Monday, March 31, 2014

Learning to say No

I heard an update  about a former client who asked his parents to fly him home because TLC's program was "too tough." And against all advice, they sent him a ticket.

Shortly after he returned he met the woman of his dreams. Since they wanted to live together his family put money down on a house for them.

The former client soon started his own business growing marijuana at home. The girlfriend had a steady job. And while she worked he managed his growing distribution operation.

The girlfriend, who wasn’t a drug person, had doubts. But he convinced her he was only going to do it until he had the money to start a legitimate business.

Before long he and his partners were raking it in. But his success attracted attention from law enforcement. And the next thing you know, after the girlfriend went to work one day, the police paid a visit. Now the former client is facing years behind bars.

The moral of the story, at least for the parents reading this, is that if your son or daughter says the program is too tough you ought not pay attention. You might save their freedom – or their lives.

TLC is tough because we've learned the hard way what it takes to change

Click here to leave a comment

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Letting Go of the Past

I'm sitting in my car at a 12-step meeting, waiting for the doors to open, when a man drove up beside me in a pickup.

I greeted him and asked how his day was going. At that point he put his head down and started crying. So I got out of my car and went to the side of his vehicle and began talking to him, asking what was going on.

He said he'd lost his job the day before. He then told me how unfair the whole process was, the way the company let him go. He also mentioned that his wife passed away and I told him that I was sorry to hear that. I asked him how long ago.

He then took some papers from his pocket and showed me her picture. He said she'd passed away 15 years earlier.

He needed a meeting because he thought he might drink, even though he'd been sober 15 years. Then a few minutes later he told me that he only drank a beer once in a while, but that he hadn't done drugs in 15 years.

At this point I'm confused. But it seemed he had a lot of things bothering him so I listened until the meeting started.

Afterward, as I was driving home, I thought about him carrying the picture of a woman who died 15 years earlier. While everyone has the right to grieve and remember their loved ones as they choose, I wondered how healthy it was for him to do that.  How much was his focus on the past affecting him now?

After all, I believe those who have passed on want me to live as fully as I can at this moment. I think they want me to lead a productive and happy life. And not spend an inordinate amount of time in morbid reflections of the past.

Even though I love and miss them, today I live in the moment.  I wish the same for this man.

Click here to leave a comment

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In Love Again

Treatment romances have been around since the first day co-ed programs opened.

It’s always the same story: I’m in love for the first time. We have so much in common. She’s so wonderful. Or smart. Or beautiful. I’ve never met anyone like her. (Or him.)

The reasons for these romances are many. Clients are away from home and lonely. They are starting to become healthy again and want sexual contact. But most of it’s about immediate gratification. It’s not about impulse control.

Why do we care if clients have a relationship? One reason is that when clients enter relationships they lose focus on recovery. Their attention is on the other person. They miss the recovery they came for.

Another reason is that families trust us when they send a family member here. They expect us to protect their loved one from negative experiences.

So our staff spends a lot of time monitoring clients to stop relationships before they start. It would be hard to explain how a client became pregnant or contracted an STD while at our program. Even though clients can make their own decisions we try to help them to make the right ones.

The client might have met the most wonderful person in the world here at the clinic. But if a relationship is good now, it’ll be good 60 or 90 days from now.

That's what we tell them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Milestone

He stood straight and proud in his work uniform, chest out.  He stared directly at the camera, the picture of self-esteem.  A small smile was on his face.
It was the type of picture one might send home to mom and dad the first day on campus.  Or from the Army after graduating from basic training.  But it wasn't.
The photo was of a longtime treatment client who achieved a goal he set in early recovery: to go to school and learn a trade.  And the photo wasn’t for his family.  It was for those of us who mentored him through his early recovery.
In this space I often write of drama and relapses involving our clients.  I do this to emphasize the pitfalls we face in recovery.
Yet, once in a while it's nice to get something like this photo – depicting a milestone in a client’s  recovery.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Home Again

Today my wife and I are in an airplane headed home. It's been a wonderful 12 day respite.  Relaxing on the beach and doing pretty much as we want during these lazy days has been refreshing.

Yet the important things we do with our life lie at home, facing our responsibilities. Here is where we find the joy in our lives.

