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, February 29, 2016

Reinforcing the Message

I heard a refreshing message at a 12-step meeting yesterday. And it was from someone at least fifty years younger than I. A 20-something.

And what she said wasn't new. It was her account of how alcohol had taken over her life. In fact, it nearly killed her until she embraced the program. A typical 12-step plot.

But it was refreshing for me because I need to keep hearing some things over and over. And one thing I've never heard an alcoholic say is that life got better once they became ensnared in the disease.

Instead, once they think they can handle drinking again, they learn how much worse things get as they continue.

I'm not sure why such messages are energizing for me. Maybe it's that I realize that 25 years ago I made a perfect decision when I got sober.

Because I was a child who learned very early that adults couldn't be trusted. By extension, authority of any kind was untrustworthy. And that mistrust bled into many aspects of my life. I didn't trust schools, churches, or organizations of any kind. And the 12-steps were an organization.

And that's why for a long time I couldn't trust them either. But I kept having alcoholic friends disappear into 12-step programs. People I drank with for years getting sober. Changing their lives.

And that made me reframe my thinking. And today I was reminded of that change in thinking.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Reason for Gratitude

Sometimes I find gratitude in strange situations. One happened yesterday during my morning "commute."

While I don't always work weekends, I sometimes go to the office on Saturday mornings when it's quiet. It gives me time to review the past week. Clean up details. Maybe plan for what's coming up next week.

Anyway, using the term "commute" is laughable in my case. Since I'm three miles from the office. We're talking maybe ten minutes max. My Tesla's GPS message screen usually says "light traffic, seven minutes to the office," when I leave for work.

But this morning was different. Instead of light traffic there were barricades at the intersections. Beefy cops with day-glo vests and side-arms. And signs announcing some kind of marathon. 

Straggling down the blocked street were a few serious runners. But mostly walkers. People on bicycles. Wheelchairs. Old. Young. Fat. Fit. It seemed like anyone who wanted to participate could join. As long as they moved under their own power.

Being a typical addict I said, "No problem, I'll just go around."

After all, this is my hood and I know all the side streets and short cuts. I might be at the office close to the normal time.

In spite of my determination, no such luck. Everywhere I went there were barricades. The alleys. The side-streets. Everything was blocked on the north side of town.

Finally after 30 minutes of trying to find a short cut I drove to the 202 and 101 then to Broadway on the South side of downtown. Clear sailing all the way. Had I done that at first I might have been to the office in 15 minutes.

As I pulled into my parking spot I was thankful that one thing I don't experience is a long commute. And from now on, when I hear others complain about driving 20-30 miles to work I'll send them compassionate thoughts.

The experience was just a small reminder that there are many things we can be grateful for. Especially for some of the things we don't have to do.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Don't have Time?

What do people mean when they say they don't have time?

Not that I'm being a judgmental addict. But I do wonder how we can say this about our most precious gift.

To the best of my knowledge we're all born with the same number of minutes, hours, seconds and so forth. So they couldn't mean that they were born with a broken spring in their clock or something like that. Could they?

The world would be a confusing place if we each had a different number of hours in our days.

So the real geniuses are those who use their time wisely. For example, young children are the gurus of time use. They are curious about everything. Their goal is fun and pleasure. And they pursue it with a passion. It's only when they grow up do they realize that fun and pleasure costs money. Which takes time management to obtain.

But my focus is more on those who say they don't have time to go to a meeting, to school, the gym, or to the doctor. They had time - but made poor choices about how to use it.

I'll bet you'll never hear people like Donald Trump say he "doesn't have time." And he owns over 500 companies.

Barack Obama doesn't say he doesn't have time. And he supervises a government with over 350,000 employees.

These successful people manage their time. If they don't have time to do a project they buy someone else's time. They hire people. They take in partners.

But most of us "little people" can still use our time wisely. We can decide what we'll do each day. Morning workout. Meetings. Reading. Go to work. Meditate. Visit with friends. And add time for play.

I have a friend who was an athlete when young. Now he's 70 pounds overweight because he doesn't have time to exercise. But somehow he squeezes 4-5 hours a day of TV into his life.

Many men I know didn't have time to go to the doctor or monitor their health. But now that they have diabetes, they find time to check their blood sugar levels each day. And to think about what they eat. And to exercise.

