Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 900-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 30th year of recovery.

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

Friday, July 10, 2020


I found myself in a supermarket line, and doing my part by staying six feet away from the closest person. But I couldn't help but eavesdrop on a conversation between a couple who was standing close together, probably married, in the line ahead of me.

"I'll really be happy when things get back to normal," the man said to the woman. And while I believe his sentiments were genuine, I felt like telling him that there probably would never be anything like the "normal" that he was referring to – a world in which there was no such thing as the coronavirus.

Because the reality is that this so-called pandemic is probably going to change the world forever. At least in terms of how we deal with hygiene, travel, entertainment, education, sports, and everything else you can name. And while there have been other deadly pandemics in the world, reality is probably that none of us have ever dealt with anything like this. Our world has been turned upside down. We can no longer safely go to social events where people are close, like nightclubs and bars, AA meetings, sporting events, and so on.

And I think many people are reaching the end of their patience. I've read in the news that people have assaulted one another because one would be wearing a mask and the other wouldn't. And while I was one of those who said they would never wear a mask, I now find myself with a whole case of them in my bedroom and make sure that I wear one whenever I'm out in public or around others. While I still don't feel like wearing it, reality is that how I feel about it doesn't make a lot of difference. Science is science. And from what I understand from science is that the coronavirus is transmitted when it becomes airborne, as it is when someone coughs close to another person.

So I often go on and on about how the only thing we can expect in life is change. And the change may be positive, and this virus will disappear. Or the change may be negative. And the virus will become worse. Whatever occurs, we are going to stay more emotionally healthy if we accept the idea that all we can expect in life is that things will be different day-by-day. Maybe not radically. But still, things will be different and life will change for all of us.

And the only real way to maintain happiness is to expect change and then we won't be spiraling into depression when things are all of a sudden different.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Being our Best

I was following the news the other day and I heard a disturbing story. It seems that in various areas of California Asians were being blamed for the coronavirus. Some were assaulted. Others were yelled at, spit on, and told they should go back to where they came from. Most of those initiating the attacks were minorities themselves, people who had come from other countries. The report finished with the information that the FBI is looking into these assaults as civil rights violations.

I probably shouldn't have been surprised to hear these stories, even though I know it's human nature to blame others for our difficulties.

My experience in Arizona is entirely different. It seems like there's more a sense of community, the idea that we're all in the same boat and that we should do what we can to help one another. When I'm out in public or in a store I noticed that people are more courteous and polite. The same seems to extend to the way people drive, which at one point was aggressively.

I would like to think that this common enemy we're facing will bring the best out of us. I know several people who have been quarantining and can't go out and shop on their own. Yet, they have friends and others looking out for them, making sure they are okay. Some of them have been quarantining for three and four weeks because they have health issues and don't want to be exposed.

I think that when people play the blame game and put responsibility for this virus on other people – while they may be right – it doesn't do them any good on a personal level.. It does us much better in terms of healing and keeping our stress down to hope that everyone comes through this as best they can. To be angry, to hate, and to attack others does nothing but raise our stress level and makes us more vulnerable to whatever might be out there that could endanger us.

Kindness to others is good therapy.

Click here to email John

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Ambition Matters

Some friends asked me to see fireworks this Fourth of July. But I declined. And that's because I grew up during my teen years about 5 miles from Disneyland when it was first constructed.  Every night I got to see a lot of fireworks.  Now, admittedly, I was far enough away to not hear all the noise they made. But you must admit that seeing fireworks for three or four years can somewhat numb you to the effects of pyrotechnics.

But this year – while not thinking about fireworks – I've spent time thinking about the state of our country and how we seem to be descending into political and health chaos to a degree I've never seen. For the past nearly 4 years I've watched the liberal press attack a president who has done nothing but fulfill his promises and bring prosperity to our citizenry. But for some reason, obviously liberal ones, the press spends about 75 to 80% of their time demonizing the current occupant of the White House. I believe that he could give each citizen $1 million cash and the liberal left would still hate him. This in spite of the fact that he has brought more prosperity to this country than we have seen in 50 some years. Other than not yet completing the wall, he has pretty much fulfilled his campaign promises.

I love the country I was born and raised in. And I do what I can today to be a good citizen and help improve it. And if I didn't like this country I wouldn't be here. I would be living either in Canada or Mexico – where citizens seem to have love and passion about their country. I invite those who are  unhappy here to find someplace else to live.

Because I believe that anyone who wants to succeed in this country can – unless they have a mental or physical disability that prevents them from succeeding. I know that prejudice exists in our country but I also have seen many many people overcome the barriers of color and become wildly successful because they had determination and drive. I know, that no matter what color you are, you can succeed if you have drive and determination. All you have to do is drag yourself out of bed and get off your lazy ass and go to work.

I know this because the first 50 years of my life I was a drug addict who lived in and out of jails and prisons for some 16 years, was homeless for a time, and still succeeded to where today I have whatever I want pretty much when I want it. And if you don't believe me, I'll be happy to take your phone call or make an appointment and explain how I did it.

But if pursuing a dream is too much work for you, then you're welcome to continue living in your misery.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


The Covid 19 pandemic seems to have raised controversies for which there are no perfect answers.

Just last night the governor of Arizona closed down certain types of businesses.  Among them were bars, gymnasiums and certain other gathering places where people are bunched together in large groups – like the Salt River.  In fact I heard that he withdrew the liquor licenses of seven drinking establishments in Scottsdale because customers weren't wearing masks or adhering to the social distancing requirement.

Now everyone has their own opinion and I'm no different.  But a lot of the people who party in bars and group floats down the salt River are mostly under 40 years old and probably even less.  And one of the things I've heard among my grandchildren (one of whom has the coronavirus) is that the coronavirus is something that won't affect them.  And that's probably because the Centers for Disease Control statistics show that most victims of Covid 19 are people over 65.  So, perhaps, younger people think the odds that they'll succumb to the virus is next to zero.  But for three days during the last week over 30 people a day in our state were contracting the coronavirus, though I admittedly don't know what age group they were in.

In my opinion the reason that the United States has the highest incidence of Covid 19 in the world is that we are spoiled. I believe that many of us have the idea that the rules apply to others, not us.  When I speak to my grandchildren about health issues like eating right or exercising they seem to think that rules for healthy living don't apply to them.  Oh, they may agree with me.  But for me agreeing is one thing, and practicing healthy and safe living is another.

A lot of people don't wear masks, practice safe sex, or wear seatbelts, because they think that bad things won't happen to them – just other people.  But that isn't the way the world works.  None of us thought six months ago that the world would be enveloped in a plague that the brightest minds in science haven't been able to resolve.

I believe that many of our young people have a sense of entitlement because they were raised by people who didn't teach them responsibility for anything – including their health.  It seems like a large number of parents today want to be friends and buddies with their children.  They don't realize that their primary job is to teach their children how to navigate a world that is sometimes very dangerous – as it is right now.  I was very tough on the one daughter that I raised pretty much by myself.  And she is one of the most self-sufficient and independent people I know.  She served in the military – including Afghanistan – for three years, graduated from the Texas Culinary Academy, then obtained her bachelor's degree from the University of Phoenix.  And she did it all on her own and I believe it was because I didn't baby her as a child because I wasn't trying to be her friend – I was doing my best to be a responsible father.  And I'm proud of the way she turned out.

I'm kind of going off in the weeds with this blog.  But the bottom line is that those with a sense of entitlement, that don't think the rules apply to them, are among those who may contract the virus because they won't practice social distancing distancing or or wear masks.

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 27, 2020


Other than having to wear a mask when I'm in a public place the coronavirus hasn't affected me personally – other than maybe being a little inconvenient once in a while.  That is, until yesterday.

Every year for the past 20 some years my family and I leased some nice condominiums in Imperial beach, California.  The place is gorgeous, with beautiful ocean views from every condo, and direct access to the beach.  Across the street is Aroma Thai, which has served the same wonderful quality Asian food since we've been going there.  And up and down the street side of the condo there are more restaurants, ranging from fine dining to fast food.  All in all, most of our vacations there have been like being in paradise.

