieve if we put recovery first.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Panhandlers

On vacation for a few days in Seattle I find that there are more addicts and homeless here than at home.

In the upscale downtown area, near our hotel, hustlers and panhandlers stake out territory on every block. They're in front of 40 story banks, Nordstrom's, Macy's, Tiffany's and other ritzy retailers.

A man and a woman go through trash cans along the street. Their plastic bags bulge with aluminum cans and maybe other stuff. They're industrious and energetic, unlike the panhandlers. I have the thought that if they put half that energy into a real job they'd soon own the company.

On a corner an older woman is panhandling. I'm moved to help until I hear her story. She shouts out to passersby that she's a homeless grandmother and supporting three grandchildren. I'm suspicious. I don't see kids anywhere. I keep my money.

I start to give some bills to an older, beat-up man with a sign. But when I approach him he says something like "you'll burn in a lake of fire." I didn't know whether he meant if I gave him money or if I didn't give him money so I got out of there.

We did help some. And they were the ones who didn't say much. Those who seemed to have severe physical or emotional issues. Some were so out of it they barely acknowledged us.

It is a commentary on our world to see so many addicts and homeless in the midst of such affluence.

There are no easy answers.  But I do know we addicts can find help if we want. But it only happens when we get enough pain to want to change.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Watching our Thinking

"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.” ~Buddha

How often have negative thoughts led us down the path to destruction?

Many times over the past 25 year I've seen clients come in with the best of intentions. Life has kicked their butts. They've lost their families. Their jobs. Maybe they've even gone to jail.

They're sick of the pain. They want to change their lives and everything about themselves. They start going to meetings. They get a sponsor. Their family is talking to them once again.

Life is good and their thinking is their friend. Their thoughts are only upon recovery. They're making amends. Maybe paying child support.

Then something shifts. The momentum has naturally slowed down to some degree. The pink cloud is maybe changing color as reality sets in.

At this point those of us in recovery come to realize that even sober people have problems. The pain that brought us to recovery has subsided to some degree, receded into the background. All of a sudden we're paying bills. Working every day. Our back hurts and we can't kill the pain like we used to. We've entered the land of the "normal" people - the one we left so long ago when our addictions took over.

And at this point our thoughts may become negative. We may start hearing the voices of negativity around us. We might start believing those who say recovery doesn't work.

And when these thoughts take over we're in trouble.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Into the Past

When I was five - in 1944 - my alcoholic father picked me and my younger brother up from my mother's house in California for his weekly Sunday visit. And he never brought us back.

It took three years for a detective to find us in Fall Creek, Oregon, where he'd taken us. We were there seven years before she was able to get us back.

Yesterday we visited that town while on a trip to the Northwest. And it was kind of bittersweet.

We took pictures of the house my father had built for us by a river. Amazingly, it was still standing and in great shape after 70 years. The man living there said he was renting it for $850 a month.

We stopped at the First Christian Church across the street from the house, and took more pictures. I’d spent every Sunday there for seven years. Even though it was over 100 years old, it was also well-maintained.
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We passed the grammar school I went to, which now was closed. It had been converted to a private home so looked completely different. No pictures.

We bought water at the 100 plus year old store where I used to shoplift candy. More pictures.
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The town has grown from 300 to 1500 since I left. Yet it is still a quiet and beautiful postcard town.  When one views it on Google it looks almost like a large park.

But remnants of the physical and emotional scars I carry from the years I spent there with a raging drunken father still linger. I long ago dealt with the trauma. But that still doesn’t erase memories.

It's an example of how being from an alcoholic family can have damaging life-long effects.

Click here to email John

Monday, June 8, 2015

Priorities

An addict fills out our online contact form wanting to get in the halfway house program.

And like most applicants his focus is on finding a job. Making money. Getting into the work force.

And while work and money are something most all of us need it shouldn't be an addict's first concern.

The priority for us addicts must be recovery. We have to learn to live sober before anything else

We've had smart people like lawyers, teachers, and other professionals at TLC over the years. Most of them didn't make it either because their focus was on returning to work rather than recovery.

My experience is that the priority of recovery makes life work well.

Once I put my focus on staying clean and sober the rest of my life fell in place. I've had the same job for 24 years. I'm living the promises. I have a wonderful wife and a circle of friends. My extended family is back. I want for nothing.

And it all started with the single goal of staying clean and sober.

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Difference

 While on an airplane yesterday I was reminded of the difference between alcoholics and so-called "normal" people.

In the section we were in passengers were being served free drinks. A lady behind me ordered a Bloody Mary, while a woman across from me ordered a Screwdriver with a "splash" of seven-up.

And for the rest of the flight neither of them ordered another. Even though the stewardess offered them on more than one occasion. In fact I don't think the lady behind me even finished hers. Because the stewardess finally asked her if she was done with the drink and she said she was, that she'd "had enough."

Because I've been sober nearly 25 years I'm rarely around anyone who drinks. So the way they drank reminded me of how I drank. And I wasn't anything like them.

First off I would have ordered a double shot. I'd have downed that right away. And when she offered me another I'd have kept going until she cut me off. After all it was free, right.

My plan always was to drink as much as I could for as long as I could. I'd only stop when I ran out or was unconscious.

