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 31st 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.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

A New Year

Happy New Year! to all.  And hopefully it wll be better than the last.

I don't need to dwell on pandemics, economic downturns, riots, fires, and political squabbles.  That's because anyone reading this was right there with me.

Many of you lost loved ones or had family members who contracted the disease.  None of the older people in my family got the virus, though two of my grandchildren were hit wth it.  However, they came through it with their health intact.  For which I am grateful.

So did we learn anything this past year?  I think that most of my close ones learned that life can suddenly turn very serious through no fault of our own. Life just sometimes happens.  How we respond and get to the other side of challenges is what's more important.

I think that at first the youngsters in my family didn't think the virus would affect them.  Then they were the only ones who got it. They now seem a little more humble.  And being humble is what we get when times can become hard.

I have a positive outlook on this next year because I see new medical solutions arriving and some people becoming more careful about distancing and wearing masks.  All of a sudden we are viewing life as more serious.

I miss meetings and I miss socializing, but I try to follow what the medical people suggest.  My world is pretty much limited to my home office, business office and a limited amount of food shopping, And until I get the vaccine that's the way it will.  

I pray that you all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Click here to email John

Monday, December 28, 2020

Christmas Present

Either tomorrow or the next day I'm getting myself a Christmas present; I'm leasing a 2021 Dual Motor Tesla plus.  Not that there's anything wrong with my old one, except it's a 2016 model and it's starting to show a little bit of wear and tear. Plus my lease is up on January 13 so I had to make a decision between buying the car or leasing a new model. After a few days reflection I opted for the new model.

One of the reasons I opted for the new model is that Tesla has a habit of adding new technology which it downloads over the Internet and I want to be driving a model that's equipped for the new things that are coming up, such as hands-free driving and a 400 mile driving range before having to recharge. Plus it will reach 60 mph in 2.3 seconds. Something no other production car in the world will do unless it's another Tesla.

This will be the fourth Tesla that I have leased.. The three cars I had prior to that were Toyotas, the Prius model. So why did I decide to go from an inexpensive car that was very economical to the fastest production car in the world?

Someone might say that it was about my ego. And there may be a little bit of that mixed in there. After all, there's nothing like being a senior citizen who owns a vehicle that can outpace nearly every other stock car on the road. Another thing I like about the vehicle is that it only requires servicing once a year. Because it's completely electric the only thing I can put in the vehicle is windshield wiper fluid and air in the tires. It also only has four gears: drive, reverse, neutral, and park.

Another reason I leased the car is that I spend very little money on myself. I live in the same house I've owned for 21 years. And sometimes people tell me why don't I get a bigger house because I could afford it. But I'm actually thinking about getting a smaller house or even a condominium because I don't like to have a lot of stuff to take care of. 

I'm a person who buys only things that I like, whether other people like them or not. I do much of my clothes shopping at Walmart, Amazon, Old Navy. I don't dress to impress. I dress to be comfortable, which is the way I think we all should live our lives – but that's something that's none of my business. I just know that people aren't going to like me any better no matter how much I spend on clothing or housing or cars. So I choose to be comfortable with what I purchase and don't worry about impressing others.

Click here to email John

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas

On the 14th of this coming January I'll be celebrating 30 years of sobriety, more than 1/3 of my life in recovery.

But I remember Christmas day 30 years ago what I was doing. I was living in a stolen car parked in an apartment complex. My daily routine was to wake up and find a Circle K where I could steal some booze. Then when I got my courage up I would steal something more valuable that I could trade for heroin or other opioids. Never during those dark days did I think about getting sober and changing my life.

But one day while going through the same routine I just got sick and tired of my life. I had absolutely no money, no friends, and the future looked bleak. I realized that I would either end up going back to prison, back to a mental hospital or dying.

Less than three weeks later I found myself living in a halfway house in downtown Mesa, Arizona. And my life has never been the same. 

After living in a halfway house for a year I decided to start a recovery program of my own. And for the past 30 years I've never stopped trying to help others get into recovery. I have a rewarding life today. I have friends, I have all the material things I could want, and I wake up clearheaded and not wondering what I'm going to do with my day.

Because this day and every day in my future I'm going to do something to help carry the message to others who don't believe they can change their lives.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Thoughts of Christmas

For over 25 years Christmas hasn't been one of my favorite holidays. And it's not because I'm some kind of a grinch or don't like to see people celebrating the holiday. The reason it's not one of my favorites is because my mother died 26 years ago on Christmas Eve.

She had been in the hospital since November 1, 1994, to have a piece of metal removed from her leg that was starting to cause her pain. She had broken her leg several years earlier and the doctors had placed a metal splint on the bone in her leg, along with a few screws, so as to give more support to the spot where the break had occurred. But it had begun to cause her pain and she asked me if I thought it was a good idea to have it removed.

Of course I don't like surgery or hospitals – I know they are necessary for our survival – but I left the decision entirely up to her because she was the one who was suffering from the pain, not me. Of course, in retrospect I would have told her to not go into the hospital. But the way she explained it to me is that it was a very simple surgery that would be done on an outpatient basis. The metal splint would have been removed and she was to return home the same day. But things didn't go quite the way she explained it.

The doctors decided to keep her in the hospital under observation for a few days because of her reaction to the surgery. They wanted to make sure that she was entirely functional after she left. Anyway, to make a long story short one complication led to another and her condition started to deteriorate. At one point she even developed pneumonia. But after some therapy so she could get used to the new splint that they had put in her leg they made plans to release her on Christmas morning of 1994.

I had gotten off work that day and went home to shower and was planning to visit her as I did every day she was in the hospital when a call came from a nurse. She told me that my mother had passed away 15 minutes earlier. Of course, I was devastated and went to the hospital full of grief and with tears running down my face.

It seemed so surreal to me, so unbelievable, because I was planning on picking her up the next morning and taking her home. But it didn't happen that way.

Many people have advised me to get over my grieving and I believe that I did a long time ago. But still, because it happened on Christmas Eve I am always reminded at this time of year that I lost one of my best friends, someone who supported me through the many years when I was living the life of a drug addict. She didn't support my habit or anything like that. But she did encourage me to get help both when I was in jail and out of jail and it took me a long time to follow her advice.

One of the things that makes me happy is that she was able to see me sober for three years and working in the recovery field. I think that gave her more joy than anything. And even though I recognize that today,  the Christmas holidays are not the best time of year for me.

Click here to email John

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Being Kind

 I believe it always pays to be kind to other drivers when we're on the highway.

Because a lot of times we'll be driving and someone will cut us off and we immediately respond with anger. But the reality is, unless we have extrasensory perception, we don't know what's going on with the driver in the other car. Many times we make the assumption that they're just naturally rude – or at the best – very unaware of the other drivers. But the reality is that we don't know what's going on with others. Maybe they're on the way to the hospital to visit a sick relative. Maybe they just got into an argument with their spouse. Perhaps they just lost their job. Even though we have a human tendency to come down on the side of negative, we'll feel a lot better if we give the person in the other vehicle the benefit of the doubt.

I don't believe that rude drivers get up in the morning and say "I think I'll go out and drive crazy and get everyone angry at me."  Instead, I think they always have something on their minds that takes their attention away from their driving. That's not an excuse for driving rudely or cutting others off.  But it is something to think about when we get upset on the road at the way others are driving a 4000 pound vehicle that could do a lot of damage if it got out of control over some petty anger.

And when we look back at these kind of incidents that inevitably occur once in a while we really don't remember much about them or why they occurred. Unless we get into a real accident, the things that happen on the highway are very unimportant in the scheme of things. 

And the nice thing is that we get home safely to our family and loved ones.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

R.I.P.

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my grandson's death. He was found dead in bed at a friend's house a few months after he'd been released from prison. There was some disagreement among family members of what he died from. And of course I have my own opinion because he had a history of ending up in emergency rooms from drug overdoses.

He and I had been at odds for a few years before he died. He had a habit of borrowing money from me then would quit talking to me for a year or two. We went through this cycle a couple of times of me loaning him money and and him not repaying me. Until it came to a point where we rarely communicated unless it was when we ran into each other by accident.

