Monday, August 2, 2021

Enjoying Life

When I was a kid - a long time ago - I remember my parents had one consistent goal in life: they wanted to work until they were 65, then draw Social Security.  And they never waivered from that.

They never talked about vacations.  Or visiting family.  Just drawing Social Security and then kicking back at home.  I remember the only thing they regularly did together was watch television.  My stepfather had a small plot of land behind their double-wide where he grew tomatoes and chili peppers.  While he was busy with that my mother was working on one of her sewing projects, at which she was quite adept.  During the week they might have a drink or two.

And they followed their plans for the rest of their lives and seemed content to be doing what they were doing. Eventually my stepfather died and my mother moved to Arizona where she passed away a few years later.

I bring this up today because once in a while someone will ask me when I'm going to retire and start enjoying life.  My answer is usually the same: I am enjoying life.  And I'll probably keep doing what I'm doing as long as I'm able to do my job.

I don't know a lot of people who have a job they love and look forward to going to work each day.  But, for me it's always a privilege to help my fellow addicts do something positive with their lives.  To see them find a good job.  Or a good relationship.  

To see them walk away from TLC and into a normal life.

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Friday, July 30, 2021

Acccepting Change...

I don't know what you were doing when the pandemic struck.  But me, I was following the same routine I've been following for the past 30 years of my recovery.  Except maybe Sundays.

I'd show up at the office every day.  Maybe resolve a few problems when staff or clients would have trouble communicating.  I'd go to the gym.  Maybe have lunch with co-workers and friends.  Take maybe four or five vacations a years.  Attend meetings.  Life was good, better than I'd planned.

Then this pandemic whacked us.  It was like a science fiction story.  It couldn't be happening.  Then slowly and insidiously this mystery bacteria that couldn't be seen with the naked eye swept the world and turned things upside down.

Millions died.  Economies crumbled.  Politicians went crazy.  Some people wouldn't take the vaccine because they thought it was a government plot to control our lives. Suddenly change was upon us with no sure outcomes.

And then just when I thought the vaccine was working I planned a trip to the Yucatan Penisula to look for a home where I could live part of the year and read and write.  But all of the sudden the government shut down the border because the pandemic was mutating or changing form.  So I could go nowhere outside the United States.

What to do?  Not many ways around this one.  And for sure no trips to Mexico for me.  What to do?  Fret?  Feel sorry for myself.  Or just keep on track with my routine?

I chose the latter.  After all, I'm the messenger of change.  Change is all we can count on.  Accepting change is being mentally healthy.  And while we might not like the change, accepting it robs it of its power.

We live in the real world and are grateful for what we have right now.  That keeps us strong and healthy.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Something New

Someone asked the other day why did I always write about the same thing?  Why didn't I find something new to write about? And you know they were right about one thing:  the only thing I really do write about is getting sober and staying sober. It's the same thing all the time:  recovery.

After 2900 blogs I still haven't learned much new about recovery because when one thinks about it the basics we learn in the 12-step meetings and in the Big Book are what staying sober is all about.  It doesn't shift or change.  We follow the guidelines and we get the results.

Now what does changes is the people involved.  Most everyone has a different story of why they decided to get sober, to change their lives. People come in with different stories all the time.

But isn't that what life is really about?  There are guidelines for most everything.  And when people discuss whatever it is:  a trade, religious beliefs, a hobby, or a sport, music, whatever, it's always with a recognition that not much changes in the short term.

This is especially true in recovery.  Those who don't follow the guidelines, eventually fall off the path if they don't adhere to what they've learned.  So that's why I attempt to tie everything in this blog to recovery so that eventually it sinks in so deeply I'll never want to relapse again.

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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Blaming Ourselves

 I have a female relative who is beautiful, intelligent and talented who makes her living in the music world.  Yet, in spite of all her talent and gifts she has never succeeded with her long term relationshionships.  She does quite well financially - but when it comes to dealing with other people she's an abject failure.

And when I say relationships I don't mean with just some people - she doesn't get along with anyone for very long.  Anytime she has a problem with someone she blames them.  Her primary target is her mother.  And no matter what goes wrong she somehow ties it to the way her she was raised.

