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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Myth

The idea that we get sober and life will be wonderful is a myth. What happens is that we still face life issues - only we don't cover them up with alcohol or drugs.

More than once I've heard people share at meetings about this.

"My wife divorced me. She says I'm boring now that I've quit drinking."

"I lost my job."

"I had to declare bankruptcy."

“My dog doesn’t even like me.”

The list of negatives might go on and on. And who knows the whole story of why bad things happen when we're trying to do good. Maybe it's the universe making a readjustment to see how serious we are about changing.

But I assure anyone that - at almost 25 years sober - life still happens to us. Most of the world doesn't care if we're sober. Life just flows onward. The only thing is that when we're sober we're more able to deal with it.

Since I've been sober I've been through lots of stuff. Lost my mother to emphysema. My brother to alcohol. Won a custody battle for my youngest daughter. Married and divorced. Entered a new marriage. Developed neuropathy in both feet. Have been through several lawsuits - something that takes an emotional toll - win or lose. And so on...

But you get the point. Life moves on. We can face it drunk and not deal with it very well - if at all. Or we can remain sober and develop the resilience to handle most anything.

Click here to email John

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Accidents?

This might sound woo woo, but I don't believe in accidents. For me, everything happens for a purpose. Even if I don't understand it.

And today, leaving one of our storage lots, I spot a somewhat familiar figure outside the gate. And because I'm farsighted I didn't recognize him until I got closer.

It was a man who's been making a half assed attempt to get sober - both in and out of TLC - for at least 15 years. I was happy - and a bit surprised - that he was still alive.

We greeted and made small talk. Then I asked where he was staying. And he stepped back, spread his arms wide, and said this is it. This is where I live. Meaning that he was homeless again, something he did for over six years before coming to TLC the first time. Other than needing a bath, he didn't look too worse for the wear. Maybe that's the benefit of experience.

And then he talked for a while, trying to convince me how great it was being homeless. The freedom. The lack of responsibility. Doing what he wanted when he wanted.

He also said he hadn't drank for seven days - and was on his way to a nearby 12-step meeting. Then he had plans of going to another state to help a daughter do something. He just had to figure out how to get there.

As he walked off I had a sense of gratitude that I wasn't in his situation. And maybe that's why we met accidentally - to get a dose of gratitude.

Or maybe it was a chance for God to remind him that there are places he could go to get sober.
Sometimes it takes a long time for good ideas to sink in.

click here to email John

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Solution

"God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference."  Reinhold Niebuhr

Sometimes I hear these words so often they become almost cliche. That is, they slip almost unnoticed into the background.

I hear the Serenity Prayer enough at 12-step meetings that sometimes it's a tool I forget to apply. And for me the difficult part is "wisdom to know the difference."

Because isn't that always the problem? Trying to figure out what we can change and what we can't? My idea - at least it used to be - is to change the environment. The circumstances. The people around me.

If all that would change, then everything would be great. I'd be happy. The world would run as it's supposed to. All would be peace.

Yes, for me it's definitely the wisdom part. I already have serenity. I have courage. But I definitely wrestle with the wisdom part. And over the years it's cost me a lot of time and money - especially in the business world.

I bring this topic today because many readers struggle with relatives who are using. Mothers, wives, daughters - and the rare man - wonder how to deal with their addict.

And my ego tempts me to give them a quick answer that will get that person clean and sober. But all I can tell them is what I've learned in the program.  That's all I have.

And the essence of it is in the serenity prayer.

Click here to learn the secret history of the serenity prayer.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 27, 2015

A year Old

It's seems like yesterday, but it was a year ago that my latest grandson was born.  So yesterday we celebrated at a Thanksgiving gathering.
And while I have six other grandchildren, this one's unique because he was premature.  And he spent his first month in an NICU for babies.  There were concerns about his survival.
My daughter spent the last two months of her pregnancy in the hospital due to complications.  Because she's athletic it was difficult for her to remain confined to a bed for that long. 
During that time my attitude changed.  Because of some of my experiences with the medical system I was somewhat negative.  But it shifted while my daughter was in the neonatal unit.  During her stay I met many wonderful people who took care of her and the baby.  Everyone there was on a mission to help.  
So today and every day I have a reason to be thankful:  I'm blessed to be sober and to enjoy these promises of the program.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful

It's easy for us in recovery to find reasons to be thankful on this day.

