Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy 2022

I know that when I walk out my front door tomorrow the world will look pretty much like it did this morning.  Politicians will be fighting over things that don't mean much.  The economy will be going one way or the other, either up or down. Disease or viruses might take more of my friends.  Many people will come to our doors to try to get sober.  And some actually will get on the path.

But on this last day of the year I look back to kind of evaluate what happened or didn't happen during the previous 12 months.  And it seems to me that this past year was one of the strangest of my eight + decades on this planet.  It seems as if most of the world was covered with a blanket of anxiety because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and then the Omicron that followed it.

There was a lot of buzz in the media and internet about what was going to happen next in regard to the pandemic and where it was going to happen.  Depending on one's political persuasions it seems that most anything could happen.  After all, when Covid-19 first sprung into view no one was expecting it.

If we had the time to waste we could find all kinds of opinions.  Some thought it was a biological Armageddon that would presage the end of the world.  Others thought - even some of my family - that it was nothing real, that it was a political plot to control every moment of and movement of our lives.  Some even refused to wear a mask.

But, I plan to live in this moment and expect the best out of life no matter what it brings..  I'll soon have 32 years sober.  And will face whatever issues that come along with acceptance, probably the most important word I learned since I got sober January 13, 1991. I learned that with  acceptance the battle is half won - I just have to wait for the solution to present itself.

I wish all my family and friends the best in 2022.  Health.  Prosperity. And Happiness.

Click here to email John

Monday, December 27, 2021

Back to Reality

Tomorrow is our last full day in paradise, as we're returning to Arizona on the 29th.

I'm sad to leave this beautiful place.  Yet I'm happy to return to the office and see what has happened during my absence.  I enjoy vacations and usually come to this part of the world at least four times a year. The pandemic kind of interrupted our schedule this past two years.  But even a few weeks away are better than none.

I believe that vacations are a way to restore the spirit and allow us to work on new ideas about how to do a better job of helping addicts grow into a new life.  

For example, we're working on a plan to create training programs that will allow TLC graduates to go out into the world and support their families.  We hope to create a curriculum that will teach them various skills.  Among the ones we're planning to include are counseling, air conditioning, phone sales, roofing and remodeling, retail sales, data entry, auto mechanics and others.  An addict with skills is less likely to return to drug use.

It's quite likely that what we plan will look different from what I'm describing here.  But sometimes the things we start at TLC turn out to be much more successful than we imagined.  Stay tuned and I'll see you all in a few days - even though part of me wants to stay here at the beach.

Click here to email John

Friday, December 24, 2021

Somber Day

Even though it's been 27 years since my mother died suddenly on Christmas Eve, it's difficult for me to celebrate the day as many others do.

I had taken her to a local hospital on November 2, of 1994, to have a metal staple removed from her leg.  It had been put in her leg after a fracture and the doctors never removed it.

Periodically, she said it caused her pain and that she thought about having it removed.  I told her that if it was hurting her she should talk to the doctor about it because my opinion wouldn't mean much.  So she did, and he gave his approval.  It was supposed to be an outpatient procedure, with her being in the hospital less than 24 hours.  How dangerous could that be, I thought?

But things didn't go quite right during her recovery and the hospital staff recommended that she spend another day or two until they were confident she was fully recovered.

However, one thing led to another and what started as a one day procedure stretched beyond 50 days.  Finally the week before Christmas they placed her into a rehabilitation unit.  What had happened is once she was able to walk again her leg fractured in the same place and they had to put another piece of metal in her leg for support.  She finally recovered enough that they scheduled her for release on Christmas morning.  My brother and I would pick her up when she was released.

I still remember the call from the hospital at 4:15, the evening of the 24th, the day before Christmas.

The nurse told me my mother had suffered a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in her lungs, and had passed away about 15 minutes earlier.  She said she died within a minute of the formation of the clot.

Needless to say, I was in shock.  As I drove to the hospital I had tears running down my face because just like that I had lost my best friend - a woman who had encouraged me all my life.

In honor of my mother I remember her passing every Christmas Eve by writing a few words about her because she was such a strong influence on my life.  I still miss her all these years later.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Making Assumptions

 I try and not make assumptions, but sometimes I can't help myself.  A good example is when I came here to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico for a two-week vacation on the 17th of this month. I brought my computer with me - something I always do.

I don't bring it along to work, I bring it primarily because I'm obsessed with this blog - something I've been writing since at least 2010.  I post a new one every third day.  One day a blog, then two days off.  For years - until 2016 - I wrote one every day.  But finally I cut back, because I seemed to be running out of ideas.

Anyway, before I wander too far off into the weeds, let's get back to assumptions.  When I took it out of  my luggage, I discovered the screen was broken. It was covered with a spiderweb of tiny cracks  I didn't cry, but I was so angry I had a strong urge to throw it off the balcony of the condo we're leasing - a good 50 feet drop.

And I was upset because I positively knew it would take a couple of weeks to get it repaired under the best of circumstances, especially in a foreign country. However, my lovely companion, adding fuel to the fire, suggested I take it to a computer repair shop. Or buy another one at Walmart or OfficeMax. However,I explained to her that Spanish keyboards are different than English keyboards because the Spanish alphabet has 27 letters, while English has 26; but the difference affects how the keyboard is laid out.  So buying one wouldn't help me.

Anyway, she felt so sorry for me that she called around and found a repair shop that showed up on Google maps.  Assuming she would soon learn what I was telling her about computer repair was correct we set off to find the computer repair store.  I mean there's a computer repair store near my office and it takes him a couple of weeks to get parts so what's the likelyhood of this shop in the ghetto in a foreign land going to be able to fix my screen.

Google made it's usual mistakes, but finally we got onto a street that Google said had a computer repair store on the next corner. Google was right.  However, I've been to dope houses in Arizona that looked better than this computer store. It was probably 600 square feet and was stacked with computer parts from floor to ceiling, arranged in no particular order.  It was a hoarder's paradise.

I deposited my trashed computer on the counter, which was about three feet from the front door.

   "Can you fix this?" I asked in Spanish.

He examined it for a moment, then told me he could.  I wouldn't have believed him except that he was 18 or 19 years old and everyone knows that kids who are into computers can do anything.  I told him that the computer was about nine years old and he probably wouldn't have a screen for it.  He said he did and went rummaging through different piles until he came back with a new one he said would fit that computer.

Within 45 minutes my Hewlett-Packard was good as new and he was $150 richer.  And I'm producing this blog on it right now.

And for today, at least, I'm going to assume that I don't know as much as I think I do.

Click here to email John

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Issues in Mexico

For those of you who are used to seeing my blog post every third day, let me tell you what happened. I always take my computer with me when I go on trips to Mexico. When I arrived, I opened it up and the screen had some kind of a strange pattern on it. I did everything I could to get rid of the pattern and get a regular picture on it, but nothing worked. Then I thought I would use my iPad. No luck there either. And for some reason this Airbnb that I am at, doesn't have very good Wi-Fi.

Since I brought my iPad I thought I would use that to post my blog.  But, sure enough it didn’t work right either because I couldn’t get a Wi-Fi connection. Now I’m getting really frustrated.

This morning I went down to Walmart to see about buying a new computer. The prices were OK. But the keyboards are set  up for people who are good at Spanish punctuation.  And are laid out somewhat different from an English keyboard.

Luckily, my daughter offered to make the posts for me if I would send her the blog in the message app.  So, this is the first one.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021


This morning a treatment program employee, Keith H., who was in the hospital on life support - died.  

A little over a week ago he was working in his position as office manager.  Then we got word this weekend that he'd gone to the hospital and not expected to live through the night.

The last time I talked to him he told me that he'd lost 40 pounds and was scheduled to begin chemotherapy this week for a tumor in his throat.  I'm not sure what his diagnosis was, but some of us who worked with him were surprised at how suddenly he died, even though we knew he was quite ill.

Because many of our residents didn't take very good care of themselves while using, it seems like some of them suffer more health problems than the average person.

We lose many residents and staff to liver disease, heart problems, and COPD.  The majority of them don't have close family ties and if they know they're dying they usually choose to stay with us until they pass on.  Our policy is let them stay as long as we're able to care for them.

