Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Happy B'day

Today is my 77th birthday so don't expect much out of me. Though I do plan to show up at the office. And I'll pretend to act busy.

One of the most surprising things is that I've survived this long. Because I poured a tremendous amount of rotgut wine and other horrible chemicals through my liver. As long as it had alcohol in it I would drink it. And as long as it was opiate based I would shoot, snort it, or swallow it. And if you had a little cocaine I'd throw that in the mix also.

I attribute my survival to a few things. One is the justice system. They spent a lot of time and effort to catch me and keep me locked up. Which they succeeded in doing for around 16 years between prisons, jails and mental institutions. A lot of people are mad at the police. But I'm grateful to them because they saved me from myself on more than one occasion.

And while I was locked up I learned a lot. I worked in the prison educational department. I learned to type. I was editor of the prison magazine for a few years. I learned Spanish. I worked in the business department - where I learned much of what I use at TLC today.

The other thing I attriibute my survival to is that in jail I developed the habit of regular exercise. I lifted weights, I ran, played handball, did yoga - and did my best to eat well, depending on the institution I was in. Habits I still practice today.

And the last part of my survival is due to the fact that I've been sober for 25+ years. I have a marriage to an exquisite woman who takes wonderful care of me. In the 12 years we've known each other we've never had a fight. We are kindred spirits who had tough upbringings. We have a peaceful and loving relationship that also helps keep me healthy.

What more could I want at 77?

Click here to email John

Monday, May 30, 2016

Honoring the Fallen

Today we celebrate those who gave their lives in service to our country. We honor them with parades and other ceremonies. And it's only fitting. There's no greater sacrifice than for one to lay down their life protecting our country.

Like many, I used to get Memorial Day and Veteran's Day confused, not clear about the difference. Memorial Day honors those who died while in service. Veteran's Day honors all those who served, living or dead.

At TLC and all over our country we deal with many whose lives were changed forever by their service. Many of those with us today suffer from loss of limbs, PTSD, homelessness. And for many of them alcohol or drugs are the only answer for their painful memories. Others simply escape by taking thier own lives.

Today we should take a moment to reflect on the monumental sacrifice our veteran's have made - both the dead and the living.

If it weren't for them we wouldn't have the freedoms we enjoy today to pursue our lives as we choose.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Stress

"Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens and response is something we can choose."  Maureen Killoran

We all have met those who let everything upset them .

Someone cut them off in traffic. For the next hour or two they're in a rage.

We get an assignment at work that we don't like and we let it weigh us down . Why me? Why didn't someone else get this crappy assignment? Maybe the boss has it in for me.

Multiple surveys have shown that 75-90% of primary doctor visits are for stress related complaints. That pain in my chest? Is it a heart attack? Maybe I should go to the emergency. That ache in my gut - probably stomach cancer. Need to see the doctor.

Now for us addicts the solution is simple self medication: a drink, a shot of heroin, a bowl of our drug of choice. We know how to get rid of stress; at least for the moment.

There are easy and natural solutions though if we want to take responsability for our stress level. Try any or all of these. Exercise. Meditation. Plenty of sleep. Eat natural foods.

And remember this too shall pass.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Public Service?

One of my pet peeves is the way our local newspaper uses the term "public service."

Now you may call this semantic nitpicking, but I think the term "public service" should be reserved for one class of people. And that is for police officers, firefighters, and the military. Anyone on the public payroll who risks their lives to protect society.

Earlier this month the Republic wrote about County Manager Tom Manos as "taking public service to heart" when he retired after 30 years. While he may have worked for the public, it didn't seem like a dangerous job. Except maybe when he commuted to work on our local freeways.

Plus, his wonderful "public service" paid a salary of over $240,000 plus benefits. That's the kind of "public service" that thousands of bright folks would leap at. Then to get credit for performing a "public service" on top of it.

Whether one realizes it or not, the average public employee makes twice the pay of someone doing the same job in the private sector. Plus they often get credit for performing a "public service."

We should not dishonor our police officers, firemen, and military by using a term that belongs rightfully to them.

