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.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Finding the Courage

Something I never brag about is having my nose broken five times. It was so damaged that one side was 90% blocked. It seemed natural to me to breathe out one side of my face.

It's probably been 35 years since it was last broken so I finally decided to get it repaired. I got over my bad attitude a long time a go when I realized I didn't have a lot of potential. And because I changed my attitude I didn't think there was much danger of any more damage. Plus my wife thought it would look better.

When I went to the surgeon he kind of shook his head and made some comments about the wreckage of my past. In fact, he wasn't quite sure how he was going to fix it. Or if he could.

Once in surgery he found out he was right. He couldn't straighten it; he had to completely rebuild it.

I'm not even sure why I tell you about this, except I won't have so many explanations around the office to those who haven't heard the story. And wonder why I have two black eyes.

But the other part of it is that if we persevere we can find the courage to change any part of our lives. We can do better in our relationships, our finances, and even elevate our spiritual beliefs.

I, for example, was surprised that I found the courage to let a surgeon straighten my nose.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Why Mindfulness?

Over the past few years I've been studying mindfulness.

And I often get asked about it, considering how often I bring it up. Here are two that come up:

How did I get started?

For example, why did I start doing it?

Because I did Transcendental Meditation for over 15 years when I discovered there are other disciplines that claim similar benefits and are as simple to practice. I found that mindfulness offered many of the same benefits at much less cost. I gave it at try and have been there since.

Do I have to change my religion?

No. Mindfulness practitioners are encouraged to follow their own beliefs. This is just one example. I became interested because I'd been meditating for a long time. Along the way I discovered there are several other disciplines that claim similar benefits and are as a simple to practice. I looked into a few found that mindfulness offered many of the same benefits at much less cost. I gave it a try and have been at it ever since.

Click here to email John

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Self-Esteem

 I often do hypnosis with clients who ask me to help them improve their "self-esteem."  In other words help them feel better about themselves.

In the face of these requests I realize I have quite a challenge. Because when I ask them to be more specific it generally turns out that they're comparing themselves with others.

Maybe they're comparing themselves with a family member who's never used drugs or been in trouble. Or with a school friend who was a born natural athlete and has gone on to promote that talent and self-discipline into career success.

But hypnosis is not a way to make us be like someone else, to mimic their success. And that's because some of us aren't as smart as others; we just weren't gifted that way. What hypnosis can do is help us to help us unleash our drive and motivation so we can take advantage of the skills and abilities we do have.

A better solution to those of us lacking self-esteem is to learn to love ourselves as we are, to feel good about what we've been given. And to make the most of it.

Acceptance of who we are can help us discover abilities we never knew we had.  Our natural talents aren't going to thrive and grow if we're always unhappy with what we were born with.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Values

At a coffee shop the other day with a friend I overheard a couple at the next table talking about a pop star who'd been found dead. There was speculation that he died of a drug overdose. Or perhaps committed suicide.

They seemed puzzled that he would take his own life or even use drugs.

"After all he had everything money could buy. He could do anything he wanted."

They kept the conversation going for a while, speculating on why someone who "had it all" would die in such a manner.

But I know why they couldn't understand it - it had to do with their values. Their conversation told me that that their idea of happiness is having enough money to do or buy whatever they want whenever wanted.

And I also understood them because at one time I thought the same way. I was successful in business and was able to do whatever I wanted. I also bought what I wanted. And I did this for a long time, trying to find happiness in this way.

But it took me a long time to realize that expensive toys and self-indlugence wasn't what life was about.

It was only when I started giving to others to help them achieve thier goals in life that my own happiness blossomed and grew.

New toys get old fast. But being helpful and kind to others can last forever and move through generations.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Seeing Kindness

I've been going with a friend to a series of medical treatments for several months. And I went because he asked me. Sort of a moral support thing. Though that isn't the way he put it.

At first I didn't want to. I've disliked medical realities since I was a child. But I did it anyway because it was the right thing to do.

Looking back, though, I wouldn't have exchanged the experience for anything. It reminded me that there are many kind and helpful people in the world - especially in the medical field. People who are gentle and brilliant and who really do care. People who could have used their talents to make a fortune. But instead they spend their days helping others improve their lives by giving them hope and lessening their pain.

