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.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

When We're Ready

A parent calls our treatment program today to get help for her daughter.  She's in a detox now withdrawing from a habit she's had over the past several months.

The mother wondered if we had bed space for her and also inquired about our treatment options.

"Why didn't your daughter call?" I asked the mother.  "After all, she's the one who needs help."

She was quiet for a moment, then told me the story of how she's paid for her daughter's past three treatment programs.   But within a few weeks after leaving a program she'd be using again as if she'd learned nothing.

While the mother was discouraged about the money she'd spent on her daughter's failure to recover, she said she was still going to help her.

And I think was kind of surprised when I replied that the daughter's problem was that she was giving her too much help.

After all, she described how she'd helped her get on her feet a few times.  Doing things like renting her an apartment.  Buy her food and clothes, helping her find a job.  Only to find that she once again had relapsed and was on the streets.

I told her my own story of using heroin over a 38 year period.  But I didn't quit until everyone gave up on me and quit helping me.  At first I was angry and kept using until I ended living on the streets, sleeping in abandoned buildings or stolen cars.  Life finally got do painful that I decided to change.  I knew that if I didn't change I would end up back in prison, in a mental hospital - or dead.

So I went to a detox, got sober, and never looked back. I told the mother that once I had enough pain I decided to changes.  People quit helping me and that's what made the difference.

This girl hasn't had enough pain yet. And she won't until her mother and others quit rescuing her,

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sponsorhip

Last January ninth I was sober 30 years and felt kind of bad because I wasn't able to go to large gatherings because my doctor didn't want me to risk exposure to Covid 19.  Instead I met with my sponsor at a small cafe and had lunch.  And then he presented me my 30 year chip.

Afterward, back at the office, someone asked me why I needed a sponsor after 30 years of recovery.  That it seemed like I would know what it took to stay sober after so many years.

The reality is that a person who can read and understand the Big Book probably doesn't need a sponsor.  Because if we do everything that the book tells us we'll learn to live sober.  In fact, it's almost a 100% guarantee.

But  the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests sponsorship as a strong support for those in recovery.  Especially those in new recovery.

Every challenge to our sobriety requires an anwer and who better to help us than someone who has several years sobriety and who hasn't taken a drink no matter what challenges they faced.  My sponsor has faced health problems and many other challenges in his 47 years of sobriety, yet remains sober.

Generally when I have an issue to deal with and call him about it he'll end telling me that I know the right answer - and he's always been right. He's been with me through the last 25 years of my recovery, which included two divorces, the overdose of a grandson, two bouts of cancer, and several business challenges.

Would I have relapsed without his support?   Highly unlikely.  But it's always comforting to know that when I need sage advice I can dial his number.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Raising a six-year Old

I have a six year old grandson who's been dismissed from every school he's been enrolled in.  And yesterday my daughter told me he'd now been kicked out of summer camp because of his behavior.  She wasn't too happy.

And I can understand her angst about his inability to stay in one school for long,  So I told her that research shows that 30% of multimillionaires and billionaires never got a college degree.  Among them are Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Ralph Lauren, Steve Jobs, Sean Combs, Coco Chanel, Simon Cowell, and a long list of others.

Now I'm not saying it's okay for our youngsters to misbehave and get into minor scrapes that get them ejected from school.  There are a lot of theories of why they behave this way but one I really agree with is that people who don't behave like so-called "normal" people are a different breed.  

They are bored with what schools teach.  They have a high tolerance for risk.  They have a lot of creativity and imagination. They have a lot of energy.  

And the ones who don't turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to deal with these aspects of their personalities might just channel these characteristics into a successful business, career, and do much better than their "well-behaved" contemporaries.

My grandson, for example, has an extremely high emotional quotient and makes friends everywhere he goes.  And one of the top rated skills is the ability to communicate well with others.  After all, when you communicate well with others they can help you succeed in life and channel your talents into success.

I know it can be stressful and challenging for my daughter to raise a child with his energy but chances are that someday she'll realize it was well worth the effort.

Click here to email John

Monday, June 7, 2021

Raising sober Children

I remember I was sleeping one night in 1970 - not even sure the date was - when my girlfriend awakened me and told me that I had a phone call.

She said that she had some bad news, that my father had died.  She was hestitant to tell me because she didn't know how I would take it.  I told her that I was glad that he had died - then I was back to sleep in about ten minutes.

This came up for me today when I was looking at my schedule for the rest of the month and happened to notice that the 20th was Father's Day.

While the program has taught me to not harbor resentments even to this day I can recall when I was a child and the sheriff' would show up at our door to question my father for suspcion of child abuse.  Neither my brother and I would talk to the police so nothing happened to him.

One of the reasons I bring this up is that I notice that the worse childhood our clients had the more problems that drugs and alcohol created in their lives.

That's why I experience happiness when I hear stories of families reuniting while in TLC and returning their children's lives to some kind of normalcy.  We've even had staff members marry and have children while working here and it's wonderful to see how the love of a family strenthens their commitment to recovery.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Giving it Back

A man I once sponsored over 20 years ago called me today.  Now this is someone I hadn't seen in 20 years yet his experiences at TLC helped change his life.  He learned the lessons of recovery and they stuck with him.                         

But he didn't call to talk about sobriety.  He's reached a point in his life where he wants to give something back.  What he - and some of his friends want to do - is start a program for the homeless based on the TLC model.  In Seattle.

He said their goal was to go beyond helping substance abusers; they also wanted to also help non-subtance abusers who were homeless for other reasons.  He mentioned those with mental issues and problems with life skills.

I, of course, told him we would do what we could to help him succeed.  After nearly 30 years we have a template that we'll share with anyone in another state if they're serious about helping others.  And not just trying to make money off the down and out.

I bring this up because here is an example of what helping others change their lives can do.  We did something good for this man two decades ago.  And now he wants to give back.

It goes to show that when we help others we make the world a better place for everyone,



Monday, May 31, 2021

Those who Serve

Today we have the freedom to pursue our ambitions, to be whoever we want to be.  And we owe this privilege to those who died for our country while protecting our freedoms.

A lot of people think the holiday is just a day off work. Or a chance to go fishing while getting paid.  Or maybe a chance to grill steaks by the pool.

A few years ago almost 20% of the population served in the military.  Today that figure has dwindled to about seven percent.

But whatever the number. we have an obligation to honor those who provide us the freedom to pursue our dreams.

While technically the holiday honors those who died in combat, we need to honor all of those who served our country as part of our military machine.  Because it's more than a person firing a gun who makes sacrifices.  Those who suffer PTSD, lose limbs, who suffer emotionally, also deserve our respect and honor.

My youngest daughter served three  years in the U.S. Army.  And was in some dangerous situations.  She's earned two college degrees. She has a six year old son.  Her husband acts on the Discovery Channel.  She has a home in the suburbs.  

But, fate blessed us by bringing her safely through her time in Ahfganistan.  Something for which I'll be forever grateful.

Click here to email John

Thursday, May 27, 2021

I Might Have Missed It

Today I attended a ceremony at my grandson's kindergarten.  

And as the ceremony proceeded I found myself drifting off, thinking about the many blessings I've found in recovery.

As I watched my grandson receive his promotion certificate, I realized that this is something I would have never witnessed had I not made the decision to change my life over 30 years ago.  

Watching a grandson get promoted to the next class was one of many joys I've had since I decided to put substances out of my life.  To do something positive.  To live up to my potential (something I'm still working on).

One thing I want to share with my brothers and sisters in recovery is that one of the important elements of getting and staying sober is patience.  If you expect magical things to happen as soon as you get sober you're going to get disappointed.  

When I first got sober the magic for me was that I could wake up and not worry about having to feed a habit.  I had a bed to sleep on in a halfway house.  I had an old bicycle to ride.  I did day labor.  I went to meetings and educated myself about recovery.  And in that freedom from drugs I found peace for once in my life.