At the time I made the reservations, almost a year ago, no one had heard anything about pandemics or anything else that would keep us from going.  It had turned into a tradition that I love.

But this year things changed.  Because the virus has been raging through my home state of Arizona and into Southern California a lot of family members became hesitant about going on a vacation that wouldn't be too much different from from being at home.  Guests are allowed to go to the beach, but not into the water.  Nor are they able to sit or lie on the beach.  Their only access to the beaches is to exercise or walk.  The swimming poll and barbecue area of the condominiums is off-limits, as is the Jacuzzi.

Like here, everyone is required to wear a mask and maintain social distancing.  After much thought of about the potential of losing the prepaid rent on seven condominiums, I decided to cancel the trip.  And most of the family was relieved about the decision.

A few of them were angry at me about canceling the trip.  But because I already have a granddaughter who has the coronavirus and a few other family members that have been exposed to her, I though the safest thing to do is cancel the trip.

At some point I'm sure that this thing will subside, either this year or next.

Other than the dangers of contracting the coronavirus 500 miles from home I think the biggest disappointment was the fact that we couldn't go into the ocean or lie on the beach, which is at least half of the reason that we go there.  But looking at things on the positive side, there will be other years and other vacations and this disappointment will just be a distant memory.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Learning Step-by Step

In my 81 years on the planet I've never experienced a year like this one.

A worldwide pandemic that so far has killed thousands.  Political infighting that rivals anything I've ever seen in many elections.  Violence in the streets that politicians don't have the courage to deal with. People suffering because they've been out of work, unable to travel, and even unable to socialize with close friends and family without danger of contracting a life-threatening disease.

Yet for some reason I believe that we're all going to come through this – though it may take another year or so – as better people.  As people who faced tough challenges and came out on the other side as stronger and more grateful people.

But it wasn't always that way for me.  At one time, before I got sober almost 30 years ago, this would've been the perfect excuse for me to find enough alcohol and drugs to get out of my mind.  And there's only one thing that I attribute my current state of mind to: and that's because I was able to get sober in 1991.  Once that happened, I was able to face all kinds of challenges, challenges that at one time would have sent me back to the liquor store or the dope house.

One of the things we learn in the 12-step programs is that life is not always a bed of roses.  We know that when times are tough we have a fellowship that we can turn to that will guide us in the right direction.  If we're working the right kind of program we have a sponsor to whom we can relate our anxieties and fears.  We learn that life is kind of like the stock market – sometimes things are up and sometimes they're down. 

And we learn that the important thing is how we react to the ups and downs.

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Happy Seven Years, Julie

I was reminded yesterday about how TLC is a vehicle for change for those who want to get sober.

It was when I received a message from a woman named Julie who was thanking me for the opportunity she had during her time at TLC' s Robson house – and her seven years of sobriety. She has stayed in touch over the years and comments periodically about things she reads here and keeps me updated on her recovery.

I always write back to congratulate her because hearing how people are succeeding is one of the best rewards for the work we do at TLC.

The reality is that those who come to TLC, and succeed, must give themselves credit for putting in the hard work that it sometimes takes to remain sober.

It's true that a lot of people wouldn't stay sober if it weren't for the fact that we have 850 beds available for those who are serious about changing their lives. I think one of the reasons that we have a good success rate is that a lot of people are able to get into recovery at TLC without having money. The only reason that many people don't get sober in our society is because it requires insurance or some kind of funds just to get in the door.

But the peer counseling and therapeutic services that we offer are basically the ones that any other treatment program offers. The only difference with us is that 95% of those we take in have zero resources. No insurance. No job. No money. In fact some of them don't have anything but the clothes on their back. And about 40% of them come to us from the court system or the prisons that refer them to us as the place they should go.

While many of the new people who come to us are only looking for a place to to lay their heads and get a few meals, others are on a serious quest to stop the pain of their addictions. And those are the ones who, like this woman, put in the hard work and effort to change their lives.

And those are the ones who reap the rewards.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Happy 46 years sober, Ralph H.

The longer my sponsor stays sober the more planning I have to put into obtaining a chip for him.

Last year, he celebrated 45 – years. And since TLC sells twelve-step books, chips, and cards, I was able to walk downstairs from my office and get him a 45 – year chip and a card to go along with it. This year, though, I went down and learned that 45 years was as high as our inventory goes.

So, I had to get on the telephone and search around the valley until I could find a 46 – year chip. Luckily, I was able to locate one near the Alano club in Scottsdale. In fact, the clerk told me that he had a range of choices in the 46 – year chip selection. Now, at least, I know where to look when I need to pick up his 47 – year chip.

The bad thing about this year, is that I won't be able to present it to him at a meeting because of the coronavirus. Because both he and I are senior citizens, we do our best to stay out of crowds and to distance ourselves from others. Instead, the day before his birthday on the 24th, he and I are going to go to a Mexican restaurant and have lunch. We figured that that's a compromise that won't be too dangerous.

It was always an honor, though, to present him a chip in front of a large group because he had been sober long before many of the people in the room had even been born. But once again, I realize that we have to practice the principles that we learned in the program – and that is that the only thing we can count on in life is change. And the 12 step programs teach us that if we want to remain emotionally healthy and sober we must understand that change is the only thing in life that we can really count on.

Even if it is sometimes painful.

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 13, 2020


The only thing we can count on is change.

I was reminded of that again today when I was talking to a college student working at a fast food restaurant. She was wise beyond her years, which was somewhere in her mid-20s, because when I was her age I never thought about such things as change. I kind of had a decent life at that point – not great but not bad – but still I never thought about change being part of my world. At least not in a major way.

When I was her age, roughly 60 years ago, life was much simpler. The technology of today did not exist. If someone had told me that everyone, even poor people, would have a powerful telephone that they spent a lot of time looking at I would've thought they were crazy. The idea of a mass-produced electric car was something that I never dreamed of.  And now I drive one.

In those days I never thought our country would be in turmoil over racial differences – it never crossed my mind.

I lived in rural Oregon as a child and it was rare to see minorities. I remember when a student from Mexico enrolled in our school he was treated with awe. None of us were antagonistic toward him; in fact it was almost as if an alien had landed on our schoolyard because he dressed and talked so much differently from the country kids in that small town of 300. We were fascinated with the way he spoke and dressed and the burritos and tacos he brought to school for lunch. Everyone welcomed him and treated him nicely. And I don't even remember seeing a black person except once in a while there would be a crew from the nearby railroad that shopped at the small country store in the middle of town. But we rarely had occasion to talk with them and didn't even think about their color. They were just like everyone else in that part of the world, they were working to make a living.

Late last year and early this year I recall being optimistic about the future of our company and our country. No one anticipated that we would have a virus that none of us had seen before, one that would rock our economy, and have us working from home. Nor, in the midst of that challenge, did anyone believe a police officer would murder a black man in public on camera and set off widespread racial turmoil that is still going as I write this.

Somehow I'm optimistic enough to believe that positive things will come these differences as long as things don't get too far out of control. Sometimes radical change stems from radical behavior. But I don't even count on that – all I can really count on is change.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Want Equality?

I mostly talk about recovery on these pages. But today I'm going to wander off into the weeds a little bit and make some comments that sort of relate to the current political situation.

Many years ago – around 50 – I was doing 10 years in prison for possession of heroin. I knew that if I behaved while I was there I could cut a lot of years off of that sentence. So I ended up going to school.

Even though I already had a GED that I'd acquired while I was in a juvenile prison, I believed that more education would give me some opportunities once I was released. So I took typing classes, correspondence courses in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, became a staff writer for the prison newspaper (eventually becoming editor), and taught myself Spanish grammar and got enough practice with my fellow inmates who spoke Spanish that I eventually became an interpreter several years later. Stick around because I'm going somewhere with this. We select we get

A lot of what we hear in today's current political climate is that minorities lack opportunities for education and advancement in society. But I disagree with that. I believe that if one is on fire – no matter what their circumstances or where they come from – they can become successful. But there's a little problem between going from where you are and achieving success: and it's a little word called work. Most people are not willing to put in the work to succeed in life.

