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.

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 results of this new disease. All of a sudden people in government – former adversaries – have overcome their animosity and hammered out some kind of an agreement. All of a sudden, they have 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

WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2O19?  (COVID-19)

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 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/ 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 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

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 https://www.cdc.gov/ 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.

INFORMATION TAKEN FROM CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Changes

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

Job-Training

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

Acceptance

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

Monday, March 2, 2020

Higher Power?

Higher Power is a term is a term that one hears frequently in the twelve-step programs.

And Higher Power is a term that a lot of new addicts and alcoholics have a problem with. And I suppose, in some ways, that this is understandable. After all, most addicts and alcoholics that we meet at 12 step meetings or treatment programs didn't get there because they were on a winning streak. They almost all arrived there because life, in one way or the other, kicked their asses.

And Higher Power pops up a lot in the rooms and sometimes one even hears the word "God." And if one wants to have problem with the twelve-step programs this is an easy and obvious way to start. A lot of people object to the idea of having to believe in anything or anybody – especially a power greater than themselves.

But if one sticks around the rooms long enough and is under the guidance of a wise sponsor she/he will come to understand that there are many powers and forces in our world that are greater than ourselves.

My personal opinion – and I emphasize that this is my personal opinion – is that people use the idea of "God" or "Higher Power" as a way to not commit to the program, as a sort of backdoor because they really haven't yet committed to their sobriety and recovery. Now I could understand their feelings if some denominational church or worldwide religion were pushing this idea upon them. And there are churches that do have twelve-step programs. But as far as I know, none are registered with the central office of any of the twelve-step programs that I'm familiar with.

For those who have trouble with the concept of a higher power I suggest they think of it in a more philosophical fashion. Perhaps they take a walk on the beach, sit down, and marvel as the waves roll into the shore, then recede gently back into the depths of the ocean. One doesn't have to believe in God to accept the idea that a power greater than themselves has created this marvel they are witnessing. Or perhaps they take a walk into a forest or canyon and recognize that some force greater than themselves created that wonderful landscape.

And sometimes I see things as being created by a power greater than myself – a spiritual force – in modern projects. I once drove two to three times a month between Phoenix and Las Vegas on business on US Highway 93 over about 12 years. I passed over the Colorado River via Hoover dam on each trip, where a bridge was being built so that people wouldn't have to drive across the dam any longer. It took some seven years to build the dam, which is considered the longest concrete arch in the world. And during my trips I would observe the project as it slowly arose from each bank of the Colorado River where it was to meet in the center. I marveled at the expanse of the project. I was amazed that a group of human beings could cooperate in such a way as to create what is a truly amazing structure when looked at from below. (Driving over the bridge from the top, one might barely notice it if they weren't aware of the project before hand.)

I was able to witness the project from beginning to end, and because I only took trips out there every few weeks I could see the slow progress of the project and marvel at the idea of so many diverse people working together toward one goal. And when they finally completed the arch it was reported that it was only three quarters of an inch off from one side of the concrete span to the other – which to me was a miracle.

One doesn't have to look far to see powers greater than themselves: think the corona virus that's spread all over today's news, witness the devastation of typhoons and hurricanes and forest fires and floods and perhaps visualize yourself as having more power than such forces. It's okay if someone doesn't want to get sober. But to use the concept of a Higher Power as an excuse to not do so is rather naive.

Click here to email John

Thursday, February 27, 2020

RIP Tinash

So yesterday I get a message about a former client named Tinash who was at TLC some five years ago who passed away from what was likely an opioid overdose. And the person who sent the message was a lady friend of his who finally had to go her own way because of his addiction – even though she still loved him.

She said he'd passed away in Missouri last December.  And since his remains couldn't be immediately identified his ashes were unable to be claimed by his family until February 25th from the third party that was holding them - perhaps a funeral home or crematory.

I was sorry to hear that Tinash passed away because he was a wonderful person. He was intelligent, easy to communicate with and cared about others.

He was gifted with such an intellect that he received two full-ride scholarships to major universities in his younger years. One scholarship was for soccer (which he loved) and the other for debate. He ultimately chose to study political science and debate.

Not only did I know him, but on one occasion I also became acquainted with his father - a pastor who dearly loved his son. The family was from Nigeria and migrated here when he was eight years old.

There will be a service on Saturday, February 29, at Grace Baptist Church, at 1120 E. Plainview Rd., Springfield, Missouri, for those who wish to send cards, flowers, or to attend.

May you go in peace, Tinash,

Click here to email Johnschwary@msn.com

Monday, February 24, 2020

Temporary Emotions

"Emotions are temporary states of mind. Don’t let them permanently destroy you"  unknown

Many times we act like how we feel at the moment is the way things will be forever. And that's when we' re walking on quicksand. Because anytime we think that our anger is permanent we're in trouble. Anytime our frustration seems like a never-ending burden we' re also in trouble.