For me, I'm grateful to be alive after my history of drug and alcohol use. Compared to some, I've escaped relatively unscathed.

I'm grateful for a lovely wife. A relationship with my family. A circle of friends. A business that allows me to help others. What more could one ask? I'm one of the lucky ones who's living the promises.

Also on this day I think of those who didn't get the recovery thing. They couldn't work it into their lives so they're not with us. I'm not sure whether they're alive or dead - but wherever they are I hope they're on a good path.

In this business it's never good to cling to expectations for someone's recovery. Yet, I sometimes fall into that trap. It's only human to develop bonds with those who've been with us for multiple years. But it can leave one vulnerable to disappointment.

And that happened yesterday when someone who's been with us over the past ten years picks up a bottle. Then he left. Someone said he gave up because of health issues he was facing. Maybe he thought it was a good reason, but it was sad news for his friends in the program.

On this Thanksgiving I wish the best for all. And send a prayer for those who are still suffering from whatever.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Addict Drama

Back in the seventies a reporter asked the producer of the soap opera, "All My Children," how she came up with such wild plots.

She said it was easy. She just read the newspapers. She said most of her ideas came from the crazy stories in the daily news. Truth, she said, is truly stranger than fiction.

I think of this because I get emails that are sometimes unbelievable. In fact, some are incredible. It's stuff no one could make up.

A while back I got one from someone wanting help for a distant relative. He was kidnapped as a child by his mother, an addict just paroled from prison. She wanted her kid and took him from the foster home he was at.

So he went from the security of a foster home at age 13 to living with his addict mother and a biker boyfriend. They were on the run for kidnapping him. They managed to avoid the police for several years.

One day, in his mid-teens, he returns to their trailer park to find the mother dead of a drug overdose. By now an addict himself, he begins the life of a homeless bum. None of his relatives want anything to do with him because they've heard the stories about him.

At the time the relative wrote me the young man was 19. He has no skills. No money or insurance. No one wants to take a chance on him.

Can we help? So I explain how he can get into our program.

Most of the clients we take in don't have the dramatic narrative of this man. They're people like me, whose addiction was killing them and they had nowhere else to turn. Just boring addicts without a dramatic story.

But our mission is to help them all, no matter what their story.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's not Simple

I get lots of emails and calls from loving people. Mostly mothers. But also wives, sons, daughters - and sometimes just friends.

They wonder what to do. How do they help their loved one get sober? To give up the drugs? To stop abusing themselves? To stop stealing from them?

But most of the messages are full of naiveté. They don't understand that it's not simple to help an addict or alcoholic. The disease is complex and sometimes defies solution. Even when the client is willing.

They kind of have it on a par with going to the doctor for a physical injury. The doctor patches it, sews it up, or writes a prescription and things get better.

I can feel the pain and love in their messages. I can sense their tears as they write the words.

And it’s hard to explain to them the work it will take for their loved one to change. It’s going to take more than simply removing the drug or alcohol.

Because once the addict leaves his drug of choice she/he enters new territory. The world of recovery has values one must embrace. It’s like moving to another country where one doesn’t know the language and customs. It takes time to adjust. It can be frustrating to grasp the new language and values.

But if one sticks with recovery they start realizing the benefits. The family returns. Self-respect comes back. Their bank account grows. They find peace. Responsibility becomes a way of life. They know about gratitude.