And many of the protesters that we see right now breaking out department store windows and hauling out bags of stolen luxury items such as $250 pairs of tennis shoes, luggage, and other goods that many people work very hard to pay for are not looking for equal opportunities. The opportunities are there if one is looking for them. What the so-called "disadvantaged and oppressed" want out of life is equal outcomes. But that's not the way the world works.

In the almost 30 years that I've been operating TLC as CEO I've seen many men walk into our program with nothing. They came from the streets. Maybe they were released from prison. Many had zero education, yet today some of them are millionaires with their own businesses.  Others have obtained doctors degrees in various disciplines.

And the only difference between them and those who end up with nothing, is that they were on fire to succeed and did so. They did not revert to drugs and alcohol. They kept their eyes focused on their goal of seeking a successful life – and they did so.

So ask yourself what you looking for: equal opportunity? Or equal outcomes?

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 7, 2020

RIP Greg

We got the message late last evening that a long time former TLC client and manager had passed away, reportedly of cirrhosis.

While you probably shouldn't believe anything you hear on the Internet – including what I write here – we'd been getting reports over the past few years that he was suffering from hepatitis C. And that it had progressed into cirrhosis.

I spent many an hour with Greg during counseling sessions to which he made many insightful contributions. For quite a period he was manager of the hard six- program and helped many other alcoholics and addicts stay sober. He had a wealth of experience and, if I'm not mistaken, was close to obtaining his Masters degree in psychology. He was a pleasant personality, usually with a smile on his face, and a pleasant word for whoever he encountered.

Maybe the biggest difficulty in his life, one that many addicts and alcoholics share, is he had difficulty staying sober – in spite of all his experience and education. A few years ago he parted from TLC and went to work with one or two other former residents who were operating their own halfway houses.

After he left I never saw him again. I heard a lot of rumors over the grapevine that he was frequently in the hospital being treated for his cirrhosis – then we got this latest message.

All of us at TLC wish you well Greg as you travel on the next phase of your journey.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Making Amends

Making amends is simple. Yet many people I work with in the 12 step programs find them difficult. And I was one who had a difficult time making amends. But before long I realized that I had been making a big deal out of nothing.

After I was sober about a year I talked to my sponsor about beginning to make amends. And he guided me through the process. He told me to start with little things like making apologies to those I had harmed. And he suggested that I could get some practice, probably on a daily basis by just immediately apologizing to someone if I felt like I offended them in some way.

Maybe I interrupted them while they were speaking, which gave me an opportunity to apologize and tell them to go ahead with what they were saying. Or maybe I started an argument with them over something trivial is because my ego said I had to be right, when in reality the right or wrong of most situations don't make much difference. A lot of times it's much easier to just keep our opinions to our self, because that's exactly what they are: opinions. And while we have a right to our opinions, we don't have a right to spread them all over everyone else.

After following his direction for a while I realized that apologizing and admitting my wrong was not a big deal as I thought.

But I have to tell you that the first amends I made – a financial amends – really scared the crap out of me. I'd been working for a meat and seafood company selling high-quality products door – to – door. At the same time, I was doing some heavy drinking and periodically using drugs. One day I ran out of money because I spent the proceeds of my sales on a one – man party of drinking and shooting heroin.

So not only did I owe him about $1500 for the products he had fronted me, I also kept the van that he let me drive to sell the products out of. Eventually, the police recovered the van from in front of the dope house I was at, but I still owed him for the products that I hadn't paid for. Now it wasn't so bad that I owed this man $1500 for his products, he also was a former professional football player who weighed about 350 pounds. When I thought about making amends to him, I visualized him sitting on me and squashing me like a bug before I could hand him the envelope into which I had placed 15 $100 bills that I owed him.

Fortunately, I was faster than he was and was able to fan the $1500 out in front of him at his desk before he could strangle me or do something else terrible to my body. That was the biggest amends I had to make, and once I got through the trauma of that the rest of them were pretty easy.

I think it is characteristic of us alcoholics and addicts to magnify everything and make them bigger than they are, both good and bad things. Actually, after I repaid the man, he offered me my old job back but by then I was working in the recovery field and knew that I had to continue doing what I was doing if I was going to stay sober and clean. But I did get to sincerely apologize to him and pay him back and felt much better afterward.

So, if making amends is on your mind and seems challenging, start out with little things and work your way up to the things that you're afraid to apologize for. Most people understand that we have problems and that we did what we did not because we were bad people – but because we were addicts and alcoholics who had only one mission in life – which was to stay high.

Click here to email John

Monday, June 1, 2020

What's it really About

I don't write about politics very often. And that's because I don't pretend I know a lot about politics or the way the world should run.

But the things that are going on across the country right now, the burnings and the "so-called" protests and riots over the murder of a black man in Minneapolis somehow don't connect for me.

First of all, one of the things I notice is that many of the people out protesting are not minorities but appear to be some of the privileged white people that minorities complain about.

By no stretch of the imagination can one connect the murder in Minneapolis with the smashing of plate glass windows in upscale stores across the country. Tell me how looting and burning have anything to do with this man's death.

Yes this man's death was horrible and unjust – and hopefully the perpetrator will be punished with a life term. Also, the officers who were with him should suffer some punishment for their role in failing to prevent this man's death. In fact they probably should face the same charges the perpetrator did.

The destruction and fires across the country seem to have more to do with out and out criminality or a broad-based anger at the system, the so-called "man." But the reality is that we live in one of the best countries in the world in terms of opportunity to better our lives. But what these people want, from my perspective is not to better their lives, not to have equal opportunity – but to have equal outcomes. In other words they want to live in a world of far left socialism where they don't have to work for a living, or where someone else will pay for their education, or their healthcare will be given to them for free, and they won't have to do anything responsible with their lives.

Yet there's never been a place in the world where socialism or communism has shown to be successful in the long term. When we aren't responsible for our own lives, for our own education, and for our own income, we are abject failures as human beings. It seems like these days that so many people feel like victims because others have more than they have. Rather than looking at others who are more successful than they are as role models, they look at them with envy and hatred. They want what they have but they are unwilling to work and study and struggle to get it. They somehow feel like successful people have stolen everything they've gotten - rather than working for it.

If they succeed in bringing down our society to any degree, they will realize what real suffering is about because all of us will have a little bit less of everything that success is about.

I believe that if you have an idea for a more successful world don't try to smash the one you're in – try to improve it with all of your might and then see what the results are. You might be surprised.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Benefits of Sobriety

At one time, deep in the muck of my addiction I doubted that I'd live to be 40.

And, now, this coming Sunday, God willing, I'll have been on the planet 81 years.  It was something I never expected to happen.  And I owe it all to the fact that I decided at age 51 that I was either going to get sober, die, or go back to prison.

I chose sobriety.

And it was one of the best decisions of my life. Today I enjoy all the promises of the 12-step programs.  I have many friends. A nice home I've owned for 21 years. I'm on mostly good terms with family members and am blessed that their lives took a different path than mine.  No drugs today, not in prison, working and being examples for their own children.

The only message I have for you is that staying sober has it rewards - but they don't come overnight. 

All I have is gratitude for what life has brought me, freedom from the tyranny of heroin and alcohol. 

Give yourself time and you'll enjoy the same blessings.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Let's Worry

I used to have a client who visited my office at least once a week to tell me about his worries.

He was concerned that his family wouldn't accept him upon his return from treatment.  He worried that he might not be able to find a job once he graduated. He wasn't sure that his wife would accept him upon his return home. And so on.

It was always something, usually something small that was driving him to distraction.  And foolishly, I would listen to his concerns until he got them all out and then give him some suggestions of what he could do to solve his problems of the day.