Because these are the times we let our emotions rule us. And as addicts and alcoholics in recovery, we all know that when we let our emotions rule us we have that magic solution waiting for us: either a visit to the dope house or the liquor store. And there is no such thing in my world as one visit to a dope house. Or one visit to the liquor department. For me, once the ball gets rolling someone else has to stop it because I'm usually incapable of doing it. And that someone who will usually stop it for me is a representative of the law – either a police officer or a parole officer. Once I get addicted to whatever I'm using at the time it's never a fun thing when it comes to a screeching halt because by then I've lost everything and I usually end up living the next few months or years in some type of cage.

But now that I've been sober 29 years I don't get into these situations anymore. I've learned something called "self-talk." And you know, the more I use it, the easier it gets for me to talk myself out of a bad place or a bad mood and move on with my day.

Since I work in a recovery program I have many opportunities to see people who are acting like their life is in permanent trouble over a temporary situation. Their family may be angry with them. They may have to pay child custody payments and not have a job. They may have hepatitis C. Maybe their last excursion in the drug world cost them everything they had plus a moment or two in jail – something that they're still fighting about even though it's in the past and they once more have their freedom. You name the problem and I've had someone tell me about it.

But I try to teach them what I do without being critical of them. I may tell them that I didn't feel like getting out of bed this morning but instead, I made myself place my feet on the floor and get into my gym clothes and spend 30 to 45 minutes dragging my carcass around the gym. At the same time, I'm doing this, I also have a set of headphones and am listening to some type of positive thinking talk. There are so many resources today that we can listen to on YouTube for nothing, the motivation that will reset any kind of bad mood.

I tell myself things like "John, you didn't get sober and clean to lead. So get off your ass and get moving and do something for someone else. It will make you feel better." And invariably whatever I tell myself of this nature works. Because I did not get sober to lead a miserable life. I got sober to be happy, joyous, and free of the kind of emotions used to drive me to feel good experimenting with different chemicals. Experiments – by the way – but I never could seem to get right.

So while it might sound silly to talk to yourself, remember that no one has to hear you talk because you don't have to say anything out loud. The conversation only takes place in your head. But if it's a good conversation it gets you on fire. It gets you to open your meditation book. It gets you to doing some push-ups. It makes you open your iPad and listen to a motivational talk.

If that temporary state of mind that you're carrying around is negative, I challenge you to change it. Because I know that if one thing an alcoholic or addict has is a creative mind; if he didn't have one he wouldn't be able to hustle enough drugs to stay high.

Click here to email John

Friday, February 21, 2020

Great Team

I remember when I first went on vacation back in 1994, the first I'd had since I opened TLC in 1992. And I was so paranoid when I went away from the program for a week that I stopped at every phone booth and punched in my pager number so that someone would call and let me know that everything was okay.

Finally, the staff got tired of me calling and told me they were no longer going to answer my pages. That I should just enjoy my vacation and quit bothering them. And with a certain level of anxiety, I did exactly as they said and didn't call during the rest of the vacation. Because in their own blunt way, they let me know that I could have confidence in their ability to run the program while I was away. And when I get back everything was fine.

And now when I go on vacation I seldom call unless I need a specific bit of information. And that's because we have a staff that is well-trained and reliable who take care of the business while I'm out of town.

Today when I opened my office door, everything was exactly as I when left. I looked at reports. I walked through the offices. I asked questions. Everything was functioning just as it was supposed to.

I sometimes am amazed at what addicts can do when they all get on the same page. I have a strong belief that our society could model many recovery programs after our program. Programs where addicts work together to help each other change their lives – and at no expense to taxpayers. In fact, what we do provides great savings to taxpayers because we help keep people out of jail, out of prison, out of mental hospitals without funding from any agencies.

I'm not sure the government will ever allow addicts to help each other without exerting a lot of control over how they operate. For some reason, they seem to think they know the answers to all social problems. 

And my belief is that because of government intervention we have the massive drug problems we are dealing with today.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Kind Mexicans

I'm in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico as I write this.  And often, before I come here, some of my friends ask me if I'm not afraid to visit South of the border.

And my answer is usually the same.  I reply that there are places in Phoenix and other areas of the United States that are as dangerous - or more so - than here. Think Chicago, for example, where there may be 40 shootings on a weekend. Or Los Angeles, or any other metropolitan areas where gangs do battle over drug turf. 

In my 25 years of coming here, I've never seen a fight.  And, even though people drive as crazily as anywhere, I've only seen one or two auto accidents.

In my experience, this is a peaceful and friendly place and I can easily visualize myself living here someday out of the hustle and bustle of the Phoenix metro area where I've lived for over 30 years.

As an example of how gracious the folks are here, I'll tell you about how some locals helped me out of a dilemma this past Sunday.  I 'd pulled over to use a portable bathroom at the roadside.  And when I was done and started to drive off I was unable to drive anywhere.  The patch of dirt I'd parked on consisted of a crust of sand on top of a pool of wet sand that had swallowed our rental car to the front bumper.  And no matter what I tried I was going nowhere.