Soon they start sponsoring others, lifting them up. And when they reach out to others like this there's hope for long-term recovery.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Look in the Mirror

"If you’re still looking for that one person who will change your life, take a look in the mirror." Roman Price

Most of us in recovery learned long ago that no one's coming to rescue us. When it comes down to making the decision to get sober, we're the ones who make that choice. And, ultimately, we're the ones who do the work.

I had a reminder of this last week when a probation officer from another state called. She'd lost track of a twenty-something man she'd sent to one of our halfway houses. Was he still with us? Could I help her? Of course I could, but I'd need to do some research before I could answer.

A database report showed that within a month of his arrival he'd relapsed and left the halfway house. A few days later he returned. But after two more days he failed a drug test and left again.

I sent the report to her with my return email. And I'm sure she was disappointed because she talked like she had hope for him. And now he'd picked up his habit in another state.

His situation is similar to many of those who come to us. They get on the plane or bus with great hope. Things will be different this time. Life will change. Everyone's happy they're willing to make the long trip out of state. To make a new start.

Then harsh reality sets in. I'm going to have to do some work. The same thing they wanted me to do back home. Quit using. Find a job. Pay my bills. Be responsible. Go to meetings.

And when these questions come up we must look in the mirror. Because that's the one person who's going to make the change.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Homelessness

The other day I left my office and noticed a man inside our dumpster in the alley mining for aluminum cans. He was busily tossing whatever he found of value onto a pile outside.

As I passed, I mused at how hard some work to survive. I often see the homeless around town. And their whole existence is about basic survival.

In fact, the homeless work much harder than the rest of us. It takes effort to find food. To find a safe place to sleep at night. A place to bathe once in a while. And for the 80-90% who are addicts it's even a bigger challenge to find enough alcohol and drugs to blot out reality.

Back in last century, when I was in California, I thought I would try being homeless. After all, no rent or utilities to pay. No one to boss me around. Kick back all day. But I was wrong. I spent all my waking hours looking for dope. For places to sleep and stay warm. For something to eat.

The final straw came when I realized I hadn't bathed in so long that my toes were sticking together. I wasn't tough enough to last even a week. Fortunately the police arrested me for trespassing and saved me from myself.

Ninety five percent of those coming to TLC are homeless addicts. And those who stay and work on their recovery become successful. Once sober, they're able to apply the same toughness and creativity that allowed them to survive on the streets. 

When they do that they can become as successful as anyone else. But it takes a while for many of them to make the decision.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Forgiving

There's a story of two Buddhist monks who see each other some years after their release from prison. They'd endured horrible torture by their captors.

"Have you forgiven them?" asks the first.

"I will never forgive them! Never!" replies the second.

"Well, I guess they still have you in prison, don't they?" the first says
.

I love this anecdote because it illustrates the dilemma we face when we hold resentments. When we hold them we are - like the monk above - in our own prison. A prison we build brick by brick with our own angry thoughts. And we only escape, set ourselves free, by forgiving.

When we cling to resentment, we carry a burning ember in our spirit. And as long as it smolders there it spreads toxicity in our lives.

Some can't forgive because they believe forgiveness means that what happened was okay. But that's not the point.

The point is that sometimes people do and say awful things to us. They may act from ignorance, intolerance, hatred, jealousy or fear. Who knows?

But should we validate the poison others spread by allowing it to fester within us?

The 12-step programs show us how to get past resentments if we choose that path.

Click this link for other forgiveness resources.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 20, 2015

Accidents Happen

As I drove to work yesterday traffic slowed for an accident ahead of me. It must have just happened, because emergency vehicles hadn't yet arrived.

As traffic slowed, I had a chance to see what was going on. What first caught my attention was a young man pacing back and forth. He was hollering something I couldn't hear and waving his arms.

Based on his emotion I feared someone was dead or badly injured. But he wasn't bleeding or limping and didn't seem hurt.  And I couldn't see anyone else.

But when I go closer I could hear him. "My car. Look at my fender. Oh my God!" He was loudly repeating the same thing over and over as I drove slowly by. And I noticed that the fender was pretty much trashed.