My first reaction to his death was anger. Because when he got out of prison his dad and I and a couple of other family members went out to dinner. I was happy that we were once more on speaking terms. And we discussed what he was going to do. And one thing he assured me of was that he was done with the drug world and wanted to make something of his life. He had the talent, looks, and personality to do anything and I really believed that he was going to make it this time.

I felt especially bad for his father – who loved him very much. Also, the sisters he was close to. They all grieved heavily when he died and many of them still are. I eventually got over my anger because it served no purpose. But my first reaction was anger because I felt such a loss at losing a young man who had the world going for him if he had just decided to follow the right path.

I will miss my grandson for the rest of my life. His death reminds me that we need to enjoy our lives every day and live life to the fullest. All any of us can do is move on from here and appreciate the good times that we enjoyed with him. I know that he would've wanted us to be happy, prosperous, and successful – rather than spend our days grieving his loss. But his loss does teach us that we need to enjoy our loved ones and be grateful for the time that our creator has given us.

Click here to email John

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Looking Better?

 I've seen several news reports last week that say the government will begin distributing the Covid vaccine. I'm sure that it's a massive undertaking, distributing millions of doses of a vaccine while at the same time keeping track of who got a dose and who didn't. But one thing I will say, is that once those companies were given the green light they moved full speed ahead. Which just goes to show that when everyone works together, things can happen really fast.

The last stories I've heard say that the medical people and first responders will get the first doses. Then the people who are in nursing homes, the elderly, and the more vulnerable will get the next doses. However it happens, this is a positive way to end what has been an ugly year. To me, this last 11 months it seems like the universe has gotten off balance somehow. 

Pandemics. Massive forest fires. Months long riots. Venomous political battles. But those of you who have survived know the stories. I don't have to repeat them for you. But I'm sure that you share my gratitude that some solutions are on the horizon.

The one thing I always like to do to wind up blogs like this is to remind everyone that the only thing we have, if we're lucky, is this present day. I usually say this to clients who are fretting about the future and who have developed some anxiety about what's gonna happen. None of us know what will happen in the next months. Things will probably get better – but they could get worse. We never know.

That's why it's important for us to get up in the morning, plant our feet on the floor and thank our creator for another day. And then we need to plan how we can use that day to perhaps improve the lives of others.

Click here to email John

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A great staff

Our company, TLC, has been very lucky when it comes to the consequences of the Covid 19 virus. We probably have had fewer than 12 people quarantined since February, and only one or two were sick enough to go to the hospital and they were elderly and had underlying issues. And none of them died.

I attribute our low infection rate to our staff, from our chief operating officer on down to the house managers. Everyone has taken this pandemic very seriously. They have quickly quarantined anyone with symptoms. They are constantly cleaning and wiping and disinfecting everything. They require clients to wear masks at meetings and when they are outside of their rooms. We have around 600 clients right now and I feel that we have been very blessed in in the low infection rate all due to the safety measures we have taken. Everyone who works in our office is required to take a mask to work and to wear it – including myself.

TLC has faced a couple of serious crises during its lifetime, over 25 years. One was when the twin towers were hit and the economy suffered a low employment rate. During that time our count went down to about 400 people and we were barely scratching by in terms of paying our expenses and helping people get sober. But we weathered the storm. 

The second crisis came during the recession of 2009 – 2012. Several of our key managers including myself stopped getting paid for about 3 1/2 years and elected to take a pay cut rather than seek employment elsewhere. It seems like when people are grateful for their sobriety they do everything they can to stand up and help preserve the program.

I just want everyone to know who's involved with TLC that we are very grateful for their help and cooperation. Without our managers and staff and willing clients we wouldn't have a program. And after 27 years it would be a tragedy to lose everything we have worked for: an open door for any addict or alcoholic who wants to change – whether they have money or not.

Click here to email John

Monday, December 7, 2020

More Covid

 It seems like my whole world the last five days have been about Covid 19 or related to Covid 19.

Late last week I found out that I had been exposed to someone who is positive for the virus. So I was going to take a rapid test myself, but was unable to secure an appointment. But I knew that we had someone coming into our office today to test all 25 staff members who work in my department and decided to quarantine myself until today.

So I was there promptly at 10:30 AM and the test showed I was negative for the virus. And so were the other 25 staff members, which was a relief.

But to show how the virus has affected many segments of our society I will tell you about something I witnessed at the Circle K where I get a cup of coffee each morning on my way to work.

There were about eight people waiting to pay for purchases. One of the guys who was about 6 feet tall and weighed around 300 pounds was not wearing a mask. Behind him an older guy about half his size told him loudly that he should be wearing a mask. The bigger man turned around and told him to go "fuck himself." And that if he didn't shut up he would take him out to the parking lot and "stomp his ass."

The littler guy told the bigger man that he wasn't afraid of him and that he could do whatever he wanted.   At that point I think that the larger man realized that the smaller man was a little bit overconfident and then he noticed that he had a small baseball bat in a holster at his side. And that he was also wearing a backpack that had several small pockets which could have contained most any kind of weapons. 

In any case he paid for his purchases and left the store and nothing more came of the incident.

But that was my day and I accepted it as being a perfect day because I was still sober and hadn't let any of the stresses of life get me down.

Click here to email John

Friday, December 4, 2020

Being Self-Centered

A close recovery friend called the other day to tell me he'd been exposed to Covid-19 and that I shouldn't visit him for a few weeks as he was going to self-quarantine.  I thanked him for the heads-up and asked him how he was exposed - so he told me about it.

He's a successful businessman and one of his cousins in another state asked if  he could put her son to work so he could learn about business.  Since the kid was bright, but didn't want to go to college, she thought maybe her cousin could introduce the son to the world of business.  And since my friend believes experience is a better teacher than any classroom, he told his cousin yes.  And gave her 20-something a job and let him live rent-free at his home.

And he said things went pretty well for a while.  The youngster was a good worker, showed up on time, and became an asset to the company.  But he had one flaw: he didn't believe in wearing masks or social distancing.  And he had a habit of bringing different girls to the house and they didn't wear masks either.  

Finally my friend told the youngster he could no longer bring any of his friends to the house.  And the youngster made other arrangements.  But most of the time he wore a mask on the job and was reminded if he forgot to wear one.

When my friend asked if he and his friends wore masks when they were together outside the house he said they did.  But my friend didn't believe him because of previous conversations they'd had.  Once he brought the subject up and the youngster that "he'd be okay, that he wouldn't catch anything."  When my friend explained to him that wasn't about him, it was about the vulnerable people, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems it didn't seem to have much impact on him.  Though he did half heartedly nod in agreement.

And a few days ago the youngster exhibited symtoms of infection so my friend had him tested.  And, sure enough, he came back positive.

My friend was angry at first because he has to rapid test about 25 people who worked in the same office.  Plus the boy failed to use common sense and follow his advice.  

My friend wasn't amused when I reminded him of the old saying that "No good deed goes unpunished."

Click here to email John

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Risking our Lives

As the pandemic intensifies I find it difficult to understand why people are so resistant to complying with measures that might save their lives or the lives of others.

For example there was a lot of controversy in the media about how to deal with Thanksgiving.  Eat with the family?  Or stay home?  And depending on the state one lives in, there were conflicting suggestions from government health officials about where to spend the holiday.

I believe that part of the issue is that we Americans have always been independent and don't like anyone telling us anything.

We see this when the government closes certain businesses or institutions.  Whether it's a bar, church, or school being closed the outcry is deafening.  People scream about their "constitutional rights" while half of them know little or nothing about the constitution and what it says.

From my perspective, whatever I can do to distance myself from others I'll do it.  I've heard that masks don't work and that they do work.  But I take a chance that they do work and wear one whenever I'm around people.

I think we've become a nation of entitled babies and don't want to suffer the slightest inconvenience.  When we don't care whether we spread a deadly disease to others we show the world how self-centered we really are.

I believe there's a lesson here for all of us.

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 28, 2020

A different Year

In a little over a month this year will be over and the hope is that the next one will be different.

Never have I experienced such a collision of interests, as if the universe had tilted and everyone went a bit crazy.  After all, political campaigns are bad enough, but when pandemics, riots, unemployment, and fires across the West Coast are mixed in at the same time it's a lot to absorb.

With several cures for the Covid 19 virus supposedly on the way next month and early next year we can hope that the world is taking a positive turn where the pandemic will subside.