Look around you and find your blessings.  Maybe your family is back.  You might have found a decent job. You have food, clean clothing.  If everything you need or want hasn't showed up yet - be patient because it will.  If you read the a Big Book, you'll notice that it has promises.  If you're patient and follow the instructions you'll be as blessed as I have.

You'll see your loved ones succeeding and have a sense of joy and realize that because you're sober you're not missing the good things in life.

Click here to email John


Monday, May 24, 2021

100%

Since TLC first opened its doors January 9, 1992 it's had at least 500,000 people come through its doors.

Now I'm not writing this to tell you that all of those 500,000 people got sober.  I think we'd be lucky if we could say even a quarter of them got sober.  And that may be optimistic.

But I will say that 100% of those who are living by the guidelines we taught them - they're all sober.  In fact we guarantee that if an an addict or alcoholic practices the principles we try to instill in them they will remain sober for the rest of their lives.  And not many programs can say that with confidence - but we do.

Even on the prison yards people about to be released will be told by others that wherever they go, don't go to TLC.  Then they add to only go there if  they want to get sober.

One of the reasons we have a bad reputation among many addicts and alcoholics who have failed at our program is that we expect them to be responsible.  We expect them to work a regular job.  To go to 12-step meetings.  To remain drug and alcohol free.  To make their beds.  To keep their living area clean. To help others.  And give us clean drug tests.  To tell us if others are using.  To respect others. 

The addicts who can't do those things end up leaving.  And do they have anything good to say about us after they leave.   Of course not.  They're not ready to change their lives or behavior.

One of the negatives about our program is that we don't have fancy new facilities.  We have a lot of donated furniture and food.  When people come to our places they're might be expecting fancy luxury facilities.  But they're disappointed if they do.  We have clean and well-maintained facilities.  But they're nothing fancy.

But they do provide the basics for getting sober and changing their lives.  And living a clean life is what satisfaction and happiness is all about.

While we may have a tough reputation, we're more concerned about the lives we save than what others think of us..

Click here to email John

Friday, May 21, 2021

Helping Others

Finally the pandemic seems to be abating somewhat.  Some scientests have even said that if everyone would get the vaccince that's now available free almost everywhere it would be pretty much over within a matter of months.

Yet we read about people in all parts of the country who aren't sure that they want the vaccince - free or not. 

Now I'm the last person who believes that goverment should control our lives anymore than it already does.  However, if there's a possibility that a remedy has a 95% chance of curing me I'm going to take it - no matter who's giving it out.

But I hear people say they're not sure they want to take it.  And their reasons are many.  It might make me sick.  I didn't get Covid so why should I get the vaccine? I can't stand needles.  The government's not going to control my life.  I'm too healthy to get Covid.  The excuses go on and on.

But my opinion is that people who take this stance are not thinking of anyone but themselves.  I believe that if I can do something to improve our communal health then I'm going to do it.  I don't like needles and the time it takes to get the shot.  But if I have to go through a little inconvenience to help my friends and neighbors stay healthy I'm going to do it.  And I did.

 How would you feel if your self-centeredness kills a family member?  Could you carry that guilt with you from now on?

If you can read and comprehend maybe you should look up the word compassion. Then add it to your vocabulary and practice it at times like this.  You might feel like a better person if you do.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Changes

I’ve tried to live by a saying I once heard:  “The only thing in life we can really count is change.”   That things will be different tomorrow.  We don’t know what to expect tomorrow.

So what’s the benefit of that?  Well, for one thing when bad things happen we’re not surprised. Or depressed.  Or angry.

We learn to roll with the punches.  To accept the good with the bad.  Knowing that tomorrow we might win the lottery.  Or lose our job.  Or become overwhelmed by a pandemic.  We don’t know what’s coming next. 

So what’s the point?  The point is that we learn to live in the here and now.  To enjoy this moment of our lives.  Because this is the moment God gave us.  That this slice of time is all we can count on.

If we learn to expect change then we can be truly happy.



Saturday, May 15, 2021

To be Happy

Ask  anyone about their definition of happiness and you’ll likely get hundreds of different answers.

One person might respond that they would like to become a billionaire. The next person might say that they would like to have a wonderful marriage to a beautiful woman.Still another would like to have a college degree or even become a doctor.

But, as we all know, the list of things that bring us happiness goes on and on and keeps changing from time to time. Because, as soon as we obtain one thing we fancy we soon get used to it, or a newer model comes along and we’ re on a new chase.

Why are we built this way? Why can’t we accept and be happy with where we’re at with life as it is?  Part of it, I think is that we were brought up to believe that the more we have the better we are, the more important we are.

And that’s when many of us begin to get into trouble.  Drugs and and alcohol bring us instant gratification.  All of a sudden we’re on top of the world.  We’re wonderful and important and everything is great.  Until it isn’t.  All of a sudden we’re not able to get enough of the magic substances that took us to that place we craved, that place of pleasure that we pursued as we sought more and more gratification.

And those of us who survived came to accept life as it is.  To be grateful for both the good and bad and the ups and down as being part of the the natural order of the universe.

To be happy accept what is and your life will be abundant.

Click here to email John


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Anger Management

I had a chance to practice anger management yesterday - one of the few times I’ve had to use that part of my recovery education in a real life situation.  And the interesting thing is that l’d done nothing at all to inspire the other person’s anger.

The incident happened when I was filling my vehicle at a local Circle K gas pump in Mesa.  Just as I was fastening my seat belt after getting back into my Polaris Slingshot I noticed a vehicle that had pulled parallel to me on the passenger side of my vehicle when the driver blew her horn.

Thinking the driver wanted to speak to me, or ask a question, I waited until she lowered her window and asked if I could help her.

“Yeah,” she screamed out the window.  “You can get the f... out of my way, I’m almost out of gas.”

My daughter, an army veteran who can deadlift 250 pounds and who’s a veteran of over 30 street fights and has military combat training calmly replied that we would take as much time as we needed.  That when we were done we would leave, which we were starting to do when she arrived. 

Our calm replies seemed to enrage her even more and she began screaming racial slurs about white people.   

When I suggested she calm down, she became even angrier and louder and we both realized that trying to talk to her was fruitless.

The interesting part to me was that I was able to remain completely calm and unruffled. I attribute that to over 30 years of recovery, 10 years of daily meditation and all the sessions I spent counseling other recovering addicts and alcoholics.

And as I drove away I even found myself having some compassion for a person who was so frustrated that they had to scream at people in a public place over what they perceived to be a serious problem.

Recovery can help improve your life in more ways than you know.

Click here to email John



Sunday, May 9, 2021

Thinking of Mom

My mother, who passed away over 24 years ago on Christmas Eve, was a great influence on my life. She had a calm demeanor and seldom got angry. 

She was hard working, very focussed, and sorely disappointed because I - her first-born - turned out to be a criminal and drug addict.  

While she didn't like my lifestyle, she never stopped being loving and kind.  When I was a teenager she sent me and my brother to private high schools and worked in an electronics plant to pay our tuition.

My brother graduated and went into the Air Force.  While I not only didn't graduate, I was led out of the school in handcuffs for burglarizing doctors offices. I spent nearly two years in a juvenile prison in California and when I was released I pursued a career as a drug dealer, thief and smuggler.

While my mom never knew exactly what I did, she knew I was up to no good.  After all, who gets released from jail and within a few months has a pocket full of money, a nice wardrobe, and a new sports car?

But she was never angry at me for my choices.  Of course she'd admonish me to do well and reminded me that my trips to jail were my own doing.  But she was smart enough to know that getting angry or chastising me would do little good.

Once her husband died in 1993 she moved here to Mesa so she'd be close to me.  By the time she moved here I'd been sober a few years, something she was quite pleased about.  By the time she died in 1994 I had over three years clean.  