Not to a bunch of lard ass bureaucrats living off the public largesse -acting as if they're making a sacrifice while working for their bloated salaries.

Click here to email John


Friday, May 27, 2016

Entitlement

At an early age I learned that if I wanted something I must work for it.

Even as a six year old living on a farm, I remember feeding the cattle, the chickens, the pigs, watering the crops, the garden, maintaining the fences. Life was a constant struggle for us to feed and support ourselves.

And in the midst of this, at the center of the family, was an alcoholic and violent father who took out his frustration and anger on everything and everybody. When things went wrong someone was getting their ass kicked because none of it was his fault.

He beat his wife, children, the animals - anything that got in his way.

Two things I learned from growing up in this environment was to work hard - and that I had nothing coming. That I was nothing special - just another mouth to feed.

I bring this up because I wasn't raised around spoiled people. Or anyone who had a sense of entitlement. It wasn't until I was middle - aged that I started meeting people who thought that their family owed them something. Just because they were born.

I've never understood those who have the idea that the world owes them a living. And that they shouldn't put forth any effort to get what they wanted.

But they learned it from someone, and usually the someone is the parents who raised them. I'm not advocating that children be little slaves. But I do believe they should learn something about having to put out effort to get what they want from life. Because some day those who were giving them handouts will be gone. And then they'll learn there's not a big demand for people with a sense of entitlement.

My sad prediction for them is that eventually they'll run out of people to mooch from, people to give them whatever they want when they want it.

And that's when they start showing up at treatment centers and detoxes looking for someone else to help them through life. Usually by then, though, it's too late.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tough Love

While in California over the weekend at a party I encountered a woman I hadn't seen in a few years. Even though I've known her since she was a small child.

She was clean. Well dressed. And sober. I congratulated her for that.

The thing that amazed me, though, is that for years I heard she was strung out on methamphetamines and God knows what else. For a while she lived in a city park in a tent with several other addicts. Yet, here she was at a social gathering. And unless you knew her history you'd never suspect she'd ever used drugs.

Now it's not unheard of for people to get clean and sober. It happens all the time in 12-step programs and also here at TLC. And sometimes for no reason at all.

But the story behind this woman's recovery is a little different. She got sober because a tough relative kept pushing her to change her life. The relative told her that she'd help with most anything but first she had to get clean and start working on herself.

But until then she'd do nothing for her. She wouldn't pay her light bill when they were shut off for non-payment. She wouldn't give her money for food. Gas for her car. Nothing.

And it pained her to have to be that tough. Because this woman is not an addict or alcoholic. But she's a strong Christian who does know human nature. In fact, she'd helped this woman in the past. In any case she stuck to her guns and it worked.

The woman agreed to go into a rehab, seek work, and starting changing her life. And within less than a year she has a car someone gave her, a rented room, and a job.

And all because her relative was willing to let her suffer if she was unwilling to change her life.

I congratulate both of them. The one for changing. But especially the one who was willing to be tough.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Freedom

"Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything—anger, anxiety, or possessions—we cannot be free." Thich Nhat Hanh

I'm always at my most unhappiest when I wish things were different than they are at this moment.

If I don't accept my job, then I'm going to be depressed until I get one that I like. Until I let go of the conditions that I don't like.

If there's something I need to tell someone, but hold back from doing it, I won't be free of that situation until I express myself.

No matter what I'm attached to in life if I don't accept it then I'm going to be miserable. I'll have no freedom.

If my son or daughter is a drug addict who's using I'm going to be very unhappy unless I accept that I have no power to control their bad habits. Life is what will teach the children. Once we accept that they must learn by experience we'll have freedom.

Sometimes we think we're supposed to feel bad when others suffer from addiction. And maybe it's natural to do so if we're close to them. But does it make sense for us to suffer along with them? To share in their misery. Offer to help them get clean - but if they turn it down- then set yourself free by realizing that you've done your best.