Thank you Keith for all the addicts you helped while you were with us.  May your journey be peaceful.

Click here to email John

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Needing a Drink

When I stopped at Circle K for my morning coffee there was a disheveled, bearded man who appeared to be sleeping on the sidewalk next to the building.  As I left my car and started into the store, though, he opened one eye and asked if I had any change.

Not now, I told him.  But that I might have some when I come out of the store.  When I came back he was waiting expectantly, but the only change I had was a five dollar bill.  After wrestling with myself for a minute I decided to give it to him.  After all, he looked like he was hurting and could use a drink.  And that five dollar bill might get him a small bottle of Vodka, enough to at least carry him for a couple of hours.

While I rarely bummed money for a drink because it was faster to steal it, I certainly could relate to what he was going through.  Because there was a period of my life when I was never far from a bottle.  Even when I was using heroin I always had a beer or other beverage close by.

I felt some pity for the man because help is available.  There are programs that will take him in right away - whether he has money or not.  But 30 years of experience working with alcoholics has taught me that until an alcoholic or addict has had enough pain and suffering they won't quit.  When life becomes miserable then we stop - unless we die first.

As I drove away I had a moment of gratitude.  Because, had I not reached a point of pain that had become intolerable I might have found myself panhandling outside a convenience store instead of living sober for over 30 years.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Power of Mindfulness

Many of us don't understand the power of mindfulness.  However, if we learn and practice it we can lead a satisfactory and productive life.  Maybe we can even stay sober.

Mindfulness means living in the present moment, immersing ourselves in this second - which is all we really have.  Each second of our life is more valuable than a gold coin for the simple fact that time is one thing we never get more of.  If we don't live in this moment then we've wasted something invaluable and irreplaceable.

How many times have you heard the term "I was completely out of my mind" or "or that stuff was so good it got me completely out of mind"

Some of us take drugs or alcohol because the present reality is so painful that we escape into a chemical haze so we don't have to feel what we're feeling.  If we continue to live our lives this way we find that we've thrown away large chunks of precious time, time that can never be reproduced or replaced.

"But," you might respond, "sometimes I can't deal with reality.  I need something to cover the pain of my broken heart, my lost fortune, my failure in school." There is an answer though.  And the more we practice it the more powerful of a tool it becomes.

And that answer is to learn to practice mindfulness or its close cousin, meditation.  

Instead of running from the reality of our pain, we mindfully face it, like facing a bully that is trying to control our lives.

If it could be summoned up in one word, that word would be acceptance.  If we stand up and accept what is going on in our lives we become stronger.  We always accept what is going on in our lives.  And we do this by telling ourselves that whatever's happening right this moment is perfect, it's exactly the way the universe is supposed to be.  If we characterize something as painful or insufferable then that's the effect it will have on us.

A good technique to overcome our perceived pain or unhappiness is to look about us. All over the world there are people who are starving, suffering from disease, or lack of clean water to drink.  So many others live lives of suffering from malnutrition or lack housing.  If we look at  the world from this perspective all of sudden we find gratitude in whatever we have.

If we live our lives in this moment - and accept it as perfect - we find a perfect world.

Click here to email John

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Sprituality vs. Religion

Most alcoholics are a contrary bunch and often don't agree with one another.  A good example of that is when the the topics of spirituality and religion comes up.

Many members said they nearly didn't get into the 12 step programs because they believed it was a religion or even a cult.  The Oxford Dictionary defines spirituality as:

  1. "The quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
    This shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way."  

When many of us came into the program a lot of what we focused on was a plan to get "our stuff" back.

Most of us had nothing when we arrived.  We'd lost our car, our jobs, our wives and other family members.  We were suffering and at the bottom rung of the ladder.  

No one respected us any more, often to the point of even wanting to talk to or associate with us.  The reason we stayed with AA or other 12 step programs is because no one tried to pump us full of dogma or tell us we should believe in mythological or spiritual beings that supposedly existed ages ago and sent us instructions about how to live or believe today.  

No one told us we were going to hell.  And most of us understood hell because our lives before we became sober was a hell on earth.

 Now please don't think that I'm anti-religion.  Because some religions do much good in their communities.  What I take exception to is when a church teaches that if you don't follow their dogma to the letter then you don't have much chance in the afterlife.  That you're only good if you do things the way they teach them.

In AA, in our home group, we seldom discuss religion as a subject, though we do say the Lord's Prayer at the closing of the meeting.

I personally like the Oxford dictionary definition of spirituality because I can choose a higher power and better way of life.  It's easy to be kind and generous and compassionate.  And if one regularly practices some version of these things their life may become better.

I believe in a higher power but I can't define it.  I do believe that the stars in the sky didn't just magically appear all of sudden and that the cycles of  life on our planet probably didn't create themselves.  There's a force behind all of our lives that I don't understand - but it's more powerful than all of us.

Thursday, December 2, 2021


Nothing warms my heart more than when someone has finally grasped the concepts of sobriety.  And it's even better when I've known the person for most of her life.

The other day I overheard someone talking about a young woman at TLC who's from a city not far from Mesa.  She was telling someone she didn't want to return to her hometown because she knew all the addicts who lived there,  Since coming to TLC she'd come to realize that being around other active users, particularly ones she knew, was dangerous for her.  That she might be tempted to relapse.

It's heartwarming because this person has been in treatment before.  But when she returned home after graduating  other programs she usually ended relapsing within a short time.

That seemingly simple realization is a big step for someone who's been addicted since she was in her early teens.  But she fortunately has broken through the lies that we addicts tell ourselves:  that one pill or fix or drink won't hut us, that we have control over this powerful and deceptive disease.

Here at TLC we look at our addictions as a life and death disease.  Those of us who are serious about recovery also have that realization and we absorb all the knowledge we can about our disease so that we can recognize when we're heading into relapse because we have the wrong attitude.

I'm so proud of this young woman.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 29, 2021

Christmas Tree Sale!

Each year for the past 20 years TLC volunteers have been selling Christmas trees on various street corners around the valley.  

This year, because much of the Pacific Northwest was on fire for several months, we weren't sure we would be able to secure enough trees to make it worthwhile to try to sell them.  Some of our sources had lost their inventories to the wildfires.  And many of those who had trees were charging too much to make it worthwhile to try to sell them.

However, this year we got lucky again.  One of our longtime suppliers - out of Oregon - works with us each year and supplies trees at a lot he owns at 3889 W. Bethany Home road in Phoenix.   

He sold us some 2000 trees, including Douglas, Noble, Grand Firs and Nordmans of all sizes.  Prices range from $45.00 to $250.00, depending on size.  We also flock trees for $10.00 a foot.

100% of the funds raised by this project will be used - after labor and cost of trees - to provide Christmas meals, housing, toys and other benefits to formerly homeless addicts who are now in recovery from substance abuse.

Early arrivals will find the best selections.  And they will be helping recovering addicts on their paths to a better life.  If you have questions you can reach our lot supervisor at 602-348-6102.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 26, 2021

Learning a Trade

Over the past 30 years we've had many addicts come into TLC with just the clothes on their backs.  Most of them have no money, no jobs, no cars. Nothing.  No trade skills.  No job references.

But because they have suffered through homelessness, hunger, and sometimes even prison, they are grateful to have a roof over their head, a bed, and three meals a day.  They become very grateful.  And they express their gratitude by volunteering for various positions around the program.

Some become drivers.  Some work night security.  Others become maintenance men.  Some volunteer as cooks or house managers.  And those who stick around for four or five years often end up buying an automobile and a house and start living like so-called "normal" citizens.

Then we have those who - after they graduate - become employees and start making a salary comparable to what they could make in the private sector.  Most of these employees stay on track and do their jobs and are happy to be sober and show it by their behavior.  

Others leave the program and start their own their own businesses.  One early graduate moved out of state and earns around $150,000 a year as a painting contractor.  Another resident who was with us in the mid-nineties sent me a video of him receiving a Doctorate Degree in Business.  Others have volunteered at TLC as roofers, carpenters, tile layers, and maintenance men and moved on and found permanent positions outside the program.