It's a blessing to get away. But the real meaning comes from working with our mission of helping others.

There's nothing quite as beautiful as seeing a reluctant addict finally get the message. To finally begin living a life of freedom from the slavery of addiction.

Click here to leave a comment

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Doing What he was Taught

We once had a client whom I counseled frequently because of how he treated his mother.

This came to my attention when other clients said that during calls home he was very disrespectful toward her.

They reported that he’d scream at her in anger and call her an “f….ing bitch.”   He’d also tell her to go “F… herself.”

When I confronted him about this behavior he seemed surprised that I thought it was a big deal. He kind of shrugged if off.

I suggested he send flowers to make amends. Or maybe a card. I wanted to impress upon him that his behavior toward her wasn’t acceptable, that he should apologize.

He said he’d send a card but I don’t think he followed through.

Then a few days ago one of our staff had a conversation with his mother about an unresolved insurance matter. When I heard about that conversation - reportedly quite volatile -I understood how the client learned to communicate with profanity and anger.

It didn’t make his communication okay. But at least I now understand his attitude.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wet Houses?

A week or so ago a woman sent an email with an unusual request. She was looking for a “wet house” for her brother who, she said, was unable to quit drinking.  In other words, she wanted a place for him to live and drink.

While I wasn’t exactly sure how a “wet house” operates, I told her we didn't have any at TLC.

But her request piqued my curiosity so I looked into it.

And I learned that some cities underwrite wet houses as a program of harm reduction. The rationale is economic. It seems that homeless alcoholics use an inordinate amount of taxpayer money. They are more likely than any other group to be victims of crime or to suffer medical emergencies.

While this may be “harm reduction” for the taxpayer, what about the alcoholic? To me it looks like a death sentence. Programs like this may save money, but I haven’t seen any statistics that say it betters an alcoholic’s life in a positive way.

One study did show that chronic alcoholics cut down from twenty drinks a day to twelve a day. Big whoop! While a city may view that as a measurable improvement, I see it as prolonging the misery.

Alcoholism is a daunting problem, but I see the only solution as abstinence in recovery.

Click here for a CNN report on this issue.  Or here to see what Time Magazine wrote.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lawyering Up

A former client found with what looked like spice called to complain about how unfair it was for our staff to discharge him. He wanted back in.

“I had to stay outside all night. I don’t have any money or anywhere to go.”

Living outside isn’t good, so listened to him going on this way for a while. I do this when anyone complains. After all, none of us is perfect. And once in while we make a bad call.

Besides, this guy was fuming and I thought we might find an answer once he got rid of his anger. But then he screwed up: he used the “L” word. And that didn’t set well with me.

When anyone says they’re calling their lawyer the conversation’s over. Especially when I’m on vacation and the conversation’s costing 50 cents a minute.

Yet, I still didn’t hang up, probably because I realized he wasn’t thinking straight. Instead I said I’d look into the matter.

And before I hung up I suggested he’d get more from people if he didn’t threaten them while he’s also asking for help.

Click here to leave a comment

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Insanity Returns

I received a message today about a man who left our halfway house program not long ago and was found dead in his apartment this week. He’d been with us about a year.

Before leaving he told someone that if he drank again it would kill him. It appeared that he'd died from drinking.

Even though I didn’t didn't know him personally, I still knew him on one important level – our shared disease.

Because inside each of us alcoholics and addicts is that residual part of us, a tiny whispering that hints we might be able to drink or drug again.

Those of us in solid recovery know what doesn't work. So we ignore the suggestions from our ever seductive disease.

Sadly, this man didn’t listen or else didn’t care.

Click here to leave a comment

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Having a Mission

I was raised by a generation that had a lifelong goal of retiring. They saved their money. They had retirement accounts. And when they achieved their goals they seemed okay doing pretty much nothing. And when I'd visit them I never figured out what they got out of living that way. I knew that kind of life would kill my spirit. And then my body.

So – even though I'm approaching 75 – I don't believe retiring will ever work for me. Not as long as I can drag myself to work.

After spending a week in the most beautiful place on earth, I'm beginning to look forward to rejoining our mission back home.