You also deserve happiness in your life.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reflecting on Gratitude

Yesterday, I visited an ex brother in law who's been in a California nursing home for 12 years. He ended up there after a stroke in the County Jail. By the time he received medical care he'd lost use of half his body.

For several years every two weeks I've sent him a money order to supplement his small Social Security check. His family used to get pissed at me. They said that he gets everything he needs at the facility. That he just uses the extra money I give him to buy alcohol, marijuana or pills.

But I told them I didn't care what he did with the money. That never once in the 52 years I've know him has he expressed a desire to get sober and clean. And that if he was interested he knows he could ask me for help in that area.

While we're visiting on the facility patio several other residents are also chatting, smoking and visiting. Several of them can barely talk. Others are drooling on themselves, One is wearing a helmet so if he has a seizure he won't get hurt too badly. All are in wheelchairs. Some of the garbled conversations I overhear make no sense.

As we sit there I recall many years ago when we used to party together, when he was known as the "Brown Bomber." As that time he was 200 pounds of muscle who loved nothing more than fighting in bars with 3 to 4 people at once. It wasn't that he was mean or angry. It was just something he liked to do.

And now, as I gaze at his wasted 120 pound frame I reflect on how life changes us all over time. How we all experience losses of some kind.

And that what we can really count on is that nothing stays the same.

I leave the visit thinking about gratitude and how we should appreciate the blessings we have in our lives.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Carrying a Load

I heard the perfect analogy while listening to a mindfulness lecture the other day.

The instructor said to imagine that you're walking a distance with two loaded shopping bags. One is in the left hand. The other in the right.

The one in the right hand is labeled "The Future." The one in the left is labeled "The Past."

The further we walk while carrying these two bags, the tireder we become. Until finally we stop to rest and set them down. And as soon as we catch our breath we feel more peaceful and calm.

He pointed out that many of us live our lives that way. We carry the future with us. And, we also carry the past. Both of them burden us equally.

Many of us spend our lives in the past. Thinking of the wrongs we have done. Or that have been done to us.

Same with the future. We spend a lot of time worrying about how we're going to get our bills paid, or our car fixed, or deal with our health.

Yet none of that ruminating does us any good. For we can do nothing about the past - or the future.

But we can do something about the present, which is where everything happens. And that is where we should remain as much as possible because that's how we can get things done. And remove the depression and anxiety from our lives.

Click here to email John

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Happy Birthday!

Many things got better when I got clean and sober January 14, 1991.

One of the best is the relationship I now have with my oldest daughter. Because, by all rights, I wouldn't blame her if she had nothing to do with me at all.

During most of her childhood I was sitting in some correctional facility feeling sorry for myself because one more time I was a guest of the state for crimes related to my drug habit.

As for her, she was living with her addict mother and supported by a welfare check.

Yet last month, she invited my wife and me to her 50th birthday party in California. And, of course, we're attending.

Now I know that nothing can make up for the lost years from her childhood. Or the time I should have spent with her as a father. So I'm grateful for the relationship I have with her today.

The most important blessings of sobriety come when our families forgive us and accept us back into their lives.

And in turn the best we can do is continue our lives of recovery and being part of their lives.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The real Reward

I used to think the only reason to work was to earn a paycheck. The more one made, the better life would be. But this last 25 years has proved that's not true.

The real payoff for me is not the money I earn or the stuff I accumulate. The real payoff is the feedback I get from people whose lives our program has touched along the way.

Some are former clients. Some are parents of addicts. But I always get a sense of wonder when I read their words of gratitude. (Names left out to protect anonymity.)

For example, the mother of an addict from out-of-state wrote "my son has been clean from heroin for six months..." "...he had plans to move in with me when I got a new place.." She goes on to explain that she found the strength to tell him that he couldn't live with her. And that he understood why she was taking a strong position with him.

Another man wrote: "Good morning John. I don't think you'll remember me but I went through TLC McDonald House in 1994. October I will celebrate 23 years of sobriety I always tell people that my time at TLC is a huge part of the reason for my success I just wanted to tell you thank you have a great day."