While I was trying to dig my way out with my hands, a cab driver dressed in a white shirt and tie stopped and offered his help, but to no avail.  Then a gentleman in a BMW stopped and tried pulling us out with a nylon strap he attached to his bumper.  Still no luck.

By now, we were surrounded by a gathering of neighbors - men, women, and children - offering to help.  And finally, with the BMW pulling, and about ten neighbors pushing, we were unstuck. 

And the interesting thing is that most of them didn't want to accept any pesos for their efforts. It was simply a case of people wanting to be helpful to their fellow humans - gringos they didn't even know and might never see again.

Click here to email John


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Opioid Tsunami

I read that in Franklin County, Ohio, so many addicts are dying from Fentanyl overdoses that County officials are considering opening a second morgue to accommodate the victims until their bodies can be processed.  One day during the past month, ten addicts died from what officials believe to be Fentanyl.

It seems that addicts are buying so-called heroin or other drugs that dealers lace with Fentanyl to increase drug sales.  And one of the problems, of course, is that addicts under-estimate their tolerance to drugs while hoping to get the maximum rush.

I recall when I was using over 30 years ago that when a lot of overdoses occurred everyone began seeking out the dealer because they wanted the strongest dope possible.  They didn't think an overdose would happen to them - or maybe they simply didn't care.

Since June of 2017, there were over 4000 opioid deaths in Arizona.  Check the following link to see the statistical breakdown.  https://www.azdhs.gov/prevention/womens-childrens-health/injury prevention/opioid-prevention/index.php.

Yet treatment in our State meets a lot of resistance from the public.  An example is that citizens want more stringent laws dealing with homes and facilities that offer services to addicts, a group that is protected by the Fair Housing Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.  If the disability were from diabetes, cancer, heart disease or another ailment one would never hear a peep from the public. In fact, they likely would strongly support it.

But try to help an addict get clean and sober and there's an uproar in the community and legislative bodies.

As an addict and alcoholic who's been clean 29 years- and a treatment program operator - I know that the so-called "war on drugs" has failed miserably. Yet the go-to solution with most of the public is to look upon addicts and alcoholics as morally corrupt and to resist the efforts of those who try to help them.

Their best ideas include punishment and discrimination.  Put them in jail and get them out of our neighborhoods.  And how has that worked?

Click here to email John

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wanting to stay High

The mother of a young addict tells me that her son has had every opportunity get sober – but won't.

She has the resources to send him to a treatment program. He won't go. She's offered to rent him an apartment until he can find employment – but he won't look for a job. He just bums money from wherever he can, and lays up in a cheap motel. But his addiction is becoming so debilitating that he soon will be homeless because he can't even hustle up enough money to pay for his own motel.

She's tried everything in the world to get him on a recovery track, but addiction rules his life. Because she was using drugs when he was a child he uses that as a guilt card when he talks to her. And because she's overly sensitive she has a tough time putting her foot down. Even though she's in recovery and knows that she had to suffer enough pain before reaching the point where she got serious, she somehow has a difficult time applying the same principles to her son.

Because I know these people well I have some understanding of the dynamic between her child and her. I tell her she must be willing to let him go all the way to the bottom. Let him go to jail. Let him go to the streets. Let him suffer enough to figure out that his decision to continue using is going to keep him immersed in suffering. He'll begin to understand that his way isn't working.

I tell her that I never got into recovery until people stopped helping. When the person who loved me the most, my mother, told me she'd no longer help me I began to realize that I must be the problem. She wouldn't let me sleep on her couch. She wouldn't let me sleep in her garage. She wouldn't "loan" me money. Nor would any of my friends. I was without resources.  And ended up being homeless for a time.

But that was probably the best lesson of my life. I finally had to look at myself and say "You know, John, you may be the problem here." I began to realize that other people weren't the problem. Yeah, so I was raised in an abusive home as a child when I lived with my alcoholic father. While we had enough to eat, we were relatively poor as I was growing up.

All of the bad things that happened to us as we were growing up or going through relationships or jobs or life itself, may be true. And they may be bad, even horrible. But if that's what we use as an excuse to get high or drunk, then we're destined to never get well. All we're doing is perpetuating a bad situation. And eventually, those bad situations historically get worse, never better. If we live through our addictions, we may find ourselves in prison. Or on the streets. Maybe a mental hospital. Who knows? And the sad thing is that as we get older, we find that hardly anyone cares about us because we don't care enough about ourselves to accept help from others.

But there's a solution for all of us addicts. All we need to do is open up our minds and hearts – and reach out. Someone will help us get into recovery.

Click here to email John

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Communication

Communication is one of the most important parts of running a recovery operation.