Then I decided to try an experiment.  The next time he came to my office I asked him if he really wanted a solution to his problems.  He said he did so I gave him an assignment.  I told him that he would have a rule about worrying.

It was that he had couldn't worry until a certain hour of the day - which he would choose. The rule was that he couldn't worry at any other time of day until the hour that he had picked. Once that hour came he would go to his room or some other quiet place and begin to worry.  And that was all that he could do.  He couldn't make phone calls.  He couldn't watch television.  All he could do is worry, to immerse himself in his problems.

And surprisingly it worked.  Once he began to worry on a certain schedule he came to realize that he did had some control over his thinking, that it didn't have to control him every minute of the day.  And soon he came to realize that most of what he was worried about were small things that were of little significance or larger things that he had little or no power over.

If you face his issue, it might also work for you.  It's free to try.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Neglecting our Children

Today is my oldest daughter's birthday and I wish her a happy one.  She's in her fifties now, born in 1966 when I was finishing up a prison term for possessing heroin.

Needless to say, she didn't have the best upbringing as both her mother and I were addicts whose only concerns were our own self-gratification.  She went without a lot of things that other kids took for granted. But the biggest thing she went without was the security of parents who nurtured her and spent time with her.  She never spent much time with her father because of he life he chose.

In half a year I'll have 30 years sober.  And during that time I've done what I can to be a good father.  And I think I've succeeded in many ways.  I've taken her on vacations.  I've helped her with some of her business ventures and have helped her financially on many occasions.

But no amount of money can make up for being an absentee parent, a parent who was never involved in his daughter's early upbringing and education.  Money and material things can't replace lost time.

I write this to encourage the addicts among you to  think of the damage you're doing your children because - like me - you're only thinking of your next drink or fix. Use your children as motivation for change and you'll be rewarded when they're grown and have gratitude for the time you spent with them. 

Today I regret the time I missed with my children - but maybe you'll able to do a better job.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Confusing Times

Being an octogenarian, I've been through many things in my lifetime. So many, in fact, that I didn't think there was too much that could surprise me. But this pandemic – the so-called corona virus – is something that most of us have never experienced. And hopefully we'll never experience it again. But the magnitude of it – plus people's reactions – contains many surprises.

One of the bigger surprises is the total confusion of the politicians and medical people. I often read my news on the Internet because there's such a variety to choose from. But regardless of what site I pick I find conflicting opinions about the causes and the potential cures of the pandemic. Where are the grownups in our life today?

One medical expert is absolutely certain that this thing will end early next year. The next so-called expert says it'll never completely go away. Yet another will say that the vaccine is right around the corner, although we still haven't found a vaccine for the last pandemic.

And the politicians are a joke. Even though I've been a conservative most of my life and back what the president is doing, even some in his own administration disagree with his approach. But what people don't stop and realize is that no one man has the power to create or cure something of the magnitude of this disease that's spreading around the world. Based upon party lines, politicians are slinging rhetoric back and forth about who is at fault and what the solutions are. But not much of it is based in reality; in fact their opinions are about as valid as yours and mine – maybe.

So what do we do when faced with such a huge problem – one that seems to defy explanation? I don't know what others should do, I only know what I do.

And what I do is not associate with a lot of people. But on the other hand I don't wear a mask but do keep my distance from others. I don't do a lot of socializing except with a few close family members and friends who as far as I know don't have any diseases.

My job requires that I work with a large relatively unhealthy population of drug addicts and alcoholics. Yet the interesting thing is that not one of them has come down with the corona virus; we did have a few suspects but the doctors told them they had nothing more than a cold or the flu. It's almost mysterious to me why, out of nearly 700 people who have lived high-risk lifestyles, not one of them has contracted this virus; neither the young nor the old.

I guess in a situation like this all I can do is be peaceful and calm and know that the universe doesn't make a lot of mistakes about what happens. Maybe the purpose of all of this is to really find a vaccine for devastating diseases, although during the process many innocent people will die. Perhaps a few will be sacrificed to save the many. But the reality is that no one knows.

So once again, I believe we should fall back upon acceptance if we want to have any kind of peace in our life at all. If we trust in a higher power of any kind then we have to trust that all of this is gonna work out okay.

Sunday, May 17, 2020


"I've been through many terrible things in my life, and some of them really happened." Mark Twain

This saying, by Mark Twain, is one of my favorites. I like it because it sums up the human dilemma: our chattering brains constantly lead us down the path of anxiety and sometimes outright fear. What's going to happen tomorrow? Why do  things like this happen to me? Am I going to get fired? Am I going to get a raise? Does this corona virus mean the world is going to suddenly end?

Variations of thoughts like this flit about in our mind constantly. But the things we worry about that might happen are not something positive. It's generally something negative.

When I was much younger I used to let this constant chattering in my brain lead me all over the place. And for many years that led me to drugs and alcohol. When I did drugs and alcohol at least I was in some kind of control my feelings. I knew that I was going to get blasted and numb – in a state where whatever happened seemed very unimportant because I wasn't really feeling anything at all except numbness.

Today, to help preserve my own mental health and the mental health of those around me I teach that the only thing we can count on in life is that things will be different tomorrow. After all, we all wake up in a new day. While it might not be radically different from the day before, there are usually some minor differences. And then there are the major differences, like natural disasters and pandemics like this corona virus.

The point here is, that if we can accept the idea that things are always changing and will always be somewhat different – if not radically so – then we won't go off the tracks when something new shows up. Instead, we tell ourselves that, I accept whatever changes the universe brings to my life whether they be something terrible or perhaps a wonderful blessing. Because, even good things can get us upset.

It's imperative that change comes to all of our lives because that's how the human race developed to the point that it did. But none of us were promised that everything was always going to be a bed of roses. There are a lot of spoiled people right now who are throwing protests and wanting things to be like they were before the pandemic started. They want everything to go back to the so-called "normal."

But that is never going to happen because there have already been too many changes in daily life and in the world at large. Whatever happens – we must accept it for what it is – or else live a life of misery and unhappiness.

As it says in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, "acceptance is the key to all of my problems today."

Click here to email John

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Flowing with Life

Lately the world seems upside down.

Depending on the news channel you watch or the radio station you listen to or what newspaper you read you'll get conflicting reports about the corona virus. One so-called authority tells us we need to do this. Another so-called authority will tell us that we must do that. Some people require that we wear masks in their business. Others are totally against them. What's a person to believe?

I notice now that restrictions are being slowly lifted there's been absolutely no decline or decrease in new cases of the corona virus in Arizona; nor has the death rate decreased – in fact it has increased each day. How do we – the ordinary citizen – interpret what our leaders are doing with the restrictions that they're putting in effect?

By asking this question I in no way suggest that I have a better answer. Because I don't. The job our leaders are doing is a complex one; even the medical authorities cannot agree what's the best course. Political factions on both sides are equally baffled by this disease and have no ready answer. However, that doesn't keep them from suggesting an answer. And hope they might win votes if they somehow happen to get lucky and be right.

But as a person in recovery for 29 years I do have a few ideas of how we can get through this thing relatively sane. And one thing we must do, is to learn to flow with life. Because this is not the end of the world. The world will rebound, but it probably will never go back to being as it was. It may actually evolve into something better such as new medical discoveries and some breakthrough ideas about how to deal with pandemics and diseases. We really don't know.

When I say we must flow with life, I mean we must take this new challenge in stride. We must make the best of our circumstances and follow whatever medical authorities suggest we do that also fits in with our personal beliefs or standards. The reality is that none of us have faced anything like this in our lifetimes – and we must do everything we can to remain calm, to stay healthy, and hope and pray that science finds a solution to this deadly disease.

And for those of us in recovery, who at one time picked up a drug or drink over the slightest setback, we must use the principles of recovery that we have learned in the past few years and meet this challenge as we have met other challenges that could threaten our recovery. After all, we must realize that there is nothing unnatural about this pandemic – they have been occurring since the beginning of time and they will continue to happen as long as life exists on our planet.