Another man who was with us more than once, writes: "I wanted to tell you how much what you and Rockie do have meant to me. I have gotten so much better at life and I really want to thank all the people who helped me along the way. You guys helped me multiple times through out my life and for the better. It may not have seemed that way at the time since I always just got up and left one day but your knowledge and counsel have sunk in. You always gave me good advice and Rockie always called me on my bullshit. Exactly what I needed when I needed it. So thank you for what you do. You are really helping people make the changes they need to in life and so is Rockie."

I feel privileged to be able to be a small part of helping another human being improve their life. Without being melodramatic I think that helping someone better their life is the greatest blessing I've  been given.

Click here to email John

Friday, May 20, 2016

Being a positive Influence

We learn from those who raise us.

For example, I grew up in an era when half of the people in this country lived on farms. So I learned how to work hard so we could eat.

My father was a carpenter who built three or four houses a year by himself, plus operated a 14 acre farm. He taught me and my brother those skills. Those were the positive things about him.

The negative things were that he was a raging alcoholic who beat anything that got in his way. His wife. Kids. Farm animals, including pets. My brother and I learned many of those skills, especially the anger, the fighting and drinking.

By the time we were in our early teens and went back to live with my mother we were a complete mess. I became a drug user and drinker in my early teens, spending most of my early years in juvenile institutions. My brother grew up an alcoholic who escaped home as soon as he could by joining the Air Force.

I bring this up because many of the addicts in our program were raised by the same kind of parents. Violent drug addicts, criminals, and alcoholics.

We get few clients who were raised by ministers, college professors, doctors, or lawyers.

If you're reading this and are raising young children don't be suprised if they turn out just like you. No matter what kind of a person you are.  Good or bad.

If you're sitting around and wondering what happened to your kids reflect back upon the values you gave them. Then you'll understand.  And there may be time to change what you're doing so you can become a positive influence upon them.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A new Record

Our program broke some kind of a record this week.

And it wasn't a population record, or a record of how many clients graduated. Or stayed sober. And if I gave you all day you probably wouldn't guess. So I won't make you wait.

This week, for the first time, we had two children born to staff members within one week.

One was a boy, the other a girl. The boy's mother has worked for TLC Outpatient clinic for about four years. The girl's father has been with TLC for a little more than eight years, half of that time with the OutPatient Clinic, the other years with different departments within the company.

And the wonderful part of all of this is that neither of these children will ever see their parents dragged out of the house in handcuffs, or selling the families' valuables to purchase drugs.

Instead, these children are being raised in nice homes under the care of sober parents who will be an example for them as they grow up. They will be clothed, well-fed and will attend good schools.  They will be taught good values; especially when it comes to sobriety.

They are blessed to have been born to parents who were able to get sober.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Stealing Wisdom

A friend of mine shared some wisdom with me the other day. And I liked his idea so much that I decided to steal it for myself. To incorporate it into my own life.

And his wisdom goes like this: He makes a list of things he must do each day.

And he organizes it like this:

First on the list is the thing that he doesn't want to do at all. It may be some hard physical work. It could be a meeting with someone he doesn't care to talk to or do business with. It may be something involving money someone owes him. Whatever it is it's big enough to make the top of the list.

Next on the list, of course, is the second thing he doesn't want to do and so forth.

Until finally he's down to the easiest things to do, which he knocks off with relative ease.

I tried this for about a week and it worked really well. I paid a bill I'd been putting off. I completed some overdue paperwork. I made amends to someone I'd been avoiding. Within two weeks I had a lot of big things off my plate. And the better part of it is that it was off my mind and I didn't have to think about it any longer.

Sometimes simple changes make a major difference in our lives. That’s what serenity is about.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Surrender

Being happy sometimes means letting go, of no longer grasping for the things we've dreamed of having.

Once I got sober my focus was to stop putting illicit or addictive substances in my body.

For a long time I thought if I had more stuff life would be perfect. A lot of drugs. More money and the things money could buy. More clothes and cars and investments. More things to build up my ego.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that destination - my version of heavan on earth. God intervened and showed me that the only thing important was to be clean and sober.