Their success has inspired us start making plans to add a formal trade school component to our program.  We have enough skilled supervisors who are willing to pass their skills on to clients.  We simply have to figure out how we're going to fund it, how long we'll train them, etc.  We expect to get this program working sometime after the first of the year, perhaps in late January.

Stay tuned.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Around the Holidays

Thanksgiving at a treatment program like TLC always creates more work for the staff.

First of all the managers of the various houses have to start planning at least a month ahead, gathering turkeys, hams, and the side dishes to fix dinner for their residents.  While we normally provide three meals a day, we make every effort to go above and beyond on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

Fortunately, we always have a few residents who jump in and help on the holidays, and we always have volunteers who help take some of the burden off of the kitchen staff.

Most of our residents are homeless when they arrive or else have been released to us from a prison term.  The majority of them are grateful for having a roof over their head and food on the table. 

At this time of year I like to recognize and express gratitude to our food banks and other businesses that donate food and supplies so that our residents can enjoy the holidays.

Click here to email John 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving is a good time to be grateful for our lives, our health, our families, our freedoms.  And for us addicts it's a good time to appreciate our recovery.

But like so many of our holidays - Christmas, 4th of July, Easter,  Memorial Day - Thanksgiving seems to have drifted away from the reason it was created.

Instead of an emphasis on gratitude, the focus is on sales, and what kind of meals we're preparing,   In this sentence I placed a link for those who are interested in learning more of the origins of this holiday and what it stands for. 

I don't need a national holiday to find gratitude.  I get up in the morning grateful to be alive, particularly after the kind of life I've led.  For forty years I drank when I had the chance.  I used heroin for 38 years.  And yet, here I am today, relatively healthy and functional and enjoying my 31st year in recovery.

As we age we learn more and more about what life is about and our perspectives change.  I know that when I got sober 31 years ago I thought that if I just had enough material things life would be wonderful.

But I've come to learn that when we have more stuff we just have more things to take care of and maintain.

Some of my associates have said that I should buy a bigger house.  But why?  It just means more work and responsibility. My gratitude lies in my relationships with friends and family - those with whom I can share the many blessings I enjoy each day.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Being Ill

Every two or three years I get a cold and don't make it to the office.

I know the signs that a cold is creeping up on me.  A slight soreness in my throat.  A general tiredness over my whole body.  My brain is foggy and I check my glasses more often because I think  they're dirty.  But they're not; I just think they just seem that way because my vision is blurry.  I clean them anyway.

Whatever I'm experiencing I know that I don't suffer very well.  I have this idea that I might read something I've been meaning to get to for a while, but before I know it I've been napping for an hour.

Ultimately I get to the point where I'm reminding myself that there are unfortunate souls who live with physical and mental pain of varying degrees all of their lives.

I remind myself that - considering the way I've lived - that that I shouldn't even be alive.  I talk a lot to myself about this and end up feeling foolish about letting a minor ailment be so irritating.

We addicts don't suffer very well because we know how to feel good right away.  But those of us who are serious about recovery know that we'd just end up in more pain and back on the merry-go-round of addiction and have to start all over.

And that's not where I'm going to go.

Click here to email to email John 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Becoming Responsible

A week rarely passes that I don't get an inquiry from a mother asking for help for their son or daughter.

And I always answer them, but I sometimes wonder what would happen if the mother told her child that she was old enough to find help for herself. 

The point here is not to be be hard hearted.  But the reality is that if the child wanted to get tickets to a concert or make reservations at a hotel for a vacation they would have no problem picking up the phone or going onto the internet to start searching.

The only time a prospective client calls on their own is when they've run out of people to help them.  When they get really desperate they somehow find the intelligence and energy to seek help for themselves.

The same thing happened in my own case.  I kept asking my family for help during the years I was using and finally they got tired of it.  It was only when they told me they were no longer going to help me that I sought help on my own.

And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I first got sober.  Then I started a business that has been operating for about 30 years.  Before my parents died I was able to make amends to them and repay them for the many times they'd helped me.

Once we take responsibility the for ourselves there's no telling where life will take us.  But it's usually to a much better place that we came from.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Honor to the Veterans

One of my early memories came in September of 1945 when the president of the United States announced the end of World War II and the surrender of the Japanese.  I recall how the neighbors ran into the streets of our Newport Beach neighborhood, singing, dancing and sharing bottles of alcohol.  It was a truly joyous time in our country and the beginning of a new era.

I think that many people at the time thought that world-wide conflicts would be a thing of the past.  But, as we all know that was a myth, a hope for a better future that many people shared.  Because there's rarely been a time when there hasn't been a conflict between countries in some corner of the world or other.

Military conflict touched my own life in a very personal way when my youngest daughter came home one day and announced that she'd was joining the army just three years after terrorists knocked down the towers in New York City.  When I said she couldn't do that without my permission she reminded me that she was 18 years old and didn't need my permission.

At first I was afraid she wouldn't come back but then I rationalized that the military probably wouldn't send a teenage girl into a dangerous area.  But, before I knew it she was on the border of of Afghanistan and Pakistan in as much danger as anyone else.

Even though she was in a danger zone I somehow was protected from fear and believed she would come back safely.  And she did come back whole.  Though she has had psychological effects from her experiences.

Today we honor those who put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us from harm.  There will likely never be a time when the warriors among us won't be sent to strange places to protect our country's interests,  some putting their lives on the line and some losing them in the process.

I'm just grateful that my child lives a few miles away and I can visitor her whenever I like.

And today I get to thank her for her service.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 8, 2021

Losing Friends

There's an aura of sadness over our office today because one of our long-time employees is on a ventilator in a local hospital.  He's had health problems for some time and has been in and out of the hospital more than once over the last few years.

He's been with us for so many years he's become part of the family.  He'll do anything for anyone and we're afraid that maybe this time he's not coming  back home.  Though no one can predict whether he's going to make it through this, the reports coming from the hospital are less and less positive as the hours pass.  We all are praying that he makes it through.  We hope he proves us wrong because he's done it before but this time his condition is more complicated, at least from the reports we've been getting.

One thing that's different about TLC from a lot of programs is that if one wants to stay here they can stay for the rest of their lives.  Whether they have money or not.  And for many people who have lost their family and relatives over the years it's the perfect place for them to be.  We have become a surrogate family for many of them.

A few have been with us for 20 years.  And many times people tell us they thought we were a transitional program.  That people come here to get well and learn to live and then move on. 

While that's true in most cases, there are many who come here and become part of the volunteer team that helps others get sober and change their lives.  They build a circle of friends around them - an extended family that helps one another rebuild their lives.  A family that helps them stay away from drugs and alcohol.

They learn generosity and find love and caring for their fellow man that they never had before. And in the end I think they (and all of us) find that the most important thing in life is those around us - the people we love and who love us.

We hope our friend gets home once again.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 5, 2021


We've all seen them as we drive through our city.  Panhandlers.  Bums.  Some of them with crude signs standing on the corners asking for donations.  Some will be playing a guitar and singing.   And the question is should we give them anything?  After all,  I work for my money.  I have a home and a car.  And I work for them.

Sometimes, if it's convenient and I have change I'll pass it out the window.  And they'll bless me with a thank you.  But other times I'll be in a mood and drive by and give them nothing.  Later I'll think I should have given them something.

Once I gave $5.00 to a couple outside a Walgreen's.  And as I did so a woman sitting in a car next to mine told me I shouldn't have done that because they would just use the money to buy dope.  While it was none of her business, I really couldn't disagree with her.

And the reason I didn't disagree with her is because of something my sponsor told me one time. He said always give panhandlers what you can afford, that way they may get to the bottom quicker.  And it was good logic because until I reached my bottom I never had any motivation to get sober.

Many of us went through a lot of dope or booze or both before we came to the point where we could no longer stand the pain.  

So I believe we should give what we can - we might help save a life.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Art of Giving

For 15 years or more I've had a friend who is a perfect example of giving.   When asked, he never says no.  If someone needs a ride, he gives it to them.  If they need help with moving, he's there.  For example he recently flew to the East coast to drive a friend in a U-Haul who was moving back to Arizona.  Other than complaining about being a little tired after the trip, I think he'd probably do it again if asked.