And I'm not much better of an example. For years I didn't have time to go to treatment to deal with my drug habit. But I had all the time in the world to sit in jail for drug related crimes. Years.

It's never about having enough time. It's always about deciding how we're going to use it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Communication

Our more difficult job at TLC - much of the time - is helping clients to communicate effectively.

Yesterday, probably 50% of the day was spent cleaning up communication issues. And none of them would have turned into anything large if people could have kept their egos out of the way.

It all comes down to us taking things personally - thinking that everything that's going on is about us and our issues. My way is the only way and so on.

One thing that constantly creates anger and frustration is when we fail to consider that the other person might have just as much skill as we do.  Or more.

Often our construction workers find themselves at odds because one of them thinks the way he was taught is the only way to do something. The next thing you know the job has stopped because the crew is bickering about the right way to do something.

At the end of the day I sometimes feel like a referee. There are usually no clear winners because the kinds of issues we deal with might have more than one right answer.

But when we deal with each other with respect we each walk away with something.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Losing the War

Does anyone take the "war on drugs" seriously?

A political candidate talked about how tough he'd be on those who traffic in drugs. Long prison terms. Tougher penalties. Blah, blah, blah.

I've been listening to this war talk since the mid - 50s. And one would think that after half a century there might be a little progress in this so-called "war."

But the reality is that no one is serious about stopping drugs. Arresting drug dealers and punishing users is big business.

If we make drugs legal we would kill the profit motive. Without a profit, the criminal element withers away. Street gangs would have to find something else to fight over. The murder rate would drop. Prisons would empty out because more than half the prisoners are there for drug charges.

Prison guards could become drug counselors. Prisons converted to treatment centers.

Those who favor punishment, the Moral Right, claim that legalizing encourages drug use. And that's because they'd be more available. But there's not a place in Arizona where you can't buy drugs. All you need do is spend 10-15 minutes and a few dollars and you have drugs - just take your choice.

I'm not in favor of drug or alcohol use. But I do advocate that we live in a society governed by the reality that whatever we're doing now is not working.  What we're doing now is failing and our youngsters are dying.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Everything Free

I seldom talk politics or about politicians in this blog. After all, the theme here is mostly about recovery. And issues related to recovery.

But today I got a not-very-nice-email from a woman who somehow has the idea that TLC should provide its services for nothing. And not only should they be free, we should offer more types of services than we do now. Also for free.

And of course that reminded me of a story I was reading about the supporters of Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. And for those of you who don’t follow politics, he’s the Socialist candidate who’s the favorite of young voters. Those in the 35 and under group.

And the reason he’s the favorite is because he’s promising free everything. Free college tuition. Free health care. Taxing the rich more than they’re paying now. You get the drift – everything paid for by the government confiscating money from large corporations - and the rich.

And for some reason my brain connected her email with this politician and his followers. Because that’s what she wanted: great services at no cost to her.

Now in some respects I agree with her. I think everyone should have everything they want and that it should be free. I just don’t want to pay for it. And I’m not sure anyone else does either. Because it's not reality.

Regardless of the entitlement society we live in, there’s nothing that’s free. Someone has to pay. If you aren’t going to pay and I’m not going to pay – then who is?

The reality is that when people feel they have something coming without producing anything themselves our world is surely in a decline.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Being "Special"

We harm our children when we let them think they're “special.”

It happens often with addicts. A parent will constantly tell a child how wonderful they are. How great they are. And soon they believe it.

Now please don't misunderstand. But there's a big difference between being "loved" and being "special."

We should shower love on our children. Let them know they're cared about. That they're "special" in our heart.

But when we give them the idea that they're unique - just because they're alive and they’re our children - we do them a disservice.

When people are special the world lets them know right away. Whether they're an athlete, actor, or inventor, if they have special abilities the world will let them know. And reward them for their gifts. The world will honor them with money and fame.

I used to know a grandmother who never stopped telling her grandson how "special" he was. How handsome and smart he was. She said he should never want for anything because the world would take care of him. 

And he believed her. As a result, he's a drug addict who’s spent half his life in prison. And when he’s out of jail he sponges off anyone who'll let him sleep on their couch.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Find a Path

Are you starting your week with eagerness and joy? Or do you dread the idea of going to your office or job site this morning?

If it's the latter, then maybe it's time to reflect upon your life. Your mission. What are you doing with your time? What excites you? What makes your heart beat? Does what you do make you feel worthwhile?