A new president will probably assume office - and while he may not do a better job than his predecessor - at least the tone of the political world will change.  What politicians do has never had much of an effect on my life but sometimes it's hard to ignore the drama when it's mixed in with other layers of drama as during 2020.

For me the recovery world has even changed, mainly because meetings have become limited.  Because of my age, which puts me in the most vulnerable group, I've chosen to stay away from any large gatherings.  I go from my home to my office and not much anywhere else.  And I usually wear a mask when in public, regardless of what the skeptics say.

What helps the most is that I apply the principles I've learned during my nearly 30 years of recovery.  I live in the moment, recognizing that many in the world are truly suffering and that I'm blessed to be where I am in life.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Giving Thanks

Today those of us who have gratitude in our hearts celebrate it with a day our country sets aside for this occasion.

In this country we have much to be grateful for, even though we've been through one of the worst years since I was a child.  On top of the challenges of normal life, we were struck by a pandemic that ravaged our country and the world, we experienced all the vitriol of a vicious political campaign, riots raged in the streets of the Northwest and forest fires burned millions of acres in California, Oregon and Washington.

So one must  be very optimistic to find something to be grateful for after such a series of dramatic events.

But I have a favorite technique I use when my world spins out of control as it has recently.  When things get crazy I play kind of a comparison game.  I look around and I can always find someone who has it really rough.

For example, I live within several blocks of some assisted living homes.  And as I drive to work I usually follow a route that takes me past them.  I often see the elderly and sick riding their electric carts on the sidewalks - even when the temperature is over 110 degrees.  Some are puffing a cigarette, or returning from the market with a basket of groceries, or maybe just escaping the confines of their rooms.  Whatever they're doing - which is none of my business - they remind me that I have a lot of freedom and blessings in my life.

And I'd suggest that you develop some techniques of your own that help you feel grateful when things get really rough.  Yes, many have it better than us - but don't look at them because you'll feel envy, or jealousy or some other ugly emotions that'll drag you further into depression.

Instead, have gratitude for whatever life has handed you because today might be the best day of your life.

Click here to email John

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Blessings of Recovery

In January I'll have 30 years in recovery.

And one thing I never had a problem with is finding things to be grateful for.

For example, my youngest daughter is going to be 36 tomorrow.  This is an anniversary I'd never have seen had I not gotten sober.  And I know that it's just a birthday and what's the big deal?  But the big deal to me is that I was able to get custody of her when she was about seven years old and raised her until she was 18 and decided to go into the army.

She served three years in the military, one of them in Afganistan.  She worked as a chef while in the service.  And when she was released she enrolled in Texas Culinary Academy and earned an associates degree.  Later she moved to Arizona and earned a bachelor's degree in liberal Arts.

Today she's married to an actor on the Discovery Channel's Gold Rush series and is raising my five year old grandchild and spends a lot of time bodybuilding.

I'm proud of her accomplishments and she gives me a lot to be grateful for.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Working Together

Last week I heard that two companies have developed vaccines that are over 90% effective in curing the Covid-19 virus.  And they did it in record time:  in less than a year.  It doesn't surprise me that this happened because I believe that humans can accomplish anything if they learn to work together toward a common goal.

But looking beyond the virus, what other problems could the world accomplish if everyone decided to work in unison?  What if researchers and governments decided to join together and wipe out drug addictions and alcoholism?  

I know it can be done; in fact there is already a trend to decriminalize drugs in countries around the world.  And in some states here in the U.S.  While it may take a few decades to bring common sense to society, I believe that this will be the norm:  rather that putting people in cages because they try to solve their problems with substances, we someday will send social workers to help them work through their issues.  Instead of them seeing parole officers or judges they will go to counseling sessions and learn new coping skills.  Society will teach them new ways to live rather than send to them away from their families and the real world.  Some people were never nutured or taught to live an ethical life.

Moving on from drugs, society could teach people how to escape poverty and the ghettos.  Someone had the bright idea that everyone needs to go to college to succeed.  And I think that those who want to become doctors or lawyers or scientists should do this- in fact they must.  But someone who wants to start their own business could learn all the skills they need in a trade school - which many millionaires have done.

If we can work for the common good there's nothing we can't achieve.  We've already seen this in many areas of the world.  We need to see it keep growing.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 16, 2020

Challenges

I was watching a news show this weekend and the host was talking to a psychiatrist who stated that, according to a study done during the quarantine that one out of four college students had considered suicide.  And that was because they were so depressed about the pandemic and how the quarantine had limited their lives.  No parties.  Wearing masks.  No hanging out with their friends, etc.

And I found that somewhat shocking.  I'm still trying to understand it because a lot of bad things happen in life and not having fun or freedom for a few weeks is not - to me - that big of a deal.  

After thinking about this for a while the only conclusion I could come up with is that these students had never faced any kind of adversity or had never been told no.  They always got what they wanted when they wanted it.  They had never developed the resiliance that comes with facing tough challenges.  They probably never had to work or take care of themselves.

In the recovery field we encounter many people who have lived rough lives.  They suffered sexual and physical abuse in their early years.  They spent time in foster care and juvenile halls.  As soon as they were old enough they graduated to prison.  Yet they became tough people, people who knew that life had its ups and downs.  Of course they didn't become tough overnight.  They tried to escape their challenges by using alcohol and other drugs until they found that that cure didn't solve their problems either.

The only way we get tougher is by facing the tough challenges in life.  While this pandemic is terrible, those of us who survive will learn to value to our lives and appreciate each day we have been given.

We'll come through these challenges stronger, better, and more grateful for what we have.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Be Here

The other day I dealt with a client who had a severe case of anxiety. He had trouble sleeping. He had trouble relaxing. He spent a great deal of time looking into the future, or dwelling in the past.

And like many of the addicts in our program he had the perfect solution for his anxiety: he would bury it with drugs or alcohol until he passed out. The only problem is that he had to wake up the next day and start all over again. This regimen didn't work out very well for him because eventually he lost his job, his marriage, his automobile, and the home that he lived in for seven years.

As I got better acquainted with him I learned that he had been treated poorly as a child. But instead of blaming those who mistreated him, he blamed himself for the bad things that happened to him. And of course that affected his self-worth. When in school he got poor grades. He ended up hanging with other students who had similar experience to his. He had found a clique of drug addicts to whom he could relate and who accepted him just as he was. And because of his association with them he eventually ended up in juvenile hall and then jail. And for the next 20 years he spent a lot of time associating with people like him and ultimately returning to jail or prison.

During my sessions with him I was able to help him understand that he could do nothing about the past. Nor could he really plan a future. But something that he would be able to do that would bring him some happiness and peace was to learn how to live in the moment. It took a while for me to help him understand that the only thing he had control over was this moment. And when he spent his time in the past or the future he was wasting a lot of the brief time that we all have here on earth.

After a while his anxiety went away because he began to grasp the concepts that I was teaching him about living in the moment. Someone taught me that concept a long time ago. And when I'm able to share it with others who begin to use it in their lives I feel like I'm helping someone learn how precious each moment of our life is.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Acceptance

 Being angry is probably one of the most destructive things we can do to our mind and body.

This comes up as a topic for me today because I met a lot of people who were unhappy about the results of the election. And one of the worst things for an alcoholic or drug addict to do is to carry around anger about things they have no power over.  And even if they do have power over something and get their way, so what?  Even if we get our way or if we are right that's a very small victory in the scheme of things.  While we might feel a small sense of satisfaction because we won an argument or switched someone over to our point of view that doesn't mean that something new is not going to come up tomorrow. And we'll find our self pissed off again.   

So what's the answer when we're upset? Well here again comes that boring old word that we learned in 12 step meetings straight out of the big book: acceptance.  Other than maybe the word gratitude, acceptance is the most powerful word in the book in my opinion.

Because when I can find acceptance with whatever goes on I don't get angry and I don't carry resentments around with me all day. When we accept any person, place, or situation  just as it is then we have no reason to get upset.  Instead, we can be the observer and maybe even learn something from what is going on.

Of course there are some things that happen on this planet that are totally unacceptable and worthy of our anger. But things like that don't come along very often. I'm talking about if we witness someone mistreating a child, abusing an animal, or doing something else that is outside the boundaries of a civilized society. At that point we can use our anger to intervene and do our best to change the situation.