And it's not like I’m bored or there’s nothing to do. I spend time at the gym and swimming pool. Sometimes I walk on the beach in the early morning. I read and write daily. A massage here and there. I visit some of our favorite restaurants. I take my wife shopping for clothes and jewelry. Maybe it's like eating chocolate cake: too much can be cloying.

The larger perspective is that even though I've been working with addicts for over 23 years I never feel like I don't want to go to the office. It enriches the soul to help others smile again. To have a mission of helping others makes me feel alive.

Yes, working with recovering addicts and alcoholics produces energy – sapping drama. But it's nothing a week or two away doesn't remove.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Yesterday’s blog about a woman scarred for life in a sexual assault brought several responses. I found the following email inspirational for those facing challenges in their recovery.

“When I was 29, I was severely burned, I had 3rd degree burns over large parts of my body.

The only way I was able to survive was to live minute to minute. I would decide to live for one more minute and then the next. To contemplate more was simply too much. I could feel death standing by the side of my bed just waiting for me to give up. But I fought on one minute at a time. Eventually it was hour to hour and then day to day.

After 4 years and many surgeries, I was able to resume my life. Now 34 years later I have been happily married for 42 years and have 24 beautiful grandchildren.

Life is worth living! However, at times we do have to hold on for just a minute with a white-knuckle grip, and then for one more, and one more and . . .”

Those of us in recovery have our own kind of pain. I find inspiration in this man’s determination in the face of his challenges.

Click here to leave a comment

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Overcoming Trauma

A woman left for dead after being raped at nine years old, recently underwent surgery to remove scars the monster left on her forearm. He’d cut her in hopes she’d bleed to death.

The event so tormented her that she became a teenage addict who ended up in prison. In her late twenties she found treatment.

Then she fought to rebuild. Years of hard work took her from a GED to a PhD.

Yet the scars were there, a silent reminder of horror. Seeing them sometimes sent her into a tailspin of depression. So she saved money to remove them – maybe erase the memory

Then the bandages were off, and to her dismay, a red pattern remained – one that might never fade.

Now she’s wondering if more surgery will help. Or if she should simply accept what remains as a reminder that one can survive the most terrifying trauma and build a worthwhile existence.

Click here to leave a comment

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Help by Listening

After a 45 minute session with a client she thanked me for my insight.

She said I’d given her advice she could use to help resolve her emotional issues. She felt much better and was looking forward to our next appointment.

As she left the office I scratched my head. Because during the 45 minutes or so I’d said not more than 20 or 30 words. All I’d done was listen as she poured out her troubles

But the lesson for me is that a lot of times all people need is someone to listen. Often they know the answers. But when they share with another person sometimes things become clear. Plus they're in the nonjudgmental environment of a therapy session.

Our front line managers tell me that listening to clients seems to defuse so-called problems. Sometimes just the idea that someone cares enough to listen helps newcomers get back on track.

Simply by listening we can all be helpful.

Click here to leave a comment

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gratitude in Paradise

Today I write from the patio of a leased condo in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico – one of our favorite places.

A hundred yards away waves break on the sand. It’s a symphony that slows our pace in the daytime. And it lulls us to sleep at night.

During the day we turn on the ceiling fans and open the glass walls at either end of the condo. The tropical breezes flow throughout.

Between our patio and the waves are two infinity pools that add to the beauty of the landscape.

It’s a milieu that helps of us heal from the demands of the recovery business.

As we enjoy this respite we reflect with gratitude upon those who are caring for things at home.

People tell us we’re lucky to get away like this. And I agree.

But a large part of that luck comes from the team of people we work with.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In the Moment

In the rooms we frequently hear the phrase "one day at a time."

And the way I understand this concept is that we only have to not drink or do drugs a day at a time. And for most of us in recovery – at least those of us who have put some days together – that's a manageable amount of time.

But in the rooms I've heard people say that for them it's sometimes minute to minute. That's the kind of struggle they're having with their demons. And when I listen to them I notice they appear kind of uptight and tense.

I thought of them this morning while listening to an audio book by Eckhart Tolle. For those who are unfamiliar with him, he's the author of "The Power of Now." His book is considered a classic.

In all of his materials he espouses the idea when we're in the moment there are no problems, only "situations."

For those who are interested in learning more about living in the moment, click here.