We can use most any excuse to get drunk and make things worse. Or we can learn to flow with life and practice the principles we have learned to this point to get through this current and terrible disease.

Click here to email John

Monday, May 11, 2020

Meeting the Challenge

We find out what people are made out of when times are tough. Right now something like 20 million Americans are unemployed. There's a lot of chaos in government.  We hear a lot of anxiety in the press. Yet, other than a few isolated incidents it seems like everyone is hanging in there, at least in our program.

The interesting thing about TLC is that we are probably doing as good as we ever have, both population – wise and financially. And it seems like when we face challenges like this our clients rise up and do better than when times are are good and life is relatively normal. Whatever normal is.

Another example of this was during the last recession when Obama was president. There were several people in our staff who didn't take a salary for 3 to 4 years. They cut back on their expenses and lived off of savings or other income. A similar situation occurred during the attack on 9/11 when the economy went into a tailspin for a while. Some of our staff members took a 10% pay cut until things became flush again.

Maybe because of the nature of this pandemic we have lost a couple of key people who had been with us for at least 10 years. One of them just kind of disappeared with a very brief notice; the other relapsed and fell back into his old behavior after achieving about three years of sobriety. I'm not sure what went on with those two, but it may have just been the magnitude of this pandemic that made them realize how unpredictable life can be. For them, it might've been fear of the future, him him just been the slight push it took to send them back to their drug of choice – who knows?

All I know that in my 81 years I've never seen a situation that parallels this one. But it fits exactly with my motto: "The only thing we can count on in life is that things will be different tomorrow."

And how we handle that tomorrow tells a whole lot about who we are and what we're made of.

Click here to email John

Friday, May 8, 2020

Back to Life

So the rumors are out.

Some states. maybe including ours, are going to be opening up again. That's what we hear.  And I guess that who we believe depends upon our political persuasion.

For most of us this is a new experience, being locked up in our own homes.  Not having the freedoms we've been used to for decades.

Depending on one's political outlook, most anyone could have made the wrong decision about opening or not opening.  The reality of pandemics and viruses is that they are a part of nature that we don't have immediate control over.

After all, AIDs killed something like 25 million before science could slow it down.  The so-called Spanish Flu killed an estimated 50 to 100 million before it's devastation slowed.  SARs and H1N1 took their toll before we could get a grip on them.

The reality is that all of these disasters have appeared before. And will show up again.  Many people were taken before their time.  So what do we do when confronted with these kinds of challenges?  Do we start looking at our lives differently?  Do we not use our time frivolously and start helping the world become a better place?  It's our choice.

Myself, I choose to contribute to better the lives of addicts and alcoholics who seek change.  Those who don't want change - well that's their business.

But the reality for us all is that we have the same amount of time - and we can choose to use it however we want.  We can waste it, or we can use it everyone's benefit. It's our choice.

Before the next disaster shows up.

Click here to email John

Monday, May 4, 2020

Changing Perspective

It seems that since this pandemic has struck, time has slowed down.  There's less pressure to hurry and get things done.  Yet once the work is done it seems I can turn my attention to things I've been putting off.

My routine used to consist of awakening around six in the morning, meditating for half an hour, working out, then getting ready to leave for the office.  Which meant I'd arrive there around eight or nine a.m.

And depending on which day of the week it was it would be noon before I knew it.

And that's because when I went to the office a lot of my time would be spent in dealing with manager or client issues.  Sometimes I wouldn't get done with my accounting,  mail, and other paperwork until noon.

But now that I'm not dealing with people issues it seems like I get most of the mechanical stuff out of the way within 90 minutes or less.  I guess it's mostly about focus.

I do spend more time on the phone, because that's now how most of our business is done from home.  When we run client groups and individual therapy we use Zoom, a program that allows us  to communicate face-to-face via the computer screen.  It works well.

When things like this pandemic occur it seems to makes us more creative and adaptable. I know that some 12-step meetings gather outdoors to observe social distancing and still have a meeting.  And most professionals, including my doctor, bankers and insurance people all work from home via Zoom or telephone.

The world does move on, but as a person who doesn't like change I kind of long for the pre-pandemic days...

Click here to email John

Friday, May 1, 2020


Very rarely do I get a cold. Nor do I get the flu. I've just never been susceptible to colds. And each year I get a flu shot and most of the time it works.

But last Friday I started getting a temperature. Nothing great, just up to around 102. And I started feeling like crap, like maybe I had the flu and cold and allergies all mixed together. So immediately, my addict mind started thinking, "oh no," Covid 19.

I called my Doctor's office and spoke to him for a moment and he assured me that I did not have the virus. He didn't rule out the flu. Or cold. Or allergies. He told me to get some rest and call him during the week if I got worse. And even though I didn't have the Covid 19 virus he suggested that I self quarantine for two weeks.

At first I resisted the idea. But since I have a small office at my house that's the same as the one at TLC's corporate office, it's really no problem for me to work from home. Once I got over my sore throat and flu-like symptoms after a few days it wasn't bad at all.

Other than being a little lonely, it is in some ways a lot better. I could focus on projects without interruption, other than a few phone calls. I felt a lot more efficient because I like to work straight through without interruptions.

Actually, I view this as a test run for the day I decide to move to the beach in Mexico or San Diego for part of the year and work from a remote office there. So far, I haven't found any obstacles to that idea during this first week at home. Next week I may discover some obstacles, but I'll deal with those when I get to them.

I know that this pandemic has turned the world upside down, but then we were never promised that our lives would be perfect. Dealing with challenges and staying sober is our assignment. This is the time to do it.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Thinking Differently

We can get a a lot of information off YouTube if we take the time to seek out and listen to some of the great speakers on the website.

I find some on Ted Talks. Ted, for those who who don't know, stands for technology, education, and design. There you will find speakers who speak on most any subject in the world. And I mean any. It is a good way to get a free education in creative thinking or philosophy.

Then there are speakers who speak on YouTube as a way of spreading influence and ideas.

One of those is professor and author Srikumar Rao. He has YouTube podcasts of all lengths and descriptions - free for our listening.

Most teach us how to gain confidence and build resilience as we work toward our goals. Some of his better ones are about how you get over the idea that you have control over yourself or anything else. He teaches that it's a fallacy to think that getting what you want will make you happy.

He says that from the time we're children, all our effort goes toward controlling the world. Our friends, our environment, our family, our employers. Everything and everyone.

But the reality, he says, is that we've never had control over anyone or anything. We don't have control over anything now. And we never will have control over anything.

And when we have this desire to control everything we're disappointed because we come up short. People don't do what we want. Or if they do, they don't do it the way we want. The universe doesn't pay attention to us.  How disappointing,

But he says if we accept that we don't have control, we'll be very happy because we no longer will struggle internally over anything. We'll live in acceptance about everything –  and regardless of  the challenge – our lives will be so much easier.

Click here to email John

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sick Puppy

Although I've been on the planet more than 80 years, one thing that I never get used to it is feeling ill. I'm a person who just doesn't suffer very well and when I don't feel well I'll curl up in a corner of the sofa or bed and wait for things to pass.. And that's the situation that I'm in since last night. And on top of not feeling well – kind of flu – like symptoms – I also have a case of the hiccups. I don't know where the hell they came from; but they make it difficult to sleep and relax.

 I was up all night and then felt a little better this morning. When I'm feeling like I do now I just try to stay away from others, so I don't spread my misery – or possibly my ailment – onto them. I also reflect on how healthy I've been much of my life in spite of drinking alcohol for 42 years and shooting heroin for 38 years. In fact, I tell myself that I'm lucky to be alive.

One of the things that really comes to the forefront is how much people care about me and my health. I receive nice get well messages from staff members that I don't ordinarily have a lot of communication with. One of my daughters made me some lentil soup to take home.