If what you do with your time seems meaningless, perhaps you should think of giving purpose to your days.

But what purpose you may ask? I have no skills, no education.  Nothing interests me.

This can present a dilemma, but nothing that can’t be overcome with a little effort.

Maybe you can begin by making a list of your interests. Perhaps you could volunteer at a church or non-profit organization Maybe you can take a test that will expose your interests and talents.

The real point of all this is that we shouldn’t spend our precious moments doing something that bores us to death. If you find work that you love you’ll do well at it. At the same time you’ll be contributing your talents to a world that can use your help – whatever it is.

Ask your God, or Higher Power, or the the Universe, to show you your path.  Then follow it.



Sunday, February 21, 2016

Past Glory?

Part of living gracefully and enjoying ourselves is accepting where we are in life at this moment.

I get into conversations with residents who talk about who they used to be. They talk about the house the used to own. Or the job they once had. How much money they made. The car they used to drive. Or what they did when they were in the military. Or the beautiful family they once had - til alcohol or drugs destroyed everything.

It's always about some idealized past life when they were happier and things were going their way.

But my belief is that while good memories are okay - we need to live in the moment. In the present. Otherwise we'll never be happy. Because we'll never be able to recreate the glory we lived in before drugs took it all from us. Even if the glory was in our mind.

And I'm no different. I was telling someone about when I celebrated my 39th birthday by going for a 15 mile run. I was in peak shape. In those days when I got home from work I'd run five seven minute miles before I took a shower. It was wonderful.

But that's not the way it is today. Six or seven years ago my decades of drinking and drugging caused me to develop neuropathy in both feet to the point where I have to wear braces. Oh I can still ride my bike 20 miles. Or swim for 45 minutes at a time. But at nearly 77 I'm not able to do half of what I once did.

So how do I wrap my alcoholic ego around these new realities? For one thing I have gratitude. I'm grateful that I'm able to walk up the two flights of stairs to my office several times a day. And spend five or six hours at work six days a week.

My suggestion is that we find happiness in the present - because this is where we live. If we dwell in past glories it's like living in an old house with a bunch of faded, dusty pictures hanging on the walls.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Don't Apologize

I seldom apologize.

And the reason is that after being on the planet for over 75 years I've learned to keep myself out of situations where I have to apologize.

I was reminded of that yesterday when a small group of people - one after another- stopped at my office to apologize for the way they communicated in group the prior day. Their apologies were well accepted, and appreciated. But they could have been avoided.

They were having differences over trivialities. Things that need not rise to the level of anger. Yet they did.

After being with TLC forever I've learned that most disagreements aren't about much. They're more about delivery, about the way people talk to one another.

With practice and patience we can express any feeling. The secret is learning to do it with respect and regard for the other person.

If we treat everyone with dignity and respect there's never anything to apologize for.

And for me being at peace with my fellow-man is what it's all about.

Click here to email John

Friday, February 19, 2016

Where our Feet Are

While talking with a fellow mindfulness student today he said something that left an impression.

What he said was "we need to be wherever our feet are."

In other words, we need to be present wherever we're standing at the moment.

This is not a new concept in mindfulness. But I like the way he expressed it - it's another way for me to remember what mindfulness is all about. Which is to be present each moment we're breathing.

Too many times we're standing in one place. But our mind is racing hours or days or weeks ahead.

As a result, we miss this precious moment on the path of life . Instead of being here as each wonderful second unfolds, we're in a meeting somewhere sorting out a problem that might not even be a problem. We just might think it's a problem.

Or else we're riding on a mental backhoe, excavating through some junk heap from our past. And who knows what we're looking for?

The moment you're reading this sentence is the moment we're living our lives. If you're reading this sentence while also mulling over an argument you had with your girlfriend or boss, then you're not present. You're neither here, nor there.  Where are you?

And this moment is all the Universe has really given us. Let's seize it.  And savor it.

Click here to email John

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Giving of Ourselves

We counsel our clients to help newcomers when they first get to the program.

And a common response is "I just got here a few days ago myself. I'm not even working yet. I don't have anything to give anyone."

But that's not true. They have much to give.

Because when new clients arrive they're often afraid because it's a new place. They're don't know where anything is. They don't know where the kitchen is. They don't know local bus schedules. They don't know where meetings are or when they start. They don't know about our job search program.