This morning we had our monthly TLC business meeting and each of the 40 some participants were asked to submit five new ideas of how to improve TLC's operations. This is the first time we've had a meeting where all of the house managers got together in one room to exchange ideas about how to improve the program.

For over 25 years we've had monthly meetings. But the focus of those meetings was more on recovery and less on business. My contention is that we're supposed to take care of our recovery in 12 step meetings or with our sponsors. Because 80% of running a nonprofit corporation is about business and 20% is about the mission of helping addicts and alcoholics rebuild their lives. And our housing and business operations support our mission very well. But we can do more to help our recovering population if we run it in a more businesslike fashion.

For example, we often get into problems over simple things. Because we have some 70 parcels of property and around 900 residents we spend a lot of money and time on maintenance problems. A house manager may call for help with a leaky toilet or an air conditioning unit that's not functioning properly. He calls his supervisor, the district manager, who relays the information to our air-conditioning department or our maintenance people.

But many times – not always – a maintenance crew will arrive and address the problem then leave without telling the manager they completed the project. Perhaps the manager was off property running an errand, or else dealing with another issue on the property and was unaware that the maintenance people had even been there or if they fixed the problem.

As a solution, the manager of our maintenance people came up with a good answer: when a house manager needs something repaired or looked at, he submits a work order which gets passed up the chain of command to the chief operating officer. The chief operating officer sends a work order out to the appropriate department and thus creates a paper trail that describes the problem and how it was resolved. When the job is completed the house manager signs the invoice. Copies of work orders are then scanned into a database so that we have a history of the issues at each property.

While this may seem like a no-brainer or a simple thing for those who run large businesses, one must keep in mind that TLC from top to bottom is managed by addicts and alcoholics. And many of them have no experience with this type of organization. Or maybe they've never worked at all until they came to us.

Another thing in our managers often learn while they're volunteering at our houses is that dealing with addicts is not simple. But once again, I emphasize that it's all about communication.

Many of our clients show up from prison or off the streets and are frustrated and angry. Our natural impulse is to get angry in return. But the appropriate way to deal with an angry client is to simply listen. That often resolves the issue. But if it doesn't, and they continue to be angry or if they start to threaten our staff we usually ask them to leave. And if they don't, we tell them that we'll call the police and have them removed from the premises.

If we can deal with angry clients and calm them down before we get to this point, we save ourselves problems. On a few occasions, we've actually been involved in lawsuits because clients thought they were treated unfairly or that they were disrespected by a manager. And while we've never lost one of these lawsuits, we still went to the expense of hiring an attorney and sometimes spending months and weeks until we reach a resolution.

Communication is important in every realm of life but especially when we're dealing with people's lives and futures.

Click here to email John

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Trusting the Untrustworthy

On more than one occasion we’ve had managers steal from us.

Some have stolen money, others have taken vehicles. And a few have stolen both. Then they leave, they relapse, and either end up walking a prison yard or living on the streets.

And yet, even though they’ve done us wrong, we’ve allowed them to return to TLC when they show up asking for help.

And I’ve had people question my sanity because I’ve allowed them back. And sometimes I question my own sanity. But then I reflect hat a lot of people gave me more than one chance even though I let them down multiple times. Of course, when we let them back in they don't start out with a job where they handle money or other valuable assets, such as vehicles. They have to start at the bottom and work their way back into our confidence.

And, believe it or not, we actually had two clients who ripped us off a second time – and we gave them a second chance. And they didn't let us down. In fact, one of them is still with us and in a position where he handles large sums of money. The other one stayed a few years, then left and started his own recovery program. Sadly, he was murdered one night while collecting service fees from his clients.

All those who did us wrong and came back and made their amends to TLC are now sober for several years.

Perhaps the core of our philosophy here at TLC is that we trust some of the most untrustworthy people on the planet. Clients show up at our program from all kinds of places: prisons, the streets, hospitals, from other states, from detoxification units, from police departments, hospitals and so on.

The things that most all of them have in common is that 95% are homeless, jobless, and without money. Yet we give them credit and welcome them as long as they're not arsonists or sex offenders.

And as far as letting them back in if they rip us off, well that's just what addicts and alcoholics do. Until they get sober they take from everyone around them in some form or another. And that's why I believe in giving addicts and alcoholics second chances – because people gave me chances over and over until I finally got it right.

And once I did get it right I'm able to enjoy the wonderful life I have today. All the Promises have come true.

Click here to email John

Monday, February 3, 2020

Change

When our clients complain about the obstacles in their lives I give them some wisdom I was given a long time ago. And that wisdom is simply this: all we can count on in life is change.

And sometimes change is good.  And sometimes it's not so good. But regardless, it's the one constant in our lives that we can depend on. And, I believe, change is mostly a good thing.

This topic came up for me today because someone was complaining about their iPhone 7, about how poorly it performed compared to the latest models of iPhones. That's when I pulled out a bit of trivia that I use when people have luxury issues like which iPhone or iPad or other gadget is the best.