Click here to leave a commenta

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Half Measures

The 12-step literature says “half measures” availed us nothing.  So, whatever I do I give it 100 percent.

That comes to recovery, relationships, work, relaxation, or play. Whatever it is, I give it my all.

I bring this up because lately we’ve been dealing with a few clients who can’t seem to decide whether they want to be in recovery. Or if they want to continue their addiction.

Once in a while they’ll show up hot on a drug test – even though they might've been clean for 30-60 days. They’ll appear to be doing good. Then relapse. After a few days, they drag themselves back to the program, begging to be let in. It's like they can't figure out which way to go.

There's a suggestion in the literature that if one has doubts about whether they have a problem they should take another run at it. But what these folks are doing seems almost half-hearted.

I think those who are wishy-washy should leave and pursue their addictions until they figure out if they can successfully use or not.

I never tell clients it’s a good idea to get clean or sober. Who am I?  Life is our teacher and will let them know soon enough.

When they figure that out we can help.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Happy 22!

Today’s the 22nd sobriety anniversary of one of my best friends. His story is inspirational because he is – like many of us – fortunate to be alive.

I was there the day he walked into TLC's Robson House as the 15th resident.

He was anxious. Confused. He was still spinning from the effects of a 27 year run on speed and alcohol that was periodically interrupted by prison. He suspected what we were doing at TLC was a hustle, that it might not be about recovery.  But he stuck around to see what our game was, hoping he might get a "piece of the action."

He stayed and worked hard. He not only had a job off the property. But also on the property. After spending a long day at hard labor he'd return and help wherever he was needed. And even though he did a lot of work for TLC after his day job, he continued to pay service fees. He was kind of surprised when told he no longer had to pay. And that he’d be our first house manager.

Over the years he came up with ideas that made a difference. He founded and guided the Hard Six program.  He also started the Blue Shirt program.

In his position as Chief Operating Officer he's worked tirelessly for 20 years to make TLC the program it is today. He's as responsible as anyone for our success.

During these years he's overcome health issues, such as hepatitis C, knee surgery, and lung problems. He was extradited to Texas to face a parole violation. Plus he went through an ugly divorce that drained finances and emotional energy.

Yet he never wavered in his commitment to his recovery – or in his love for TLC and his many friends.

And, he ended up getting a "piece of the action" we all get as we grow in recovery..

Friday, March 14, 2014

Strength in Recovery

Yesterday, when placing a voice-activated phone call while driving I inadvertently got hold of a man I hadn't spoken to since late last year.

The last time we talked I was offering condolences over the death of his son. The young man had been stabbed to death while waiting at a bus stop. The killer was a deranged psychotic who had been released from a state hospital within the previous 24 hours. This random act of violence rocked this man to his core. And it shocked all of us who have known him during his many years in recovery.

As we talked, I again expressed my condolences. And as we continued he said that one positive thing that he's gotten out of the loss of his son was that he’s able to share with those he sponsors that if one has a solid foundation in recovery there's never a reason to relapse.

He's an example of how a good footing in recovery can help us deal with the most devastating blows without picking up a drink or a drug.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Carry the Message - Not the Mess

A woman sponsoring a former client who was discharged for using drugs was warned about taking this person into her home. She didn't react well.

"Don't tell me who I can take into my home," she exclaimed. Then she went on to explain that she was a good judge of character and so on.

However several days later she was heard at a 12-step meeting lamenting about how this same person had disappeared with her valuables and electronics. She didn't seem happy.

She isn't the first who's had a bad experience sponsoring someone. And this isn't anything against sponsorship. After all, it’s vitally important.

But the reality is that some sponsors, in my opinion, suspend good judgment at times. After all, when a person's discharged from a recovery program for using drugs logic would dictate caution. That didn’t happen in this woman’s case.

Some of the best information I’ve heard about sponsors is that they should help sponsees understand the steps and interpret the book. And that’s where they should stop.

But over the years I’ve heard of sponsors giving advice about employment, health and medication, marriage, school and so forth.

In many case their intentions are good, but just because they know about recovery doesn't mean they know everything. Sometimes authority seduces us to believe we have more answers than we really do.

And sometimes our good intentions lead us to being ripped off.