Oh, he didn't show up in a dream. He didn't appear in person. The way he manifested in my life was to keep putting obstacles in my way. Once I got back to using 25 plus years ago things started disappearing quickly. Not long after I put a needle in my arm again things started to disappear. My job. Apartment. Clothing. Anything that had any value just vanished. Before long I was homeless, strung out, hungry and had no one who cared to help me change.

But for some reason losing all that stuff made me surrender. I gave up on all my fantasy ideas and focused on getting clean and sober. And an interesting thing happened when I made that decision.

All that stuff that I wanted and thought I needed started showing up in my life. A lovely wife. A nice home. Automobiles. Vacations. All the material things.

But even better, spiritual insights came to me. Insights that guided me when obstacles did show up.

Try it sometime. When you're not getting what you want forget about it. Try to follow God's will for your life. You may be surprised at what happens.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Being Helpful

One Sunday a month we have a morning staff meeting. It's followed by a meal prepared at one of the houses.

It's chaired by the newest person elected to management, His or her job as chairperson is to pick a topic, then make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. And today, the new manager picked the topic: "Why I do the job I do each day."

I mean, after all, what kind of return does a person get from working long hours for little pay, providing services to a group of often ungrateful clients?

There was an array of responses, but one theme in particular kept arising more than any other.

 And that was that many of our managers said they'd never been happier in their lives. They said there was nothing more satisfying than helping others get sober, helping them to rebuild their lives.

For the first time in their lives they felt as if they were giving something to the world rather than always taking.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Needing Help

I read some bad news a few days ago in the Arizona Republic. It was a front page article about the government (HUD) slashing money for housing organizations. And I'm talking about millions of dollars

Some of the organizations house homeless veterans. Battered women. And children taken because of parental abuse or other dangerous situations.

It's a sad situation because many of these organizations exist solely on government funding.

Over the 25 years TLC's been operating we've never asked for grants or funding. It's not that we couldn't use the money. But we realize there are many that have no way to raise money except through grants or donations.

Soon we'll be reading one of two stories: 1. either the funding has been reinstated or 2. there are going to be a number of homeless people needing help.

I'm sure our organization will be able to help to some degree because we often have 25-50 empty beds. While this might not work for families it would serve as housing for those who are single.

Our office number is 480-833-0143.

Click here to email John

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Failure?

Many of us who've relapsed over and over often look at ourselves as failures. We might even say something like "I'm a loser." "I can't do anything right." "I'm good-for-nothing."

And traveling through life with that kind of attitude pretty much is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are what and who we believe we are. Because if we think we can't stay sober, we're right. And if we think we can stay sober we're also right.

But if we turn our failures around and look at them as learning experiences then we can see their value. On page 31 in the Big Book there's a suggestion that if we doubt we have a problem that we try having a drink to see how it works. It goes on to say that it's worth a case of the jitters to become convinced that we do indeed have a problem. Just because we fail a time or two doesn't mean we wear that label forever.

This principle doesn't just apply in the recovery world. I was reading a business article the other day about what venture capitalists look for in those to whom they loan money. One thing thing they make note of is whether the prospect has ever gone bankrupt. Or failed in business.

I thought that was strange until I read the explanation. Those who risk large sums of money want someone who won't give up or run away at the first sign of trouble. They look at setbacks as part of the learning experience.

They want someone who'll have the grit to keep going regardless of the challenges.  That's the same way we eventually learn to stay sober.

Click here to email John



Friday, May 13, 2016

Happy?

When we think about why we're unhappy, it's easy to figure out why. It's because we don't have what we want.

And we want what we want because we think we'll be happier when we have it in our hands.

It can be that ideal job. That wonderful car. That girl we've been trying to date. A fancy home in a certain neighborhood. Everyone's idea of what will bring them lasting happiness is different.

Then after a while the newness wears off, the wow factor disappears and we have to find something new to focus on. Only to repeat the cycle again.