Even though I got sober to save my own life, I know that she was so happy that I made that choice.

Happy Mother's Day....

Click here to email John

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Discriminating Against Substance Abusers.

For some reason it seems like our local government is frequently at odds with the entrepreneurs who operate recovery homes for substance abusers in recovery.  It's happened before and it appears to be coming back to life.

For example, in 1998 the City of Mesa passed ordinances that would clamp down on halfway houses.  Since we had several locations downtown we were right at the center of the target.

One ordinance was that before one could open a halfway house they would have to appear for a public hearing at city hall to obtain approval, a process that involved public input,  Of course we all know how those kinds of hearings turn out.  No wants recovering people in their neighborhood.  I've been at those hearings and I saw one woman break down and cry hystercally at the possibility that a house might be occupied by a group of substance abusers.

The second ordinance was to not allow halfway houses to be located in the so-called "Downtown Overlay," an area covering Country Club to Mesa Drive and University to Broadway.  Halfway Houses were perceived as bad for business.

The third ordinance was to require halfway houses to be located 1200 feet apart.- something I never did understand.

In any case TLC wasn't about to go anywhere.  So we filed a lawsuit in 1998 and went into Federal Court and obtained an injunction against the City of Mesa to prevent them from acting on the ordinances until they worked their way through the courts. Five years later, we negotiated a settlement in Federal Court that left the distance requirment standing and awarded us $40,000 of our legal costs.

I don't have a good feeling about the prospect of a new lawsuit.  But I believe another one is on the horizon.  And of course TLC will be in the fight because we've been helping addicts and alcoholics change their lives for 30 years.

And we're going to continue to fight those who don't care whether we get sober or not.



Sunday, May 2, 2021

On the Inside

This weekend I was cleaning out my closet when I began reflecting about my first days in sobriety 30 years ago.

When I first got into recovery in January of 91 all I had was the clothes on my back.  Literally. 

It took me several months to build anything resembling a wardrobe.  Because I had a lot of entry-level jobs I would get clothing from the halfway house donation room.  Or else take a few dollars and search the local second hand stores - because that was all I could afford.

Since I didn't have a lot of spare money for entertainment, I'd spend hours searching the second hand racks to find something that I could afford that also would fit.  Today I found in the back of my closet a sport coat that I paid ten dollars for in 1991.  It must be 30 or 40 years old today and it's still in good shape and fits me well.

But back to cleaning my closet.  I must have gotten rid of 20 items, things I hadn't worn for five or six months.

I was inspired to do this a while back while I was reading about some very wealthy people who always wear the same clothes.  And I think that's the way to live. After all who's going to like us better just because we wear expensive clothes with designer labels?  Mark Zukerberg is always in tee shirts and levis.  Barack Obama reportedly wore the same clothes.  So did Steve Jobs.  And these were or are some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world.

I guess the point of all this is that it's not what we wear that makes us who we are.  What impresses others is who we are on the inside; it's the generosity, compassion and kindness we show others.

Click here to email John

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Making a Decision

30 years ago I was living a hopeless life.  I had no job.  No friends.  My family didn't want me around. If I wanted to eat I'd steal from a market or go to a soup kitchen.  If I needed to go somewhere I'd steal a car or bicycle.

Life only had meaning if I had enough alcohol or drugs in me.  And it seemed like I could never get enough of either,

But one dayI made a decision.  I woke from a nap in a park on a picnic bench.  I remember reflecting on my life of constantly chasing drugs and alcohol.  Of taking from others.  Of drifting aimlessly until I could find something to steal so I could get drunk and high again.

Then out of nowhere I had a thought: "I'm tired of this shit, of living like a bum, of going nowwhere,"

I kept reflecting on my choices: prison, mental hospital, cemetery and none of them were very appealing,

I'll get sober I told myself.

So I found a detox that would take me without money in Mesa, Arizona.  They kept me for 11 days and then found a halfway house that would take me without money.  And that's where it began a little over 30 years ago.

If you're in a situation like I was do what I did.  If it worked for me it'll work for anyone.  Life is a beautiful thing and we only have one of them.

Click here to email John

Monday, April 26, 2021

Once an Addict...

 We learn in the 12-Step programs that once we're an addict we're always an addict.  Does that mean we're always relapsing or drinking and drugging?  Of course not.  

But to me it means that deep down I still sometimes have that anger, anxiety, insecurity and othet personality defects that made me want to use in the first place.  Only by living by the guidelines of the 12-step programs do I recognize when I'm about to go off track.  We just think different.

I started thinking about how different we alcoholics are last night while at a Japanese restaurant.  The guests at the next table had paid their bill and left.  But I noticed that they had left behind some half full glasses of wine, along the bottle they were poured from - also half full.  

As the busboy cleared the table I thought "what a waste of good booze."  That's something that I would never have done, left behind good alcohol.  And the reality is that I've been sober over 30 years.

Yet even with 30 years sober I still notice things like.  Things that normal people never pay attention to.  I also know that if I follow the precepts of the 12 step programs I know I'll never relapse and return to the hell I once lived in.

Click here to email John

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Finding Gratitude

About 6:00 a.m. I was sweating on my indoor bicycle, something I do nearly every morning as part of my morning routine.  And if it's not the bicycle, it's the treadmill, rowing machine, ellipitical machine. Bowflex weights, or one of the many other pieces of equipment that populate my living room.  I'm fortunate enough to have the resources and the space to have a home gym, one that would compete wth some hotel gyms - which seem to be offered to guests as a sort of afterthought.

But, I'm going off in the weeds here.  While I was riding, I received a phone call from a friend who's serving an eight year prison term in Maryland.  As do most prisoners, he claims he was innocent of the robbery.  That he was just giving his son a ride to a market when the son came running out and jumped in his car after robbing the store at gunpoint.

To make a long story short he's now into the third year of his sentence and going back to court on an appeal because he was only the driver and didn't take part in the actual robbery.  He told me the sad story of contracting Covid when it swept through the prison, of the terrible conditions there, of the poor treatment, food, and living conditions - the kind of thngs we all complained about while in jail.

After he hung up I had a feeling of gratitude wash over me.  Because I no longer use drugs or alcohol it's not too likely that I'll never be locked up again.  Once I got sober I was able to take responsibilty for my behavior.

When life is imperfect - as it often is - it's not to difficult to look aroumd and find someone whose life is really a mess.  And from that will come gratitude.

Click here to email John

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Birthday Present to Myself

It's strange how things come to pass.

Back in the late seventies and early eighties I used to own and ride motorcyles.

On the first one I owned I was  coming home from a night club after a couple pitchers of beer and found myself wrapped around a street sign with the foot peg - rubber still on it - lodged in my calf muscle.  I swore I'd never ride again.

But did that stop me?  Of course not.  I was drunk as could be and in the visiting room at the Orange County Jail visiting my wife.  She was encouraging me to leave because I was so obviously intoxicated but I stayed until I slipped off the stool with a loud smack that drew the attention of the guards.  They immediately started chasing me, but because they were on the other side of the visiting room glass they couldn't catch me before I got to my Honda and escaped.

Even though the police weren't behind me I was going way too fast and ran head first through a wooden fence when I took a corner too fast and hit some gravel.  Inside the fence were about a dozen immigrants sitting around a bonfire drinking beer.  They immediately ran away when they saw a drunk Americano on a huge motorcycle crashing through their fence and ruining their party.

Another time I rode a dirt bike down a steep hill and ended up in the hospital.  After the doctor stitched up my injuries he said he wanted to talk to me about my drinking. I immediately checked out of the hospital.

But now that I've been sober 30 years I thought I would try another motorcycle.  The difference with this one though is that it's a three wheel 2016 Polaris and not as easy to wreck.  Plus, I have 30 years sober and drive much more carefully.

Besides I haven't bought myself a birthday present in years.