Click here to leave a comment

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Living the Promises

It was a fantastic evening. Four couples sitting around the grill at Benihana's celebrating one guest's ninth year of recovery.

But even more interesting, at least to me, was that each of the men had been in prison for drugs, as had one of the women. Some had been homeless.

The man celebrating the anniversary had spent most of his teenage years hustling on the streets. After his mother died of her addiction he left her funeral on his bicycle and never returned. His father was panhandling for meth in a park when he last saw him a few years back.

Yet, in spite of these histories, those at the table last Sunday night had over 75 years' recovery between them.

All were employed, either in business or else raising children. Two were licensed drug therapists.  All lived in the suburbs. A couple of the men were investors and business managers. Two of the couples had small babies.

To anyone passing by they were indistinguishable from any other middle-class group enjoying themselves on a quiet Sunday evening.

So what's the point? The point is, that once addicts and alcoholics get into recovery they can join the mainstream and become part of life. They become contributors to the community and start giving instead of taking.

And they can start living the promises.

Click here to leave a comment

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Better Life

I thought this email response to Sunday's blog is well worth reading..

"In response to Sunday's posting about this blog being a "joke.”

I would like the whole world to know I'm that guy! No need to protect my anonymity, my name is Elbert and in response to whoever wrote that email I would like to say this: I am the guy that stole the money, took the van, lied in sobriety, had behavioral issues, etc. etc. etc. and years later was in charge of TLC's accounting department.

I am the guy that has been given more chances than I probably deserved and today it's part of my story, my journey in recovery. Today I live in a beautiful home with my wife and two kids. I have a car parked in the driveway and money in the bank (don't worry none of it's been embezzled).

But most importantly I am nearing 6 years of sobriety that started with someone giving me the same opportunity as you, no matter of my past and prior convictions. Without that chance I would not be where I am at today.

As far as being a "joke", you’re absolutely right because every time I share my story which includes stealing TLC's van and money, the crowd always chuckles with laughter.

Today I have a life that is so wonderful, and I thank God, TLC, and my sponsor on a daily basis. I pray that the author of that email can have a beautiful life sober, I pray that you are able to live free of resentment. You too can have a life worth living, but it's gonna take work (don't worry my text book is the same as yours), and it's going to take accepting responsibility for your actions (which appears you may still be blaming others).

No matter what keep trudging on, and according to the blog, it looks like TLC is willing to help you AGAIN, just like they did me!"

Click here to leave a comment

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tough Parents

I sometimes lament about parents enabling their children. But I don't write often about those who practice tough-love . I don’t hear much from them.

But this week some tough parents showed up.

One mother learned that her son, who’d been clean for over 60 days, had convinced a doctor that he was suffering from Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). As a result he was prescribed a narcotic like drug that would hopefully prevent him from relapsing.

In any event, his mother was enraged. So upset, in fact, that she cancelled his insurance – which was good for seven more months.

He asked what we’d do when his insurance lapsed. I told him he could either buy his own through COBRA. Or else move to the halfway house and find work.

(PAWS, incidentally, is a serious precursor to relapse. However, in this man’s case, he was overheard asking another client about how to fake symptoms prior to visiting the doctor.)

And in the other instance, a client refused to accept punishment for breaking rules. Instead, he said he’d call his mother – that she’d send him to a cushy program in Florida.

However, when she spoke with our staff, she said "Hell no, he's not going anywhere if I have to pay for it! He can stay and accept his consequences.”

It was refreshing to hear them get tough because most clients are able to convince parents that nothing is their fault, that they're being treated poorly and so forth.

With parents like these our clients might actually have a chance at recovery.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Another Critic

Selecting a topic for this blog is sometimes a challenge – especially after 1320 postings. Because the theme is recovery I have a wide range of topics. However, in its own way that can also be limiting.

Today I came up with two potential topics: one was about a client who lied to my face, then lied to another staff member about the lie he told me. The other was about a guy who sent an email that initially kind of hurt my feelings. I decided to go with that one.

(I didn't publish last part of the email to protect anonymity.) But the first part went like this, verbatim:

"Reading the blog...what a joke, John you really have know idea what goes on in your facilities do you. Managers testing dirty, others test dirty but you have no one else to replace them so, the tests get buried.managers stealing/embezzling etc, now there in charge of your accounting department."