I tell them about when I was a child back in the nineteen forties when we didn't even have a telephone in the house. In fact, the only thing we had that could be called technology was a radio. And what came out of it was pretty limited and scratchy. Yet that radio was the latest technology. I remember that the family used to listen to boxing matches, ballgames, the Amos and Andy show, fibber McGee and Molly, the Falcon, Family Theater and the news. Of course there were other offerings. But those are the ones I remember.

Television hadn't been invented yet, it didn't come along until around the nineteen fifties and it was the most amazing thing to hit the neighborhood I lived in. The first families to own one were very popular. And it was not uncommon for them to have a living room full of visitors watching a little tiny box with a black and white screen and a very limited program selection. And, of course, today it's not unusual for someone to have a television screen that covers half of the wall.

And change keeps marching on. The other day I was surprised to hear some teenagers talking about Facebook being a site for old people, that they had other types of social media that they preferred over Facebook. And me? I never have had a Facebook page nor am I interested in getting one. I realize that I'm really out of the loop when it comes to social media, because I'm too busy as it is to keep updating information that's read by people that I mostly don't even know.

So how does all this relate to recovery? I think that if we can accept that change is inevitable, then we aren't surprised when bad things happen in our lives. Nor are we surprised when good things occur in our lives. And when we can accept change and wrap our heads around it then we're not so likely to react negatively and revert to using drugs or alcohol.

Change is on the march toward all of us. People will leave our lives unexpectedly. We may get our dream job. We may even hit the lottery, though that's a big maybe. We'll find ourselves growing older every day no matter what kind of exercise we do nor what kind of vitamins we take. But if we can expect change and learn to welcome it, life will run much smoother and our recovery will be much more solid.

Click here to email John

Friday, January 31, 2020

Gratitude Heals

I was talking to a recovering client today who told me that she always went back to using drugs or alcohol because she was depressed.

I asked her to tell me about her depression. Had she been suffering from it for a long time? Was there ever a time when she was happy and positive? In her memory, what was the happiest period of her life?

She said that there had been periods when she was happy. But then the happiness seemed to become normal and ordinary and then her depression would creep back.  And she would be off to the liquor store or dope house.

I decided to offer her some suggestions about how to have conversations with herself that would put her life into a more positive trajectory.

Many times people grow up with unrealistic expectations about how life should be. We go to school, get good grades, graduate and expect to land a dream job. But for many people, that scenario doesn't play out.

Instead, they find that it's a tough, competitive job market out there.  And that they're just another face filling out applications. In fact, I often read about college graduates in their thirties still living with their parents because they haven't found a career opportunity in spite of having graduated in the top half of their class.

In this woman's case, she'd been divorced once, was raising a child by herself, and had been successful as a professional person who made a good salary. For a period of time, she had a nice home and car but eventually, drugs and alcohol caused her to lose everything. Plus the state had taken custody of her child until she could prove that she could live a sober life. Which is why she was with us.

I gave her this prescription which I found has helped me and some of our clients to get over bouts of depression. And no, it's not a pill. However, it does require a minimal amount of work. And it goes like this: every morning when you wake up write down five things that you are grateful for.

You might think as you read this that you're not grateful for anything. And that may be true. In fact, the woman who is the subject of this blog asked me what she had to be grateful for. Here she is trapped in this recovery program. She doesn't have her child with her. Her family is angry at her. She doesn't have a car. She's in a minimum wage job at a fast-food restaurant. She's back at the bottom again.

So I asked her to reframe her thinking and stop looking at what she didn't have. Instead, perhaps she should focus on what she did have. And by the look on her face, I could see that I hadn't really reached her. So I continued, asking her why she couldn't see the positive side of her situation right now.

First of all, she is in a safe place where she can focus on her recovery and her psychological issues. Her child is in safe hands. She has a chance to regain custody of her child when she graduates from our program and finds a job and a place to live. She has her freedom, which many addicts have lost because of the crimes they committed while they were using. She is still relatively young and healthy. Her parents are beginning to talk to her again because they see that she's trying to help herself. She's making a few sober friends.

I asked her to start writing a gratitude list every morning for a week, then come back to me with what she had written. She halfheartedly agreed to do it and I told her I was looking forward to see what she came up with.

Many times in life we addicts have a lot of false expectations about how life should be. And therein lies the problem. Because life, if we live it on a daily basis, is an up and down proposition. Everyone on the planet has good days and bad days - some more than others. But if we can develop the perspective that this is just the way life is then we develop resilience and can bounce back much faster when we fall into moments of depression. Any time I start falling into depression I look around me and find someone who's life is a much bigger mess than mine or who is much less fortunate than I. And when I do that I immediately get back on track.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Tough Love

A woman sent me an email the other day about her father, a man in his seventies, who had relapsed and started using drugs again.