I think it's good for addicts and alcoholics like my friend and me to see people like this. And that's because we addicts sometimes get caught up in this world of recovery where we forget that everyone in the world isn't like us.

That there are many others in the world who exhibit kindness, and loving behavior that we can use for role models.

I'm a better person for the experience.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sick Enough

Yesterday, while driving past a 12 step meeting, I'm flagged down by an alcoholic I've known for a number of years.

Thinking maybe he needs a ride to detox or perhaps money for a drink I drive to the side of the road and talk with him.

After a bit of small talk I see the conversation is going nowhere. At least nowhere positive like toward a detox or a conversation about getting into recovery.

So I peel off a few bills so he can maybe get his next drink and a motel or a meal and start to drive off.

And that's when he said probably the most honest thing he's told me in the ten years I've known him. And what he said was "You, know I just don't think I want this thing bad enough."

And he went on to describe how he can stay sober for a few months, but then one day the urge overtakes him and he's drunk again.  And he's followed that cycle for years.

He said that on a thinking level he knows he's killing himself. But there's another part of him that just doesns't seem to care.

And of course isn't that the the thing with all of us. We need to get sick of the pain and misery to the point where we do start caring?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Prejudice

A TLC halfway resident asked me a while back what I knew about prejudice.

This was while I was counseling him after a white manager treated him poorly. He thought it was because he was black and that the manager was prejudiced.  They had argued.

After all, I'm a typical looking old white bread American. So how would I have the experience to counsel him on the subject? Fair enough.

And he even seemed shocked when I agreed that he might be right. After all - just because I'm white doesn't mean I'll side with a prejudiced manager. Whatever his color.

I shared some of my personal experiences with discrimination. When I worked in Miami, Florida back in the Eighties there was large Spanish speaking population. And I loved the territory I was given because I speak Spanish - but as spoken in California and Mexico. But what I didn't know is that most Cubans at that time disliked Mexicans because their government sided with Fidel Castro. Once I learned that, I spoke mostly English in public because it would've taken too long to learn a Cuban accent.

And I've had many other experiences with racism and discrimination - both in an out of prison. Plus all of my children are multi-ethnic.

He was more accepting of my advice after I filled him in on my personal history.

But what he'll eventually learn - if he's patient - is that prejudice is more about ignorance and fear than it is about color.

 In any event we tolerate none of it in our program. What we do encourage is love, compassion, openess and understanding.  Life works very will without any extra seeds of negativity

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Experiencing Compassion

If one wants to experience compassion and gratitude all they have to do is visit a hospital waiting room.

It happened to me today while picking someone up after a minor procedure.

There I saw a lot of people in pain waiting for service. Many were in pain or caught up in anxiety and confusion. There was a lot of suffering in one concentrated place.

Now I'm not saying we should seek to practice compassion at the expense of anyone. But when we do  come upon suffering - even though we can't help directly - we should use the opportunity to wish them well. Pray that their suffering decreases, wish them a speedy recovery. It might help them; it'll for sure help those who pray.

As to gratitude, we can be thankful for ourselves and all others who are free of suffering. Because in this condition we can help and give back to the rest of the world.

Friday, April 22, 2016

More Acceptance

A lot of parents, especially single mothers, carry a heavy load with their child's addiction.

I talk with one or two of them on no less than a weekly basis. When we first start I can hear some hope in their voice. It's kind of like I have some idea of what to do with the kid to make him/her whole again.

And while I do have some ideas, that's not usually the direction I take them. And it's not that I don't want to be helpful. I love to help. But she's the one who called or wrote, not the addict. He doesn't give a crap. He's out there trashing his family and the rest of the world around him in pursuit of his addiction.

Instead, I know the real way I can help is to her teach a different way of thinking. Cause she already knows there's help in a lot of programs - including ours.

But the way I want to help is to teach her about acceptance. She'll usually give lip service to the idea. But somehow, to her, accepting that her child's an addict is tantamount to giving up on them. But it's not; it's about us protecting ourselves.

If you're in this situation just try it. Get up in the morning and say to yourself that you know your child is a ( fill in the blank ) and that "I accept that he/she won't change until they get enough pain. I know I'm powerless over their their addiction."

Do that for one week and see if you don't feel freer and lighter. Because you didn't give them the drug or alcohol  - they did. And they did it knowing you wouldn't like it or approve.