Click here to email John,


ve

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Having a Sponsor

I've had the same sponsor for over 30 years.  But I hadn't seen him face-to-face for over a year until we met for lunch today.  And of course our not being able to see one another was due to the pandemic.

Because he's 87 and I'm almost 82, we were both afraid that we would be susceptable to the infection so waited  until we got our vaccinations.

You might ask why someone with 30 years of recovery needs a sponsor.  So I'll tell you.  None of us, just because we have some time behind us, has all the answers.  Because I've been through two divorces in 30 years there have been many times when I've picked up the phone and cried on his shoulder about what I should do next.  One of the best things he told me was that I should stop getting married.  But since he's been sober for for 46 years he has a lot of recovery life experience that he shares with me when I need it.

My gratitude goes to my sponsor for the wisdom he's shared with me over the years.  I suggest you find a mentor like him to help you.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Over 2900 Blogs

 More than 2900 times I've sat at my laptop and produced a blog,

The first one was completed at a condo in Mission Bay, California while on summer vacation.  At the time I really had no plans to be doing this ten or eleven years later.   Yet, here I am - still at it.

I was wondering the other day why I keep writing them.  And I think I've come up with somewhat of an answer. It fulfills some of my need to express myself in an intelligent manner.  When in high school I was a writer for the school paper.   When in prison in San Luis Obispo, California, I was the newspaper editor.  When I was paroled I became a staff writer for the Santa Ana, Register.  Later, when released from prison once more, I started a small advertising paper in a mining town that's still operating over 30 years later.

After I started a website for TLC I thought it would be a good idea to add a blog.  First I could share my thoughts about recovery.  I could still practice writing.  And I could help educate parents that wete being abused by their addict childred.  All of those things have happened.  And that's what I look at when there are days that I don't feel like writing,  I do it anyway.

Click here to email John

Friday, April 9, 2021

More Opiate Talk

A few posts ago I wrote about an experience with opiates prescribed by a physician.  And today I received a response from a former resident who had experiences similar to mine.  I think it's important for us addicts to understand that many of us share similar experiences.

 I'm 68 years old and I currently have 16 years clean.

I too spent seven years in Department of Corrections.  I got out in 1989, and stayed clean for a while when I was in prison.  When I got out I wasn't working a program.  

I didn't really have any interest in getting high at the time.  I went through some family issues.  My dad died. Went through divorce.  Still didn't get high.  But when a friend of mine said he had some heroin, I just went and got high cause I wanted to.  Took me awhile to get clean again and take the program seriously. 

 I did a lot of therapy.  I got married to the most fantastic woman who had never been an addict. In the beginning of our marriage I wasn't clean.  Eventually I got tired of lying and  feeling like a loser.  So here I am today with some clean time. 

And in the last 15 years I've had three major surgeries.  One of my back varicose veins removed and I just had shoulder surgery all of which required some use of pain pills and I'm not going to lie.  I still like the feeling they gave me but I would never do anything to jeopardize my clean time.   I thank God I had my wife to hold the pills for me.  I was honest with my doctors and I definitely realized if there was any doubt I'm still an addict was when I had my varicose veins done.  

It took six visits and each time I was given pills to sort of put me in a frame of mind where they could operate on my legs.  And the very last time they did the procedure on my legs there was a pill left in the bottle.  And I told the girl I'll just take that and she said no you won't.  That kind of sealed the deal in my mind then that I won't ever be cured of the disease of drug addiction.  But I can certainly control my behavior towards it. After those procedures I never felt like going and getting heroin or relapsing so I have a hard time when I hear people say I relapsed because I was operated on and had pain pills. 

I can't speak for them.  I just know that there isn't anything I would do to jeopardize my clean time and go back to that lifestyle.  I like my life today . I read your blog regularly and forward it sometimes to my 80 year old friend who's a lawyer in Phoenix who got clean about six years ago from alcohol.  Which I helped him do by making him go to a meeting.   When you help somebody get clean like you have with just the mere existence of your program that has to be the most rewarding thing ever. 

Thank you, your friend JL.

(Thanks for sharing your experiences - you helped somebody.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Getting Sober

A nice email I got the other day:

Dear John..

Thanks for all the talks about sobriety to my wife and me over the years... it was slow to take but you were right.

December 4, 2020 .... We both decided to try an experiment of no alcohol for 30 days....We weren’t partying or heavy drinkers but once in a while drinking... the results from stopping were definitely life changing and feel pretty good!  No more body aches, skin clears up, feel better and cognitive thought and dreams return.  The 30 days came and went and we continued sobriety...

It’s interesting watching life from sober eyes..... my brothers who wouldn’t give us the time of  a day years ago want to keep inviting us go to the lake or a hotel.

The idea of sitting at camping spot or hotel in the middle of a work week watching people get drunk isn’t our idea of fun. We may have entertained the idea years ago but not anymore...Even old friends of ours still live by this behavior. Constantly dressing up to get drunk or traveling to new locations to drink. Yet never remembering the experience...

From being social drinkers to not drinking at all my wife and I realized there’s nothing wrong with vacation....

 However in the alcoholic mind a vacation is another place to drink besides at home.. constantly attempting to escape the hell drugs and alcohol created for them...

Observing this from a sober point of view we actually enjoy our surroundings and don’t need to run from anything.

My brother said get busy livin’ or get busy dying’.. 

I said “get busy livin and stop drinkin’”

The bottom line is...

Thank you for all the advice over the years......you have made a real difference in our lives...

Click here to email John


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Do we Heal?

I had an accident about six weeks ago while I was working out in my home gym.  Somehow I'd gotten tangled in a stretch band and found myself on the floor with three broken ribs and a few other scrapes and bruises.

I usally don't go to hospitals or doctors but my ribs were hurting so bad that I found myself in the waiting room of a nearby urgent care around 15 minutes later.  After x-rays of different parts of my body  the doctor came from his office with  a smile.

"I've got good news and bad news," he said.

"Give it to me," I replied,

"The bad news is that you have three broken ribs and there's nothing I can do to heal them but let nature take its course."

"And the good news?"

"The good news is that I can give you somedthing for the pain.  And you'll be better in about six months/"

So he handed me a couple of prescritions and I went to Walgreens to have them filled.

I hadn't asked him what he gave me.  And it was only when I picked up from the drug store that I noticed what they were:  a dozen oxycodone (percocet) and a dozen 800 miligram Ibuprofens.  

Since I've been sober 30 years I wasn't worrying about relapsing on the opiods.  In 2004 I had stomach surgery and wouldn't take the fentynl they were giving me for pain until I spoke to my sponsor.  He explained to me the obvious: that pain medication had legitimate uses other than for partying in our addictions.  And I came through that okay.

So I took the prescribed amount of the Percocet and went to bed, expecting the pain to subside.  Instead I awoke at 3:00 am in pain and a little nauseous.  I took another tablet and went back to sleep but woke up still nauseous and still in pain.  I switched over to the Ibuprofen 800s and the pain went away.  Today I still have 10 of the percocets in my medicine cabinet and half of the Ibuprons,

I write this because I'm wondering if any other opiate addicts have been prescribed opiates but had bad experiences with them?  It  makes wonder if we become immune to the pleasureable effects they once had on us?  Please comment if you have,



Thursday, April 1, 2021

Living Free

When I entered one of my favorite cafes today for lunch I noted that I was one of the few wearing a mask.  And there was no distancing requirement as there had been last week.  Most of the customers seemed cheerful.  It was almost as if life was back to normal.

Since rhe governor lifted the mask mandate last week it seems that life has become a bit more relaxed in some areas of the city.  For example, I went to a meeting at a law firm today and the use of masks was optional.

But then I read of the varients of Covid in other countries and I know that we're probably somewhat more optimistic than we should be. Maybe optimistic is the wrong term; engaging in wishful thinking might work better.