She wrote that she and her husband had given him an ultimatum: that they would no longer communicate with him or be in his life until he sought help.

By the tone of her email I could tell that she was quite distressed by having to take that position with her father, who isn't in the best of health.

But in my opinion, that's the most loving thing she could have done for her father – to try to help him salvage the remaining years of his life and live them in health and sobriety. I've never met this lady and admire her courage, because somewhere along the way she has learned tough love and has put it into action. Even though he hasn't asked her for money or for financial help, she doesn't want to socialize with him while he's under the influence of whatever poison is putting in his body.

She's a rare species. Because most family members I deal with are seeking some kind of magic potion that will instantly cure their loved ones without having to do anything painful to them. 

But this woman apparently understands that we addicts will use anyone we can to get whatever we want as long as we are in the middle of our disease. We will lie to our children, our wives, our parents, anyone we can take advantage of. We will steal from our employers, strangers, or anyone else who leaves themselves vulnerable to us. We will risk our health, our freedom or sanity for that temporary rush of euphoria that our drug of choice brings us.

And the best way to help someone who is caught up in addiction is exactly what this woman did. She and her husband got together and presented a united front by taking a position with someone dear to them. Because they realize that the father has the choice. 

And the choice is his family or the poison that he's putting into his body.

Click here to email John

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Finding What Works

Sometimes we have residents who come to TLC's halfway houses more than once. But if they're not committed to recovery they often relapse and leave. I sometimes run into these clients months later and ask them what happened.

And usually, they'll say something like "Oh, the program just didn't work for me."

But when I try to explore it with them and ask them to get more specific the answers I get are usually pretty vague. They might talk about the fact that everyone there was an addict. And there were no professional counselors. They might say they didn't like to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to go to work. They might say something about they didn't like the living conditions. Or, they will bring up some incident that happened between them and one of the managers where they felt they were being disrespected. The answers I get cover the entire spectrum of excuses anyone can come up with.

However, the reality is that most any recovery environment will work if we're willing to put in the effort to do the program. There are literally hundreds of recovery programs in Arizona, particularly in the metropolitan areas. And if a person is serious about changing their life they could do it at any one of these. Some are religious in nature, some are work programs, some are live-in treatment programs, some are mom-and-pop operations and others are parts of nationwide corporations. My point is that there are a lot of choices.

While my preference is that they come to TLC, if they have a problem with us I can help them find somewhere else they might find more suitable

The real thing is to get sober and clean - no matter how or where we do it.

Click here to email John

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Remembering Bill W.

Back in 1992, when TLC first opened on Robson Street in Mesa, we had a resident named Bill W. He arrived during the first few months we were open and passed away suddenly about 17 years later.

I was reminded of his death yesterday when his sister Jane wrote to thank us for all the help we gave him during the time he was with us.

Like many of our residents, Bill had done time in state prison on more than one occasion and was a serious substance abuser. He had a few psychological problems, which required that he take heavy medications to control his behavior. I'm not sure if he was schizoaffective or bipolar, but as my memory serves me he was one or the other. His medication worked most of the time but periodically he would have to see his psychiatrist and the prescription that he was on would be adjusted.

I never realized how serious his mental issues were until during January of one year he called to make an appointment with his psychiatrist. He had been going through a period of depression that was almost visible, kind of like he had a black cloud above his head. However, he was unable to get an appointment until the following June, nearly 6 months away. We didn't know what to do because his depression sometimes left him in tears and unable to focus. However, within about two hours the psychiatrist called back and said that in his case they could see him that same day. That's when we realized the extent of his illness.

Bill was quiet, had a sense of humor, and was a volunteer for us all of the time he was at TLC, from 1992 when he arrived until his death 11 years ago. He was a bright guy, who taught himself how to network computers and managed the office for us for the entire time he stayed with us.

We still miss him. May he rest in peace.

Click here to email John schwary@msn.com

Monday, January 20, 2020

My child's an Addict

When a mother carries her newborn baby from the hospital she's full of love and wants to nurture the baby. She showers him or her with unlimited loving care. She nurses the child. She makes sure the diapers are changed. She made sure the child is fed. She is a protective shield around that baby. And she is full of plans for the child's future.

Never in her wildest dreams would she have believed that her child might turn in to a monster. To a drug addict. To a liar. To a convict. Or to just a common thief who goes out every day and hustles money for drugs and alcohol.

And perhaps one of the most difficult parts of my position here at TLC is talking to women who still trust their children after the child has stolen from them. Lied to them. Disappeared for weeks, leaving them to wonder if they're dead or alive. The misery drug addicts impose upon their parents – particularly their mothers – is incredible.

And this belief and faith in the child can go on for years unless there's some kind of intervention. Once in awhile the intervention comes from a professional who's employed to intervene in the child's addiction.