Give yourself a break. Accept that you have no power beyond prayer. And at least one of the two of you will be healthy.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Changing Enablers

When I wrote the other day about writing 2100 blogs and not knowing how to stop I got a surprising number of responses.  Especially from enablers.

All of them told me to keep going. A number of them told me they had pulled way back. They had come to believe they were really enabling their family members by feeding them. Doing their laundry. And buying them smokes.

Some were totally burned out. And all of them had drawn lines they weren't going to cross.

They saw that enabling wasn't not improving anything. One mother wrote "I'm the worst enabler that I know of. Between counseling and your blog everyday, I have been able to STOP enabling and live my life. In turn, it has helped my son."

Another wrote: "Omg! I'm that mother. My daughter-23 years old clean 7 months! We are thrilled (of course). But she's manipulating again and I'm letting her!! I'm backing WAY off!! Thank you!"

I appreciate these messages and the many others I got. I'm glad to help them learn to toughen up - just as my own dear mother did with me.

But she saved my life - and added many good years to it. One of my roles is to pass on what works.

You can do that with your children.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Job Well-Done

To do something well on a consistent basis is not easy. In fact, if one can accomplish this they deserve accolades.

So in this blog today I’d like to mention that for the second time in the four years we’ve been open,TLC Outpatient Clinic has passed a state inspection without having to make corrections.  And we've only had two inspections.  In other words we’re dong the job by the book.—ruining the clinic exactly as the State wrote the regulations.

And when I say “we' I don’t really include myself because if there’s anything I hate worse than detailed paperwork and regulations I can’t think of it.

Instead I applaud all of those who do the heavy lifting in the clinic - from our outside volunteer consultant, the clinical director, clinical supervisor, the nurses to the counselors and the support staff who make the place run like a well-oiled machine. And they had no advance warning about the inspection - that's the way they run our clinic all the time.

You guys are to be congratulated for doing your job faultlessly.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Can't Stop

It was in June of 2010 when I made a decision to write a blog. It was while on vacation in San Diego. At first it wasn't going to be a long term project.

It was going to be a way to practice writing each day. Even if it was something dumb or inane. Just a way to practice. Kind of like mental push ups.

And now, 2,100 days later I'm still at it. Haven't missed a day. Though I came close a few times. Once when I was in the hospital. And another time when I was in Mexico and couldn't figure out the wifi.

When I started I made a commitment to do a year. Then it turned into another year. Then I said, well, I'll stop at 1000. Now, I don't know.

But for some reason it's hard to stop. Just when I get ready to say enough is enough, a parent will write and thank me for giving  them a different perspective on how to deal with an addict family member.

So then the ego kicks in.  And I think well that's worthwhile because it helped somone, and I keep going.

Monday, April 18, 2016

It's our Choice

When we bring our child home from the hospital it is with joy and gladness in our hearts.

Doe's he look more like me? His dad? His grandfather? We watch every move. to make sure he's covered. Take lots of pictures. We make sure that he keeps his medical appointments. And we're happy when the doctor says our baby is in perfect health.

But the doctor can't see into future. Nor can we. None us were able to see years ahead when this aberration pops up. This disease that takes control of his life - seemingly overnight.

One moment he's like any other kid. Getting decent grades. Playing sports. Chasing girls. The next his grades are falling. The police bring him home one night. He lies about the black eye he got because he didn't pay the connection for the oxies he got on credit.

Then we go into the next phase. We blame ourselves for this change in behavior. We didn't do enough, maybe? Or too much. We did our best? Or did we? Maybe we should have taken him to church, Or moved to another neighborhood.

The guilt and shame and puzzlement piles up. What to do? We've gone through money getting him to treatment and to shrinks. Nothing has helped.

Our health and finances are failing. Yet we still don't have answers. And we don't stop to think about the obvious one: that maybe his addiction is his choice. His fault. After all, we're not Gods. We're only parents. And the inexplicable happens to everyone. Good people and bad people all get ground up equally beneath the wheels of chance.

What to do? We can pray. We can put him on the streets where the rest of the addicts end up. Or we can live in self-condemnation and guilt while still supporting him.

But we must remember that we also have a life to live. And we need to make our choices: guilt and shame about something we can't control - or happiness that we still make choices that are in our own benefit.

It's our choice.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Congratulations Tiffany and John

Yesterday was a wonderful event - two of our long-term residents joined hands in matrimony.