He often volunteers to help others to the point where he's exhausted.  And I think one of the reasons he's so generous with his time and energy is that he lives a live of gratitude.  Much of his conversation revolves around the blessings he's found in his life of sobriety.  And while this is only my opinion, I think his generosity is based on what sobriety has brought to his life.  His walk is an example to others.

While I've been sober for much longer than he has, I only wish I had a portion of the helpfulness he gives others.  He's a person who asks for nothing, who seldom displays anger or ego - all qualities we could strive for.

He does his best to make the world a more beautiful place.  Because he likes to garden, new plants and flowers appear all the time whenever he finds an empty plot of dirt.  A picture will appear on a bare wall.  Once in a while he'll show up at my office with a lunch he's prepared in our community kitchen.

Because he has training in barbering and hair care, he often volunteers to cut a newcomer's hair at no cost.  And while he's doing it he gets a chance to tell them what recovery has brought to his life.

For the past few years, in the midst of all his busyness, he's been acting as a caretaker for an elderly relative who is fighting a terminal disease.  Any of you who have take care of a sick relative knows how stressful and draining it can be to care for some who is in the final stages of life.

If you have a challenge, ask what he would do.  You may not know who I'm talking about.  But ask me and I'll introduce you to him.

Saturday, October 30, 2021


Each morning I stop at my local Circle K and buy a small coffee while on my way to work.  And when I pay for it, I always tell the clerk to put the change in the donation box.

A couple of them have been there for some time and so we always greet each other and wish each other a good day.  And it's the same routine each day.  I lay down my two dollars and tell them to put the change in the donation box.  

But lately our routine has been changing.  Because every once in a while when I go to pay, they wave me on, telling me it's on the house.

When it first happened a few months back I was surprised.  But l thanked the clerk and went on my way.

As time goes on it seems like it happens more often because when no one's around they wave me on and wish me a good day.

Because I'm a person who tends to overanalyze everything I started thinking about the free coffee I get every so often.  And the only conclusion I can come to is that because I donate a bit of change each time I pay they may want to do something nice in return.    

Is it Karma?  Their way of recognizing my small contributions?   Either way it feels good so I plan to continue.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Hedonic Treadmill

One of the characteristic beliefs of many addicts - and non-addicts - is that money will bring them success and happiness.  Not so.  

Now there's little doubt that money will bring us a degree of pleasure, at least on a temporary basis.  But when we tire of that pleasure, we think that maybe a little more will make our lives wonderful.  So, we work to get a bigger house.  A nicer car.  A better wardrobe.  More jewelry.  And stuff that we think will fulfill our lives.

In psychology it is often described as the "hedonic treadmill."  I run and run harder and faster to accumulate more stuff.  Then I'll be happy.  But sooner or later we find that more stuff is not the key to happiness.  Many wear themselves out on the treadmill, and soon realize that there other ways to happiness aside from accumulating stuff that only brings pleasure for while.

Those who get off that path may decide to improve their lives by going to school.  Learning to play a musical instrument.  Joining a church. Volunteering at a senior center, or becoming active in sponsoring others in recovery.

When we devote ourselves to learning a new skill or to helping others improve their lives then we find true happiness.

I once thought the same way:  that a lot of material things would make me happy.  But once I got those things they didn't give me what I wanted.   

So I devoted my life to helping others change for the better and achieve their goals in life.  That's what brought me the happiness that I have today.

Click here to email John

Sunday, October 24, 2021

A selfish Act

I had a lunch appointment today with a client who was recently appointed to a supervisory position.  I was a few minutes late and was ready to apologize when I realized he hadn't arrived at the restaurant either.  My plan was to get better acquainted with him and discuss the responsibilities of his new position.

Then I got a call from him.  On the drive from his house, a few blocks from the restaurant,  he passed a car parked at the side of the street with a man sitting in it with his head slumped against the driver's side window.  As he passed the car he felt there was something strange about the man's posture.  Like maybe he was sick or having medical issues.

So he made a U-turn, walked across the street to the car and rapped on the window.   There was no response from the man and when he took a closer look he saw a pistol in the man's hand and realized that he'd committed suicide.  He then called the police.  I met him at the scene and from there we went to  lunch.

Had he not stopped to investigate it's no telling how long the man would have been there before he was found.  The police said the man had been reported missing the night before and his family was concerned.

To me, that's what's terrible about suicide, which is reportedly the seventh leading cause of death in this country.  Those who kill themselves are not concerned about those left behind, those who loved them.  They only want to get rid of their own pain. They don't think about those who spent time and money educating and raising them to adulthood.   It's only about their own pain and so they self-centeredly take the easy way out.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Home Again

Back at home Friday and looking forward to getting back after 10 days.

We had never been to Panama, though I always had it on my list of places to visit.  I wanted to see one of the great engineering feats in the world, the Panama canal, and was able to do that today. It is a truly amazing feat to build a 40 mile long canal. I can't even imagine the money spent and the lives lost in completing the project.  

I know that we are blessed in being able to travel a few times a year.  But I have to say that I didn't do enough research before taking this trip. For example, I didn't know that it rains here nearly each day.  And I didn't know that people in Panama drive much crazier that in other city I've been in, including Los Angeles.  

In fact it was so insane that I turned our rental car in the second day we were here.  Completely terrifying.  Also, something I didn't know is that there are no addresses or street numbers here.  And you're lucky if the GPS can find the name of the building you're looking for.  Even the cab drivers get lost.

One day I may take a cruise through the canal to get the full experience of it - but that will be a few years down the road.  I think my next trip will be back to my old familiar haunts in Puerto Vallarta.  Which I find to be one of the more relaxing cities in the world.

Click here to email John

Saturday, October 16, 2021

On Vacation

One of the benefits of being sober is being able to go on vacation a few times a year.  Usually by October we've been somewhere at least four or five times.

But between Covid 19 and and key people leaving for whatever reason, this is only my third time away from the company for more than a few days.  Fortunately, I have some trustworthy key people around me that can manage things while I'm gone.

So this time my sweetheart and I chose Panama City, Panama, somewhere neither of us have ever been.  For some reason I had entirely different expectations of what the country would be like.  For one thing it has a small population, somewhere around 1.5 million citizens.  I envisioned at least four to five million.

And another misconception I had was that it was sunshiny year around, closer to like Arizona where we're from.  Not so.  Here it rains or sprinkles for a few hours each day and then is kind of cloudy and overcast the rest of the time.  But being from Arizona, it's a pleasant change from the predictable weather there.

Panama City is one of the few cities I've been to where I refuse to drive. Most people drive with one hand on their horn, many times forcing other vehicles to either hit them or get out of the way.  As little driving as we planned on doing I took the car back the third day here.

Still it's good to relax, enjoy foods I haven't sampled very much before, and just get business off my  mind.

People often say we're lucky to be able to do what we do.   Go on vacations.  Live in nice homes.  And they're right.  But all the luck we have comes from living clean and sober lives - what we're promised when we join the 12-step programs.

Click here to email john

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

IQ vs. EQ

It wasn't until a few years that I understood that IQ, which stands for intelligence quotient, is only one key factor in a person's success.  That there's something called EQ, which stands for emotional quotient, that's equally important.

Around six or seven years ago I read the results of a study about emotional intelligence.  What is emotional intelligence?  It's summed up like this:

1.  Self management.

2.  Social awareness.

3.  Self-awareness.

4.  Relationship management.

Many of you know people who have a high IQ, people who are absolutely brilliant, who have achieved very little in life.  They might be the brightest bulb in the box, but they enjoy very little in the way of social or financial success. In fact when I was in prison I was living alongside of doctors, lawyers and even rocket scientists who were amazingly intelligent.  I wondered what the hell they were doing in prison with so many of us who had little or no education.

But as I got better acquainted with them they seemed to have the idea that they were superior to their fellow man.  Many were arrogant.  Or always angry and seemed to think their intelligence gave them carte blanche to treat others however they chose. Many of them were there for theft, financial crimes or fraud, crimes where they expressed their high IQ by feeling they were better or deserved more than others without having to put much effort.