But more often the intervention comes from life itself. The child is arrested. Maybe goes to jail. Perhaps is kicked out of school. Or maybe just becomes homeless and broke because the parents can no longer afford to have the child in their house. Maybe they're afraid that the kid will keep stealing and sponging off of them while he or she uses drugs in their room and doesn't go to school or work.

When I speak to these mothers on the phone I emphasize that things have to get painful enough before a child will change and seek help for his or her addiction.

If the child is of age, there's no reason why he or she should be mooching off of mom and dad. If they're addicted to drugs they need to figure out how to get the drugs. If they don't have a job that provides enough money for them to pay for their drugs, then maybe they have to learn to steal or sell drugs in order to pay for their habit. And this is where the pain usually comes in. Because most youngsters who haven't been raised by parents or family members who use drugs themselves, entering into the world of drugs or crime can be a very educational experience. And, did I mention, painful?

But this is the point where change usually sets in. Because living on the streets is painful. Going to jail is painful. To panhandle on street corners is painful. That's why I tell parents that I believe pain is one of the most wonderful instruments of change on the planet. Sooner or later the pleasure of being high is far outweighed by the pain it takes to get enough drugs to keep us feeling as wonderful as we want to.

We all have a choice: the pain of addiction or the pleasure of walking the path of recovery.

Click here to email Johnschwary@msn.com

Friday, January 17, 2020

Birthday Tradition

A tradition at the TLC corporate office is to celebrate sobriety anniversaries.

Of course the "tradition" is supposed to be sort of a surprise where the person celebrating an anniversary is invited to come to the corporate office for a meeting. But usually everyone knows what's going on. So it's really not a surprise at all.  But we try to act surprised anyway.

This tradition has been going on for as long as I can remember. And it serves a wonderful purpose. Because it helps to those who are new to the program give recognition to those who have stayed sober and clean for a period of time: usually for a year or more.

Although the anniversary of my 29 years of sobriety was the 14th of this month, we celebrated the occasion today – at the end of the work week. Another fellow also celebrated his birthday at the same time. So I believe – for the sake of saving time – we now celebrate everyone's birthday on Friday of each week.

Another reason we select Fridays is that is when managers usually come to the office to turn in paperwork and pick up their change banks. So usually there are at least a dozen people in attendance.

While sobriety is its own reward for most of us, it is still nice to have a small crowd of sober people seeing us receive a sobriety chip. And also to enjoy a slice of the cake that comes with each celebration.

Once the candles are blown out each celebrant gives a brief talk about how he or she stays sober and how the program has benefited them.  Then, one day at a time, we began working on our next year.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Number 29

29 years ago I drove into the parking lot of a local detox in a stolen car.  I'd made the decision to change.  To quit drinking.  To stop stealing anything I could lay my hands so I could buy more heroin.  At 51, I'd essentially decided to live - rather than die in prison, on the streets or in a mental institution.

However, to my dismay, I was told that I couldn't get into the detox because I'd arrived in a stolen car.  For some reason, they asked how I'd gotten to the facility and I told them I found a car with the motor running outside of a convenience store and "borrowed" it to get to the facility.  They told me to move it from their parking lot to the street.  When I walked back in they told me I needed to return the car to where I'd stolen it.

As I left, they said that if I decided to come back that I could call them and they'd come to pick me up with a van they used to transport those who needed a ride to detox.

I was so resentful when I left that I got high for another week before I called them again.  I figured God didn't want me sober, so I kept doing what I was doing.  But eventually, I  surrendered and called the following week and sure enough, they sent a van to the sleazy motel where I was staying.  And that was the beginning of my sobriety 29 years ago.

It was the best decision I've ever made.  After 11 days of detoxification, I went to a local halfway house where I lived for a year, doing volunteer work for them the last nine months of my stay there.

Once I left I started a small halfway house. I worked an outside job for the first six months then quit my outside job.  At that point, the halfway house had become self-supporting.  It has grown from five beds in January of 1992 to 800 beds and six different businesses today. More than half a million addicts have passed through our doors since 1992.

And during all those years I've been blessed with the promises we're given when we enter the 12-step programs.

Click here to email John


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Insecure Addicts

I've always known that addicts and alcoholics are a pretty insecure bunch

And I was reminded of that few days ago when one of our managers was sort of beating around the bush about what kind of succession plans TLC has for when I retire, get killed, or just succumb to the ravages of old age.  Of course, he was concerned about his future.

And actually, that was a fair question that he posed.  After all, I'm not immortal.  Nor do I intend to spend my remaining years pushing paper around this desk I've been sitting at for 28+ years.

Probably part of his question arose because one of our longest-term key managers had semi-retired earlier this year after more than 25 years with the company, due to health issues.  And part of the question probably stems from the fact that I'll be 81 this coming May.

Now my idea is to never retire as long as I'm able to drag my old ass up the stairs to my office six or seven days a week as I do now.  I'd like to be doing what I'm doing ten years from now.