As I drove on I thought about his strong reaction to something so insignificant. Maybe he was in shock. But he seemed to be overreacting to something his insurance would take care of.

Perhaps I'm too judgmental, but wrecked cars and destroyed property are not things to be emotional about. Physical injuries, loss of life - those are the things of emotion.

Life is too meaningful to waste our time over the loss of material things. We can get them back. If we lose our health, our sobriety, our loved ones - those are the things of emotion.

That's my opinion. But then maybe I've wrecked too many cars in my life to place much value on them.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Blessings

Our halfway house program has never solicited cash donations. Nor do we receive government grants or funding.

We raise our cash the old fashioned way - by working for it.

The one thing thing we do solicit though, is building material and supplies. And the community richly blesses us.

Businesses large and small kick in all year around. Stucco, sheet rock, flooring, paint, wiring, shingles, windows. You name it, and someone has given it to us.

We also get help from the medical community. We have many clients with dental issues from using meth and other drugs. We have 30+ dentists who give their time and expertise.

Also, we have several eye doctors who help with eye exams and glasses.

Much of our furniture, including mattresses, comes from hotels that are upgrading their properties. It's not uncommon for us to get 200 mattresses, dressers, or tables and chairs in one donation.

A large religious organization gives us thousands of dollars in vouchers each year. Clients can use them to buy clothes in second hand stores they operate.

I bring this up because this week we were looking for Thanksgiving turkeys. And, as "luck" would have it, our donation coordinator accidentally ran into a former graduate who manages a grocery chain. A man who had been at TLC years ago. He'd been sober all this time. And of course was happy to give us turkeys at cost.

It's amazing how these things just happen.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Word Power

Words have such awesome power. They can heal. Or they can destroy. And sometimes those doing the destruction don't realize the harm their words are doing.

I've been in group and individual counseling sessions for some 24 years at TLC.

And I hear often from clients abused as children. Not with fists. Not with belts. Or kicks. Or slaps. But with words. Simple words. Ugly words.

Things like "You'll never be worth a shit." "Your brother is smarter than you." "Are you retarded or something?"

The phrases take a lot of forms. But when children hear them enough they become tangled in their subconscious. And they lie there like hidden computer code, sending messages that block success and happiness.

Some parents have issues themselves with alcohol and drugs. Or they have psychological issues. They are poorly equipped to direct the lives of others. But they do long term damage to children - often contributing to their substance abuse.

What to do? It takes a lot of counseling and inner work for us to remove these old messages.

Once we discover these old messages we can remove them with self-awareness and inner work. But it takes diligence and a strong desire to live life by our own definitions - not the definitions of others.

In the meantime we give others words of love and kindness.  That's the kind of legacy that can change lives.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thoughts on Karma

I think of karma as what comes around goes around.

But mostly I've always thought of it as a long-term thing. Kind of like our reward for misbehavior in previous lifetimes. Which is a Buddhist or Hindu concept. But I've had to change my thinking.

Because in the world of drug and alcohol addiction karma seems to happen very short term. Particularly among those who continue to drink and drug as I used to.

In our TLC groups we predict what will happen to clients who continue to relapse. But it's almost like they're disconnected from reality. Or else the rewards of drugs and alcohol are so wired into their brains that fear of death means nothing to them. Many leave to use again.

They're not only disconnected from the dangers of continued use. They're also unwilling to follow the basics of health. Like quitting smoking. Eating well. And working out. It seems like they have an almost fatalistic outlook about their lives.

The idea that bad habits might affect them doesn't seem important. But karma eventually shows up for us all.

Monday, November 16, 2015

More Gratitude

Gratitude was the topic at a 12-step meeting yesterday.

And as the conversation went around the room members talked about why they were grateful.

Some said they now had their families back. Others spoke of improved health. Better relationships. Getting off probation. Good jobs and more money. Each had something a little different.