The other day I was watching a DVD by a Harvard professor giving a lecture on happiness to a class of professors.

He asked them 'How many of you awoke this morning and said "Gee I'm so happy now that I have my degree?" And of course the response was a roomful of laughs. But he made a good point that talked about the process rather than the goal.

Happiness is often hard to put our finger on. But as we grow older we find out that it's not the things we acquire. It's not the money in the bank. Nor is it the title on the door.

Those who are truly happy have gratitude for all they have in their lives. But if you ask them what makes them the happiest they'll tell you it's the experience of achieving what they have with their lives – not the possessions they’ve accumulated.

Happiness is doing for others. Happiness is giving of our time. Happiness is working to improve the road for those who come behind us. We can find true happiness in making the world a better place.

That's the kind of legacy we want to leave our children and loved ones.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Karma

One of the interesting things about my job is how surprised we are when clients act just like we used to.

A while back we hired a couple of clients for management positions. And they had all the credentials. They were grateful to be sober. They were happy to given a position where they'd be able to help others. They could use a computer with some skill. One of them had done a little prison time. Like I said, they had the qualifications for the job.

However, within a couple of weeks we found out who they really were. We learned within a short time they were stealing from other clients, from TLC, getting high, and in general acting like many of us behaved before we got here.

Since this hadn't happened in a while, I was a little taken aback. But I knew I had no one to blame but myself. After all, I approved the decision to hire them on a probationary basis. Still, it's kind of a let down when we open our doors and welcome people - only to have them rip us off.

Now I know how all those people who trusted me must have felt when I returned their kindness with the kind of treachery an addict can sometimes give in return.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Starting a House

A few times a year I get an email from someone asking how to start a halfway house or treatment program.

Questions like this used to irritate me. So I'd answer back with something like "Would you call Jack-in-the-Box or Macdonald’s and ask them how to make a burger?"

But I've become more gracious in my advanced years. Now I'll explain that each city has its own regulations and requirements. So a place to start is to see if your property will meet the standards.

And, of course, if you don't have a property, that will be the first hurdle: finding one.

So now you have the property and know how to get started, the next thing is to find the right location. Near transportation. Close to jobs. Around meeting halls.

You'll have to figure out how to pay the bills. A lot of wannabe entrepreneurs think the government will beat a path to their door with an envelope full of grant money. But usually the only government you'll see is a city official answering complaints from the neighbors about why you’re in their neighborhood.

The one thing you'll definitely need is a lot of patience and a lot of heart. Because you'll have many addicts and alcoholics show up without money - expecting you to care for them. And then they'll become resentful when you ask them to compensate you for their food and housing.

It’s the nature of those of us who are enslaved to drugs.  You just have to be tough enough to deal with it.

But if you have compassion, if you love your fellow man, you can help them get sober.  And that's what it's about.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Saving my Life

When we're looking for new staff members we use a simple formula.

The number one thing on the list is recovery. That's the first thing we bring up when interviewing for a position: How long have you been sober? Do you have a sponsor? Do you have sponsees? What step are you working on?

Then we ask why they want to do such a low-paying, unrewarding job?

How's your patience and tolerance level? Do you have a quick temper?

How about communication skills? Do you boss clients around? Or do you work on getting their cooperation?

Now this almost sounds like someone who's interviewing for a high level corporate job where interpersonal communication is primary. But this is for a job that pays barely living wage, with one exception.

It's one of the few jobs you can work in that will actually save your life.

I have applicants ask me what the job pays. And when I tell them that from a monetary standard not much. But on the other hand it will will pay them something that money can't buy: their lives.

I know that when I got in this business I did the math and thought that it seemed liked a pretty good deal. Until I spent a few years dealing with people who were as troubled as I was.

As I went on though, I began to realize that the important part of the business is where I get to live sober for another day. And another.

That's when I realized I had the most rewarding job in the world - one I plan to keep as long as I can function well enough to show up to work each day.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Reflecting on Mom

Around the holidays I like to stay busy. And Mother's Day is one of them. Because I still miss my mother some 22 years after her death.  It's so better for me to be doing something productive to avoid becoming depressed.