The part that tweaked my sensitive alcoholic feelings is where he wrote " ...The blog… What a joke..." But I got over that pretty quick. After all, there are a lot of things I read that I don't like. Either I don't like the way it's written.  Or I don't like the content. Or both. And the way he put his email together I knew his comments weren't literary criticism.

The part about having “know” idea about what goes on in our facilities didn't bother me. After all, sometimes I don't know many details because we have 650 clients and 95 staff members.

But I trust those who work for us. And when something's wrong it quickly comes to light. And where he mentioned that we have "no one else to replace them" he’s delusional because we have people lining up to work for us. Our challenge is to pick the best candidates.

My assessment is that he's angry because he was discharged from our program for some infraction. Perhaps he got drunk. Maybe he stole something. Or it could have simply been a personality clash.

Whatever it is, when he decides to come back and get into recovery we're willing to help.  Even if he doesn't like this blog.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I got to? Or I get to?

Early in my recovery my sponsor corrected me when I said "I have to go to a meeting."

"No," he said. "You get to go to a meeting." And his emphasis was on the word "get."

And ever since I've tried to weave his admonition into my daily conversation and thinking. And I've lived with that philosophy for most of my recovery.

As a recovering heroin addict and alcoholic I know on a deep level I'm very privileged to still be alive in my eighth decade of life.

And I know that many of you – especially those of you in recovery – share my sentiments.

How many times have we dodged death from a drug overdose? Or from driving drunk? How much did we damage our health as we poured alcohol and drugs into our bodies? How many friends have we lost to this disease? Friends who were living on the edge right along with us? Yet somehow they didn't make it. But we survived the insanity that surrounded us.

God has spared us for some reason.  And I believe we should be grateful that we "get" to do the things we do each day. 

 Some of our peers no longer are alive to enjoy the challenge.

Friday, March 7, 2014

In Denial

“What the hell kind of program are you running out there?” a pissed off mother screams through the phone at one of our managers

“My son says there’re drugs all over the place. And now you’re going to put him on the streets for being dirty?”

She kept ranting for a while until her anger wore down, allowing our manager to ask a question.

“Did your son happen to mention that he left the property without permission? That he purchased heroin and brought it back and shared it with two other clients?”

The angry mom didn't have a lot to say after that because she hadn't heard that part of the story.

And, of course, her story is similar to many who can’t accept the fact that the little darling they brought home from the hospital so many years ago has morphed into an unrecognizable mess of an addict.

And part of that denial is that they still believe their addict offspring is the way he is because of what others have done. They treated him poorly. They didn’t love him enough. They didn’t give the poor boy a chance. He didn't have the same opportunities as others. On and on.

While many of these things may have occurred, that doesn’t change the fact that today his life is a mess. A mess that she obviously can’t deal with because she sent him to us for help.

Hopefully, she’ll back off and let us do our job.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Stopping Negativity

Because our newer clients are impressionable we do our best to protect them from those with toxic attitudes, those who spread the cancer of negativity.

This negativity expresses itself several ways. Sometimes negative clients won’t participate in group. Maybe they resist the counselors. Or they’ll complain about the housing, the food, or group topics. They might make negative comparisons of our program with others they've been in.

The danger of this behavior is that it affects the recovery of others in the program. It might cause others to leave and relapse or even worse – overdose.

We usually invite those spreading negativity to a group or individual session to learn what’s going on with them.

If the client agrees to stop undermining the program that’s the end of the discussion. But if there’s denial about what’s going on we will issue an ultimatum that it stop or they’ll be discharged.

And usually they stop.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Not Ready?

The woman on the phone had sent an email earlier in the day asking for help. She’d been using opiates for 15 years and couldn't quit. She had no money or insurance.

She also mentioned she didn't want to lose her job. It was very important for her. Maybe it was the one area of stability in her life. Maybe it was one thing that gave her life a sense of normalcy..

Because she included her number I placed a call. She was surprised to hear from me.

In a barely audible voice she said she was at work. That she would call me back later, in maybe 20 minutes.

But now, 24 hours later I haven’t heard from her.

How many of us started out by making tentative cries for help? Putting out feelers. Maybe calling a hotline seeking help for “a friend.”