And as I listened, I thought of what I'm grateful for. And as I reflected, I realized that I've been grateful since I got sober nearly 25 years ago. Because when I first came to recovery I had this overwhelming sense of relief. A weight was off me. I was no longer poisoning my mind, body, and spirit with drugs and alcohol. Demoralization had left. The sense of imminent doom was gone. I had freedom.

Today I have everything a man could want. A successful marriage. A home. A business. I'm going to school. All those things are nice. But without recovery I wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of this.

So my gratitude is for the root of all I have today - recovery.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Making life Matter

The terrorist attack in Paris rips at one's sensibilities. How can this happen in our world of high-tech surveillance? In a time when many are on alert for such things?

One who escaped the onslaught said the murderers "looked like ordinary people."

She went on to describe them as wearing baseball caps and sweat shirts. In other words, they fit in.

What can we learn from this? Evil exploding from ordinary looking people? It's incomprehensible that humans can turn on their fellows like rabid dogs. And based on a twisted medieval ideology that says if you're not one of us you should die.

What comes from this for me is the same thing that I realized after the attack on 9/11.

And that's that we live in a world that is unpredictable and sometimes evil. But we can't allow this to make us cynical, hateful, or fearful. We mustn't let these atrocities consume us. That'll mean the terrorists achieved their purpose.

For me the message is to live life as if it matters. Be kind to ourselves - and be especially kind to others. Don't waste precious moments on this planet bickering over things that don't matter. Or even things that seem to matter.

Spend our moments in a positive way.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Being Convinced

"I have nothing," an addict once told me. "I lost my job. My family. I wrecked my car. I only have the clothes on my back."

He looked at me in surprise when I reached across the desk and shook his hand.

"Congratulations," I told him. "Now maybe you'll be able to get sober."

And the last time I saw him he had a year clean.

It may seem cynical to congratulate someone on losing it all. Yet there's nothing more convincing than when our addiction trashes our life.

And I speak from experience. I went from vice-president of a nationwide company to living on the streets. And it took less than a year. At the end - with the one or two brain cells I had left - I realized I must change. Or die.

So when clients show up with nothing it's great.  I know they might have the humility to realize they're powerless.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Losing his Balls

I was having a so-so day Thursday when I get a call from the Brown Bomber. He's been in a nursing home for ten years after having a stroke while in jail. And now he has prostate cancer.

"The doctor says he's going to cut my balls off," he told me. There was sadness in his voice. But no fear.

Not many of you know him. Nor should you. He's a former brother-in-law, someone I once used and hung out with. Even after his sister and I parted ways.

Once in a while he calls to thank me for money I send each month. But some in his family object. They say I'm not helping him. That I shouldn't send him anything. They say he buys cigarettes, pot, and alcohol with it. On and on.

But I don't care. At 70+ years, half his body frozen, living in a wheel chair, I'm not going to convince him of anything. The word recovery has never crossed his lips. He's been a tough guy who always lived his own way.

Plus, when he calls I'm reminded that I don't have many bad days at all.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Flow with Life

I believe we should do our best at whatever we undertake. But I don't think we should try too hard. Especially those of us in recovery.

And while this may seem contradictory, I often deal with clients who beat themselves down.

They don't feel they're moving fast enough. Maybe they have an entry-level job. Or the hard reality of recovery isn't what they expect. They blame themselves, thinking they should be on top of the world now that they're clean. They hear of those they grew up with, getting married, or starting college. They feel they've lost time and they want to catch up.

My advice is always the same: chill. Don't get in a hurry. Beyond staying sober, don't put great expectations on yourself. Sure you've fallen behind. After all, you were a drug or alcohol seeking robot for a while. It's going to take time to repair the body and the mind. But, you're alive and sober.

When things seem tough, congratulate yourself for not drinking or smoking dope. For not running away. When you awake in the morning whisper a prayer of thanks for your freedom from addiction.

Be kind and loving to yourself when you look in the mirror. You made it this far, to another day of living in freedom.