The beauty of it was that it wasn't a spur of the moment idea. It had been planned since the middle of last year. Many residents worked on the project, decorating the hall, planning the menu, and acting as ushers and providing the music. The event was indistinguishable from any similar occasion. With one exception: No alcohol was served or allowed on the premises.

It was a suitable exception for an event that was hosted and put together by a group of recovering addicts and alcoholics.

As I watched the event unfold I had a brief fantasy of how the gathering would have turned out had the participants been living the lives they once did before becoming part of TLC's extended family.

Congratulations Tiffany and John!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

R.I.P. Robert H.

Last night we’re reminded again of the impermanence of life. After another of our TLC brothers passes after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Robert H. had spent some five years at TLC, part of it in the Hard Six program. While with us he learned air conditioning and did a lot of volunteer work to help keep the program functioning.

Though I'm not sure of the exact number, I believe he had something around 17 years sober at the time of his death.

Robert was a big friendly outgoing guy who could find humor in most any situation.

He worked and lived in the Casa Grande area where he and his wife Judy shared a home.

At this writing we have no information about a funeral but we'll post information as we get it.

All of us here at TLC send condolences to his wife and family. We're grateful for his contributions to the program and to others who were strugglng with their recovery.

God speed, Robert.

Click here to email John

Friday, April 15, 2016

Blackmail

A mother calls to ask what kind of drugs we provide to clients.

When I ask why she says he'll only go to programs that offer opiates and benzos. That if a program doesn't offer what he needs he'll leave and start using heroin again.

I asked her why she didn't let him work it out for himself. But she's afraid he'd commit suicide if he didn't get what he wants. Or that he'd overdose if he does get the drugs he was seeking. She was facing the kind of dilemma that I wouldn't like to be facing. Though my response to her son would be entirely different.

I meet parents who let their children blackmail them into a corner like this. They're afraid they'll lose the child if they don't give the drugs or money or whatever he/she is trying to extort.

My advice is to never give in to blackmail. And, so far, none of the children have carried our their threats. The only reason they take this approach is because they know it works.

They're the same kids you'll see lying on the floor screaming and kicking beside the grocery cart at the supermarket. And all because thy didn't get the candy or toy they wanted. In other words a little dope fiend in the making.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Belonging

Many times at meetings I hear a speaker telling their story. And it always includes this line. Or some version of it.

"I took that first drink (or fix, or toke, whatever,) and for the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. That I was part of something. That I had finally arrived."

And from that moment on began their venture with substances that would alter how they felt. How they felt about the world. About themselves. And about those around them. They were part of something. They were finally comfortable with themselves.

But once we get sober and clean we learn the reality that we've always been a part of this great big wonderful world. That we've always belonged. That we were loved and cared for - even when we didn't love and care for ourselves. Someone was looking out for us.

Part of being in recovery is loving ourselves without crossing the line into arrogance. Into egotism. Into destructive self-centeredness.

When we master that we're on the path.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Phone Issues

This week we passed a new rule about cell phone use for TLC clients.

From now on a client must be in the program for a certain period before having a cell phone. Of course a loud cry went up. Some needed to contact their families daily. Some were trying to run a business while still in the program. Other needed to contact their kids every day. Some needed to talk to the court system.  All sorts of excuses.

But, we had an answer for them also. Each day we have a period when clients can call home. Or take care of any other business. After all, our goal is to not leave them incommunicado. It's to keep them from calling drug using friends or drug dealers.

And even for those who aren't trying to get drugs we don't believe they can focus on their recovery if they constantly have their ear in a telephone. And it's rare to walk down the sidewalk in front of the program without meeting a client who's not on the phone.

We went into the meeting with the expectation of losing probably 30% of our population. But, we miscalculated that because not one person left after the meeting.

But, we'll see what happens tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

R.I.P.

In the recovery business the news is usually very good or very bad. And when I went home from the office this evening my heart was heavy with the bad.

A man in his early twenties - who had been with us several years ago - had succumbed to this disease that takes so many of our youngsters in the blink of an eye.

I'm not sure about the details. In fact, the details don't matter when a man in his mid-twenties is on the planet one moment and in a grave a few days later.

He is one of the reasons that counselors shouldn't get too involved with clients on a personal level. It can be painful when they sacrifice themselves on the altar of a quiet rush.