For me there's too much of the unknown when it comes to things like pandemics.  I mean one day we hear that this or that drug is more effective than another - but does one really know?  Even so-called experts change their minds from day to day. And one wonders whether it's a political statedment or is something meaningful really happening in the scientific world?

I bellieve we must each make our own decisisons about what will be.  Then we won't be really shocked when life takes one course or another.

For me this is a time to practice acceptance of whatever comes our way then we having a better chance of living in freedom.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Thinking of the Pandemic

I recall last year when the pandemic first came to our shores that many of my friends and associates said they weren't wearing masks or doing social distancing.  That the government wasn't "telling them what to do or how to run their lives."

But when they began attending their friends' funerals and going into quarantine themselves, things changed.  All of a sudden they began following the guidelines.

The interesting thing the last few days is many people are still wearing masks and keeping their distances from others.  Including me.  Although government control is something I disdain I figure the precautions are a small thing compared to the potential tradeoff.  Besides I was locked up for so long that the government telling me what to do is part of my DNA.

While right now we have a slowdown in new cases I'm prepared for another tidal wave of infections.  None of us saw this last one coming and there are still countries in Central and South America that are raging with new cases.  Who knows when some of that will come our way.

The people I've seen who come through this the best is those who have healthy living habits.  They don't smoke, they're not fat, they exercise and stay positive.  The successful are those who are responsible for their own health.

And some use this pandemic as a lesson that they should enjoy life and have gratitude for what they have now.  They know that things could get worse so they should enjoy the present.

Click here to email John

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Message from the Past

 While I was on vacation in Mexico last week I received an email from a client who was here 15 years ago, maybe longer.

I was surprised to hear from him and happy to find that he was doing well.

He wrote to tell me that he had retired from his job with the state of Arizona, probably the one that he went to when he left TLC many years ago.

Actually I was sorry to see him go. He was one of those guys who maintained himself. Kind of like someone who worked for a large corporation. Always well-dressed, neat and clean. Serious about his recovery,

In any event, he wrote to say how he was was grateful for the time he spent with TLC. He said the experience changed his life. He'd been sober for many years. Had a nice home in Scottsdale, good relationships, and was thoroughly enjoying a sober life.

While his email gave us a lot of credit for his recovery, reality is that he did all the work himself. We get letters all the time from people who give us credit for their recovery. But the reality is that all TLC provides is a framework for people to work on sobriety, healthy living habits, and a different outlook on life. If they are motivated we 100% guarantee them that they will stay sober for life. While that may seem to be a brash statement, those who stay sober and follow our guidelines always succeed because we give good them continual good information about recovery.

In any event, it's nice when you return home and hear that the good you did 15 years ago is still bearing fruit today. His message shows that the program works if we're willing to put in the effort.

Click here to email John

Monday, March 22, 2021

Home Again

Tomorrow back home again.  Once more to the office to deal with the unexpected issues that come up when you're housing 600 addicts.

After 30 years there aren't many surprises in a day's work, but still they happen and I'm blessed with a staff that has been with us so long that they know what to do and when to do it.  I very rarely get calls from home because someone has an issue they can't deal with.  It happens, but rarely.

I usually come here to the Mexican Riviera at least four times a year.  But this year Covid intervened and we couldn't get reservations until late February.  Once I got the tickets I was pretty pleased,  But then I broke three ribs while working out. I almost canceled, but went anyway - bad idea.  

It''s hard to have fun while in pain but we went anyway.  When I got back I made reseervations for this month to play catch up.  Good idea.

But now it's time to get back to work and in fact I'm looking forward to it.

Click here to email John

Sunday, March 21, 2021

No Blog?

The last couple of days readers have come to this page and guess what?  No blog.

I right  away  started getting messages from some of my followers about what was going on?  Had I quit writing it?  Had an angry reader tracked me down and gotten even for what I said about them?  No, it was something much simpler than that.  

Believe it or not my computer, because I'm in Mexico, didn't want to publish the blog in English - something that's never happened in the 30 years I've  been visiting here.  It's a little more complicated than that but I don't want to bore you more than I already do.

Part of it was my fault because a reader wanted to leave a comment, but couldn't, so asked me to put in a comment sectiom.  So I thought I would try to accomodate them.  And that's all I'll say about that.  However there's an option section on this page where one can leave a comment.  But I'm not sure it works.   And I'll leave it at that,

Also, I must thank my new assistant, my youngest daughter, Veronica, who solved the problem in a few hours.  So when I awoke this morning she let me know that it was now working.  What a relief after writing over 2800 blogs in over nine years to not lose them in cyberspace.

And thank my loyal readers,  Except for the one who suggested that I restore the comment section.

C lick here to email John


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Reporting from Mexico

A friend who reads my blog once in a while has asked me to put in a section for comments, something I did when I first started around ten years ago.  I resisted his suggestion for a while but I think I'll give it another try.

The reason I took that section out over five years ago is because most of the comments were written by angry former residents who found it a good place to vent their anger.

Clients who were expelled for not wanting to work or submit to a drug test found the comment section a convenient place to vent their anger. 

Even though 95% of them were homeless  and unemployed when they came to us they always had complaints about something:  the food, the housing, the bedbugs and cockroaches, the random drug testing, and on and on.  Even though we're inspected and licensed by the city and county, have contract pest control, and are inspected by the Arizona Health Department, they still complained.

So to  repond to my friend's request I'm restablishing the comment section.  We'll see if people have changed.

Click here to email John


Monday, March 15, 2021

Help Wanted

 Going into Circle K this morning a man approached me and asked me if I had a dollar for a cup of coffee.

I told him that I didn't have any change, but that when I came back out of the store I would give him a couple dollars. Which I did. And when I gave him the money I thought I would bring it to his attention that they had a sign inside the store that said "help wanted." Just in case he happened to be looking for employment.

Of course I know that what I told him was a fantasy. He wasn't looking for money. He was looking for exactly what he got: a handout which only took him a few moments to ask for.

Even though we're supposed to be in the worst of times during this pandemic, I still see signs in store windows placed there by business people who are looking for help.  Kind of like things were before the pandemic came raging through the country.

Of course I know that a lot of people are suffering economically, because they're not making the kind of money they used to earn before the economy went sideways. But still I see people who are are willing to work. And then I see bums like the guy who was standing outside Circle K who probably wouldn't work, no matter what kind of job he was offered.

I guess the point I'm making here is that we should always have gratitude for the opportunities that we do have – whether we take advantage of them or not.  Things could be worse.

Click here to email John

Friday, March 12, 2021

Luck?

I'm not necessarily a person who believes in being lucky or unlucky;  but sometimes strange things do happen.

For example, I made reservations to Maui a few days ago and a rainstorm flooded the island and cancelled the trip.

Later in the morning I went to the garage to go to the office and my garage door had quit working.  And I couldn't get my repairman out until the next day.  So my car is stuck in the garage,

Then later in the day my refrigerator stopped working.  I wouldn't be able to get a replacement til the next day.

I decided to work from my home office but the remote program that connects me quit working.

After those series of events I began to examine my conscience to see if I was deserving of some karmic payoff that had been piling up.

Or was it coincidence? Bad luck?  I don't know.  I do know that I didn't get drunk. Or high.

So something worked out right,

Click here to email John

     

Monday, March 8, 2021

Acceptance

The last few days I've noticed that the temperature is a little higher than normal.  Especially in the later part of the day.  Now I've never been one to pay much attention to the weather.  The only time I notice it at all is when it's consistently over 110 degrees.

But when it gets there I do what most of us desert people do:  I find some cool air and stay there til later in the day.  And fortunately I work in an office and am forced to spend most of my time there resolving minor isssues that come with running a recovery program.

But when the heat returned this time last year I think most of us were looking at it a different way.  At least some of us.  I think some of us thought that the heat would slow down - or maybe even kill - the pandemic.  