And in pursuit of not retiring, I do things to maintain my fitness.  I spend 45 minutes to an hour a day - either at the gym I have at my house - or the one I'm a member of that's a few blocks away.  I've been a vegan for over 20  years.  And I neither smoke nor drink.  I meditate at least an hour a day, sometimes longer.  I keep my stress down by not making big deals out of things.

Aside from that, TLC has a board of directors who'll be able to keep things functioning once I'm out of the picture.   The board has some six members, a couple of them that manage trusts that rent properties to TLC, and others who have been staff members at TLC for a number of years.  All have an interest in perpetuating the help that TLC has given addicts for over 28 years.

Other than the vagaries of life that can always affect the best thought out plans, there's no reason TLC shouldn't be around for another 50 years.  God willing..

Click here to email John

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Gratitude List

Being grateful that I live in a secure and safe country is on my gratitude list today.

At times like these, when our country is on the brink of another war in the Middle East, I am grateful that I live in a country that is secure and has the power to defend itself.

No matter the political persuasion one follows, at times like this I believe we should rally behind our political leaders and give our military our support. This is no time for us to get involved in partisan bickering.

Governing a country of any size is an overwhelming responsibility. Since this thing with Iran and Iraq started I've talked with many who say that we should do this or that and get it over with. Like we should leave Iraq. Or we should bomb Iran. But people who talk like this don't understand the immense damage that can be done in a war, of the lives that can be destroyed on both sides when people are going at each other with weapons.

I am by no means a liberal. I believe that everybody should earn their own way and be responsible for themselves. I believe we have a right to bear arms. I believe we have a right to earn as much money as we have the ability to earn. To practice the religion of our choice. I believe we should help the sick. The elderly. The mentally ill. But I don't believe the government should get into our lives and tell us how to live or spend our money or what to believe.

So when I think of what I'm grateful for one of the things that's in the top 10 for me is the fact that I'm an American.

And even though our country is not perfect, I believe that it compares favorably with most of the more advanced countries in the world. And for that I have gratitude.

Click here to email John

Saturday, January 4, 2020

We get Emails

I often get responses to my blogs from regular readers who can relate to experiences they're having with family members. And in some cases, I develop long-term email relationships with those readers. The lady below, Mary Moore, and I have been corresponding for what seems to be about five or six years about her 48-year-old son. Anyway, I recently wrote a blog about enabling our loved ones by helping them out when they're drinking and drugging. 

I like receiving emails like this because it lets me know that what I write has a positive impact on some people. In this case, she has at least been able to keep herself from enabling her son any further. Her behavior toward him may cause him to seek change in his life, rather than to rely upon others.

And here's the response she sent me.

"Happy New Year. Praying 2020 will be a year of positive change for all of us.

I just read your blog “Loving them to death”. Your blog was spot on!

I have been guilty of all those enabling issues with my son, Tony Ben, 48 years old. He is still living homeless in downtown KCMO.

I no longer let him sleep in my apt, no longer do his laundry, pick him up, pay his tobacco, and give him $.

It has been difficult lately due to holidays also weather being very cold ( fear for him to get frostbite)

I pray and attend Alanon meetings.

One day at a time. Thank you again for your words of wisdom and support. Take care my friend.

Mary Moore."

What has worked for Mary may also work for the rest of you who may have a problem with enabling.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Meditation Practice

Each morning the first thing I do when I wake up is meditate for half an hour. The practice I follow is called Mindfulness Meditation.

And the first event I attended this year was not a New Year's Eve party or New Year's Day party. Instead, it was a meditation session where 15 or 20 of us gather every Wednesday evening at seven PM for 90 minutes of instruction and meditation practice.

One of the reasons I got into meditation in the first place is because in the 12 steps where it says "sought through prayer and meditation... " there are no instructions about how to meditate. Now when I saw that phrase it seemed kind of strange that it didn't go any further than that. So I started seeking to learn a little bit about meditation.

Eventually, once TLC was about three years old, I employed a Transcendental Meditation instructor for a few days to teach several members of our staff how to meditate. Today there are only four of us out of the 20 who started meditating who still follow the practice. And a few years ago after experiencing a few Mindfulness Meditation sessions, I switched over to that meditation practice. I found it to be much more fulfilling and to offer many more variations in the type of meditation practices that it offers.

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions but I think that if any of you non-meditators want to start something new this year meditation would be one thing that you would find to be beneficial. And I don't ask you to take my word for it. There's an abundance of literature on YouTube and on the Internet about the practice. How to do it. Where to find places to do it. Schools of thought about different types of meditation. Whatever you pick, I would suggest that you try to find something simple that works for you.

There is much scientific evidence out of Harvard Medical School and other well-known universities around the world where the benefits of meditation have been studied in great depth. Studies have included not only brain scans but also the behavioral results in those who practice meditation.

And let's face it: anything that can aid us in our sobriety is worth looking into if we're serious about living a sober peaceful life.

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