So the person who's been here a few days has a lot to offer. Even though it's something as intangible as directions.

The idea that we spend our time helping another addict find their way around the program is valuable. Because when we do that we're giving of our most important asset - our time.

And when we spend our time with another - whether it's giving directions - or simply listening - we're sharing the very essence of God's gift to us -our moments on this earth.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Not on the Beach

You see the ads on the internet all the time.

Treatment programs along a California or Florida beach. Beautiful clients playing volleyball or running along the sand. Their hair styled in the latest fashion, blowing in the wind. They're wearing designer clothing. They even have all their teeth - and no tattoos.

They look happy and smiling. Well adjusted. Anyone would want to get sober in that kind of environment.

But that's not the reality for treatment programs. And advertising is not any indication of program quality.

So what should we look for when seeking treatment? Because surely they're not all created equal.

One thing you should look for is the program's licensing. All programs in Arizona must be licensed if they provide treatment. The staff must have certain credentials and degrees. If the program is properly run there won't be a lot of complaints filed with the state. And the state's behavioral health department will provide information if asked.

Our program, TLC, is a relatively inexpensive program.  Yet it offers the same services as the most widely advertised and prestigious ones out there.  Minus - of course - the beaches and postcard settings.

We follow SAMSHA guidelines with our counseling programs. And we also offer more than just counseling and therapy. We also provide yoga, mindful meditation, art classes, smoking cessation, gardening, on-site fitness and game room, weekend field trips and much more.

We suggest that anyone seeking treatment investigate what we offer at TLC. There are many good programs around; and we count ourselves right up there with the best of them.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Finding Herself

I get an email from a mother. One that's both saddening and encouraging at the same time.

She said she discovered this site and was reading through some older postings. Ones that talked about children who mistreat parents. She recognized herself in those lines. The saddening part is that some children mistreat those who brought them into the world. They have no gratitude. They verbally traumatize those who raised them. They take advantage of their families in the name of some distorted so-called love. Like, "you brought me into the world. So now you're obligated to put up with my nonsense as long as you're alive."

But the encouraging part is that this woman sees what she's doing. And knowing why we're in trouble is the first step to change. She no longer accepts the role her son has tried to place her in. She's taken a step toward emotional health.

Her email to me lets the world know that she's no longer going to put up with abuse from her son. Nor likely from any other family members.

None of us were put on this planet to be abused or walked on by anyone else - related to us or not.

I believe we were put here to enjoy life and to lift one another up.

Click here to email John

Monday, February 15, 2016

There's more to It

A mother sends a message about her alcoholic son. She says she finally got him connected to one of our halfway houses. She seemed happy because he'd finally made it here from the East Coast.

Like maybe her problems were over now that he was in a place that could help him. I didn't disillusion her with reality.

But the truth is that there's more to getting sober than simply arriving at a place that's willing to help.

When we get the alcohol out of our system we now have to deal with the real world. To deal with reality without any kind of chemical buffer to ease us through the day.

Soon after arriving her son will be working. He'll have regular meals. He'll be able to rest at night. He'll start feeling better.

And that may be when the danger starts. Because when we begin to feel better we might forget all the issues we had that got us here in the first place.

We might decide that things weren't quite as bad as we thought. We might even get the idea that we can make another run at it.

But I didn't mention any of that to her. Let's all hope that he remembers the pain and doesn't get any ideas about being able to successfully drink again.

Click here to email John

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The gain in Pain

Many clients come to our program after a traumatic event has pushed them to their limits.

They may have lost a loved one to illness or an accident. A friend or relative may have overdosed. And it's many times not only that single event that pushed them to seek help. They may have also had an accident. Or been arrested. Lost a job or apartment because of their drug habit.

Whatever the event - or combination of events - that brought them here, it can be a turning point in their lives. It can be the moment that lets them start making moves in a positive direction. Or it can be the event in their lives from which they're unable to return before undergoing lengthy therapy.

Often newcomers tell me their sad narrative when they arrive. And when they finish, I congratulate them. That's when they look at me like I'm crazy or as if I weren't listening to them. That I somehow missed their description of the terrible events that brought them here.

Usually I have to explain that their pain can be the catalyst for change. The beginning of a new life if they'll only listen to the lessons life is teaching them.