Perhaps when she loses her job or things get bad enough she’ll follow through.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


It's refreshing to see clients make small changes.

It happened yesterday when I encountered a client about to leave for a weekend pass with his son.

When I first met him weeks earlier he was consumed with doing everything he could to keep his job. His mantra was work, not recovery. He was in a big hurry to get released to return to duty.

However, once he returned to work he was drunk within a week. And this time his relapse put his 18 year career with the company in serious jeopardy.

He was crushed by the idea he might lose his job two years short of retirement.

But after spending more time off work and in counseling, where it was pointed out that he might have to think about another career, he seemed to change. In fact, he came up with the idea that maybe the work he’s been doing all this time hadn't been that satisfying.

He’s accepted the fact that he might have to enter another line of work. And he seems to have put his sobriety at the forefront.

Click here to leave a comment

Monday, March 3, 2014

More Happiness?

An older client who’s worked for TLC for 18 months talks of his plans for the future. He wants to pay court fines, get his driver’s license, then a car.

To do all that he needs several thousand dollars for fines. Plus money for a vehicle and insurance. Also there’s the monthly fee for an interlocking device for a year because he was convicted of DUI last time he drove. Money he doesn't have.

So he faces the issue of finding a job without a car, a necessity for his work in construction and maintenance. So what to do?

During the same conversation he also says he’s never been happier – that he’s finally found contentment. And a sense of purpose while working to help maintain TLC’s buildings.

Which brings the obvious question: why do anything? This is the longest he’s been sober in 40 years. Why not keep doing what he's doing, what's bringing him happiness?

After all there are unhappy people who supposedly have it all. They have great jobs and money. Fame. Power. Prestige. Supposedly all the ingredients of happiness in today’s world. Yet some are so unhappy that they get into alcohol or drugs and continue on a path of self-destruction.

My suggestion is that this client seek God’s will as he makes plans. After all, how much happiness do we need?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Being Appropriate

During the past month we've discharged four male clients for inappropriate behavior toward female clients. We put the last one on a bus yesterday.

Before we discharged them they were each was given a chance to modify his behavior. Something they were unable or unwilling to do.

The first thing we do in these situations is forbid them to say anything to the females other that “hi” and “bye.” For each of them, that didn't last long.

In one case a twenty something client continued on as he had before, trying to arrange rendezvous with the females.

Another man wouldn’t be verbally abuse on the property – but at 12-step meetings he would make veiled threats or innuendos that would make the women uncomfortable.

And the client we put on the bus yesterday had a habit of staring at the females in group to the point they were uncomfortable. And he would make offensive suggestions.

We usually give men who behave this way one chance to act right because we assume they simply don’t know better. After a second incident we start the discharge paperwork.

Because many women in our program have been traumatized, we do everything possible to keep them from experiencing further bad experiences.

Click here to leave a comment

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dolphins aren't Smiling

I’m a little sad about the destruction of one of my life long illusions.

As an addict I for years lived with illusions that put me in danger. For example, I used to think I could successfully get high. I thought I drove better when I was drunk. Sometimes I thought I was tough. There were dangerous illusions that brought me jail, injuries, divorces and other calamities. And these left when I embraced recovery.

But there are positive illusions that aren't bad. Many are from childhood and fall by the wayside as we mature.

For example, I once believed in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. But eventually my school friends informed me that Santa was too fat for our chimney. That bunnies don’t have hands so how could I be stupid enough to believe they could boil and dye eggs? And why would a fairy care about a lost molar?

And I was okay with letting these illusions go because I now was in the inner circle of those who were really in the know. I was with the in-crowd..

But an illusion that I’m sorry I lost – after reading a recent article in Reader’s Digest - was my belief that dolphins smile.

All my life I've seen their happy faces in videos and movies and it cheered me up. And when I’m on vacation in Mexico it’s common to see them frolicking offshore seemingly without a care in the world. How happy and blissful they seem.

Then comes the Reader’s Digest article about the smile being really just the shape of their heads – not an expression of their emotions.

Now I’ll never look at dolphins quite the same, realizing they might be depressed, or angry, or fearful behind that happy exterior.

Somehow I wish I hadn't read this article.

Click here to leave a comment