My biggest supporter was my mother. I don't mean as far as money goes. I'm talking more about the important things like having good values. Learning to be responsible. Not letting life get you down. Things like that. She taught them; I didn't absorb them.

I was born when she was 15; my father 27. She was a simple Mid-Western farm girl when they met, in an era when 50% of the country lived on farms.

Later, when I was about five she and my father divorced over his drinking. She went to work in the aircraft industry, helping assemble air-frames for the Air Force's counter attack on Germany. She became skilled at what she did. So much so that  after Japan surrendered she - like many women of that era - went to work in the post-war electronics industry.

She had several troubled years trying to regain custody of my brother and me after my father took us to his place for a Sunday visit and didn't return. It took her seven years to regain custody. But she stuck to the fight until she got us back.

One of the best parts of my recovery is that my mother got to see me sober over three years before she passed away. I've always felt good about justifying her faith in me.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Confusing

When I was a young addict, in and out of jail for heroin and/or pills, attitudes were entirely different about drugs.

Society looked upon certain drugs as "good." Others as "bad."

For example, marijuana was looked upon as "good," while "heroin" and "cocaine" were among the worst of drugs.

Alcohol, my parents’ drug of choice, was only bad if one got a drunk driving ticket or in an accident.

My parents used to get on my case, wondering why I didn't learn how to enjoy alcohol like they did. Even my parole officer encouraged me to drink - if I had to do anything at all.

It was pretty confusing to me then as it still is today. I mean anything that changes our level of consciousness could be considered a drug, whether legal or illegal. Especially if we were using it for having fun and not curing an illness.

It also showed up in the legal system. I once spent a year in jail for being under the influence of heroin - at that time a high level misdemeanor. Possession of drug paraphernalia would also bring a year in county jail.

I guess I reflect upon all this to demonstrate the complexities of our drug laws and drug treatments. The reality is that we have no hard and fast effective rules of how to deal with addiction or punishment. And quite likely we never will have until science can develop drugs that are both fun and harmless.

But between the moralists and scientists this will likely never happen.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Greed

I got an example today of how greed can kick back on me. And no, it wasn't like I was trying to put together some kind of slick business deal. I wasn't trying to profit at someone else's expense - at least I don't think I was.  I pretty much quit doing that stuff when I got sober.

This all came down a few weeks ago when we were going through some management changes. I had a couple of managers who were getting burned out after more than three years on the job. One had been going to school and was getting ready to move into a counseling position. And the other was about to graduate and return to her home state. They are both great ladies and I was going to miss their hard work and willingness. But change is inevitable and ongoing around here.

So I was interviewing a new lady. And my addict brain was doing everything possible to fit her into the position that was open. My glasses saw her as bright, assertive, a good communicator, humble. etc. I wanted her to be the right one.

And she said the thing we like to hear around the program: "I'm here because I want to change my life. I'm tired of going in and out of jail. And of living on the streets." She was really lacking only one thing: even though she'd been sober in prison for several years before she came to us she hadn't been at TLC long enough to know the details of how our program works.

But like I say, being greedy - I was willing to take a short cut. I told myself that she was smart enough to learn what she might have missed during the 90 days she was in the basic program. But I was wrong.

It wasn't long before her money started coming up short. Clients were complaining about her attitude. The complaints kept growing.

When I let her go I had to look at myself because had I planned better I wouldn't have been in such a hurry,  I would have asked her better questions.  Like I said, greed.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Keeping at It.

Sometimes writing a daily blog is frustrtating. I'll go ever each line, word, every paragraph. Aiming for perfection, while at the same time claiming that I'm not a perfectionist. Then the next day I get a text or call from my wife telling about what I screwed up. And I thank her for taking the time to read and give me feedback.

Of course my fragile alcoholic feelings are hurt for a second. But I'm happy that she takes her time to read and give me a critique. She wants me to do my best - just like I want her to do her best in whatever she undertakes.