If I walk through our campus I guarantee I won't encounter anyone who was having a wonderful life before they came to us. None of them stopped the party and said "Gee, I'm having too much fun, I better get into treatment."

No, it was always the painful stuff that brought them here. But it's the kind of pain that can heal if we only allow it to work for us.

Click here to email John

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Confrontations

I was in a group session yesterday with a group of halfway house residents - ten men who all live in the same house. Another manager and I were invited there to help sort out a few communication issues.

Even now, hours later, I'm not sure what they were bickering about. But it seemed to be mostly about egos and hurt feelings. Because there was little of substance. People hearing what they wanted to hear instead of what was said. Being defensive when there's nothing to defend.

One of the most difficult jobs in our company is halfway house management. Sometimes it's like running an adult day care. Each resident thinking their needs are the most important. Not even considering that they live with seven to ten other men who have needs of their own.

One good thing that came from the meeting was that they were taught how to confront one another. And what they learned was that we can confront another person without being angry.

When we approach another person with an issue we admit our role in whatever the differences are. We express our desire to get along and have peace with the other person. We express our feelings in a non-threatening way.

It's surprising how quickly things work out when we approach the other person that way.

Click here to email John

Friday, February 12, 2016

Forgiveness

"When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free."  Katherine Ponder

We talk a lot about resentment in the 12-step programs. Indeed, it's considered to be the doorway to relapse.

Yet many of us engage it in all our lives. And so did I, until I got into the program.

The idea of forgiving someone who's done us wrong runs counter to how we feel. But how healthy is it? Here we are, walking around, expending our energy on a distant yesterday. An incident so old we don't accurately remember the details. Yet we use our precious moments on this planet reliving and regurgitating something that's quite ugly. Wasting time that we can never recover.

Forgiveness doens't mean that what happened to us is okay. It probably was reprehensible. The only thing worse is wasting our present moments trying to reshape the past so we feel better about it.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What's worth More?

"Have you ever owned a car?" I asked a man in group the other day.

"Of course," he responded. Then he told me the name, year and model of the vehicle.

"What do you think it was worth?" I continued the questioning.

"Maybe $30,000 new," he replied.

"Did you take good care of it? Have it serviced, the oil changed, tires balanced? Regular maintenance? I asked.

"Of course," he said. "I loved that car. I took great care of it."

"So do you think your life is worth more than that car?"

He looked at me as if I were on drugs.

"That's a dumb question," he answered. "Of course it is."

And we went on from there.

I used the above example to make a point with this fellow. He's overweight. He smokes a couple packs a day. He has high blood pressure and diabetes. He eats fast food. He doesn't exercise.

And he doesn't go to the doctor because he "doesn't want to hear any bad news." The bad news he's sure to get someday soon if he doesn't change his lifestyle.

At TLC I encourage clients to do whatever they can to live a healthy life. Many figure that they sacrificed enough when they quit using their favorite substance.

But doesn’t it make sense for us to invest more time and money into ourselves that we do into a piece of inanimate transportation?

Click here to email John

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Number One

I received an email from Google maps yesterday that TLC had a review from a halfway house client. And when I followed the link, there it was: a rating of one.

I thought "Gee, a one. We must've done something pretty good. Another satisfied customer." I was feeling pretty smug.

But then when I looked at the review I realized that "one" was the worst review.  "Five" was the best. That shows how little attention I pay to comments and reviews.

Wondering what we had done, though, to merit such a rating I read further.

The comment read "this place is all about the money."

Right away I realized the writer had flunked math in grammar school.

Because at TLC a person can live for a week – including food, utilities, and transportation to work - for $110. Plus an addict can get into the program for no upfront money- in other words, on credit.

I'm not sure what this gentleman considers to be money, But $110 week is not much to feed and house anyone.

If you don't believe me try this experiment: find a homeless addict. Put him or her in your spare room or on your sofa. Feed them. Help them find work. Let them use your washer and drier. Listen to them complain about how life has let them down as they're watching your TV. And multiply that by the 750 beds we have at TLC. You'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. See if you can do it for $110 a week.

And an interesting bit of trivia is that our average collection is more like $82.50 a week - about 75% of what we charge.

And out of that huge sum we take in each week we pay $80,000 plus a month in lease payments. $45,000 to $60,000 a month in utilities. Buy fuel and insurance for 40 vehicles. Pay some $15,000 a month for liability.insurance.  And so forth.