But, the interesting thing is that she was raised very well.  She was dressed well, she was sent to decent schools and lived in nice enough neighborhoods. Her mother always put her welfare first and made sure she had the best she could afford to give her.  Yet, even now, she behaves the same way she did as a child.

No matter what setbacks she has, they're are someone else's fault.

I bring this up today as a topic because, even though she's not an addict she displays many of the characteristics of a addict.

Before I got sober all of the bad things that happened in my life I blamed on others.  My life changed when I looked in the mirror and said there's the problem.  I was the author of my own misery, the creator of my problems.  

And the interestng thing is that once I took that stance, accepted that I was responsbile, my whole life changed.  If you're an an addict and you're looking outside yourself as the problem, then you'll never get sober and start living a normal life.

If you don't believe me, try it.

Click here to email John


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Back Home

Back to work today and it felt good.

A week of vacation is about all I can handle.  Then I start wondering how different projects are going at home.  And how the office is running.  You know, normal addict anxiety.

One of the things that TLC is blessed with is a staff that keeps things running smoothly.  Some years ago we had a few managers that were really rough on people. They were control freaks who were always right and never, ever wrong.

They made sure everyone worked eight hours a day.  Even if their jobs were done and they had nothing to do but sit at their desks, they were still required to be there.

Eventually one of them relapsed. And I'm not sure why the other one left other than he had one of his anger meltdowns, and left the company he'd invested so much time in.  When I'd go on vacation when they were there I knew things would run okay - but that the staff might not be real happy.

Today we have a different set of managers.  If their volunteers have their chores done they're allowed to leave.  The key is to get their responsibilites done.  They learn how to fulfil their responsibilities so they can go enjoy the rest of the day.  Maybe go to a meeting.  Or the gym.  Or go home for a nap.

And the interesting thing is that even though we have 150 fewer clients, our revenue is staying the same and the program has a lot less stress.  Which strengthens their recovery.

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Sunday, July 18, 2021

Being Homeless

The largest homeless population in the country lives in California:  Over 150k.

Every summer I take around 30 family members and friends to a group of condominiums in Imperial Beach California, a small town about 10 miles North of the Tijuana border.   

But something I never noticed before this trip was the number of homeless who live in Imperial Beach.  And I know they were there last year and the year before; I just didn't pay attention. 

This year it seemed like they were everywhere, on every corner.  Some of them didn't seem to have it so bad.  They had tents and shelters that looked more like a group of friends camping as opposed to people who couldn't afford better quarters elsewhere.

What was interesting to me was that many homeless encampments were right out in the open; some even next to freeway off ramps or on the borders of shopping centers.  Like they didn't care about being homeless; like it was a normal state of affairs.

TLC has a large homeless population; at least 90% of them have no permanent address when they arrive.  But they at least have an excuse when they get to us - they spend the bulk of their money on drugs or alcohol which is their priority.  Nearly everything else is secondary.

We do our best to teach them to live normal lives.  But I know that everyone doesn't make it.  In fact, it doesn't surprise me when on occasion I encounter one of our former residents trudging along the street pushing a shopping cart.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Gratitude

I often talk of gratitude in this blog because I believe it is one of the greatest characteristics a human can have.  If we are fortunate enough to have gratitude for our circumstances and lives we can be happy and free of stress.

Yet, I know many people who are ungrateful because of something they want but don't have that they feel they deserve.  However, had they been with me yesterday they might have changed their thinking. They might have been happy for their present circumstances,

At this writing, I'm vacationing in Imperial Beach, about 10 miles North of the Mexican border.  I decided to cross the border and have lunch and maybe do some shopping.  And so I did.  

It was like walking into another world.   I immediately realized why it is considered a third world country.  Everywhere one walks beggars are reaching out with open hands, and are grateful for whatever they receive.  Most look as though they hadn't bathed in days.  They wore raggedy clothing, sweat stained, and odorous.

When one feels ungrateful look around and you'll find someone who has less than you, who has more problems and challenges.  I guarantee they are there.

And when you see them you'll know gratitude.

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