But probably the thing that helps me the most, is that I reflect upon how many clients we've had who have suffered from terminal illnesses and didn't feel sorry for themselves at all. We had a guy who was only 38 years old when he died last week from leukemia, He was the nicest guy in the program. Yet he died in his sleep within a week of graduating and returning home,

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Another Relapse

Over the years we've accepted many people into our recovery program who are chronic relapsers. And while many stay sober, some have been coming in and out for years.

Most do well as long as they're on a restricted program, where the only thing they do is work, go to 12 step meetings, and attend house meetings. Our rule is that if someone has been in the program three times, without success, then they enter our hard six program. The first time they're in that program they're restricted to the property for six months. The second time they leave and come back they're on restriction for 12 months. And the third time it could be as long as 18 months.

You might ask why we keep taking them back after so many relapses?

We changed our policy when we had a bad experience about 20 years ago after we told a man that he could no longer return because he'd been here too many times – that we were unable to help him. Within a week after we turned him away he was found on a sidewalk in Phoenix, dead from alcohol poisoning. Over the years we've had a number of alcoholics relapse, disappear, and be found dead somewhere from drinking. One was found in a field in Apache Junction, surrounded by empty liquor bottles. A few years ago another man was found in an empty lot in Phoenix after drinking himself to death.

We had a man this week disappear after being sober for nearly 4 years – the longest time he'd accumulated in the past 15 years or so. He started out in our program in Las Vegas, and eventually transferred to Phoenix. He has a pattern of staying sober a while, getting off restriction, doing well for a few months and then picking up a bottle and starting off on another run. The last time we found him and took him back into the program, he was close to death. Within a few years he got his driver's license back. He'd worked his way off restriction. He'd purchased a vehicle and a supply of tools. He was chairing meetings and appeared to be working a strong program. Then all of a sudden he's nowhere to be found. Three empty vodka bottles were in the trash at the property where he lived. And it was obvious what had happened.

And if he survives this drinking binge I know we'll take him back. Because the alternative isn't good. If we turn them away he'll continue to drink until he either has a seizure, gets killed in an accident, or dies of alcohol poisoning. And when things like that happen it's devastating because people who have been with us so long become almost like members of our family.

The only thing we can do is our part: be here for those who are willing to trying get sober one more time.

Click here to email John

Friday, April 17, 2020

RIP Conor

We received the news earlier this week that a longtime resident of our treatment program passed away in his sleep shortly after he left TLC Treatment and returned to his home on the East Coast.

And it's been kind of gloomy around the treatment program the last few days because Conor was well- loved by the staff and therapists who worked with him, as well as the other clients.

I first met him almost a year ago when he came to my office to ask if I'd hypnotize him so he could quit smoking. I agreed. And a few days later he returned and we had a one hour session. We had a couple of follow-up meetings after that and he was able to break the habit.

I didn't know much of his history at the time, but he told me he was battling a rare blood disease – I believe something related to leukemia – and that he wanted to quit smoking because that would give his body more energy to fight the disease. During the nearly a year he was with us he had many doctors appointments and spent short periods of time in the hospital. When I'd run into him around the campus he was always pleasant and usually smiling. We'd chat briefly and I was always impressed with his equanimity in the face of a life-threatening disease.

He also was serious about his recovery, attended many meetings, and worked regularly with his sponsor. He was a strong example for the other clients because – in spite of his health challenges – he kept a pleasant demeanor and never complained about anything. He did everything expected of him in the treatment program and never used his illness as an excuse to miss meetings or not participate.

He was an example for me, because I don't know how I'd respond to a life-threatening illness that was causing me pain. Would I have the same courage as he? And do everything I could to fight for survival? Or even though I have 29 years sober, would I relapse and return to my drug of choice to kill the pain? Of course this is a rhetorical question, but still I was impressed with his courage in the face of such a daunting challenge.

May you rest in peace, Conor. And thank you for the time you shared with us. By your example you made all of our lives a little better.

Click here to email John.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Fixing our Lives

"You are not responsible for the programming you received in childhood. But as an adult, you are 100% responsible for fixing it."  Author Unknown

I had a very confusing childhood. I would live for a while with one parent, then with the other parent. Finally a judge gave custody of my brother and me to my mother. Since I lived with my mother – who was living with my grandmother and grandfather – I was raised by an assortment of people. Mostly good people, but still people with different values. As part of the divorce settlement my father was allowed to take my brother and me for one weekend each month.

And since he was a functioning alcoholic who was always angry and fighting with somebody, my brother and I got a different sort of education from him.

Finally, when I was about five years old, my father picked my brother and me up for a weekend visit and took us to live in Oregon, where he'd bought a farm. My mother didn't know where we were for three years. And it was another four years before she was able to regain custody of us and take us back to California, where she had custody.

Needless to say, living for seven years with an angry, raging alcoholic taught me to also be angry and frustrated. I learned how to solve my problems by fighting or going into a rage. And it took many years for me to change that. My anger led me down a dark path. Into alcoholism, drug addiction, mental hospitals and prisons.

I cite this brief biography, because many of our clients were raised in similar situations. A lot of our work at TLC is to teach people how to be responsible. Many are stuck on the trauma that was imposed on them by parents who either didn't care or didn't know better. It's understandable why many people drank and used drugs. It's because they don't know any better. It was a shortcut to killing pain and the short term solution to their problem. But eventually, life and justice caught up with them and their life continues to spiral downward. They either got into trouble with the law, or their health gets bad, and they lose everything they might have accomplished to that point in their lives. And then they end up either in jail or in a place like ours trying to change.

Our job is not easy. It's not easy to get people to look at themselves and realize that they're the ones who are responsible for change. Even though I agree that what happened to them might have been traumatic or terrible, they're the only ones who can rescue themselves.

And the only reason I can state that with such authority is because that's what happened to me. In my early fifties I decided that I was either going to get clean and sober or else my habits would kill me. My childhood had traumatized me to the degree that I was always in pain. And it took me a lot of therapy and looking at myself before I was able to accept that those things had happened. And that I could do nothing about them today but accept them as part of the reality of my early upbringing. Once I did that, my anger subsided and I realized that I had to make the best of what was left of my life. And so I did.

I believe today that I was one of the fortunate ones who was able to work my way through all my issues and get to the place I am now. I know there's nothing I can do about the past, other than accept it and all the ugliness that went with it. And it's the same with the future: whatever comes I must accept it if I want lasting happiness.

And that's what I do today.

Click here to email John

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Leaving the Past

The addicts we deal with come from many backgrounds and cultures.  But it seems the majority of them have things in common:  they were either raised by very permissive parents who gave them whatever they wanted - or else they were raised by parents who neglected and abused them physically, emotionally, or both.

Perhaps the largest group consists of those raised by permissive parents who gave them pretty much whatever they wanted.  They didn't discourage them from drinking, using drugs, or have sex when they were teenagers.  They acted like it was a "phase" they were going through.

They might have paid lip service to the idea they should use birth control and not drive while under the influence.  But otherwise they had the attitude that as long as the child did fairly well in school and stayed out of trouble with the law there was no real harm.

And the other group, those who were neglected and abused - spent more time with friends who had similar home lives. Often, the clients in this group were raised by parents who themselves used drugs and got crossed up with the law.  They were primarily concerned about their own addictions and didn't have time for their children.

One of our functions here is to teach clients to live so-called "normal" lives.  To teach them to be responsible for themselves.  We often agree with those who blame their parents for their addictions and social problems.  But we also teach them that no amount of blame or finger-pointing is going to help them live a better life.

While it's one thing to vent about those who didn't point us in the right direction, it's a waste of time in terms of improving our futures.  Regardless of our upbringing, we must move past yesterday if we want a fulfilling life.  Often a client's anger toward the parent is so embedded that it may take them time to come to terms with their past and start living for their own self-interest.

But the bulk of them graduate from our program with the perspective that they're responsible for their own recovery and that blaming others only impedes their growth.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Business as Usual

Even though this pandemic is ripping through the country and impacting a lot of businesses, TLC is functioning pretty much as normal.