And that's why I quit drinking and putting substances in my body. I didn't know how or when to stop.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Frivolous Lawsuit

The interesting thing about our country is that anyone can sue anybody. It's one of the mixed blessings of being in a free country.

And TLC is no exception. It's a rare year that we're not fighting a lawsuit. And we always win. But it still takes time. Plus the legal fees.

And we're in the middle of a unique one at the moment. It involves a mentally ill transexual who is suing us from his prison cell.

His allegations include repeated rapes and assaults upon him. He says they happened with management knowledge and approval. He says he suffered internal injuries.

Yet there's no evidence any of this happened. No police reports. No hospital or medical reports. Just a fanciful tale from a twisted soul who wants a payoff.

He's also suing everyone he could think of in connection with this. That includes the State of Arizona, Maricopa County, Department of Corrections and a few others. So at least we're in good company.

The worst thing is that we're wasting time and money that could go to furthering our mission of helping addicts and alcoholics.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Carrying the Message - Not the Mess

Dealing with addicts requires emotional resilience. Because it's a rare day that doesn't contain drama.

One client may be intimidating another. One may stealing from the others. Or using illegal drugs. Maybe trying to get into a relationship with another client. A client who's been doing well may test positive. The drama comes in all forms.

And I stay resilient by not attaching myself emotionally to a certain outcome. To not have expectations about what a particular client will do.

Instead I have attachment and emotion about our mission. I believe with all my heart in what we do. After working with addicts for nearly 25 years I have learned that I'm only another messenger. And that some will get the message while others will not.

An old-timer told me a long time ago that I should "carry the message - not the mess."

And doing what he told me has kept me mostly sane.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Letting Go

"Some people think it’s holding on that makes one strong—sometimes it’s letting go."  Unknown

One of the most freeing things in life is to let go.

When I admitted I was an alcoholic and an addict it felt like a ton of weight lifted from my body. I let go of the idea that I could successfully use any kind of substance. Not matter how good my intentions I always got in trouble. Letting go changed my life.

Letting is go is another way of saying we surrender. And the idea of letting go has use in any area of our lives.

Our job sucks?  Let it go.  Find another one.  Life is to short to hold on to something we hate just to make money.

If we're in a toxic relationship we find immediate freedom if we let go. Of course it may be painful. It may dig into our gut and we may want to change our mind. But freedom is there if we let go, surrender.

I apply the idea of letting go often. For example, at one time it was important for me to be right. Or to have the last word. But once I let go of that habit life began to flow.

Letting go is the opposite of being in control. And once we let go we see the illusion of thinking we control anything or anyone.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Lesson

This past weekend in Las Vegas I was talking to a cabdriver from Ethiopia. And I got a lesson in gratitude.

He said that in Ethiopia some of his family members were among those executed by Isis recently. It was because they were Christians.

He said he's happy to be in the United States because his home country has always been a place of political turmoil.

Also, economic conditions here are far superior to his homeland.

Talking to this cabdriver - who had such an immense amount of gratitude - moved me. He sees his life as wonderful because he lives in a land of security and opportunity.

How often do I take for granted living where I have peace? Where I can believe as I choose? Where opportunities abound?

Usually I don't take these things for granted.

But my encounter with this Ethiopian cab driver reminded me of the richness of our lives.

Viewing our blessings through the eyes of others can help us appreciate what we have even more.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Two Years!

This email from a former client came in last week. Her name is left out to protect her anonymity.

"I have 2 years clean and sober yesterday!

And I owe 90% of that to TLC and the ladies there. Especially the director. I love her. She believed in me when I didn't even know who I was or where I was going!

I'll always be grateful for that! Thanks for touching my life with your program and showing me there is a way to live clean and sober."


I like these kinds of emails because it shows the program works for those who put in the effort. This woman gives us a lot of credit but the reality is that she's taking the tools she learned and doing the daily work of staying clean.

When we started the women's program 11 years ago we weren't sure if it was a good idea. We'd never managed women and we knew we didn't know what we were doing. It was only when we found a few strong women to run things that the program took off.

It's always a pleasure to visit the women's houses. Any time I show up there's a bustle of activity. There's also an atmosphere love and caring that makes newcomers feel welcome.

I appreciate this woman's email because it's a testimonial that the women's program is running well.

Click here to email John

Monday, June 1, 2015

Half Measures

The recovery literature states that "half measures availed us nothing." But what does this mean?

To me this means that we should make a commitment. I must say that I'm ready for recovery. And that I'm willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.

Too often we addicts seem surprised that recovery can be hard work.

When I don't feel like going to work in the morning I can't fix or take a pill to get myself going. I have to suck it up and make it without chemical help.

When I'm in a bad mood or angry, I need to talk to my sponsor or go to a meeting. No artificial or chemical help in recovery.

For years my life was a chemistry experiment. I always looked for the right combination so I could feel just right. And it was a balancing act to get the right amount of chemicals and alcohol so I could get to that sweet spot. But I never did; instead I kept getting in trouble.

In recovery I learned it's okay to feel bad at times. Sometimes my back may hurt. My mood may be off. People may not be doing what I want.

Life is up. Sometimes it's down. And I can handle whatever it is as long as I stay sober and clean.

Click here to email John