Congratulate yourself. Because your life is better than it was when you started your recovery.

Flow with life and remember that everything is exactly as it supposed to be at this moment.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran's Day Gratitude

Veteran's Day reminds of when my youngest daughter left for basic training.

It was before dawn on September 11, 2003, the first day of her three year enlistment. I had tears in my eyes as the recruiter's car disappeared around the corner with her inside.

Months later I attended her graduation from basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. She was so trim and fit that I barely recognized her. There were hundreds of graduates and a lot of ceremonies and marching.

And a few months after that she was sent to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. While many in her group asked for a Hawaii assignment, she was one of the lucky four that made it there.

I was happy, because I thought she'd be in a safe location. Soldiers from that base hadn't been deployed in many years. Yet six months after she got there 25,000 were sent to Afghanistan. She was was among them.

The year she spent in Afghanistan, in a front line combat area, was almost surreal to me. I somehow numbed myself to the reality of where she was. There were days when we spoke on the phone and it was as clear as if she were at home.

She completed her three years and returned home. But not unscathed. She was injured in an accident while there. Plus she has other scars that aren't visible. But they're serious enough that she has 100% lifetime disability.

Today, as always, I'm grateful that she made it back. And I'm grateful to the many others who do what it takes for our peace of mind and security.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A little Kindness

Kindness works for me.

Last month I became involved in a not pleasant negotiation with a service provider. And it wasn't pleasant because I was busy with other things and their problem was not on my priority list.

It seems the company was unhappy about the way I displayed their logo on our website.

They wanted it in a certain place and in a certain format on a certain page. And while I wasn't opposed to making changes, some of them were going to take a while. And they wanted the changes made sooner, rather than later. It wasn't going to be easy. Especially for someone like me, born way back in last century. Before the invention of television.

So we went back and forth for a while about the best way to do it. I did some homework, sometimes with the guidance of their tech guys.

And, finally success. The logo showed up where they wanted it the way they wanted it! I was glad it was over because it took more time and head space than I cared to invest.

Then this week I get a card. When I opened I thought it was an advertisement from the same company. But, it turned out to be a hand-written card from their customer relations department. They thanked me for my help and patience.  And said other nice things.

Just those few lines changed my attitude toward that experience. It reminds me that a little kindness goes a long way.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 9, 2015

Managers talk Recovery

Yesterday, at our monthly management meeting, the topic was recovery.

Some spoke of why they came to TLC in the first place. Others talked of why they're still here years later. Some spoke of coming here two or three years ago because they had nowhere else to go. Their  plan was to leave within a few weeks. Yet they're still here today.

Some spoke of never wanting to come to our halfway houses because they'd heard horror stories. Stories about how strict the rules are. How terrible the food is. About the living conditions.

Even convicts in the state prisons caution parolees about coming to TLC. They say we're too strict and that if they get high they'll be asked to leave. Plus we'll tell the parole department that they failed a drug test.

It's true that we're a strict, no frills, organization. One that's focused on our mission of helping recovering substance abusers rebuild their lives.

And underlying all of that is a deep bond that binds our managers together. When one gets sick everyone rallies and visits them in the hospital. They pick up the slack on their job. They provide support when they lose a family member or need someone to lean on.

TLC has long  been a community, a family of recovering people who care deeply for one another.

Click here to email John

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Getting in Touch

An acquaintance asked recently why I don't have a place on this blog for comments. Like many other bloggers do.

And I explained that I had one a couple of years ago. But then took it off because it didn't serve a positive purpose.

I either got comments that were flattering and nice. Or I got hateful and pointless rants. And neither served any purpose. And they took too much head space and time to deal with.

The nice comments were okay. But one thing an addict or alcoholic doesn't need is to have his ego made any larger than it already is.

And the negative ones were angry diatribes. Probably from former residents discharged from TLC for failing a UA. Or threats of violence. Or for not paying service fees.