Today I know many people who have little formal education who are wealthy, successful, and pillars of the community.  And they all did it through knowing how to get along with other people and knowing that if they treated them right they could help each other succeed.

It's nice to have a high IQ.  And it's even nicer if one has the emotional IQ to go along with it.

Remember we all feel like we're important.  And we should recognize that when we're dealing with others.

Click here to email John

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Needing more Pain

I stopped at Circle K one morning last week for my usual morning cup of coffee.  Standing out front, leaning against the trash can, was a guy who was obviously homeless and needing help.  He had a cast on his arm and looked as if he hadn't bathed for a few days.

He spoke to me as I was walking into the store and I returned his greeting.  When I exited the store with my coffee, he asked me if I could give him a ride to the library.  

I told him to get in my car, that the library wasn't too far out of my way.  He threw his backpack in the trunk and got into the front seat.

Once in the car I told him that if he had a problem with drugs or alcohol I could probably get him a bed at TLC.  He said he used methamphetamines sometimes but that he would like to get away from drugs.  I called our manager and arranged to get him into our program and dropped him at our Dana Street location.

The next day when I inquired about the guy the manager told me that he had left during the intake interview.  I guess that once he found out that he would have to attend peer groups, go to meetings, and eventually find a job and pay service fees he lost his motivation.

Actually he isn't unique.  A large percentage of those who start out with a desire to get sober leave within a week or two.  They like the idea of getting sober.  But they don't like the idea that  they might have to participate in their own recovery.

I know that once this man's life of living and using drugs on the street becomes too painful he'll find someplace that'll help him to get clean and sober.  He has to undergo more suffering before he'll find the motivation to change.

Click here to email John

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Learn to Visualize

When I was a boy living on a farm in the hills of Oregon I learned to visualize.  And I didn't even realize what I was doing.  I just thought my mind was drifting if I thought about it at all.

While my family wasn't poor, neither were we well-off.  We grew most of our own food.  My brother and I took care of the garden, growing fruit and vegetables.  We also fed the chickens, pigs, and milk cows.  Our lives from ages 5 to 12 were mostly work.  If not on the farm, then at school.

But working all the time wasn't great fun. It was a healthy life, but kids want fun and excitement and to enjoy the nice things the neighbor kids had.  And so I would often find my mind drifting back to Newport Beach, California where I lived with my mother and stepfather until I was five years old.  Until the weekend my father took me and my brother to his house for a visit and never returned us to our mother who had legal custody. 

Instead, he took us to a farm he'd purchased in Fall Creek, Oregon, where we lived for the next seven years.  And during those years is when I learned about visualization.  When I wasn't doing chores or school work I'd often find myself sitting on the bank of the river that bordered the rear of our property and day dreaming.

I'd picture myself living back in Southern California with my mother and grandparents.  I'd remember the nice clothes she'd buy for me and my brother, the meals she prepared, the Catholic church she took us to and the encouragement she gave me to do well in school.

These visions I had of my former life were one way that I escaped the alcoholic anger of my father.  When I'd dream of the future, he was nowhere in the picture.  There wasn't a lot of alcohol around when I lived with my mother and stepfather.  There was no rage and fighting.  I didn't get my butt kicked when I did something wrong, though I did get periodic punishment if I deserved it.

So my dreams while I was on the riverbank were about having a peaceful life.  One without alcohol or violence.  I pictured living in a nice home.  Of having a business and an automobile and eventual prosperity.

And those things came to pass.  All of my visions have come true beyond my dreams.  I have the life I dreamed of and much more.

I got here on a twisted path, though.  In my younger life I acheived many of my dreams, but my father taught me about alcohol.  And I became just like him for years, drunk and angry and destroying everything and everyone around me.

Then, in midlife I had an epiphany, a realization of what would happen if I didn't quit drinking and shooting heroin.  If I didn't change it would be back to prison for me, or the hospital, or even an early death.  I took inventory of myself and pictured myself being clean and sober. 

I began to visualize that one thing: a sober life.  And it happened for me.  On January 13, 1991 I checked into a detox and never looked back.  Once I got sober the things I visualized came into my life much sooner than I expected.

I pictured the sobriety and all the good things that come with it and it manifested in my life.

Start dreaming each day about the changes you want in your life and see what happens.

Click here to email John

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Alcohol and the Pandemic

As a recovering alcoholic I've noticed many mentions on the web of increased drinking during the pandemic.  I've posted one of them that I found clear and interesting.  Perhaps the rest of the world will better understand those of us who deal with adversity with the help of substances.


How Bad is our Pandemic Drinking Problem?

Even before the pandemic began, some Americans were drinking significantly more alcohol than they had in decades past — with damaging consequences. In 2020, researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (N.I.A.A.A.) found that from 1999 through 2017, per capita consumption increased by 8 percent and the number of alcohol-related deaths doubled, many caused by liver disease. The trends are particularly concerning for women: Whereas the number of men who reported any drinking stayed mostly the same, the proportion of women who did so increased 10 percent, and the number of women who reported binge drinking, or consuming roughly four or more drinks in about two hours, increased by 23 percent. (For men, binge drinking is about five or more drinks in that period.) Current dietary guidelines consider moderate drinking to be at most one drink a day for women and two for men.

So researchers were understandably apprehensive when, early in the pandemic, alcohol sales spiked. They were especially concerned about women, because similar quantities of alcohol affect them more adversely than men, making them more likely to suffer injuries from accidents and to develop chronic illnesses like liver and heart disease and cancer. But it was unclear whether increased sales would translate into increased consumption. Perhaps Americans were hoarding alcohol as they were toilet paper.

A growing body of research, however, has begun to confirm that Americans, and women in particular, are indeed drinking more in response to the pandemic. In December, researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, published the results of a survey they conducted last May in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. They found that of the more than 800 respondents — those who replied to the online questionnaire were mostly white women — 60 percent were drinking more compared with before Covid-19 (13 percent were drinking less). More than 45 percent of participants said their reasons for drinking included increased stress. And those who reported feeling “very much” or “extreme” stress from the pandemic reported drinking more on more days than those who were less affected. Another survey conducted this February by the American Psychological Association found that nearly one in four adults reported drinking more to manage pandemic stress. Though stress has long been a common reason people turn to alcohol, the extent to which it appeared to cause increased consumption during the past year was startling, says George Koob, director of the N.I.A.A.A. “It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it did surprise us, this drinking to cope.”

That trend is especially alarming because previous research suggests that people who drink to cope — as opposed to doing so for pleasure — have a higher risk of developing an alcohol-use disorder, which is the inability to stop or control drinking even when it causes harm. Alcohol can be calming in the short term: It slows activity in the amygdala, the area of the brain that readies the body’s “fight or flight” response to real or imagined stress by increasing heart rate and blood pressure and amplifying our awareness of threatening stimuli. But over time, alcohol’s dampening effect on the amygdala decreases, while the region itself becomes “hyperactive in between bouts of drinking,” according to Aaron White, a senior scientific adviser at the N.I.A.A.A. Achieving the same level of relief requires drinking more, and more often.

There are already indications that groups feeling the most pandemic-related stress are seeing greater increases in alcohol consumption. A survey of 12,000 physicians, for instance, found that more than 40 percent were experiencing burnout, very likely amplified by the pandemic, and of those, more than a quarter were drinking to deal with it. And though pre-pandemic research showed that parents were less likely than people without children to engage in risky levels of alcohol consumption, parents appear to be among those drinking more now — especially if their children are engaged in remote schooling.

The most worrisome drinking behavior, as before the pandemic, appears to be among women, who have also borne more of the child-care burden created by school closures. A study published in October in The Journal of Addiction Medicine found that between February and April 2020, women had a greater increase in excessive drinking than men did. Respondents who are Black reported greater increases, too. A November study in the journal Addictive Behaviors, based on an April survey that asked about people’s drinking during the previous month, found that women drank more than men in response to pandemic stress, to the point that their intake levels were roughly equal. “I left that study with more questions than answers,” says Lindsey Rodriguez, the paper’s lead author and a psychologist at the University of South Florida. “Is it because of home-schooling? Uncertainty about the future? High pressure in more domains of life? Women were disproportionately affected by all things Covid-19. This is another way of showing the effects of that.”