But most things fall in the category – in my experience – of not being worthy of our anger or resentment. And that's when we can exercise our acceptance.

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Consequences

I have heard it said that elections have consequences.

But whatever consequences they have, I'm truly happy that the election is over. Or at least it should be over, according to the law and other precedents.

Used to be a saying in my family that two things people should not talk about: religion and, of course politics. And unless I'm pretty positive about someone's political or religious leanings, I very rarely talk about either. I just keep my opinion to myself – except for a periodic lapse of commitment – like maybe a few lines in this blog.

One thing that I am certain of is that the election was not about who was the best man for the job. It was more about being against the incumbent and voting for somebody – anybody – else who was willing to take on such a grueling job. Because I'm a person who likes to see results from the people who lead our country and state. And like his personality or not, Trump was a businessman who got things done and really didn't care a whole lot about what people thought about the way he did it.

The one thing that I agree with most people about is that he was not a politician; he was a businessman. And as a businessman he didn't have the luxury of sitting around on his butt and taking forever to make a decision. I think that was why a lot of people didn't like him, his policies, or the way he operated. Because he operated this country like a business. He set a goal and carried it out. During his term we had the best economy that we've had in the last 50 years. The lowest unemployment rate. We became independent of the Mideast for our oil. Minorities had the lowest unemployment rate in history. He showed that we could operate the government without all of the bureaucrats whose positions were not filled once he became the president.

Yet in spite of all of this, you would never hear anything of substance if you ask people why they didn't like him. If you asked that question, people would just say something bright like "I don't know, I just don't like the way he does things." Or something equally stupid.

The people who responded this way knew very little about his policies, politics, or anything about government. I think they got their idea of how a president should operate from CNN, ABC and other liberal outlets.  

And then another factor was the fact that at least 75% of the press is liberal, and the liberals were trying to get him out of office almost from the moment he was declared the winner in 2016. Within weeks they started out with fantasy stories about Russians and his employment by them as a Russian agent. And it never stopped from that point on. We were constantly swamped and inundated with news about how terrible Trump was and the awful things he did.

But like I said in the first sentence of this blog; elections have consequences. And we're going to see some of those consequences within about 60 to 90 days.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Recovery vs. Recovered

 At times I've heard people use the term I am a "recovered" alcoholic. Or a "recovered" addict.

But really, that's a misuse of the term "recovered." And I say this because I learned a long time ago that for us addicts and alcoholics there is no such thing as being "recovered." I kind of understand what people mean when they use "recovered" this way.

But the correct way to use the term is recovery. Not recovered. Because even though they mean to say that they are in recovery when they use the term recovered the words have a distinction that is very important. Recovered means that we have arrived at the state of sobriety. And recovery means that we're in the process of recovery and we will never arrive at a time where there is an appropriate use of the word recovered.

Being in recovery means that we are living a certain type of life. Usually one that we learned in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Big Book, the fellowship, the sponsor – sponsee relationship are all part of the process of being in recovery. And the things that I just mentioned are part of a process – not a place where we sit on our laurels and say that finally we have arrived and we no longer have to take any action.

Being in recovery means that we have a toolkit that has been given to us through the generosity of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. And other than the Big Book itself, all of these tools that have been given to us describe a kind of behavior that we practice as members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Among these behaviors are making amends when we do something untoward to another person. Another behavior is giving our recovery to others who need our help. Another behavior is sitting alongside of someone who is having a rough time understanding what this recovery thing is all about, explaining to them the process of recovery.

The term recovery – used in the place of "recovered" – signifies action. It signifies that we're following a certain path in life that will help us remain sober and clean.

To put it more simply, recovery means action. And recovered means that there's nothing else we need to do to stay sober – something that's a fallacy in most cases.

Click here to email John

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Path To Happiness.

Ask a room full of people to raise their hands if they want to be happy probably 98% of them will raise their hands.

Taking it further, if you ask each person to define what happiness is for them you get a multitude of answers. For a number of them, it will be a lot of money – maybe even to be come a billionaire. The next person might want something simpler, like a new house, a better job, a new wardrobe.

And if you take it a step further and ask them how long they've been seeking these things that will make them happy, some of them will answer that they been thinking this way most of their lives.

In the case of most people it seems that most of them will only be happy when they reach the next thing that makes them feel good. And I'm sure we've all experienced this to some degree. I'll be happy when I get my grades to an acceptable level. I'll be happy when I get a slot on the football team. I'll be happy when the girl of my dreams accepts my invitation to go on a date with her. Or maybe I'll be happy when I graduate from college and get my first job.

The one thing that all of these desires have in common is that they lie somewhere in the future. Virtually everything that we think will make us happy is somewhere down the road. Because my experience in life is the things that make me happy are the challenges associated with accomplishing them. To me it is somehow personally validating to start a project and see it flourish and grow. Once it becomes what I visualize it to be, it doesn't seem so great after all.

If you look at Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon, who also happens to be the wealthiest man in the world, and ask him what makes him the happiest he will likely answer something like "the process of putting together a project or achieving a goal." Because at this moment he can purchase any material thing he wants. He can take any vacation he wants. He could buy so much stuff that it would drown him. It I'm sure that percolating somewhere in the back of his brain is the next step he has to take on his way to completing another project.

I believe that if we look at our lives as a path that will lead us to success and happiness we will be much happier people. Because I've achieved many things I set out to do in my life. In looking back upon what I've achieved up to this point I would say the struggle, the hard work, planning, is what my life is been all about. I always find myself – once I completed what I set out to do – finding myself looking to the next thing I want to learn or accomplish.

For example, one of the things I wanted to do was quit using drugs and alcohol, something I accomplished 29+ years ago. And because I don't want to have to start out at step one and do it all over again I stay on the path of sobriety and live with recovery at the center of my life. And that has given me the freedom to accomplish other things – such as helping others achieve their goals of living in recovery. The point of all this is that you will find your happiness as you put in the work to achieve your goals, no matter what they are.  And living with this goal brings me great happiness.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

I am the Culprit

I had an impromptu meeting with a client the other day who said that for some reason she was always angry. And when I asked what she was angry about, she told me that it was because she was in a halfway house. That the DPS had her child. That even after seven years of using, she hadn't been able to stop. That she had virtually no education. That she had little job experience. She had no car. And had no savings.

And when I asked her who was responsible for all the things she didn't have that seemed important to her she readily admitted that that she was responsible. She said that she had tried and tried many times to get clean and sober but was unable to do so. I asked her why?

She said she wasn't sure. But what would happen is she would get frustrated with her situation and knew the way to feel better really fast was to find a bag of heroin. So I asked her, that if she knew the answer to her dilemma what was the problem with following through? And she shrugged her shoulders and said she really didn't know.

But I told her that I knew the answer, even though I just met her. And what I told her is really the core truths that all of us addicts deal with: we don't quit using until we get enough pain and misery. And the more we use, the more pain and misery we accumulate.

I shared my story with her, about how I got sober 29 years ago. I was homeless. I was broke. I did shoplifting and other kinds of thefts every day to get enough money to exchange for heroin and alcohol. 

I sometimes stole a car just so I would have a place to sleep. Once in a while I would get lucky and steal enough to rent a room in a cheap motel for a night or two. But the reality is that my life was totally miserable. I was at a crossroads. I was either going to end up in a mental hospital, back in prison, or dead. And that's when I knew I had enough misery and needed to work on getting sober. Like this client that I'm talking about I already knew who was responsible for my anger and what I had to do to stop being angry.

Sometimes I like to write about things like this because many of us addicts and alcoholics forget who the cause of our problems really is. I remember a cartoon character named Pogo many years ago and in the cartoon strip he was standing in front of a mirror and saying "I have met the enemy. And it is me." 

And that line has always stuck with me because I know that no matter what goes wrong in my life 99.9% of the time I am the enemy. And when I leave other people out of the equation and look clearly at myself I know that I have met the cause of my problems. Do I still get angry? Yes. And do I know who is responsible?  Yes.  But If I don't know, all I have to do is look in the mirror and there is the culprit.

Click here to email John 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Another boring Election

In about a week we're all going to know who our next president is going to be for the following four years.