And the angry ones didn't bother me that much. Except that they were from cowards who'll say most anything if they can do it anonymously. It's easy to talk smack about me or our program from the anonymity of a keyboard. But it takes courage to email, make a phone call, or visit my office to deliver a complaint.

So I took out the comments section. But, if anyone wants to send me a direct message they can use the email link at the bottom of this posting.

I love to hear from readers - even the ones who are unhappy with our program. Because if they're unhappy about something - and not just pissed off - what they say may improve how we deliver services.

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Being Tough

Those who respond most often to this blog are parents. Usually the mothers.

Most are torn about what to do. Do they continue to help their child? Or do they start practicing tough love? Hoping that being firm will help their child to recovery?

And my advice is always the same. Be tough. Take a firm position. No more help until you get into recovery. Because, there's nothing wrong with giving someone a jump start once they're sober. But give a user food, housing or transportation and you're supporting their habit.

And while it might not seem that way on the surface, that's exactly what it is. If your kid is living on your couch you're supporting the addiction. Because without your help he/she might get done faster. They'd run out of options sooner.

Now I'm not here to say I was the great parent. That I should give advice about raising children. I was mostly in jail or using when my kids grew up. And my two oldest had a rough upbringing, though they reacted differently. One became an addict, the other a pastor.

I give my advice because I was the addict on the couch. Living on the porch. Sleeping in the garage. Only when my mother told me she was sick of me did I change. She was tired of the police looking for me. Of me not working. Of my nodding out out in the living room. She told me to get my life together or stay away.

Sure, I was hurt. Thought she was cruel. That she didn't care. I was angry.

But within a year or so, once I got sober, I was grateful that she had the courage and love to throw me out. To tell me she wasn't going to help anymore.

Once people stopped enabling me I began to look at myself. And I realized that I needed to do something before I died or ended up back in prison.

That's when I got into recovery.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Unlearning

We spend a lot of time helping clients unlearn bad habits and faulty beliefs. We find a lot of examples among those who have come through our program over the years.

We take in some people over 21 years old who know little about caring for themselves. They don't know how to clean a living area. Make a bed. Prepare their own food. Find a job. The list goes on.

We once had a man in his early twenties who had a strange look on his face as he paid his rent.

"You know," he said. "That's the first time I've ever paid to stay anywhere."

And he's not alone. We have many in his situation who know little about the real world. Whoever raised them didn't teach them the fundamentals of survival.

It seems like they wanted their children to like them above all else. So instead of making them work and take care of themselves, the parents did everything. We've even had children whose parents paid for their drug habits. They didn't want their baby to suffer withdrawal.

So some of our job is to help clients unlearn bad habits. To teach them they're responsible for themselves - including their addictions.

And, once in a while - especially if the parents stay out of the picture -we succeed.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hurting Others

Most cries for help are not from addicts or alcoholics. They are normally from someone who cares about them more than they care for themselves.

These are usually mothers, wives or girlfriends. Though sometimes it's children or friends. But what they all have in common is they're afraid the person will die unless he gets help.

I periodically hear from a loving mother from the Midwest, whose son has been homeless for some time. He's an adult, and I think he has a child of his own.

In spite of her best efforts she can't convince him to find recovery. She's told him about TLC. And I'm sure she's pointed out other opportunities in his area where he could get sober. But his disease has such a grip on him that he's not open to recovery.

We addicts understand the challenges he's facing in making a decision. There's something about his using that's still working for him. He likely hasn't had enough pain yet.

But the sad thing is what his mother goes through. She prays and hopes that he'll see the light, that he'll get sober. When reading her emails I can sense her pain - and how much she cares for him.

Addicts are fond of saying things like "I never hurt anyone but myself." But, if they had a real grasp of what their loved ones go through they might quit making statements like that.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Settling for Something

Back in last century my parole officer was counseling me about my drug use. And he said something I still recall.

What he said was that at some point I'd have to settle for something in life. But I didn't understand his point until much later. In fact, I wasn't sure what he meant..