Previous disasters, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2003 SARS outbreak and Hurricane Katrina, have been followed by increases in alcohol abuse among those who experienced them and their aftermath. But researchers have never studied the impact on drinking behavior of a catastrophe that lasted as long and was as pervasive as the current pandemic. Nor did those earlier events increase social isolation while also initiating widespread changes in the availability of alcohol through takeout and delivery, as Covid-19 has. There has been more drinking at home, which is associated with domestic violence and child neglect, Carolina Barbosa, a behavioral health scientist at RTI International, a nonprofit research organization, points out. “So it’s not just the health of the person who is drinking that we are concerned with,” says Barbosa, the lead author of the Addiction Medicine study, “but it’s also the social impact on the family and society in general.”

Those potential repercussions — on everything from individual health to poverty, crime and violence, which have previously been associated with the density of alcohol sellers in a given area — will take time to unfold and assess. Right now, most of the data available on people’s changes in drinking behavior are limited to small surveys. “This all suggests people are starting to put in place patterns of heavier drinking,” says Elyse Grossman, a policy fellow at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the International Journal article. She expects to start seeing the effects one to three years from now, which is when alcohol abuse increased following other catastrophes. (Already cases of alcoholic liver disease are up an estimated 30 percent over the past year in the University of Michigan’s health system, and many of those additional patients were young women.)

Yet despite the worrying circumstances, at least 20 states are considering making permanent the relaxed alcohol rules they put in place during the pandemic. And alcohol manufacturers have exploited Covid-19 as a marketing tool to an extent that is “frustrating and surprising,” Grossman says. “They have used the pandemic to increase sales and oppose regulation. ‘You need time to yourself; you should be drinking. You need alcohol to relax; you need it to get through this pandemic.’” She adds: “It’s not an ordinary product, like coffee or pencils. It’s the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.”

On a population level, this past year’s drinking has already set in motion a cascade of consequences that would be difficult to reverse absent major policy changes. But individuals can take steps to avoid negative outcomes themselves. Koob says that the emergence of telehealth during the pandemic may be a “silver lining” that will allow physicians and support groups to reach more struggling people. Treatments exist on “a spectrum,” he notes. “Not everyone has to go into a 28-day detox.” Doctors and health officials should begin responding now, with initiatives like screening for people’s drinking patterns and “better messaging” on what is excessive drinking, Barbosa says. “There are more people who are going to need help.”

For those interested there are many research articles about the increase in drinking behavior during this pandemic.

Click here to email John

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Risk Taking

Those of us in the addict/alcoholic population have risk-taking personalities.  That is evidenced by the fact that we'll indulge in such dangerous practices as share dirty needles with people about who we know absolutely nothing.  We'll also engage in sex without any type of protection.  And drink from the same container of someone who could have who knows what kind of germs lurking in their bodies.

And these are the same folks who'll turn down a free Covid-19 vaccine because of their "political" beliefs.  They have some idea that vaccinating the population is some sort of government "plot" to take control of our lives.

When someone says something along these lines I'm amazed.  When I ask what benefit would it be to the government to have a large portion of the population deathly ill, they really don't have a rational answer.  I usually tell them to look at the rate of death between those who are vaccinated and those who are not they usually want to steer the conversation in another direction.

I also ask them to look at the supply chain and how the lack of key workers has caused a shortage of various products and raised the cost of many consumer items.  Not so long ago a 2x4 was under five dollars.  Now some suppliers are charging 12 and 15 dollars for the same item.  The same with sheetrock:  a board that cost under $15.00 a while back now sells for more than a hundred dollars at some home stores.

To me the bigger issue is the self-centeredness of those who refuse vaccination.  If they don't care about themselves that's one thing.  But the idea that they could be a carrier and infect their loved ones or neighbors is something else.  I've heard many tales where a family member will refuse vaccination, yet carry the virus into their homes and have family members lose their lives.

I wonder how they're going to feel, carrying the responsibility for someone else's death with them for the rest of their lives.

It's something to think about.

Click here to email John

Monday, September 27, 2021


Every once in a while, probably once a year, one or two of our residents will make plans to start a halfway house or recovery program after they graduate from ours.

It used to be that I would hear about what they were planning and have a talk with them about the challenges they were facing.  But I quit doing that because I realized I was wasting my breath and that they were going to do what they wanted to do.

Some of them would actually follow through and find a house or two and begin taking in residents.  And interestingly enough they would start a program that had almost the same rules and guidelines as ours.  In fact their program would look pretty much like ours, but with a different name.

But of the ten or twelve who actually got a program off the ground I don't know any of them that are in existence today.  One of the last ones who started his own program recently died of liver failure after he relapsed.

Another one was murdered while he was collecting rent on a Friday night.  And still another died of a heroin overdose.   He was released from a rehab where he was sent to recuperate after being beaten during a robbery attempt.  As soon as he left the rehab he picked up some heroin and accidentally overdosed.

People don't realize the challenges they face in this business.  Many look at it as a get-rich-quick scheme.  But they don't take into account all of the work involved. 

Buildings need maintenance.  Clients need to be fed.  Lease payments have to be made, as do taxes. Clients need clothing.  Sometimes they have medical emergencies.  Many need dental and vision care.
The work never ceases when one is taking care of a few hundred addicts at a time.

But I never discourage those who try to open a program.  They may succeed and actually help someone change their lives. In fact if their motives are good and they really want to help people I wish them the best.

They just should be ready to do some real work.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Sometimes less is More

We made a major change a few months ago as to how many hours volunteers work.

I got the idea when the pandemic first hit and those in our corporate office who could work from home did so.  Even though they were at home, we still seemed to get everything completed.

Once the pandemic subsided and everyone was vaccinated we started bringing volunteers back to the office.  But I started wondering why we had them here all day once their work was completed.  So I slowly changed the schedule.

The new rule is, once your job is completed, you can leave.

The new schedule has created better morale.  They now have time to read, go to a meeting, work out, or just take a nap.  When they had to spend eight hours a day here, much of it was spent surfing the internet or hanging out on Facebook once their jobs were completed.

Our new schedule hasn't affected our revenue or productivity. And a comparison of our revenue over the past three years shows that our income in staying level, even though our population has dropped to less than 600, down by 150.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, September 21, 2021


I've never had a lot of patience when it comes to dealing with frustration.  And one of the things that frustrates me is when my computer starts failing and gets in the way of my work.

It seems like these kinds of challenges occur at the worst times.  Like, there are seven days in a week.  Yet my computer generally fails at closing time on Friday, meaning that I won't be able to  get any professional help until Monday morning.

One of the reasons I'm getting to this blog a day late is because although I finally got my computer rebuilt, I still had to recover the data that got scrambled when it crashed.

While this kind of thing doesn't happen regularly, it seems that I'm very unrealistic when it come to dealing with a computer when it does fail.  I know that technology like phones and computers have a two or three year life span before going into obsolescence yet I act surprised when they do begin to fail.

I have seriously considered throwing my computer down the stairs at times.  But then I'd just have to start over again and get even more frustrated.

While this not a challenge that leads me to think of getting drunk or high, it does lead me to get angry - which is probably the biggest waste of time of all. What leads me to a peaceful state is to remember the days before computers and cell phones - when it sometimes took forever to accomplish things.

Once again, acceptance steps in and when I get there I start counting the many blessings I have in life. A solution is at hand and my world levels out.  

Click here to email John

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Little Things

I love computers when they work like they're supposed to.  And I hate them when they frustrate me by breaking down or freezing when I'm working on a critical project.

Although I know that most of them have a usable life of less than five years I still get frustrated when they fail when I'm trying to get an important project completed.  And that's what's been happening for me all week.

Usually it's something simple that we can fix in our office but I've finally reached the point with the computer I have now where no amount of patching or repairing will make it work.  Fortunately I have a backup at my home office that I can use when the other one fails.

The problem - as with most problems in my life - is when I'm in the middle of a project I don't like anything to slow me down.  That breeds frustration and stress, which I sometimes don't work with very well - even though I've been sober for 30 years and my job is to help other deal with their issues.