And today I was wondering to myself why an election is such a big deal. I mean I know it's a big deal to those who are participating and those who are going to benefit in some way or the other – liking getting a good government job or a post at an embassy.  But anyone who thinks that their life is going to change dramatically because we switch governments or switch presidents is, in my opinion, living in a dream world.

And of course I'm speaking from a personal perspective. But if you ask me I will tell you that I can't think of one thing in my life that has gotten better or worse because this party or this person won or lost the election. If of course if a person is easily influenced, they can listen to the ads on TV talking about what a dark world it's going to be at this man or woman becomes the president. Or if this or that political party assumes office and get excited about the outcome.

Each election cycle I always hear something about what politicians are going to do about the war on drugs and crime. But my experience has been that no matter who is in office there's not been a lot of difference as far as how much time people do or the kind of penalty they get for their crimes.

I've already voted and hope my choice wins.  But if he doesn't I'm not moving to Canada,

Click here to email John

Friday, October 23, 2020

Quitting smoking

In my opinion, one of the worst drugs in the world is nicotine. Once one becomes addicted to it, all bets are off. It is extremely hard for most people to quit, even though it does the most damage of virtually any drug out there. And the sad thing, is that it's legal.

During my younger years, especially when I was in prison, I probably smoked a total of 10 years off and on. I didn't really keep an accurate count of how much I smoked but I know it was bad for me and I would quit for a while.  But then sometimes I would get frustrated about something and go back to the habit. One of the reasons that I was always motivated to quit is because I did a lot of running at one time – at least 5 miles a day – for many years. Running was an addiction for me. Like cigarettes were when I was using them. But when I would get out of jail and take up running again, it was really easy for me to quit because after the first lap my lungs were screaming out to me to quit the habit.

But there was more to it than that for me as far as cigarettes go. I had seven aunts and uncles and all of them smoked, including my mother and stepfather. Back in those days almost 50% of the population smoked or used some form of tobacco. But at that time almost no one really understood the damage that cigarettes did. And it was not uncommon to see doctors in print or television advertisements extolling one brand of cigarette over another. And as a result, a large part of our population is suffering damage from smoking even though they might have quit 20 or 25 years ago.

As an example every one of my seven aunts and uncles, my mother, and a 35-year-old cousin all suffered from the serious effects of their habits. My mother, who died some 25 years ago on Christmas Eve probably would've still been alive had she not smoked. The thing that took all of them was either emphysema or COPD. But by the time they realized how damaging nicotine was the damage had been done. And the damage in the case of emphysema and COPD is virtually irreversible.

I bring this up today because I have a close friend who has made repeated efforts to quit smoking. But without success. So because I give free hypnosis to those who are serious about quitting smoking, she asked if I might hypnotize her so that she could quit. I explained to her that hypnosis is not a magic pill. And I tell that to everyone of my hypnosis clients; the desire to quit must be also accompanied by a strong motivation to quit.

At least 95% of the people that I try to help quit smoking are successful in doing so. But I have a routine that I make them follow before we ever sit down and go into hypnosis I spend a week or two preparing them. One thing I make them do is buy a level one nicotine patch to help them through withdrawals. I sometimes have them make weekly appointments with me a couple of weeks before we actually do the hypnosis just to follow up and see how motivated they really are. If they keep all the appointments I realized that they are serious about changing and in turn I get quite motivated to help them.

To date I have over 30 non-smokers and feel quite good about it because I believe that I have helped them change their lives. But I didn't change their lives, all I did was show them the path and give them the tools and they did all the work. But still, there's nothing like the feeling of helping another human being live a fuller and longer life because you help them stay away from the poison that was shortening their days.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Learning from Mistakes

The best way to give someone self-condidence is to let them make mistakes.  And, after they make the mistake don't criticize them.  Instead teach them to look at the mistake as a learning experience that will teach them how to do it right the next time.

We all have seen those who went to college for years, then have to enter the job market to get some real world experience.  It happens to professionals such as doctors.  To lawyers who have to be a clerk for an attorney with years of experience.

We have many addicts and alcoholics who tell us that they have a lot of job experience when they first come in to our program.  But when they start working - whether for us or an outside company - we find that most of them have worked doing general labor and have little or no experience in a specific trade.  Still, we don't criticize them, we simply start them doing a simple job like cleaning our properties, yard maintenance, painting, or working in the kitchen.

And we try not micromange them; we allow them to make mistakes so they can grow and learn.  The only way I've learned is by making repeated mistakes.  And mistakes taught me a costly lesson, which I often quote, And that's that education is expensive - however we get it.

In closing, I'll point out that many of our clients have learned from their mistakes and today are living successful and happy lives.

Click here to email John

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Accepting Pain

A friend was talking to me about problems she's having with her husband, and that they were currently separated. I told her that since I'd been divorced four times that she'd probably come to the right person.

After all, I got over all four of those divorces after a time. Now admittedly, in looking back, I was really the one who created most of the problems in the marriages.   During the first two marriages I was using drugs and alcohol.  So I put them in a different category that the last two. The reality is that when two practicing addicts are married – while they may love one another – it seems like the drugs and alcohol always get in the way. 

In any case, I gave her the best advice I could.  And that until she was able to accept the fact that her marriage was in trouble she would find herself going up and down emotionally. In my own case I was quickly able to recognize my own part in the situation and was able to get over my anger and pain pretty quickly.

And one thing I never did was put the blame on them when I was talking to other people. After all, at one time I thought each of my wives was the most beautiful person in the world and I would've done anything for them. Just because we got divorced didn't make them into some kind of a monster or terrible person. And as a result today we are able to communicate on good terms without fighting or putting each other down.

My suggestion to her was to first of all stay busy, which would help her get over her pain. I told her she should talk to her sponsor and other friends. To focus on her job and her children. And to think about all of the good fortune that she has in her life today.

I understand that pain sometimes has a life of its own and it keeps cropping up at the strangest times. But when it does crop up we should look it right in the eye and accept it as being a natural reaction to the emotions we are going through. The more often we are able to do this, the sooner the pain will subside.

The one thing we do not want to do is go back to drugs or alcohol because all that does is give us two problems to have pain about. Even though it sounds boring and we hear a lot of it in the 12 step programs, acceptance really is the key to most of our problems today.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

More on Anger

"We will not be punished for our anger.  We will by punished by our anger."  Buddha

After my last post about anger a reader writes to tell that her ex-husband - after 20 + years - is still so angry at her that he constantly bad-mouths her to their sons.  She wonders what suggestions she can give them because they are sick of hearing it.

Of course they are tired of hearing it because they see their mother in a different light than he does.  

Her ex sees her as the source of his pain and likely takes zero reponsiblity for their divorce.  Her ex is probably the type of person who believes he's a victim.  Like many angry people, they believe their challenges and troubles in life are caused by something or someone outside of themselves.  They blame their failures and unhappiness in life on outside circumstances:  ex-wives, the economy, the pandemic, their boss, politicians.  Whatever.  If only everything and everything else would change their lives would be fine.

But that isn't the way the world works.  Others rarely are responsible for our misery; to be happy we must realize that we are reponsible for everything that befalls us if we want to enjoy our lives.  If we spend our time blaming others for our unhappiness we're wasting the precious time God gave on this earth.

About all her boys can do is accept the fact of who their father is and take away lessons from it.  Some times the world deals us a bad hand.  Sometimes our wives leave us because they can no longer take our controlling behavior.  After so long the boys will look at their father's misery and maybe decide they should spend less time around him.  

They could tell him they don't want to discuss their mother with him because it upsets them.  He may not stop, but he may understand why they stop spending much time with him.  He may find that his anger is not productive for him and not waste his time expressing it if it alienates his children.

After all, who wants to leave a legacy of anger behind when they leave this planet?

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Anger Destroys

A fellow I knew died around 20 years ago from the effects of drugs and alcohol. At least that's what the autopsy report said.

But I really believe that a lot of what killed him was not substances, but rather his anger. And had I been asked for my input on the report that's what I would've said: that his anger killed him. Every time I was around him and he was halfway sober he was angry. The only thing that seemed to soothe his anger was alcohol, methamphetamines, and once in a while a little bit of marijuana.