Of course I think that most of our thinking about the pandemic was wishful thinking.  And while I think that science has helped slow the spread, as far as any of us know it might have been the masks and distancing that has slowed things down.  Who knows for sure.

As for me, I think the biggest lesson I learned was to continue to accept the world as it is.  And I say that because right now there could be some new bug procreating is a distant land - maybe something even more terrifying than this current pandemic.

I learned a long time ago in the rooms of recovery that acceptance is the best antidote to most challenges and that's how I live life today.

Click here to email John

Friday, March 5, 2021

Birthday

Had he lived, my brother would have been celebrating his 79th birthday today.

Instead he passed away from the complications of alcoholism at Sunset Hospital in Las Vegas,  Nevada.

His death occurred a few months after he angrily stormed out of one of TLC's Las Vegas, facilities after telling the manager to "go fuck himself."  After he left TLC he went to work in the maintenance department at a casino near Stateline, Nevada until he went to the hospital.

While I'm not sure ;of the exact cause of his death I do believe it had to do with his lifestyle which for most of his life  was similar to mine:  alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes.  A body can only take so much before it breaks down.

Even though we had a poor relationship, when I heard he was passing I flew from Mesa to visit him one last time, even though he'd told one of my grandchildren that he didn't want to see me.  And he got his wish because he passed away before I was able to pay him a final visit.

Today, I wish we'd had a better relationship at the end but it just wasn't meant to be.  Alcohol ruins many relationships and ours was no exception.  Still I loved my brother and as children we were best of friends.  Only when substances intervened did things change - as it does so many relationships...

Click here to email John

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Meditation

 Not infrequently a client will ask me to teach them how to meditate. And, depending on the time of day I'm certainly willing to spend 30 to 60 minutes with them showing the rudiments of the practice.

A number of years ago I became interested in learning how to meditate and went to class for two years to learn how to become a meditation instructor. I thought it would change my life a lot more than it did. Not that I didn't benefit from it. But somehow I thought that learning this exotic practice would help free me from something that I didn't know was there, some secret part of myself that I had never known before.

And I think a lot of clients have unrealistic expectations about what a meditation session will do for them. Because the reality is, there is no secret to meditation. There is no right way or wrong way to do meditation – there's just meditation. Once people learn that, it becomes an entirely different thing to set up on a cushion and spend time delving into your own mind. Because I'll tell you right here the secret: the secret is to observe what passes through your mind. You don't judge what passes through. You don't evaluate it. You don't look for solutions to your problems within it. You just observe it and let it pass it on its way. And as I mentioned in an earlier paragraph there is no right or wrong way to do meditation – there's just meditation. At times you will find yourself meditating and coming out of it with the most wonderful sensations in the world. And other times you'll  view your meditation journey as a waste of your time and effort. But in both of those occasions there was an element of expectation that let down.

The one thing I will say is that over a period of years I have become much calmer and more peaceful – over 25 years ago since I started the practice. If you are interested in learning about meditation you can  speak to me in my office. Or you can look around the city because there are several small temples and meditation rooms that are available to any of us at absolutely no cost.

Even though I say that you should have no expectations about what you're going to get out of it I do want to tell you that it is well worth it to spend your time with yourself for a few moments at least once a day.

Click here to email John

Friday, February 26, 2021

The beauty around us

Sometimes we don't appreciate the beauty around us. It came to me as I was riding in the back of a taxicab, having just returned from southern Mexico from a two-week vacation.

Many years ago when I came to Arizona the 202 freeway was just an idea gathering dust on somebody's drawing board. Probably some Senate Budget Committee was trying to figure out how to raise the money to construct such a grand project. And these days it is completed. A thing of beauty. Bordered by an artificial lake.

And as we were driving by in the taxicab I looked across the lake and for the first time fully appreciated all of the work and all of the projects that have been completed on the shoreline. And in a way I felt kind of stupid. Because, I had just come from a 2500 mile trip to the Pacific side of Mexico to spend a couple of weeks in a similar environment. Yet here, within 10 miles of my home was almost the same place. The shoreline of Tempe town Lake has very few spots anymore where skyscrapers can be placed or where condos can be built. Yet, a few years ago it was just a rocky shoreline, a man-made lake that would become a centerpiece of this part of Maricopa County and the.State.

So now many of you probably know where this blog is going. It all started last night when I woke up and for some reason had a vision of moving out of the house I lived in for 20 years and resettling myself on the banks of this nearby beautiful Lake that once got only a fraction of the attention it does today.

Will my fantasy take place? Who knows? I came here in 1982 to get sober and to rebuild my life. And guess what: all those dreams I had when I was on my way to this dry desert area have come true and then some.

Tomorrow is another day.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Rewards of Recovery

Operating a treatment program can be one of the most frustrating thing a person can attempt to do. However, on the flipside it can be one of the most rewarding things a person can do. I know that this sounds kind of ambiguous, but on the other hand there's nothing like the feeling one gets when he client comes in, becomes sober,and startst helping other people become the same way.

There are special cases of addicts who come in and you wouldn't bet $0.50 on their staying sober for 10 minutes. They have bad attitudes, they might have just gotten released from prison. Their family might have deserted them and done so for all the good reasons that makes our family finally cut us loose. Yet the rewarding part comes later. And that usually happens when you see someone in public that you think you know. The person may be well dressed. They may be driving a new car. And then it finally comes to you: the person that you thought you recognize is the same person who came into your program a couple of years ago and seemed to be a hopeless case is now a successful citizen who is raising a family and children. And perhaps even owns his or her own business.

It is true that more than half of the people who come into our program only last about 30 days at the most. But I take no responsibility for addicts who don't make it 2 to 4 weeks. All it tells me is that the person was not sufficiently motivated or else had not had enough pain to want to change his or her life. Many of those who don't make it were raised in homes where they had a sense of entitlement. They were allowed to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. And everyone got to see the payoff. 

 Click here to email John

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Missing Blogs

Last month I realized that it had been at least a year since I'd been on vacation - something I normally do about 4 times a year.  And of course the pandemic was to blame, something over which I had no control.

So I booked a hotel, bought tickets and started -packing.  Ah yes, a week in paradise with nothing to do but loaf, read and sight see.

And then it happened:  an accident that would have kept most people at home recuperating,  I slipped on a wet tile floor and fractured three ribs and did other minor damage. But somehow I was able to convince the doctor to let me go anyway.  Then the next day I slipped on a storeage  trunk and injured my lower back: no problem; some Ibubrofen 800 and the pain was gone.

But the thing that bothered me the most was that I had missed nearly a week in a row of blogs after nearly ten years in a row of only a few missed days.

The human ego is a tender thing.



Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentines

Probably one of my least favorite holidays is Valentine's Day.  And I'm not sure even why.  Of the top ten it's surely at the bottom bottom of the list.

Maybe it's because it' a kid's holiday, maybe be like a birthday party or close to one. And I don't like those either.  Or maybe it's just a celebration that I was never a part of as a child.  Whatever it it is is's stuck to me this day.

Click here to email John

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Life in Paradise

It's been 14 months since I've had a vacation, just before Covid-19 jumped into our consciousness and turned our world upside down

And being a creature of habit I've returned to the place I'm vacationing at for the past 25 years:  Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Also known as the Mexican Riviera.

I've been coming here so long that I have many first name acquaintancess here and restaurants I've been patronizing for the past 25 yeears. I've been using the same car rental agency for so long that we're on a first name basis.  They don't even try to sell me extra insurance or GPS.  And I get my choice of cars.  Just one of the benefits of getting to know people.

One thing that's different though is the reponse to Covid-19.  Everywhere I go in the states there's a place to get a free test within a few days.  And there are signs everywhere about the precautions one should take.  And as far as vaccines one sees no publicity at all about where to get it or when it's arriving.  And that's probably the big difference betwen Mexico and the U.S; the level of poverty here affects everyone in a negative way.