When these kinds of situations arise I eventually realize that I need to apply the same rules to my own life that I suggest others use.

After all, life presents us with issues.  But if we approach them with patience we can resolve them. 

And I promise you that when they're resolved there'll be new ones waiting for us around the corner.

So I'm patiently waiting for the technician to call me and tell me he's done with his repairs, which sooner or later he will.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Maybe a New Client?

I have a habit of not answering calls if I don't recognize the caller's name.  Because 90% of the time it's a telemarketer peddling some crap that I'm not interested in.

And that happened again this morning and I didn't answer the phone.  Later, though, when I checked my voice mail I found a message from a mother whose son was to be released from jail this morning.  However, she hadn't heard from him so far today, but was wondering if we had a place for him in case he contacted her.

I told her we did and to send him here once she heard from him.  She said that she'd had the police remove him from her house several years ago because he was drunk and refused to leave.  And ever since then he'd been resentful at her because she had him removed from her home.

I told her she'd done exactly the right thing.  When people have a place to stay where they can drink and do drugs why stop? 

Apparently the mother was disabled and lived on a limited income.   He didn't seem to understand that she could't afford to buy him booze, cigarettes, clothing and feed him.  And why should she?  After all, he was a healthy middleaged man who was capable of working but preferred to pursue his addictions.

Her situation is not uncommon.  I have many parents and family members call.  But seldom does the addict call until life becomes totally intolerable.

My recommendation to them may sound cruel, but I always suggest that they not do anything for an addict or alcoholic other than give them a ride to a local detox.  Don't feed them.  Don't let them spend the night on the couch. Don't loan them your car.  Don't loan them money.  

In other words, let them suffer the consequences of their habit.  And when they suffer enough pain, then they will seek help.

Pain is the great teacher.

Click here to email John

Saturday, September 11, 2021


It hardly seems like 20 years ago today, that terrorists smashed airliners into the twin towers and other targets, slaughtering thousands of innocents who were going about their everyday lives.  Some had plans for dinner, others had left their children in daycare on their way to work, still others had clothes waiting to be picked up at the cleaners.  For the victims of that day the world came to a jolting halt.

It was such a shocking event that it has never left our national consciousness and will be etched into our memories for generations to come.  It also started a world-wide hunt for the terrrorists who created and carried out the plot.  Millions of dollars and thousands of lives have been impacted by the events of that day. 

Yet today, 20 years later, is the world a better place?  Is there anything we learned from an event like this?

In my own case, I was cruising along working on my recovery, with ten years of sobriety under my belt.  I didn't spend much time thinking of politics or religion.  I was immersed in helping my fellow addicts change their lives.  That was the focus of my existence.

However, 9/11 made me take a different look at the world.  It was hard for me to imagine that somewhat hated us so much because of book that told them we were infidels who needed to be beheaded because we didn't follow the tenets of their faith.

Many people live their lives today based on what mythical gods passed down to them thousands of years ago.  Not that any religion is totally bad; however one that even hints that murdering our fellow man is the path to glory has no place in my life. And most religions treat those who don't believe as they do as second class humans at best.

I think events like this tell us that we live in an unpredictable world.  That we should appreciate the good things we have in our lives.  That being kind and compassionate to others is its own reward.

Although my focus is upon recovery and helping others get sober, when unpredictable horrors occur like 9/11 it makes me realize that our world will never thrive until we learn to let others believe whatever they choose as long as it does't harm others.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Broken Computer

When I sat down to write my blog last night my computer took a dump.  And, because it was the middle of the night there was no place I could take it nor no one I could wake up to help me.  So, I finally gave up and went to bed about 1:00 am.

Today I connected with someone who knows a lot more about technology than I do.  And after a little back and forth adjusting of settings I'm back up and running.  At one time I used to write something everyday. But after about ten years I think I started running out of subject matter and changed my schedule.

Now I write one day, wait two days, then write again.  Usually something occurs in those few days that's worth commenting on and I'm able to come up with something worthwhile.  At least in my opinion.

Since I started blogging in 2010 I think I've produced over a half million words.  I imagine that some of them are redundant, but I haven't taken the time to go back and seach the archives.

My reason for writing this is mostly for the people in TLC.  Sort of a way to encourage them to stay on the track of recovery.  Most topics I cover are related to recovery, positive thinking, and navigating this crazy world we live in.

Because part of staying sober is dealing on a daily basis with the challenges that life presents us, I try to find topics that will help clients do that.

I rarely get into politics or religion because everyone has their own opinions about that stuff.  But sometimes, like the last few weeks that Americans are trapped in Afghanistan, it's pretty easy to look at that situation and be grateful that we have our feet in our own country, rather than in the middle of a bunch of scruffy terrorists.

Gratitude and acceptance are major themes in this blog.  Because if we have those things our lives are much more fulfilling.

Click here to email John

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Being homeless is Optional

About 100 feet behind my office are two large dumpsters that have block walls around them - probably put there by the City to make the area more esthetically pleasing.

Probably half the time I drive by them to my parking spot there's someone either in the dumpster, or climbing out of the dumpster.  Most of them appear to be homeless men searching for aluminum cans or other items they can recycle or sell. For sure, those dumpsters are a regular stop for those on the homeless circuit who park their shopping carts outside while they look for something of value to put in them.

While the dumpsters are there for the business people in the area, construction workers, and landscapers who don't want to drive to the city dump also make use of them.

I bring this up because sometimes I have a hard time understanding why people would work that hard to survive.  Are they addicts?  Are they mentallly Ill?

When you think about it, being homeless is hard work and sometimes dangerous.  There's never a guarantee that a homeless person will find something to eat. A place to shower, to safe place to sleep, or take care of their other needs. To survive takes a certain amount of cunning and ambition.

Several studies show that the homeless population has many adddicts and mentally ill within their population.  Yet, in spite of that they somehow muster up the ability to survive and feed their habits.

I know that if they took the time to think about it, there are much easier ways to meet life's needs.  We live in a time of prosperity where signs are posted everywhere by companies seeking help. One would have to be blind to not see them.

I think they all could prosper if they would put the energy they expend on scavenging - toward positive things like working a regular job - they would succeed.

Or they might read the story of the man who went from being homeless to becoming worth 3 billion  dollars.  His name is Paul Jones DeJoria and he's one of the creators of a top line of hair products.  His story is on YouTube and is well worth reading.  Forbes magazine rates him as one of the 400 wealthiest people in the world which goes to show that anythng is possible if we have the will - homeless or not.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021


Sometimes we addicts tend to think it's us against the world.  It's easy for many of us to be negative whether things are good or bad.

But I was reminded of how many good people there are in our world when my daughter and her brother were lost in the Grand Canyon the week before last.

I'm still receiving messages of congratulations from people I've never met.  From the time they disappeared I received prayers and good wishes from those who were taking their time to hope for a good outcome.

I don't think I received a word of negativity about the fact that they attempted such an arduous journey without more preparation - as I was thinking.

But the real point of this is that we feel much better when we receive the compassion of others when times are tough.

And to those who sent me such kind wishes I send my thanks and love for their support.  May they and their families prosper in every area of their lives.

Click here to email John

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Practicing Medicine

It seems like each day I hear a story of a family that is totally wiped out after one of its members contracts Covid 19 - or else the new variant that is beginning to spread.  Last week it was a family of five in Texas that died - none of whom had been vacinnated.  Apparently the father didn't believe his family would catch the virus.

I'm not sure why this particular family was against vaccination.  But I often hear anti-vaccine people give their version of why they think it's some kind of government plot to control our lives.  But none of their explanations make sense.  

Can anyone tell me why a government - any government - would benefit from killing off it's population with a virus?  Destroy their economy by having to issue welfare checks?  Hurt the economy by slowing down production lines because their employees are recovering from Covid?  It just doesn't make a shred of sense.

Yet 30% of the population still isn't vacinnated - even though the vaccine is readily available and free in most parts of the country.

Because I'm over 80 I was able to get the vaccine as soon as it came out.  And in the next few weeks I plan to get the booster shot when it become available. 

It's one thing to think we're smart enough to care for ourselves when it comes to our health.  But when we base our health decisions upon how we feel about the government or our religious beliefs we're risking our lives.  Not only our lives but the lives of our families and loved ones.  And the lives of people we don't even know.  