I could go on, but I guess we're still stuck with the "one".no matter how much I ramble.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Raising Children

A mother writes and wonders what's wrong with our program. Her son came to us with great intentions. He wanted to change his life. To get sober. To get back in the work force.

Instead, our manager - a man she said was "very rude," woke her son up at 4:00 a.m. and put him in a van with other clients to go to a work site. She said he didn't even have time to eat breakfast.

I didn't bother to answer back and welcome her to the real world. A world where men and women all over the country get up early so they can feed their families and pay their bills. If she had to write the kind of email she did, she wouldn't have understood what I meant.

One of the biggest problems we run into with addicts and alcoholics is helping them to unlearn bad habits taught them by their parents. Like a sense of entitlement. That someone else is supposed to care for them.  That everything they do is okay.

After all, mommy and daddy aren't going to be around forever to pick them up when they fall down.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Act of Kindness

I don't see random acts of kindness often.  But I did today and it brought tears.

It happened when a young man - who looked to be an immigrant - was struggling with a bank teller machine. Finally it seemed like he gave up in frustration and walked off toward his car. What he didn't notice was that he'd achieved his objective of getting money from the machine. However, he walked off and left a stack of $20s protruding from the slot.

The man behind him, however, did notice. And quickly grabbed it. For a moment it looked like he was going to take off with it.

But instead he followed the man to his car and tapped him on the shoulder.

I think you forgot this," he said, as he handed him the money.

The man, who apparently didn't speak English, shook the man's hand, then put the money in his wallet.

I noticed he had tears in his eyes as he got into the car with a woman and child and drove off.

After that the day had a whole different color to it.

Click here to email John

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Retire?

A subject that never came up in the circle of addicts I grew up with is retirement. I don't think any of us thought we'd survive that long. So why even talk about it?

It was only recently - when one of my children brought it up, that I even thought of it at all"What would I do with myself at 77? I asked. "Sit on the porch and swat flies?

The suggestion was that I could watch television. Take trips. Get a hobby. Do a lot of things I'd been wanting to do - but couldn't because I'd been working.

But in my case, that's not the situation at all. There's nothing that I want to do that I'm unable to do. I work when I want - and because I like what I'm doing. I go to the office five to six days a week. I go to several different kinds of business and recovery meetings. I'm in my final hours of a 300 hour course to get my mindfulness instructor certification. And I have a mindfulness based stress reduction course lined up to take when this one is finished.

My wife and I take six or seven vacations a year. They range from long weekends to two weeks at a time. Right now we're planning a Panama Canal trip to celebrate my oldest daughter's fiftieth birthday in late May. Plus we might spend a month in Hawaii sometime in August.

So, when looking at all this stuff going on is there anything about retirement that sounds appealing? Not to me...

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Human Being? Or Human Doing?

When I got sober a long time ago I vowed to stop fighting with anyone about anything. A philosophy of total acceptance that took hold as I got deeper into mindfulness and recovery as a way of life.

But I've discovered it's easier said than done. No, I don't fight with anyone about anything. Except myself.

Yet I still mostly think of myself as a human doing, as opposed to a human being. Because I was raised in a place where only the aggressive get ahead, I feel like a loser if I'm not doing something. Not learning something new. Not challenging myself. It's almost a part of my DNA.

I discovered this during the past week during a minor medical procedure. The doctors wanted me off my normal routine. Which meant no going to the office, yoga or gym for a week. I thought "Great, I'll get to lay around for a week, and read, write, and study, and clean up my computer."

But somehow my brain figured out right away that I was doing nothing productive and pushed me into a state of restlessness. I got little or nothing done that I planned on doing. I caught up on nothing.

Eventually, I got around all of it by accepting that my brain just works that way. That's when I got more into being and my neurons settled down.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Things Change

Over twenty years ago I went into a small town bank in Arizona to apply for a loan. I had my eye on a small apartment complex. I had plans to fix it up and resell it. Or perhaps operate it for a while and live off the profits.

I was shocked at the loan officer's response.

"This bank wouldn't loan you money if J. Paul Getty cosigned for you." And he said it pretty rudely on top of that.

And of course I shouldn't have been shocked. Everyone in that town knew my story. I was a drug addict on the run from a couple of warrants out of Califonia. I was a three time loser with not a lot to offer the business or work world.