And I'm not hundred percent sure of what he was angry about. But I know a lot of it was directed at his ex-wives. Even though he had been divorced from both of them for many years one of his topics of conversation was how poorly they treated him. What bitches they were. How he had never been able to trust women since his divorces. Somehow it was difficult for him to move on with his life after the perceived wrong that they had done him.

When I would suggest that perhaps he would feel better if he would forgive them he would look at me like I was crazy. And say something like he would rather kill them. And when I would suggest that he would feel a lot better if he could realize that both of those relationships were behind him he would examine me from across the table as though I was the one with the problem because I didn't commiserate with him.

One of my strong beliefs is that most so-called bad things that happen to us – while they may be painful – are forgivable. And that they need to be forgiven for our own mental and physical health. Because there is a large body of research out there that shows that anger is toxic.

Usually, around TLC, we find a percentage of people who carry anger with them. And, of course, one way to get rid of our anger is to cover it up with drugs or alcohol. But the problem with getting rid of anger that way is that it is only temporary. We discover very soon – usually when we sober up – that the anger is still there festering in our mind like a cancer eating away at us.

Often in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous we hear people speak about the only way that they were able to get rid of their anger or resentment was to pray for the other person. And it works. In fact that remedy comes right out of the big book and is there for anybody to use and practice in their daily lives.

I have found that when we go through our lives extending kindness and good feelings towards others, that's usually what we get back from them. I remember from the early days of my addiction that my anger always got me in trouble. Being kind to others never got me in trouble and has actually opened many doors for me.

Look at it this way: we only have so many days on this planet and why would we want to waste them on someone who is no longer even in our lives? In the case of being angry at an ex-spouse, we can all look back and remember when we first met this person and they were the most wonderful human being we had ever met. But once we depart from them, all of a sudden they are the source of all our misery and problems.

But the reality is our problems in life are not caused by the problems themselves but in the we we perceive them. We can view the bad situations that happened to us as an educational experience and move on with our lives. Or, we can blame the other person and waste our precious time on this planet, time that we cannot replace, on being full of anger and misery.

Click here to email John

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Losing the War

 I watched the debate last night between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence and I wasn't surprised at all about what I didn't hear.

They didn't mention anything at all, either of them, about the drug abuse that plagues our nation. It almost seemed like the only thing that was important was for each of them to play gotcha in an effort to make some points with the voters.

I can look back through my life – clear back into the 50s when I first started using drugs – and remember political candidates talking about the problem with drug addiction in our communities and across our nation. I saw presidential candidates get tough on drugs, giving longer jail terms to those selling drugs and using drugs than they did to convicted murderers.

They called it the "war on drugs." And today one can look about any city in most any state in the country and see that the war on drugs has pretty much been lost. And I say that because one can buy so-called "medical marijuana" quite easily. In fact, all one really needs is a prescription from a doctor and he can purchase the drugs almost anywhere. And in some states recreational marijuana can be purchased without a prescription.

Now marijuana was never my drug of choice. I was one of those people who got paranoia from smoking it and I had a whole bunch of other things I'd rather use before marijuana. But where I'm going with all of this is I see a softening in the legal system and in the public toward the use of what used to be considered a drug that was very dangerous. And now I think the only danger with the drug is what it does to our lungs and what happens when people drive under the influence of marijuana – something I don't think a lot of people know a lot about at this point.

Where I'm going with this is I haven't heard much during this presidential campaign year about what anybody's going to do different about opioids, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and the other drugs that are devastating our communities. And the reality is that there's not much they can do, except arrest people and put them in prison until they get out and start all over. There's been absolutely nothing innovative done about dealing with people who use drugs like the ones I mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph. And the reality, which is right under our nose if we just choose to pay attention to it, is there is already de facto legalization all over this country. And I say that, because anybody with a few dollars in their pocket can walk into the right neighborhoods and take their choice of drugs home with them. Or else use them right there at the dope house where they got it.

Now other countries are smarter than we are. For example, in Bern, Switzerland, a heroin addict can get his supply free from the state. Not only does he get free heroin, the state provides him with a check every month so that he can support himself, a facility where he can get his daily dose and use it right there on the spot. And this occurred because merchants in the city were tired of addicts stealing their merchandise to trade for heroin. They went to the legislature and asked them to craft regulations that would allow addicts to use heroin under certain restrictions, an action that pretty much satisfied everyone. The last statistics show that the prison population went down, crime went down, and the transmission of AIDS went down from addicts sharing needles. And the interesting part is that after six years of legal use, many of the addicts decide to wean themselves off of the drug and go on to a more productive life. 

But our country has some kind of twisted moral objection to this idea of allowing addicts to use drugs. Instead of giving addicts free drugs in an environment where could be monitored and where they could receive medical attention if they overdosed, where they can be taught how to use drugs safely we would rather punish them for what the medical community has characterized as a disease. Countries all over Europe, such as Portugal. have adopted the model of legalizing all drugs because they realize that there is not much likelihood that they're going to be able to stop drugs by declaring war on them and the people who use them.

Maybe someday our country will get over this stupid idea that legalizing drugs will mean everyone uses  them. And ask their state legislatures to create safe havens for addicts until they can get medical and psychological help and move on to a better life. But then again we would have to overcome the reality that law enforcement and incarceration is a big business and that legalizing drugs in order to control the drug trade probably doesn't make financial and political sense to the majority.

Click here to email John

Monday, October 5, 2020

Helping the Hopeless

Many clients who come through our doors have nothing.  They don't have a job, or job skills.  They have no money. No home.  What friends and family they once had long ago abandoned them.  A percentage have rotten teeth, or none at all - also known as "meth mouth."  Others have serious health issues such as COPD, diabetes, heart problems.  Others have mental health issues, like bipolar or psychizo-effectice disorder and others.

On top of these issues many have few social skills because they were either either raised by addict or alcoholic parents.  Some have tatoos on their face because in prison that shows a committment to a life of crime - something that doesn't play well with potential employers.  Nor do they have much basic education.  And few have degrees.

Yet we take them in without upfront money because we know that addicts and alcoholics spend their money on their habits before they'll use it to get into treatment.  We know that, as we've been there ourselves because our entired organzation - which has eight hundred beds - is comprised of addicts and alcoholics in recovery.  Even the staff.

Some outsiders think we're a government funded organization.  But that's not so.  TLC raises all of its funds by collecting $135.00 weekly from those employed outside the organization. Plus, we make a small amount from several small businesses that also serve as training programs for the inexperienced.

Clients who are unemployable for whatever reason, are allowed to volunteer in our program.  For this activity they receive a small weekly stipend, housing, medical and dental assistance, and other benefits, such as peer counseling.

At times we have resistance from the community because they view addiction as a moral issue as opposed to a medical problem.  We've sued more than one community - and won the lawsuit - because addicts and alcoholics and addicts are a protected class under the Americans with Disabilites Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.  If anything gets in the way of their recovery they have standing to seek recompense.  After all, the disabled - like cancer patients, and the mentally ill - are entitled to help -regardless of how much the community objects.

Click here to email John

Friday, October 2, 2020

In the Moment

Have you ever been in a situation in your life where you thought that if things just changed you would be happy?

I know this happens, not just to us addicts and alcoholics, but to the world at large. If I just get this job I'll be happy. If I just find the love of my life then I'll be happy. This new car or new house will complete my life. Or if I get to go on this vacation everything will be just fine.

But don't you see the problem here? If are always in this mode of sitting around and waiting for the next good thing to happen then our life is always on hold.

Because, if we're always sitting and waiting for the next best thing then as soon as we get it how long are we going to enjoy it? The new car starts getting a few dings in it and trash in the back seat. Pretty soon it's a year old and one of the neighbors has bought a newer model or more expensive car and all of a sudden your love affair with your new car is over. It wasn't quite the fix you thought it would be.

Same with finding the love of your life. The first six months are a honeymoon. A love affair out of a movie. But then we start seeing that the person we love is just another ordinary human being with all the faults and character defects other human beings have.

And maybe that vacation that we fantasize about and were saving money for wasn't all that great. Maybe it rained. Maybe you lost your luggage. Maybe you missed your flight. In any case the memories you return home with weren't very memorable in a positive way.