Our count is still above 800.  The treatment program is able to operate as usual, utilizing the services of a program called Zoom which allows us to do both group and individual counseling remotely via computer.  Therapists and some office personnel have been able to work from home.

While a few clients who work outside the program have lost their jobs, others have been able to find employment because some companies lost employees that elected to stay home and self-quarantine.

Most clients have been helpful and cooperative and we've had a lot less drama than normal.  I think the gravity of the Covid-19 epidemic has perhaps made people a little more serious-minded.

One important part of the program that we all miss is that clients aren't allowed to attend outside 12-step meetings or attend church.  An important part of the program, especially during the first 90 days is meeting attendance.  It gives clients a chance to hear others' success stories and also to meet with their sponsors.

But, considering the gravity of this situation, these are small inconveniences when one considers the potential consequences of contracting this illness - which none our clients have.

Click here to email John

Saturday, April 4, 2020

New Challenges

Here's a pandemic update.

With over 800 clients it would seem we'd have a case or two of Covid-19.  After all, addicts and alcoholics don't always follow the best health practices.  But so far, we've had less than six people who were suspected of contracting it.  And all of them are medically cleared as of this writing.

As far as we can tell, our clients are taking this pandemic seriously.  They keep their distance from one another. Group meetings of all kinds have been suspended until further notice.  None are allowed to attend outside 12-step or other group functions.

Our treatment programs are avoiding possible transmission of the virus by using software from Zoom, which allows clients to enjoy the benefits of group and one-to-one therapy meetings without leaving their houses.

Clients wash their hands frequently and cleaning crews are constantly scrubbing the houses.

Most of the clients employed by outside companies are retaining their jobs.  And several companies have asked us to supply more employees - particularly retail outlets that are having difficulty keeping their shelves stocked

While none of us know how long this virus will be around, we're doing everything we can to keep it from spreading further or growing in intensity.

Many of us are finding this a good time to practice the principles of recovery and to be patient and tolerant of others.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

New Measures

Here in Arizona we're now supposed to stay home after 5 PM. each day for the rest of the month of April. This was passed on to the public at a governor's news conference yesterday. Someone told me that we could get out to purchase certain necessities like food, gasoline, or medical treatment. But the reality is, this is so new that nobody really know what's going. The only people who are leaving home during the day are those who work in vital industries, such as hospitals, markets, and other institutions that provide the daily necessities of life.

For us recovering addicts and alcoholics things like this used to be an excuse to relapse and deal with anxiety as we always did: calm ourselves with a healthy dose of drugs or alcohol. 

At TLC those of us on the corporate staff really didn't know what to expect from clients. But not much has changed in our program. In fact, our population has increased by about 25 or 30 and everybody has continued to work on their outside jobs or at TLC on their volunteer jobs inside the program. Maybe the idea that we're all facing an unknown crisis – one like we've never encountered before – is bringing out the best in everyone. I've seen in the media that a lot of outside groups are  volunteering to help neighbors and others who are more vulnerable to this virus. And it's heartening to me to see people helping each other when things get tough.

Something that I commonly hear lately is that the world will never be the same again. And it's easy to believe that because because this is an enemy we've never encountered, at least on this scale. The last time anything of this magnitude occurred was in 1918 when some 50,000,000 people died from the Spanish flu. And possibly it could have been a larger number, because communication was much more primitive over 100 years ago and it was harder to come by reliable information from third world countries. Yet the world got through it and prospered to where it is today.

My thought is that the survivors will come through this as more grateful and stronger people.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Positive Results?

There's been a lot of chatter about the pandemic, Coronavirus – 19.

And after seeing some of the results of that chatter for the last few days I'm beginning to think that this pandemic may have some positive sides to it.

All of a sudden – or at least as fast as Congress moves – the government has come up with some sort of financial agreement that will put trillions into the economy to fight the expected impact of this new disease. All of a sudden people in government – former adversaries – have temporarily overcome their animosity and hammered out some kind of an agreement. All of a sudden, they've found interests in common.

And just this evening I saw a blurb on the Internet where the Federal Drug Administration had approved a new testing device that will discover if someone is infected with the coronavirus within 15 minutes. Now considering that the coronavirus just came to the surface during the first months of this year, this is lightning speed for this agency to move. This is a great improvement over the former test, which took something like eight hours before results could be learned.

To me it kind of shows that when there's a common adversary such as a disease that threatens all of us, that people can forget their petty differences and learn how to work together. Large companies have joined in the effort by stopping the production of automobiles to produce ventilators for hospitals that are supposedly short of such equipment.

While there has been some petty bickering around the town I live in over toilet paper, hand-sanitizer, and other "necessities" of life, the few people who are out in public seem to be much nicer and more considerate. I think that we've learned that we all have a common enemy – a disease that we really don't know anything about or understand – and that we're not going to overcome it by squabbling.

When people join to battle a common adversary it seems that a lot of creative energy is released. Even though a lot of them have different motives there's a common goal. Some are concerned about the health of their families. Others about the health of their companies.

And many are loving human beings who have compassion for their fellow man and will do whatever it takes to help the world become a better place. I want to be a part of this latter group.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

CDC Coronavirus Information


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. 

Can people in the U.S. get COVID-19? 

Yes. COVID-19 is spreading from person to person in parts of the United States. Risk of infection with COVID-19 is higher for people who are close contacts of someone known to have COVID-19, for example healthcare workers, or household members. Other people at higher risk for infection are those who live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Learn more about places with ongoing spread at transmission.html#geographic.

Have there been cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.? 

Yes. The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020. The current count of cases of COVID-19 in the United States is available on CDC’s webpage at

How does COVID-19 spread? 

The virus that causes COVID-19 probably emerged from an animal source, but is now spreading from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses at coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of • fever • cough • shortness of breath 

What are severe complications from this virus? 

Some patients have pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure and in some cases death.

How can I help protect myself? 

People can help protect themselves from respiratory illness with everyday preventive actions. • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. 

If you are sick, to keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, you should 

• Stay home when you are sick. 
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. 
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 

What should I do if I recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19? 

If you have traveled from an affected area, there may be restrictions on your movements for up to 2 weeks. If you develop symptoms during that period (fever, cough, trouble breathing), seek medical advice. Call the office of your health care provider before you go, and tell them about your travel and your symptoms. They will give you instructions on how to get care without exposing other people to your illness. While sick, avoid contact with people, don’t go out and delay any travel to reduce the possibility of spreading illness to others. 

Is there a vaccine? 

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to take everyday preventive actions, like avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often. 

Is there a treatment? 

There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms.


Saturday, March 21, 2020


One thing in life that we can be sure about is that things will be different tomorrow. And this new virus from China is an example that proves it.

People in all walks of life were blindsided by the rapidity and suddenness of this new pandemic.

Those in the political world had their minds deeply wrapped around the different ways they were going to run their campaign. Inventors were working on their latest project, trying to figure out an answer to a problem that might have eluded them for years.

Parents trying to figure out how they were going to save going to save enough money to send their children to college. And the children who are graduating from college were trying to plan their next career move. Should I accept this job? What's the best use of my newly acquired skills?

Others were planning their social lives. Some were working on marriage plans. Others on vacation plans.

I'm willing to bet that not one of them was sitting around figuring out what they were going to do while they were quarantined for a week or a month or two months. Or how they were going to find enough toilet paper to wipe their butts while they stayed at home. Or how many different ways they could figure out how to prepare beans and rice so that their families could eat.

And the interesting thing about all of this is that no one knows where this thing is going. All of a sudden we are living in a time of immediate uncertainty.

This is really a big deal in my life because it's the first time I've ever encountered anything like this.

It's not one of those things where there's an easy solution. But it does make me tell myself how grateful I would be if this would all this go away and I could go back to the "problems" I was facing two to three weeks ago. It reminds me that I must always learn to live in the moment – because this might be the best moment I will ever experience.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Success Story

One of the most rewarding parts of operating a recovery program is when I get emails like the one below:  (Anything that would reveal the writer's identity has been left out to protect his anonymity.)