Because of policy I hadn't been in touch with him. Just once in a while I'd hear a story from the state he was from. Things about how good he was doing. His plans to become a counselor. The party they'd had to celebrate his sobriety date. News that let us know he was doing well. The kind of things that make us feel like what we do is worthwhile.

Then, a sudden slap in the face letting the world know he didn't make it after all. And a flash of anger because of the rush of powerlessness that overtakes us when we lose another one of our brothers.

Click here to email John

Monday, April 11, 2016

Learning by Suffering

"Suffering is one of life's great teachers."  Bryant H. McGill

When I was in my teens, I was residing in a juvenile hall for stealing cars. And I had a counselor there who was a very nice man. Although at the time I didn't think so. I fact, I thought he was a prick.

Because every time I'd start to complain about being locked up he sort of smiled. Then he'd say something like "So, you're not having a good time here?" or "Maybe you should have thought about what would happen before you took that car."

Then I'd take off on a tirade about how no one understood me. How the other kids in school had it a lot better than I did. There was always something for me to complain about. And it usually has something to do with how others were much better off that I was because they had more of everything than I did.

Probably the reason I didn't like this counselor is because he kept blaming all of my suffering on me. Which, of course, was exactly where it belonged. I'd get myself into trouble with the law and somehow I'd figure out a reason why everyone else was responsible.

The reason I like this saying is because it took me a long time before I realized that all of my suffering was due to my irresponsbile behavior.  No one else's.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could have understood at an early age that I was the author of my own misery.  I might have taken a thirty year short cut.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Reuniting Families

Many clients come to TLC so they can regain custody of their children. Children they have lost because of drug offenses or drug use.

One reason they're with us is to take drug tests and receive drug education. And we have a lot of success stories of reunited families. And sometimes the whole family stays with us for a while until they can find better housing and employment

I write about this to encourage those parents who sometimes have lost of hope of getting their children back again. My experience has been that once a person establishes a period of sobriety and stability Child Protective services is more than happy to return them to their parents. Which in reality is where they belong.

If there are any mothers or fathers out there who are in danger of losing their children due to drug or alcohol use call us at 480-833-0143. We can and will help if you'll follow some basic instructions.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The War

Back in the fifties, when I first began using drugs, heroin was the first choice. From where I lived in Southern California it was around a two hour drive to Tijuana. One could buy it and smuggle it across. Or, for a few dollars more the connection would deliver anywhere south of Los Angeles.

Then in the late sixties and through the seventies, meth came into vogue. Where I was living in the Los Angeles Echo Park area meth was the only drug available and really was the only one anyone wanted. But for some reason I never cared for it and ended up returning to heroin - my drug of choice. And I continued to use it until I ended up spending a year in a mental hospital.

And today the tide is turning. After meth flooded the market for so many years, it seems that heroin is becoming popular once more.

And the consequences are terrible. From coast to coast there's an epidemic of heroin overdoses that's killing young addicts by the thousand. And of course in the background we hear politicians singing those silly songs about the war on drugs - a war that has never happened and never will.

Too many people are making too much money to change things now.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Dreaming

"The dreamer can know no truth, not even about his dream, except by awaking out of it."  George Santayana

Lately I awaken myself in the middle of a dream. They're never nightmares. I don't wake up trembling in a cold sweat. I just awaken and think for a moment of what I was dreaming about - then I return to sleep.

In fact when I hear others talk of their dreams, l find myself getting jealous. That's because they report exciting dreams. Drama. Gunfights. People chasing one another. Maybe they finally met the person of their dreams. They're always exciting and full of drama.

But not the dreams I have. They're in black and white.  Usually, I'm homeless and broke. Looking for a job and a place to live. Looking for something to shoplift. For a long time, 30 to 40 years ago, I would have this recurring dream that I was walking down the street. And every house on the street was exactly the same. The same colors. The same doors. The same windows. One exactly like the next. That was an easy one to figure out. They were dreams about jail or prison - where all the housing was exactly the same. But I could never figure out the purpose of the dream unless it was just fear of being locked up again.