The point is if we live our lives with the idea that we'll really be happy when we arrive at the next best thing, the next goal or amount of money or job or whatever we're seeking then we aren't living our life in the moment or living our life today. We're living in suspended animation as the minutes and hours and days pass by with us waiting for what we think will make us happy.

But the reality is that nothing will make us happy if that's the way we travel. Because happiness only happens in this moment, not in the future. So the remedy is to keep focused on here and now because this little slice of time is all that God has given us and all that we can count on. It's impossible to be happy in the future today. And it's such a waste of the precious moments we have on this planet.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hearing from a Mother

The last blog I wrote was about the blessings of sobriety. And I wrote that blog because I was truly grateful for my daughter's sobriety and the fact that she had the previous day given birth to her fourth child – a baby girl. And she would have never had the children she had – and I the grandchildren that I have – if she hadn't gotten clean and sober many years ago.

And while I never expect a response from any of these blogs that I write, because I write them for myself primarily, I received two responses. One was from my daughter who had been the subject of the blog. The other was from a lady who lives in a Midwestern city, a woman I've been communicating with for many years – a communication that started when she ran across my blog on the Internet.

Many years ago, maybe nine, she started writing to me about her son who is a homeless alcoholic who has lived on the streets for many years. He mostly stays around the Midwestern city she lives in. But for a period of time he went to Washington DC, attempting to get an interview with the president about the government's denial of his disability claims 20 years ago.

When she first started writing to me she was doing a lot of things for him. Such as helping him with his laundry. Taking him food and cigarettes. And giving him a little money for whatever he needed, which he probably spent on booze.

When she asked for my opinion, I immediately suggested that she take a hard stance with him.  I told her that by helping him continue drinking by taking him food and cigarettes and giving him money she was just prolonging his alcoholism.  Now I knew this would sound kind of harsh to a loving mother, but I didn't get sober until my family completely exiled me from their lives because they had given up hope that I would ever quit using drugs or alcohol.  And by doing that, they saved my life.

At first I thought they were very cruel and unfair. But eventually I realized that they no longer supported my lifestyle.  And eventually I sunk so low that I sought help on my own.  Now this woman that I'm talking about is a very loving mother, but she did take some steps that allowed her to quit enabling him.

She does help him out once in a while but not like she was before we started communicating. One of the steps she took was to start going to 12 step meetings that deal with relatives and friends of addicts and alcoholics.  She gained strength from reaching out to others who had similar problems and learned that she could distance herself from him most of the time. 

She today gives him minimal help – only occasionally giving into the urge to help him.  One of the things that she did do to insulate herself from him was to move into a senior community, where she is not allowed to have anyone living with her permanently.  That way he's not going to be living on her couch while continuing to drink and bring unneeded drama and pain into her life.

Her story, and the measures she has taken to not enable him, as a lesson for anyone in her situation who is dealing with a loved one who is addicted.  I wish her the strength to continue.

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Blessings of Sobriety

Today I was thinking about the blessings of sobriety.

This came up for me now because I'm invited to visit one of my daughters who gave birth to a another daughter last week. She now has two boys and two girls.

While one of the boys has left home and is on his own, she's busy these days raising – along with her partner – the three children that still remain at home. On top of that she has a full-time, high level position in a state licensed treatment program. So between working, commuting a half-hour a day each way back and forth to work she has her hands full.

None of this would be possible for her if she hadn't decided to get sober a number of years ago. At the depths of her addiction she probably never believed that she would have a large, beautiful home in the suburbs and all of the amenities to go with it. She enjoys all of this because of a decision she made many years ago to change her life.

And her story of success is an example of what happens to all of us once we get rid of the alcohol and drugs and start living up to our full potential.

In almost 30 years of working in the recovery field I've seen her story duplicated over and over again. Clients come in our treatment program and have nothing. They spend time in groups, and in private counseling, and if they're willing, they become different beings. Many of them redefine their goals, become responsible, and live on to become successful at whatever they choose.

In the above paragraph I used the term "become responsible." And assuming responsibility is probably the primary thing we all need to change our lives. Many of the clients who show up at our doorstep are pointing their fingers at everyone else who was responsible for the situation that they're in today. And while other people may have influenced our lives in a negative way, the ultimate responsibility for the changes that we make in our lives come from within. Not from changing externals. Because external things are usually out of our control. But in treatment and recovery we learn how to take charge of our own lives and become responsible for everything that befalls because we learn to reframe our thinking,

This is what happened to me and also happened to my daughter. And because of that we live good lives today.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Treating addicts Poorly

"The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members"  Mahatma Ghandi

The American Medical Association classified alcoholism as a disease in 1956. In 1987 the AMA classified addiction as a disease.

In spite of those classifications, alcoholics and addicts have always been the target of those who scorn the idea that addiction or alcoholism are diseases. The idea that someone has an illness to which he or she contributes somehow doesn't fit into certain people's ideas of how the world works – or should work. As a result of the public's attitude our operation has always been at odds with somebody over some legal issue that involves their view of us as second-class citizens.

Back in the 90s, TLC had programs in a certain municipality that I won't mention here because we now have a good relationship with that city. But the city government and city fathers decided they didn't like programs like ours and the others that were situated in the downtown area. In 1998 the city council was pressured into changing laws involving the licensing of recovery homes and halfway houses. They did this, in spite of the fact that their own city attorney advised them that their decision would violate Fair Housing laws and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In the face of this legal challenge that would've put us out of business we hired one of the best fair housing attorneys in the country, who was situated in Washington DC, and filed a federal injunction against the city to prevent them from taking further action until our case worked its way through the courts – which took until 2003. Some five years later we reached a settlement with the city where they changed two laws and paid a large portion of our legal fees.

But in spite of that settlement, our organization has always been the target of some type of legal action. In fact, I can't remember a year out of the last 25 where we haven't had some kind of a lawsuit that we were spending money on.

Several of them were quite frivolous, one of the most noteworthy being a client who wanted two million dollars because she claimed she suffered two bedbug bites while residing at one of our facilities. And of course we won that one because of its nature – but it still cost us legal fees to defend ourselves. In fact she knew enough about the law to file the case on her own because of the 10 years she'd spent in prison filing endless lawsuits over trivial issues – never prevailing in one case.

Probably one of the things that irritates me most is when we have a run in with code enforcement in whatever city we're in. City zoning and planning ordinances are difficult enough for trained architects to understand, let alone us uneducated addicts. 

We spend a lot of time and money keeping our properties in a livable condition. But every so often an unhappy addict will be mad because we discharged him from the program because he refused to seek employment or pay service fees. 

In retaliation he'll go to the city and complain about the living conditions. And of course, code enforcement is obligated to reply and we usually reach some accommodation with them that satisfies everyone. And at the moment we have a matter where a client was discharged for not following the rules and went to the city and told them that he was forced to bathe outside the house and get his drinking water from a garden hose, which was a flat out lie. Of course the city was forced to respond and we're spending a lot of money bringing the house into compliance with the international residential codes.

Rather than looking at the matter as it really was – an angry addict seeking retaliation for a perceived wrong – code enforcement is wasting time and money to make us change residential housing that has been grandfathered in at that location for over 22 years.

I have a long list of cases where we've had to defend ourselves against frivolous matters. What no one seems to take into consideration is that we provide a wonderful service to the community. We feed over 2500 meals a day. We teach addicts construction skills so they can go out on their own and work independently and in many cases even start their own companies. We bring homeless addicts and alcoholics into our program without any upfront money, something no one else does.

Yet every once in a while someone from the city will show up and express a lot of concern about how addicts and alcoholics are treated by our organization. Yet, for some reason, none of them ever provide any kind of funds, food, supplies or anything else that will help people become responsible for themselves and keep them off of the streets.

What they don't realize is that we're addicts helping addicts save their own lives, yet many people across  the spectrum – from the government to the legal profession  – can't find the compassion to appreciate what we do for the community and society at large by helping addicts and alcoholics rebuild their lives.

Click here to email John

 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

More about Gratitude

 I was talking to a youngster the other day, a fellow maybe 22 years old, and he was telling me how unhappy he was about the new restrictions placed on our lives because of the pandemic.