My history told him I was constantly restless and discontented. And his statement was perhaps a way to share a bit of his philosophy. Whatever it was, I felt he was trying to help.

Only when I made a decision to get sober did I understand - years later - what he meant.

And what he meant was that at some point in our lives we have to make a decision about what we're going to do. How we're going to live our lives.

And when I got sober, that's exactly what I did. I settled for a way of living that would allow me to flourish and thrive.

I realized that if I kept drinking I'd end up dead. Or back behind bars. And at the moment of that realization I knew I had to make a decision about my life.

And that's when I found the freedom of recovery. And after being sober a while I understood what he meant.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Changing Perspective

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” ~Unknown

I love this saying because it's the opposite of what I used to believe.

Never was I content with what I had at the moment. I always needed more. More money. More freedom. More stuff.

If I just had this or that material thing my life would be okay.

From the time I was in my late teens I was never content with what I had. I thought that better houses, cars, clothes and trips would validate me. But when I started getting those things I realized I was way off base. Even though I had a glut of luxury things, there was something missing.

And what was missing was an inner core. Something beyond my materialistic fantasies. I had mistakenly thought that money and the things it bought would make me okay. And I pursued them relentlessly. I was insatiable. I liked money and the seeming power that it brought me.

Then one day it all came crashing down in a messy heap of legal papers when the government showed up with warrants and indictments for me and eight associates..

And you know the rest of the story. A series of court battles. Money for lawyers. And finally a plea agreement and time behind bars. I had sacrificed everything, including my freedom, in pursuit of stuff that disappeared when I was taken into custody.

Now, years later, I'm living the American dream. I have everything a man could want. A lovely wife. A loving circle of people around me. A dream job that allows us to help others. The whole package.

And it all began 25 years ago. with me being grateful for the simple fact that I was sober. Since that time God has richly blessed me and those I love.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 2, 2015

Emails

A man approached me at a 12-step meeting - after getting a one year chip - and thanked me for helping him get to TLC.

He said he'd sent an email in the summer of last year, asking for help. And my response was to direct him to our Southern property.

I appreciated his gratitude, even though he's the one who did the hard work of staying in recovery.

It meant something to me, though, because it's rare that I meet those who send emails.

Some are simple inquiries. Others have a tone of desperation, even drama, about them. They often say things like "if I don't get sober I'm going to die." Or, "I've lost everything and don't know what to do."

The other day a woman wrote telling me she felt like taking her life. She'd tried to get sober many times, but had never succeeded and was ready to give up. I told her to call a suicide hotline.

Others will start their email with some clarity, then the words will trail off as if they'd just done a shot of dope. Or else are about to pass out from drinking.

A few send nonsense messages that are unintelligible. Even if I can't understand them I'll send a brief answer saying that we can help.

And then there are a couple who've been writing to me every once in a while over the past year. They say they're still trying to figure out how to get a ride to Arizona.  I always wish them luck.

Click here to email John

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Finding Happiness

I don't have psychic powers. But I'm pretty sure I know what you want. You want the same thing I want. The same thing everyone else wants. And that is to be happy.

But what does that mean? To be happy?

I don't know because I'm not in your skin. I don't what does it for you, what brings bliss, joy, and comfort into your life.

For me, it's to have a good relationship with my wife. To connect with my children and grandchildren. To have meaningful employment and financial security. To help others escape the insanity of their addictions. To help my family and those around me live up to their full potential. To stay fit and healthy during my remaining years. To learn new skills.

But for you to find happiness you need to first discover what it is.

Maybe it's winning the lottery. Or a certain woman or man. A new car or home. We may get those fantasy things then realize they didn't do it for us.

We have to figure out what makes us jump out of bed in the morning. What makes our heart beat. Where's our mind when we're daydreaming? What are we passionate about?

When we discover our passion and pursue it then we realize there's a wonderful life beyond drugs and alcohol.

Click here to email John