I guess the beauty of the process is that I'm forced to do my best the first time through so I don't have to be going over and over the same material. It saves time. It sharpens the wits.

My dream one day is to have an ongoing casual dialogue with the screen-error-free where ideas flow naturally. Just must keep at it. Yes.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Too many Friends

A while back I was reading a magazine about Japanese customs, and learned something I'd never heard before.

The essence of the story was that in Japanese society people don't make new friends very easily And the reason is that making a friend is a comittment to spend time with and do things with the new friend. In their culture - at least when I read this - friendships were viewed seriously.

The subject arose when I overheard a conversation between two of my grandchildren. One was boasting to the other that she'd gotten a bunch of new friends on Facebook And the way she talked about it it was some kind of an accomplishment.

Then I had a discussion with them about this custom. They thought it was strange that a person wouldn’t try to have all the friends they possibly could. In their circle it was a status symbol. I could tell she thought I was lost in the wrong century because I wasn’t a Facebook member.

I cut the talk because I didn’t want to alienate my loved ones over something I didn’t understand. Whatever happens life will provide the right answers. We simply must wait awhile.  I'm lucky to even be a blogger.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sharing Joy

While doing this blog since June of 2010 I've struck up correspondence with more than one reader.

Every few months I'll get a comment from someone I haven't heard from in a while. The nice part of

it is that it's never anything negative, always something positive and upbeat about how life is going. And there's usually some kind of credit in there for me. I don't deserve it, but my puny addict ego takes it anyway. Hey, I'll take whatever I can get.

The writer tells me that I probably don't remember her or what she looks like from when she was at TLC. But to me a person’s looks aren't that important. What's important is what's in their heart. And this woman has a heart of gratitude. Even when she's down, which is rarely, she immediately puts the blame squarely back on herself. Which tells me her recovery is solid and well-grounded.

To me the important part of looks is what one projects from the inside out. And that’s what this woman has given the world since she’s been in recovery; she gives the world the idea that there's something wonderful in recovery because she has plenty of joy to share with those around her.

Thank you, Julie.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A gift from God

How much is your life worth?

If you ask most addicts this question they're unable to tell you. Or they might say something like "priceless."

But the question comes up around here often because many of our clients won't take time to care for themselves. They have to go to a meeting. See their sponsor. Go on a date. Always something that takes precedence to their health.

They may have pain in their back or stomach. And when we suggest they might want to have a doctor check it out they have a lot of reasons why they can't do that. The boss told them to not miss any more work. They have to see their parole or probation officer. It's almost always an excuse.

Yet most of us addicts end up in the health situation we're in because of years of neglect. Most of the addicts I know - including myself - had all the time in the world when it came to hunting down drugs or raising money for booze. Yet, it takes a while to begin focusing on taking care of our heatlh.

Plus many of them say they don't want to "hear any bad news." But let me tell you, someday we all get bad news whether we want it or not.

The best approach - in my opinion - is to is to take care of the years that God left us when he brought us back into the light of recovery.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Come and Visit

Something I never knew when we applied for a treatment license for TLC is that the license doesn't belong to us. Right on the license it says that it belongs to the State of Arizona.

I'm not 100% sure why they say it's theirs. But if that's what it takes to operate, so be it. That means that if we don't go by their regulations they can walk in at any time and pick it up. And we'd be out of business. Needless to say, we do our best to follow the guidelines to the letter. And if we have a question about procedure we have a clinical consultant who gets us an answer right away.

Well, sure enough, a couple of weeks ago a member of the State staff came in unannounced. And spent several hours with us combing through records, talking to staff members. He looked at whatever he wanted for as long as he wanted.

I bring this up because I encourage those who have an interest in treatment to dig deep into the program you're considering. Check for negative reports. The State welcomes your questions because they want our citizens to have great services.

And feel free to ask them whatever you want. We have a wonderful caring staff that has a genuine interest in our clients. And in helping them change their lives.

Our doors are always open to you. From the Clinical Directer on down. Our staff is what makes us who we are. We'd love for you to meet them.