A 12 step friend of mine used to have similarly boring dreams. Only his were about waiting at a bus stop. And noticing that everyone who drove by was looking at him waiting for the bus. Neither of us coud figure out what that was about either.  I though maybe he was self-consciousl

I know a number of addicts who have using dreams. Most of them never succeed in getting high. Because just as they're about to fix the dope or light the joint something will awaken them. And some of them have these dreams after being sober ten or fifteen years.

Maybe that’s why drug habits are so hard for some people to kick – the whole process gets deeply ingrained in our subconscious, so deep that we might never uproot it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Accepting our Age

While waiting in line at a medical clinic yesterday I heard an older gentleman lamenting about getting old. And he didn't sound too happy about it.

I think he said something like 'It's no fun getting old."

I started to engage him in conversation, but at that moment they called his name and he moved on.

Probably I would have told him something clever like getting old beats the alternative. But, as depressed as he sounded it might have made things worse. After all, I didn't know what was going on in his life. He might have been suffering from a terminal disease. Maybe his wife was ill. Or he could be experiencing money problems. Who knows?

As to his statement about getting older is no fun - I can relate. Because as the years roll by we start to learn about our physical limitations. Most of us in our sixties and seventies always have some kind of doctor's appoint pending; that is if we take care of ourselves. I have an assortment of doctors who care for me. Among them a neurologist, A liver doctor. A cardiologist. A foot doctor. A urologist and a few others. But rather than bitch about having to see them, I'm grateful to have insurance and the ability to pay for my care.

I've found that the secret to most things we seniors face is acceptance. I know that I can't put in the hours I used too when I was in my thirties and forties. I'm not as strong as I once was.  Nor do I have the endurance I did when I was younger.  And I accept that.

On the plus side I no longer feel the insecurities of youth. I finally learned that being in a relationship is a two-way street. I've learned to be grateful for the moments of my life. Because the time God gave us when we were born is the one thing we can't replace. So I'm grateful and try to use it wisely.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Real Life

Living and working at TLC is the perfect world for those of us in recovery.

Oh, it's not perfect because it has a lot of new buildings with plush offices. Nor a fleet of nice automobiles. Nor great financial rewards.

It's perfect because we get to live among real live addicts in real life situations. And we get to see what happens when they make the right decisions. And when they make the wrong decisions.

One day we'll be working along side a fellow resident who relapses and doesn't return from work. The next day we'll hear that they were found dead. Or else went to back to jail.

And the flip side is also true. We see our contemporaries getting their legal problems straightened out. Get their driver's licenses back. Buy themselves cars. Getting better jobs. Establishing relationships with their children. Maybe getting back together with the ex-wife.  Or find a new woman.

In other words they get to see - in a short time - what happens when we choose to stay clean and sober. Or when we decide to go back out.

I've always believed that vicarious experience is one of the best teachers.  I know it's worked well for me

Click here to email John

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Enablers

After being in this business for over 25 years something has become clear. And that is that many of our clients are addicts because their parents enable them.

And this is not to excuse our clients from their addictions. No matter where or when we started using we are ultimately responsible for our recovery. Our sobriety.

But yesterday I got this email from a frustrated father. I don't know his name. But I'm still leaving a few things out to protect his anonymity.

He wrote: "John that's a great message you have for parents. We are the great enablers for our children. Including me as a father who is a recovering alcoholic. Thirty years fighting this disease - now 10 years sober. But I find myself on edge all the time with my wife supporting him. And I do little, just watch him go into the bliss of addiction. With all my knowledge on this subject, sometimes I feel like a total failure. Thanks for sharing."

At least this man recognizes his part. And also seems to realize that he's powerless to be of much help at this point, given the family dynamics.

The most difficult clients to deal with are those whose parents didn't take a strong position with them. They might have let them live at home while using. They might have feared the kid wouldn't love them if they tried to stop him from using. Fear keeps a lot of parents from intervening. Some go all their lives supporting a child's addiction because they don't know how to help.

But let me tell you: I never stopped using until everyone - including my dear mother - cut ties with me and would no longer help. At first I was furious. But today, I can't thank her enough for having the courage to throw me out.

It changed my life.  And I'm proud that she could see me three years sober before she passed in 1994.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Done? Or not Done?

Part of our policy is to search new clients belongings when they first arrive.

We look for drugs, alcohol, and weapons.

And it's surprising how many of these things we find. Anytime we find anything prohibited we confiscate it for disposal.