Because he's so young he has sort of a sense of entitlement. He kind of has the attitude that the rules surrounding this pandemic that limit contacts between citizens don't apply to him. Usually I'll see him walking around without a mask and I have to remind him that the mask is to protect his life and the lives of others. But because he's so young he feels that he's invulnerable to pandemics, he kinda has the idea that he'll live forever – as do many people his age.

And when he expresses himself that way, I usually suggest that he is selfish and self-centered. Because while he may be strong and young and invulnerable that doesn't mean that he can't carry the virus to someone who's in my generation.

Because he's so young his whole world is centered on himself. But I suggested he look at the world in a different way. I tell him that he should have a sense of gratitude for his life right now, even though he perceives it as being extremely difficult because of this pandemic. And when I mention gratitude, he looks at me like I'm sort of off balance or just too old to understand him. But then I go on.

I point out that there are people in the world who would give their left arm to have the kind of life he enjoys. I point out that he is fortunate enough to live in the United States, even with all the turmoil created by the pandemic, the riots, and the fires that are ripping across the Western states. I suggest to him that he look at the fact that he has employment. An automobile. A home to live in. Abundant good health. Fresh food to eat. And I point out more, but you get the idea.

I suggested he read about people in other parts of the world that don't even have running water. Or enough to eat. Or maybe they're in the middle of a civil war. Perhaps they never had the opportunity to go to school because their country is so poor that they can't afford to educate the population.

Even though he's not an alcoholic or drug addict I tell him about the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous and the other 12 step programs. And one word that is constantly floating around the rooms is gratitude, with maybe acceptance being a close second. And I'm not sure that he understands how those words apply to him because he's neither an addict nor an alcoholic.

But gratitude is a universal term. That it can apply to anyone who wants to have a good and happy life. Because when we're grateful, were not going to get in trouble, nor will we become depressed. Instead will use our gratitude to change our outlook on life. And that will carry us when times are tough.

Click here to email John

Thursday, September 17, 2020

All Lives Matter

It's getting pretty boring lately to see all of the publicity about BLM. And of course anyone who is not living in a gopher hole knows that those initials stand for Black Lives Matter. But I'm a person who is not politically correct. And I believe that whether we like it or not, all lives matter: black, white, brown, red – all of them.

One of the things that kind of pisses me off is that most of the people that we see at the riots and protests are not black. They are 90% white and mostly young liberals who are looking for a cause, a reason to rebel. And mostly uninformed about the so-called violence of the police against minorities in this country.

Statistics actually show that it you get stopped by the police and you are white you're much more likely to be killed by the cops than a black person would be. These facts are borne out by a study done by a black professor at Harvard University who was going to prove that black people are more likely to be killed by the police than people of any other race. He reportedly was surprised when the data showed something different. Just the opposite: white people are much more likely to be gunned down by police than black people or other minorities. 

On the flip side, the study also showed that black people and minorities suffer more at the hands of police than do white people. For example, the police are much more likely to handcuff a minority person than they would a white person. The police also frisk black people and other minorities much more often than they do white people. And they also were more likely to slam them up against a wall and rough them up in other ways.

I believe that when one undertakes a cause they should understand some of the foundations of the cause they are supporting. Probably many would be shocked to find out that during slavery several hundred black people owned plantations and slaves. One black slave owner, William Ellison, is described in Wikipedia at some length in an article which describes his ownership of some 63 slaves. This is the kind of research that people don't like to look at. If one really wants to dig into the slavery issue they'll learn a lot about how exaggerated it is. For example, most people don't know that the majority of slaves were first brought to Brazil, then were taken to the Caribbean and still later to Florida. Only a small number of  slaves, less than 10%,  brought from Africa were brought directly to the United States and sold to slave traders in this country.

Now these previous paragraphs are not to diminish the horror of slavery or to exculpate those who engaged in it. The only purpose for bringing up these facts in the above paragraphs is so that those who are so sure that we're a racist society might study a little bit of history of the subject they're talking about. They might also ask themselves if we're such a racist society why did 78 million white people vote for Barack Obama in 2014? That doesn't sound like institutional racism to me, it just sounds like they voted for who they felt was the most qualified candidate.

In closing, my opinion is that those that think we're a racist society have a political agenda where they think they might get something for nothing. Communism and socialism has never worked anywhere in the world and I don't believe that it'll work here. But BLM and Antifa are masters at manipulating our political system and the liberals among us to achieve their ends. And if they succeed at that everyone will suffer – including the minorities they claim to represent and protect.

Click here to email John


Monday, September 14, 2020

Strange Times

One of my earliest childhood memories is the end of World War II. At the time I was living in Newport Beach, California and when the announcement came over the radio everyone in our neighborhood went pouring into the streets dancing and singing with joy.

At around five years old I didn't understand the gravity of war. But I remember odd things that did stem from our country being at war. Because we lived near the coast the population was required to put blackout curtains over their windows. And if they went out at night for any reason they had to leave the lights off on their cars or else cover them with burlap bags just in case a Japanese submarine was off the coast. That's how close the war came to us back in the 1940s. And it was only much later that I understood why people were so happy when the war ended in 1945.

Since that time I've been through many strange years. There have been other wars, like Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other military actions. I lived through the social unrest of the sixties and seventies.

But as I was talking to a friend the other day who is a few years younger than I am, we both agreed that this is one of the strangest years in our memories. Neither of us had ever experienced anything the magnitude of this pandemic that is sweeping across the country. Neither of us has seen the political situation so volatile. Nor have we seen lengthy riots such as the ones in Seattle and Portland that have been going on for months. We haven't seen the world in such a state of unrest as we have since the first of this year.  Neither of us have seen the country this divided politically.

Both my friend and I have been through battles with alcohol and drugs, battles that lasted for years. We both ended up going to prison in different states. We both had a lot of money at different times, but mostly we were just down and out drug addicts that were doing our best to take care of our habits.

But as we reminisced, we both agreed that we have never lived in such an uncertain time. A time when we're dealing with things that aren't in our control. And the reality is that there's nothing we can do about our current situation except move into acceptance - a word that is one of the strongest that we hear in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Not only is it the strongest, but is also one of the most useful from a standpoint of practicality. As long as we can accept what's going on around us as part of the normal changes that we encounter in life, we won't be tempted to go off the rails and revert to our former lives when we were in the middle of our addictions.

Instead we can stand strong and accept whatever the universe presents us.  And if we can do that we'll get past the challenges we've been presented during this strangest of times.

Click here to email John

Friday, September 11, 2020

A lesson from 911

Nineteen years ago the twin towers were demolished by terrorists carrying out jihad so they could find paradise and honor Allah.

While none of us know if they reached their goals, we do know their acts of terror changed this country forever. They triggered a war in the Mideast as we searched for Bin Laden and his murderous Al Qaeda followers.

When terrorism struck our mainland we realized the vulnerability of our security systems. and everything tightened up at the airports, seaports, and other potential targets. Even though it’s more of a hassle to travel today, most of us agree that the increased security is comforting.

But for me there is another take away from that awful event.  And that is that we need to live our lives to the fullest each day.  Because probably none of the victims in the twin towers, the Pentagon, or the passengers on the planes knew it would be their last day.  Some had dates for that evening, some had children at day care, others had family or friends awaiting their arrival at airports.  They were going on with their lives when the unspeakable happened.

We need to treat each moment as precious because we only have this slice of time we exist in.  And for those of us in recovery this is especially meaningful because we wasted countless hours in a self-induced stupor wasting time - the one thing we can't replace.




Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Covid 19

I'm still amazed - and pleased - that during all of these months of the pandemic, and with 600 to 700 clients, we've had less than a dozen contract the virus.  All of them were quarantined on our properties - mostly in the same apartments - for the period the doctors prescribed.  And none ended up in the hospital.

I attribute this low infection number to the fact that we followed government guidelines as to distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, and sanitizing surfaces.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, most of us addicts don't live the healthiest life-styles when we're in the midst of our addictions.  Many of us smoke, have poor eating habits, sometimes are homeless, have no medical care other than periodic trips to the emergency room.  In other words we engage in high-risk life-styles that compromise our immune systems.

Through my eyes, the positive side of this is that if an addict has the discipline to follow the rigid Covid-19 protocol, just maybe they can apply the same principles when they graduate our program and return to society.

Who knows?

Click here to email John