Is there a risk in taking the vaccine?  Of course.  There are risks in undergoing any medical procedure.  But there's also a risk in taking a drive across town to buy groceries.  Life is full of risks and we must do what we can to mitigate them. 

But taking a shot or wearing a mask is a small risk if it will increase our chances of survival.

Thursday, August 26, 2021


In the last blog, which I published on Monday,  I talked of receiving an early morning call from my youngest daughter who'd left at 4:00 am Sunday to hike Hermit's trail, with her older brother Arturo, to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  

After several hours of descending the rugged trail, Arturo started having cramps so bad that he couldn't continue.  He told her he would stay where they were, about eight miles down the trail, and asked her to hike back out and get help because he could go no further.

Neither of them had taken much in the way of supplies.  They didn't have warm enough clothing or adequate food, or water for a such an arduous hike. The park service classifies that trail as one that a hiker shouldn't attempt to complete in one day.  In other words, plan on staying overnight. But they either didn't see - or else ignored - the signs and were planning a one day round trip.

My daughter told me that the return trip was a nightmare. She was afraid she would die. She ran out of water and soon became exhausted.  She found a shack alongside the trail and curled up on a bench inside and rested for a while, napping off and on.

As she continued the climb, she found some cactus with ripe pears on them and picked several of them and was able to suck enough moisture out of them to stay somewhat hydrated and energized.  Further on she found a small spring that was dripping water into a tank.  A sign said that the water should be purified before drinking, but she was so parched she drank it anyway. Then she filled her water container and struggled on to the top.

A helpful bus driver let her use her phone and the alert went out about her missing brother. 

Several search teams and helicopters went out, but were unable to locate him that day. The following afternoon at around 2:00 pm they found him walking up the trail.  He spent a few days recovering in the hospital and was discharged today.

Needless to say everyone is happy that they both survived.  The incident reminds us all, that when doing something risky we should plan for all eventualities. 

After all, a lot of people love and care about us and we should include them in our planning.

Click here to email John

Monday, August 23, 2021

Let's Pray

I was awakened first thing this morning by a phone call from my youngest daughter.  I was surprised to hear from her so early because she usually talks to me about anything important when she gets to my office - where she and I work together.  So I knew the call was something important.

It turns out that at 3:00 am on Sunday morning she and her brother left for a hike into the Grand Canyon, about a 10 mile trek from the trailhead to the bottom of the trail.  Once they were about 8 miles down the trail the brother began having cramps and couldn't continue.  He told my daughter he wanted to wait there and for her to go back to the top and get help.

By this time it was around 10:00 pm last night and it was completely dark.  Neither of them had brought enough water or food.  Nor did they have camping gear with them.

So far two helicopters and a search and rescue team have been unable to locate him.  

I'm so grateful my daughter made it out okay.  Now everyone is praying that her brother is found whole and healthy by the search team.  I am confident they will find him, but I know it will devastate the family if they don't locate him.

Click here to email John


Friday, August 20, 2021

Conspiracy Theories

Someone asked me this week if I'd gotten my Covid vaccination.  And I told them, that of course - I'd gotten both shots when they first came out.

And I could tell by the look on his face that he was going to ask me if I wasn't afraid of a bad reaction.  And sure enough he started telling me he'd seen on a newscast recently that some older person had taken the shot and succumbed to the side effects.

I'd seen that same news about someone having a bad reaction and dying from the shot. And I told him that I had no medical background but that if someone offers me a potential protection agains a virus I'm going to gratefully accept it.  Because I'd met a lot more people who'd taken the shot and had avoided Covid than I did people who had a bad reaction from it.

Besides, I think that most conspiracy theories are crazy, or the product of fearful minds.  Also, It's hard for me to imagine that someone is sitting in a government office somewhere spending their days thinking of how to spread a deadly virus.

Now, it's true that medicine doesn't always work and that people do have bad reactions to injections.  But does that mean we shouldn't take a chance on a cure rather than live in fear?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Look for Gratitude

Today I felt a strong sense of gratitude while I was watching a news broadcast from an airport in Afghanistan.

In the segment I was watching, hundreds of civilians were desperately attempting to board a U.S. C-17 as it was taking off from the Kabul airport.  They were running alongside the plane attempting to hold on to any part they could grasp.  Reportedly seven of them died in the process.

Now I'm not an ungrateful person by any means.  I have a good job, a decent home, a family and friends that I love dearly.  I have a lot to be grateful for.

But when I see others suffering, gratitude for my life comes to the front of my mind.  And I realize that the challenges I face are nothing compared to what many others go through every day.

I can't even imagine living in a society where people are persecuted for their religious beliefs.  Where women have to live in a bag.  Where they can't go to school.  Where they can't leave their house without being accompanied by a male relative.

The strongest tonic I have when I think I have problems is to draw on my reserve of gratitude and my problems immediately dissolve.

Click here to email John

Saturday, August 14, 2021


I speak only for myself when I say that one of the greatest single words in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is acceptance.

It appears a few times in the book.  And once I let the word sink in it changed my whole outlook on my drinking and drug use.

I first really paid attention to it at a speaker meeting.  The man at the podium was describing his misadventures with booze.  He said that one day his sponsor told him that he would never succeed at staying sober until he got into acceptance.  Until he accepted that he was incapable putting any addictive substances into his body he didn't have a chance of living like other people.

He said that it took a while for the concept of acceptance to take hold.  He said that for a long time he knew he was as alcoholic but that he had some idea that he wasn't really that bad.  That he could stop whenever he wanted to quit.  But while reflecting, he realized that since he was a teenager he was always having problems with alcohol and other substances.

And when family or friends would suggest that he slow down and use in moderation he would tell them that he was just having a good time with his friends.

Yet his partying and using seemed to always get out of hand and before he knew it he was in trouble.  Yes, he could quit for a few days.  But sooner or later he would find himself in jail, or a hospital because he couldn't control himself.

Until his sponsor had him make a list of times he successfully drank without eventually getting into a mess, he wasn't fully convinced that he was powerless over drinking alcohol and using other substances.

Once he looked over that list his sponsor had him write he realized that examining his history with drinking and drugs is what made him realize he had a problem.  He said acceptance of who and what he was is what set him free.  

To stay sober for the past 30 years I first had to accept that I had a disease called alcoholism.  Once I did that things kept getting better and better.  And I'm able to enjoy the life I have today.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Enough Pain

Is there a surefire and effective way to help someone get sober, to start living a life of recovery? Yes, if one has the right ingredients almost anyone can quit using and start living a sober life.

After working with addicts for thirty+ years I believe there are several factors that potentially come into play when someone is serious about a major life change like getting sober.

I remember a time about ten years ago when a fellow parked in front of our office and came in to ask for help in getting sober.  

He was well dressed, wearing a watch, driving a decent automobile, and had a woman who waited in the car while he was in our office.

We asked him if that was his car and why he thought he needed help.  Why he thought he was an alcoholic and needed help to stop drinking?  He started telling us his story about how sometimes he would have too much to drink and wake up with a hangover.  Or get into a fight with his wife.  He was afraid he might lose everything, including his wife and home.  He'd never had a DUI nor been in jail.

To sum it up, we told him he might look for someplace else.  Maybe get some outpatient treatment.  We told him that most of those who came to our program had been homeless, in jail and had suffered a lot of pain before they decided to change.  We suggested that he suffer a little more before he tried to get sober; that he still had a decent life and might stop drinking for a few days and decide that he might not have a problem after all.  We told him we didn't think he'd suffered enough consequences.  

And so he went on his way and we never saw him again.

The point of this narrative is that we must suffer enough pain to want to change.  While he had gone through some discomfort from drinking our opinion was that he hadn't reached a bottom where he would be motivated to work on some gut level recovery.  He still had too many resources to be on fire to change.

While TLC accepts anyone who asks for help we like to think that they've had enough pain and loss to want to change. While we'll help anybody we like to use our resources for those who have a strong motivation.  Life will eventually let this guy find out if he has a problem, maybe if he starts feeling some real pain.

Click here to email John