Lately, because that seems to be a rising trend, we find heroin - along with the syringes to use it. We seldom find a lot. But it's usually enough for a few fixes, a few highs.

Finding drugs and drug paraphernalia is not a surprise. It's been happening for the 25 years we've been in business.

But there's a question that I've never been able to answer for myself. What's the point of going to treatment or a halfway house with drugs? Why not just keep using until we've had enough?

One half-baked answer I've come up with is that some clients come to us to make their families happy. Or else they're on probation and have an ultimatum from their PO.

But in the drug world I came from I never quit using until I could no longer go on. I recently celebrated 25 years of recovery. And I didn't quit because I had a spiritual awakening or a message from God that I should get sober.

I quit because I had lost everything one more time. And I was in so much pain from the life I was living that I wanted to change. So I didn't take anything to detox with me but a strong motivation to change. I was done. I knew I was done and I was willing to do whatever it took to get clean and sober.

The only conclusion I can reach is that those who try to bring drugs into the halfway house or treatment program is that they're not done. They're trying to convince someone that they are by showing up. But the drugs they bring with them shows their true intentions.

Hopefully they get the message before they become another statistic.

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

The digital Age

When I was a teenager in the fifties the digital world was a fantasy. Computers were science fiction.

There were stories about how computers would do most of our work. We'd invent new ways to spend our leisure time. It seemed exciting.

But, now, in the midst of this digital world it seems as though many of us work more, not less. Because we can now work any time of day. Morning, noon, night, on vacation, while flying. Unless we make a serious effort we're never out of touch. Even thousands of miles away.

But this wonderful technology may also be having an unintended backlash on the work force. Employees may have more leisure - but for the wrong reasons.

There has been much in the news lately that employees want $15.00 an hour for serving fast food. And California is in the midst of raising it's minimum wage to $15.00 an hour statewide.

And who pays for these raises? Of course the companies. And they do it by charging a lot more money for food that people only bought because it was cheap in the first place. I mean who's willing to pay $9.00 for a Big Mac? Or $4.00 for fries?

Some larger chains are already talking of a creative answer to the labor problem: Robots. The thing humans would be doing is working in the kitchen filling orders. And those jobs will probably be done by robots also in the near future.

We're beginning to live in a world where entitlements are a way of life. The attitude is that I deserve more just because I’m alive. It will be interesting to see how this trend plays out.

I think it'll end up that a lot more people will be poorer and have plenty of leisure time to be resentful about it.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Out of the Past

We often hear voices from the past.

And a few days ago it was a call from a man who was with us over twenty years ago, in the early 1990's. When we were still a young program.

We spent time with him on a speaker phone. Reminiscing about people who were there while he was with us. And catching up with what had gone on in his life since he left the program.

It was a good conversation because it reminded us of what we do at TLC. Our mission is to help recovering addicts rebuild their lives. And that mission takes many forms.

With some clients it's job training. Learning how to live out of jail. Learning how to be responsible for their lives and health. How to make a bed and keep their room clean. How to change their image.

In this man's case, though, he came to us with a college education. His focus was more about learning to live clean and sober.

Today he's a principal in a successful financial institution. He's also a father who's busy getting his oldest daughter into her first year of college. He went on to describe his home and life in an Eastern State.

It was a pleasure to hear from him and about the success he enjoys today.

It’s a privilege to hear from former graduates and to know that maybe in some small way we were a part of getting him to where he is today.  We provide the structure; the successful ones do the work.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Miracles

When I go into the office each day I'm blessed to see one of the miracles of recovery.

And the miracle is to witness what a group of addicts have built and operate. Addicts of all ages and races are working together - helping other addicts change their lives.

Some have little education. Others have been to college. Some have never been arrested. Others have spent half of their adult lives locked up. Some are in their twenties. Others are well past retirement age.

Yet they work as a team, running an operation that houses around 750 clients. The corporate staff works as a team, doing the accounting, filing, outreach. All the things that any small corporation does to run a smooth operation.

TLC owns several businesses. Including roofing, remodeling, convenience stores, a labor company, a mechanic shop, and maintenance services.

They do this without government funding or grants. TLC raises all its own funding through its businesses and the modest service fees it charges clients.

And even though they may earn very little, some of have been with the company for 20 plus years.

And like many who stay with us a long time, their goal is not money. Their goal is to live clean and sober, something they have been able to do at TLC.