Yet people seem positive and upbeat as if everything is normal and ordinary.  The only obvious difference is - just like the states - everyone's wearing a mask or face covering.

A few people have asked if I'm afraid to visit here - but since I've already had the vaccine - of course I'm not concerned at all.

Click here to email John

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Learning Gratitude

Our society has faced a lot of challenges since this worldwide pandemic. The challenges include unemployment, increased drug and alcohol use, businesses closing down because the government has put regulations in place to protect society at large.

In spite of the changes that have taken place I think that the world is going to be better once science has slowed or stopped this disease.

And I know this might sound strange in the face of the suffering we see around us, but I have seen a lot of people volunteer to help those who are sick from this disease. I have seen people at TLC who sometimes act like they don't give a crap about anything, step up and sanitize living areas, keep their distance from others, and wear irritating masks even though that's the last thing they want to do.

I know that if someone came up with a magical cure tomorrow that a tsunami of gratitude would sweep around the world and many would remember the good old days when they could do whatever they want, go wherever they want, and not have to worry about social distancing, sanitizing their hands, or wearing masks.

But I think gratitude is something we learn. I don't believe we come out of our mother's womb full of gratitude. Otherwise, why would we be be screaming and crying? Gratitude is a learned skill. And I think that some of us only learned it once we lose something we once took for granted as being a part of everyday life. And once we lose the freedom to socialize with whomever we want whenever we want, that's a huge loss.

And the entrepreneurs among us are not only suffering personal losses from the disease, but many have had to close their doors and shut down their businesses because customers were no longer able to utilize their services because of government mandates.

Even though this is a worldwide disease, we Americans love our freedom. And last year when this thing first broke loose we saw a lot of people who felt like they had a freedom to do anything, even if it endangered the lives of others. Only when those they loved, such as members of their family - were infected by other family members - did people begin to start taking things seriously. I remember during the first months of this thing that college students were throwing "Covid 19" parties and the guests who contracted Covid 19 got the honor of hosting the next Covid19 party. It was only when those who thought they were invulnerable to the disease started catching it and dying did things begin to change.

Once we have the freedom to live our lives as we choose we will look back on these days and have gratitude because they are behind us.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Vacation

Until the Covid pandemic struck the first of last year I'd gotten into a routine of taking vacations at least four times a year.

One of them was in June or July each year when I took the entire family to the beach for a week and we had a family reunion.  We would have at least 30 of us in six or seven condominiums.  We would usually eat together at one of the local cafes, shop at the International Mall next to the Mexican border, or just hang out on the beach or surf.

Then in December we would spend the days between Christmas and New Years in Las Vegas, which we didn't do last year because of the Pandemic.

So I'm excited as I write this because this time next week I'll be in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, one of my favorite places on the planet enjoying the first break I've had in over a year.  We'll be staying at the Garza Blanca Reserve, living in a penthouse 12 stories above the ocean.

The resort features a fitness center, exotic restaurants, in room Jacuzzi, hammocks, and much more.  We'll be surrounded by beautiful jungle and a helpful staff that can provide every need. 

And while there are still concerns about the pandemic, the same rules apply there as they do here.

I'll be reporting more about this venture.

Click here to email John

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Spending Time

A week or two ago Elon Musk was informed that the stock in his company had risen so high that he was now the richest man in the world.

He responded by saying "Isn't that something." Then the next thing he said was "Well I guess I better get back to work."

Now many people might wonder at his reaction when he got the news. I think a lot of people would jump up and down and express a great deal of excitement. But I think that people who react that way look at money as the most important thing there is. Whereas, someone like Musk probably views time as most valuable thing in the world.

I've read many stories about how he uses his time. When he first started Tesla he used to work at his office something like 24 hours a day. He even had a mattress beside his desk in case he got really tired he could take a quick nap and get back to work. When he did go spend time home he often worked until late in the night until he resolved whatever challenges he was facing producing his automobile. I don't know if he works that many hours today but I believe that time is one thing that he doesn't waste under any circumstances.

So what's the point of talking about this in this blog? Well, in my mind we addicts waste a lot of years and hours and days of our time trying to feel better than we do at the moment. But the problem is that no matter how much time we spend we can never feel quite as good as we did the first time we used our favorite drug.

At TLC the people who eventually become successful at staying sober dedicate a lot of their spare time going to meetings and focusing on living a different life. Those who stay with us a few years usually find employment in the private sector and a new way to spend their time.

The one thing that we cannot replace is time. And if we waste our time playing video games or watching television, are we making a good use of our time? I doubt if any of us are so dedicated to a mission that we are going to work at it most of our waking hours. 

But if we have a simple mission of changing our lives and staying away from alcohol and drugs we will learn that just a few hours a week dedicated to recovery is adequate.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Pandemic

 For most of the last year of this pandemic I was feeling pretty good about the fact that very few of our key staff members had contracted the disease. In fact maybe I was feeling a little bit too good.

Because all of a sudden, it seemed like 80% of the staff members in the office were quarantined at home and a couple of them were in the hospital for a few days. Because it's so hard to track where this disease comes from. It's just that we were taking extra measures to distance ourselves from one another, to wear masks, and to wash our hands on a regular basis.

But we had been doing those things all of the past year and probably had less than a dozen people who we had to quarantine. But when it hit the office it took out most of the key people in short order. It's just been this week that we've had a few people come back and be able to work for a few hours. And the ones who are able to work from home have been doing so. 

So I guess the lesson for me is to never get too cocky about anything. I guess I figured because we were adhering to a strict Department of Health protocol that was getting us by. But now I am getting to realize that once this thing takes hold in a certain area there is no telling who's going to be infected.

I think life will be better once everyone gets vaccinated or at least the majority of them. I've had one vaccination myself. And I get the next one on February 8. For which I am grateful.  I think that once life gets back to normal people are going to be expressing a lot more gratitude for what they have.

Click here to email John

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Anger

I don't get angry very often and when I do it's very rarely at someone else – it's usually myself that has me angry and irritated.

t happened while I was driving home from running an errand. I was turning the corner and someone cut me off and I had to turn my left front tire into a curb to avoid hitting him. And of course you know what happened. I have low-profile tires and blew the tire and bent the left front rim. And because my car doesn't carry a spare I pulled into an empty lot and called for a tow truck. 

My plan was to have the car delivered to my house where I would deal with the issue tomorrow. And sure enough, an hour later my car was backed into my garage waiting to be repaired.

The next part of my plan didn't work so well. I had planned to go grocery shopping but was unable to find a car rental agency that was open so I finally gave up and decided to deal with it tomorrow.

One of the things that exacerbated my anger was when I called and told a friend of mine my dilemma they immediately had a myriad of solutions of how to resolve the issue. And probably nothing irritates me more when I'm caught in a dilemma and someone tries to give me unsolicited advice about how to resolve the problem. I guess this person forgot that our company has 47 vehicles and that we deal with things like this all the time.  One thing I learned a long time ago it was that it never works out very well when people try to give me unsolicited advice. I know that they're only trying to be helpful and make me feel better but the reality is all I was trying to do is let the person know that I would be unable to keep an appointment with them later on this evening. But, it turned into something else because each of us very different agendas.

So tomorrow is another day. I will go to a rental agency and get a car for three or four days. I'll call the company I leased the car from and have them order me a new rim and tire and that'll be the end of it.

At least I didn't get so angry that I ended up breaking something or picking up a bottle of booze or a handful of pills. That used to be my common response to anything that frustrated me. Today I realize that patience is truly a virtue and one that gets us through many problems.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

We get Emails

 One of the most rewarding things in my life today is the emails I get from former clients. I publish some of them because I believe they will give hope to others:

"28 years ago today I walked into a halfway house after being homeless.... and was forever changed. 

For 365 days Transitional Living Communities was my new home and residence. I really went there looking for something to eat so I could head back out to the streets. But several of the 25 other men who lived there had such a kindness and giving hearts that my thinking, goals and desires changed.