Yet the world can change. It took years for it to do so. But it changed. And it changed because I changed. I got into recovery. I repaid all those I had ripped off. My credit got better.

Instead of me having to look for money, bankers started comng to me to loan money. It goes to show
that things can turn around when we start living right.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pray with Caution

Sometimes we must be careful about what we pray for.

For example, I've found myself asking God for patience while dealing with a problematic client. But what happens? You guessed it. I get to spend my entire afternoon dealing with this person non-stop.

But then, I did pray for patience didn't I? And what better way to learn patience than to spend several hours dealing with one of the most frustrating creatures on the planet.

If we pray for money, God's not going to give us the winning lottery numbers. But he might put us in a situation where we have an opportunity to make better money. If we're willing to work hard and creatively.

We may have a specific thing we pray for in life. But it might be the worst thing that could happen to us were we to get it.

Maybe we're praying for a relationship with the hot blonde we've been drooling about in the next office. But later we're sorry because we learn the hard way that she's a big spender with a borderline personality disorder - and those are her good qualities.

Like I said you may have your prayers answered. So be careful about what you ask for.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Helping Mom

Sometimes I fantasize while writing this blog about being a cool philosophical guy. One that drug addicts come to for advice. How they can stay clean and sober. How to control their anger. I see myself dispensing wisdom, sharing my experience, strength, and hope.

But that rarely happens. Not much. Maybe once in a while.

But what surprises me is the group that does ask for help. Women.

And it's not women who are having husband or boyfriend problems. With my relationship history I wouldn't know what to tell them anyway.

No. The women who ask for help are those who have children hooked on heroin, crack, meth or alcohol. Those are mostly the drugs they write about.

They do use other things. And when I write back I tell them it's not what the kid's using. They're all bad.

The problem usually focuses on the kid misusing the mother. He/she will be sponging off of mom. Using her car. Eating her food. Bumming money.

Then if mom complains, the kid drags out a litany of complaints. The reason he's the way he is because she married a bum like his dad or stepdad. Or they were poor. Or he went to a shitty school. They lived in the wrong neighborhood. The kid drags out anything to make her feel guilty.

And my answer is for mom to throw the kid out. That's right, if he's too unhappy to follow the rules go somewhere where he can live by his own rules.

The only thing I've found that any of these mothers have done wrong is to not throw the kid out sooner. As soon as he/she was 18 she should have sent him packing if he was becoming a problem.

It's amazing how grateful a human being becomes when he/she has to care for themselves.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Contracted:

1. Written or spoken agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law.​

​2. A voluntary, deliberate, and legally binding agreement between two or more competent parties. Contracts are usually written but may be spoken or implied, and generally have to do with employment, sale or lease, or tenancy.

​I posted these two examples of contracts here to answer a mother's question. Which is, essentially how she expects someone to behave while living under her roof, in her home.

​I forget the details of her situtation; But I do know she lives in a nearby state, the son's in treatment, and wants to live with her when he graduates.​

​This is a perfect scenario for a contract. She needs to put in the contract what she expects from him: Rent, utilities, curfew, who cooks, does laundry, buys food, drug and alcohol free. Everything she expects from him. In turn, he needs to put in the contract what he expects from her. In his case it shouldn't be much more than a roof over his head​​ - maybe a few lunches to get started on his job search.

​​A contract should be between two people and should serve both of their goals so they can live in peace and harmony.

Click here to email John

Monday, February 1, 2016

Self - Care

 "Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live." Jim Rohn

I love this saying because it carries an important message wrapped in a bit of humor. If you follow the link I've provided here you can read about this remarkable author's career.

While Jim Rohn was called mentor to the masters I'm only focussing here on what he said about the importance of heatlh. And I go there because I've known too many addicts who get clean and believe that's it. There nothing else to do. But they are so wrong.'

Most of us come into recovery a human wreck. Hep C.  Kidney problems. Meth mouth. Emphysema. This is only a partial list.

Many addicts keep smoking. Glutting down the non-food handed out through drive through windows. They exercise just enough to work the remote or open the refrigerator door. But that's about it. If health maintenance takes any kind of work they're done with it.

I'm aways ragging on those in recovery about their health - and with mixed results.

I don't think any of us got clean or sober so we could develop health issues. Yet what kind of choices are we making if do nothing but ignore the greatest gift we've been given?

Duh...

Click here to email John