"Hey John, how are you?  

On May 17, 1993, I came to TLC helpless, homeless and hopeless. You and Rocky gave me a place to stay, food and a chance to make something of my life. Fast forward 27 years and I'm happily married, have kids in college, am an executive at a well-known global corporation and in May of this year I am graduating cum laude with my doctorate in business. Thank you for giving me a shot.

John, I learned something very important at TLC. I still use it today. 

Hitting a bottom that required me to show up homeless, full of ego, at one of your Mesa facilities with two plastic bags of dirty, urine-socked clothes, was not a death sentence. It was a second chance to start life over.  Only this time I could write the script. My biggest question at the time was what I wanted to be when I grew up (and got sober). 

I remember sitting out by that pool area and Janis Joplin came on the radio and sang a line I'd heard a  hundred times before: It was “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” 

With all my legal, IRS, financial and family issues still pending, that was my moment of clarity. I could do anything and go anywhere as long as I didn't drink. However, I also had to “build my brand”. I had to better myself in other ways to ensure I saw progress in other areas of my life along with my sobriety. 

Rocky used to tell me “You've got a thinking disease - you better find something to do with those f-d up thoughts of yours or your're going to drink again”. Well he was right. It was not good enough just to tell the world I don’t drink anymore, I had to become more valuable as a person, son, brother, employee and member of society. 

I chose the sobriety+school route. I started my masters right there at Pepper street, riding my bike and bus to UOP every weekend. For others it may be a different track. But the biggest take-away I learned was that starting over is a privilege not a consequence.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

More Hysteria

All of this hysteria about the corona virus is getting on my nerves. At least as much as I let anything get on my nerves.

When people ask me what I'm doing about the virus my response is "probably not much." I don't wash my hands any more than I normally do. I don't scrub my kitchen or bathroom any more than I normally do. I still wash my clothes on a regular schedule, as I normally do.

I haven't done any more grocery shopping than I normally do because I still have a freezer full of food, plus my pantry is three quarters full of beans and rice and other staples. I believe life presents us with enough issues without magnifying the threats that are posed by this virus.

After all, I wonder how many of these people thought about the dangers of our everyday life before this virus thing showed up. I think 70,000 people got killed last year by the flu virus, and I heard little or no hysteria about it. I didn't hear a lot more news about let's wash our hands more often. Let's stay out of crowds. Or let's cancel sporting events. People just went on with their everyday lives.

Nearly 500,000 people people died in the U.S. from smoking cigarettes last year, while another 41,000 died from inhaling secondhand smoke. But for some reason, we didn't hear this wave of hysteria about smoking, probably because a lot of big retailers would be losing major money if cigarettes were totally banned. However, the cartels would probably be happy because they would have a new product to put on the shelves.

Last year about 85 people died from jaywalking in the city of Phoenix; but no one heard much about that either. Opioid overdoses killed over a thousand people last year in Arizona, and at least that many each of the preceding three years; yet there was a little dust up about it and then it died down in the media and people went on to the next disaster.

One of the most ironic things I saw today was a 350 pound guy moving to the side of a market, pulling down a mask that he presumably was wearing to protect him from the corona virus, and lighting up a cigarette. Go figure. I guess he was trying to be kind of selective about what he was dying from.

I guess the point for me – besides an opportunity to vent – is that we can do a lot of things to take care of our health and to protect our families. But if we decide to mix in a large dose of hysteria and panic we do nothing to improve the situation. All hysteria and panic can do is cloud our thinking and prevent us from making the best decisions about how to survive whatever threats we're facing.

The reality is that most of us do not live optimal lives when it comes to taking care of our health. And the panicky worldwide reaction to this perceived threat – which may be a real threat as it has taken several lives – is doing absolutely zero to improve our odds of surviving.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Corona Hysteria?

Maybe I'm cynical, but this Corona virus thing is getting kind of boring. 

Not saying that it's not real.  Or that some people who have other conditions don't have reasons to be cautious, like people who are elderly or who have weak respiratory systems.

But when a person goes to the market and find that all the water or toilet tissue is sold out, that's what I pay attention to.  After all one must be on the hysterical side if they let the media excite them about a virus that so far - comparatively speaking - hasn't taken near the lives that some other diseases have taken.  Then there are the hucksters who sell masks on the internet at inflated prices that probably do nothing more than give others a false sense of security.  Fortunately, it's not against the law to look  stupid wearing a mask that has questionable value.

Not many people realize that something like 70,000 people a year succumb to flu in the U.S.  Or that around a hundred years ago the flu killed 50,000,000 people world-wide.  Some say it could have been twice that many because some believe that many third-world country deaths went unreported because of lack of communication at the time.

Yes, I'm profoundly sorry for those who have already lost a loved one to this disease, but I believe that our immune systems work much more efficiently when not being assaulted by hysterical media.

If one practices basis sanitation practices they'll likely be okay - in my opinion.

Click here to email John

Sunday, March 8, 2020


During a business meeting this week our staff began discussing plans to start offering more services to our clients. And of course the ideas we came up with were by no means new.

There are programs around the United States that offer the same services we do. One of them is Pioneer Human Services, in the state of Washington. They have trade schools and businesses where they teach clients good work habits and train them in various trade skills. That way, when they graduate they'll have a good foundation to start a new life. Pioneer Human Services operated for some time a decal business under contract with Boeing aircraft. That particular business provided decals for helicopters and other aircraft. Studies have shown that those with skills that allow them to support themselves after leaving a program or institution have a better chance of staying clean and sober.

Another program that has a great reputation for helping its graduates succeed, is Delancey Street foundation, located in San Francisco, California. The program has a long distance moving company. An automobile repair shop. A print shop. A five-star restaurant. And other businesses.

None of their clients graduate until they learn a trade skill, a sales skill, obtain a high school diploma, and have a job. Some graduates have obtained employment with the San Francisco fire department, while others have become members of the San Francisco City Council. It's interesting to go to their website and see what they've accomplished in a matter of a few years.

In our case, we have a lot of buildings that need repair, and the work is done primarily by volunteers who have the skill to do that kind of work. Our plan is to teach unskilled and untrained clients carpentry, sheet rock, painting, roofing, cooking, sales, and other occupations that will help them survive when they leave our program for the real world. While we already teach them the skills, we are going to start doing it with the assistance of those who have more experience in the particular fields than we do. The way the economy is going at the moment, one doesn't really need a lot of skills to find employment as long as they are teachable. But the economy doesn't always stay as it is now and one day a certificate of completion or certification of a certain period of training will have a lot of meaning when one is seeking employment.

Because we're in the planning stages we don't know exactly what our outcomes will be. When people leave our program they will not only have skills to support themselves but we will be able to provide certification that they completed training in those particular areas.

Thursday, March 5, 2020


I'm attending a mindfulness meditation meeting last night when I heard a surprising message: the beloved teacher who has taught the class for several years has come down with a serious illness.

While the disease is potentially fatal, he probably will survive because of modern medical treatments.

Because mindfulness stems from Buddhism, and one of the tenets of Buddhism is that all things are impermanent, it shouldn't surprise me at all that even our teachers become sick. But they do.

We in the Western world view life somewhat differently from those who come from the East, where death is a normal and accepted part of everyday life.  Because of that it's more of a surprise when we lose someone to death or we hear that someone has a potentially fatal illness.

The teacher – a middle-aged man – seems an example of acceptance. And those who've been around him for many years don't treat him any differently. I guess the idea that things are going to change in his life one way or the other was probably a surprise to me more than anyone else.

I've read somewhere that older people are much happier and satisfied with life then are much younger people. And for a long time I couldn't figure that out. But the reality is that those of us who are well past middle-aged do realize that life doesn't go on forever. And because of that we maybe enjoy every moment that we have as long as we can.

Whatever happens, I wish him well, because he has given me any insights into life. And I hope he'll be around to give me many more.

Click here to email John