Before that I basically lived off of the streets from the time I left home until I was 29. I's made many friends during that time but nothing as deep and rewarding as a friendship that I made in 1993 after walking into TLC ( a halfway house) started and created by a man named John S that I'm grateful to until this day. By the way he just recently celebrated 30 years of sobriety. And also I was inspired and helped by his associate and assistant who I quote  to this day on his words of wisdom.

After 10 years of sobriety, I relapsed.  And it took me 6 years to get sober again. On September 16 of last year I celebrated 11 years of sobriety for the second time in my life.

Every year on this date I just reflect on how grateful I am to God and all that He used that helped guide me to this life that I have today. I never said when I was little boy I wanted to grow up and be an addict and an alcoholic but it seems as if I took all the right steps to make that happened.

Today I'm blessed with a relationship with God, an awesome family, a network of friends and a Remodeling Company that I started in 2007 that provides very well for me and my family. I am forever grateful and humble through the lessons, trials and tribulations of my life that brought me to this point. 

If anyone is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or an unhealthy habits or even un healthy thoughts and needs someone to talk to... I am always here... We really don't have to go through this alone."

Click here to email John

Monday, January 18, 2021

Raising Children

Perhaps one of the greatest ways to express our love to another person is to share a child with them. Our love for one another is really a test of what kind of people we are. Bringing a child into the world, ensuring regular feeding, bathing, caring, and responsibility with the other parent is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our society.
 
I'm sure you've all heard people say that babies don't come with instruction manuals. And in the strictest sense of the word they don't. But if we ourselves were brought up in halfway decent homes our parents taught us how to live and treat others by their own examples.  Our instruction  manual  is the things we observe in our parents,

Childhood abuse and trauma teaches that many children grew up not knowing right from wrong.  And many of them not caring about the difference.  And that is why we have so many addicts and alcoholics living homeless on our streets.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Happy Thirty

January 13 of 1991 I entered a detoxification unit in Mesa, Arizona.

But I still get confused about when my sobriety date is. And I'm probably trying to figure it out. Today is the 13th, the same day I entered the detox. But I didn't have 24 hours sober until the next day, the 14th. So which is it? Is it the 13th? Or is is the 14th, when I had my first 24 hours? Or does it make a lot of difference and am I making a big deal out of nothing at all? It's probably the latter.

I know that I have received some really sweet greetings today, congratulating me on my 30 years. I love all of you who sent me messages because they warmed my heart. And after 30 years, what difference does a day make?

One of the things that I've really missed during this last year's pandemic is attending live meetings. Now a lot of the meetings in our town make sure that people are wearing masks and that they are are 6 feet apart. And my next question is always "and where did they get their medical degree?"

I have only gone three places in the last year. My home. My office. And the supermarket. And so far I haven't caught the disease. I believe what epidemiologists say about staying out of large groups. Up until this pandemic started I never went a week without attending one or two meetings. And I always spoke on the anniversary of my recovery.

But I learned early in my recovery that the only thing I can really count on is change.  The kinds of changes that have happened during this past year.

Click here to email John

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Who Me?

I know a fellow who's the picture of health who wss hit with Covid 19 a few days ago.  And he actuallly seemed surprised that the virus had knocked him on his butt.  And I was kind of surprised also because this guy is pretty athletic and works seven days a week.  Plus he's never sick.

But looking back it doesn't surprise me  Because he sort of poopooed the mask idea and only wore it when at work.  In other words when it was really forced on him.

So far I haven't got it and I don't want to,  'Even though I hate wearing a mask I do it anyway.  I don't go anywhere other than to my office.  I don't go to parties or social events. Too msny healthy people have fallen to this disease,  If there's something that dangerous that can't be seen with the naked eye who am I to think I can outsmart it?

I'll take any advice I can that make sense when it comes to staying healthy - and keep my fingers crossed,

Click here to email John

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Sober vs Using Relationships

 I very seldom write about former clients. First of all, I don't stay in touch with many of them. And then there's the thing about confidentiality. But I do have a few former clients I am still friends with.

And tonight, I was talking with one of them that I had just recently gotten in touch with after several years.

And for some reason, even though I come up with a topic every three days for a new blog, tonight I was sort of uninspired. So I asked him to come up with a creative idea for me. And he suggested I write about the difference between relationships when we're sober versus relationships when we were using drugs or alcohol. At first I didn't like the idea but then this is a guy who has been in literally hundreds of relationships.

When he was with us over 20 years ago everyone in the halfway house was amazed at his ability to attract women. It seemed like every morning and every night he had a different date. One woman would pick him up and take him to work, then another one would bring him home. After that another one would pick him up and take him to dinner. Women used to bring him so many gifts that the house manager banned  him from accepting gifts from women.  

Aside from being attractive, he also had a natural sense of humor, plus he was a high-level martial artist who was at that time a skilled kickboxer. He had the verbal skills to become a manager at a local telemarketing company, which are ordinarily staffed with plenty of twentysomethings – the perfect environment for someone like him.

So now to the part of being in relationships when we're sober versus relationships when were using. And the key part of this last sentence is using. Because all of us addicts know that we use everyone in the world for our own gratification, regardless of how they feel about us. He did it. I did it. And I'm sure you all did it too when you had the opportunity.

We addicts are a very self-centered species, a species that must feel good all the time. And if we need to misuse those around us – including our women friends – we do it because our addiction comes first.

I remember a woman who took care of my heroin habit for some 13 years, until she went broke and lost her house and everything else. After I got clean and sober I began to make amends to her. She was about seven years older than I was and she became sick and had little means of support. But after I got sober and became a sort of decent human being I began to support her and pay her bills anonymously. I never did tell her the money came from me but she figured out eventually that I was her benefactor and was surprised and grateful. Because the only side of me she had ever seen was the side that misused everyone around me.

So to answer my friend's question about the difference between sober and using relationships it's really quite simple: sober relationships are about giving to your partner. Giving to your partner does not necessarily mean material things. We give her our compassion. We rub her neck when she is stressed out. We take the time to listen to her. We do whatever we can to make her life better.

Using relationships are about taking everything you can get your hands on.  We don't care about how they feel. We don't care what they want – as long as we get what we want. Every thing about a using relationship is me, me, me. If I'm drunk or high enough I may give her a few minutes of my time though she can't count on it.

And that's the difference between using relationships and sober relationships.

Click here to email John

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Last Year

 I saw on the news today that some 350,000 Americans have died after becoming infected with the coronavirus. And thousands more are being infected each day.

This time last year none of us could imagine that a tsunami-like disease would race around the globe and infect a large swath of the population. But the good news is that the most vulnerable among us are being inoculated against the disease. One prominent immunologist said by the end of August our country should achieve what is known as "herd immunity" where the bulk of the population will be protected against the disease. Although this is a well-known and publicized scientific reality I'm skeptical enough to say let's just wait and see. As if we had any choice.

I often mention in these blogs the importance of living in the moment. Of living in this day. Of enjoying the moment because the reality is that all any of us have is this moment that our Creator has given us. And I believe that we should savor it, enjoy it, and do something constructive with it.

Because I work in the world of recovery world I often consult with clients who have what they consider to be serious issues. But once they sit down across the desk from me they get a different perspective on what's bothering them. Probably 90% of the time, if not more, the only issue the client is having is that he or she is not living in the present moment.

The client is either looking off in the future, catastrophizing about what disasters might befall them. Or else they're sorting through the wreckage of their past, wondering where they went wrong and feeling bad about what they did to make them feel so depressed.

My answer to them is always the same: live in and enjoy the moment because that's all we can count on. We never know when a pandemic or plague or some other unheard of disaster might befall us. But it is better to live in the moment and not dwell on the unknown. That way we're not wasting our precious time, the one thing that we can never recover.

Click here to email John