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

9/11

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

Compassion

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

Found

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 devestate 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

Acceptance

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






Sunday, August 8, 2021

Homelesss

Today our managers took a caravan of vehicles and went to an area of Phoenix where the homeless camp out near the center of the city.

It was probably a hundred degrees when we arrived a bit before 9:00 a.m.  Most of us had cases of water, bags of clothing, socks, tee shirts, underwear and toiletries with us.  We passed them out on a first come first served basis.  And within a half hour we pretty much had given out everything we had.

We didn't go there to recruit clients, or to tell them of the benefits of recovery.  We were there to help those who had less than we do.  And also to remind ourselves where we might be living if we don't continue rebuilding our lives.

As I drove home I reflected on how or why they'd decided to live that way.  I'm sure that some of them had mental problems or were addicted to something.  Half of them looked as though they might be employable if they were motivated.  

But many of them were showing the effects of living in tents on the sidewalks.  Clothes were sweat stained. They wandered aimlessly, going nowhere in particular.  None asked me for money or any kind of help.  A few said thank you, even though they knew we were there for our own reasons, which we were.

My thoughts were that we make choices in life.  And they gave to us by showing what can happen when we decide to live a certain way.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Gratitude

Today I opened my email and received a message of gratitude from a former resident.

I forwarded the email to the director of the women's houses, knowing that good news is part of what keeps us motivated to do this sometimes difficult work.

The message talked of this former resident's 10 month stay at our woman's program in 2013 and 2014.  She said that while there she learned to live in sobriety and that she now had eight years and two months of recovery.

She wrote about how her experiences at TLC had recently helped her land a job managing a program similar to ours, helping others change their lives.

Emails like this one are rewarding to me because I get to see how the seeds we planted many years ago have spread and grown into opportunites for others to change into productive human beings.  One thing I've learned in my 30 years of recovery is that if we share our message with others they sometimes spread the good things they've learned to those around them.

And to me there's nothing more rewarding than helping others live a better life.  It's one way of making our world a better place.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Enjoying Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Friday, July 30, 2021

Acccepting Change...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Something New

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Blaming Ourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you don't believe me, try it.

Click here to email John


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Back Home

Back to work today and it felt good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John



Sunday, July 18, 2021

Being Homeless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

And when you see them you'll know gratitude.

Click here to email John

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Vacation at the Beach

Every summer for the past 25 years I've met my family in June or July at Imperial Beach, California, which is about 10 miles North of Tijuana and the Mexican border.

When we began this annual trip it soon turned into a family tradition.  At first we had one beachfront condo with four bedrooms.  The next year it was another condo.  And we kept adding each year until this year we had to rent six for our vacation.  And of course last year we couldn't go because of the epidemic. 

And all of this is possible because 30 years ago I made a decision to change my life by ridding it of drugs and alcohol.

I didn't make the decision to change because I thought I'd be able to take vacations or enjoy a lot of material things in my life.  I got clean because I knew that sooner or later I'd overdose, die of hepatitus C, or end up back in prison or a mental hospital.  In other words pain made me change.

And hopefully, if you're still using and drinking your life will become so painful that you'll decide to go to a detox or hospital and get on the path to change.  There are many programs available for those who want to live a different life.  But until you are willing to change nothing will happen except more pain.

Click here to email John


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Entitlement

In my 30 years of working with addicts and alcoholics I believe they suffer from one major problem:  a sense of entitlement.

Many addicts come to us with the idea that we're a fine resort or hotel.  Some expect a private room, dinner service, private counseling.  Because they're paying a small fee ($135.00) a week they have the idea that they shouldn't have to volunteer or be responsible for cleaning their living areas, or seeking outside employment.

Granted that many of them are in their early to mid-twenties and never had to fend for themselves, it's understandable that they wouldn't know how to care for themselves.  Some of them have no idea of how to make a bed, fill out a job application, do laundry, cook, or clean up after themselves.  Their parents spoiled and coddled them - trying to be their friend instead of teachng them how to live in the real world.

So rather than stick around and learn that life is sometimes tough and that there are responsibilties associated wth surviving on this planet, they leave and start using again.  Probably with the hope that things will be different this time.  But I'm here to tell you that a relapse never makes things better for more than a few minutes.  I've never had anyone return from a relapse and tell me how wonderful things were out there on the streets.

No matter how tough our childhood or upbringing has been we can decide to be a different human being if we choose to. But we need to make that choice.  Most of those who succeed at TLC are those who lived a tough life.

We might have been homeless, spent years in prison or jail, been molested or abused as children.. But if we succeed it's because we looked into the mirror and identified the source of our problems.  And the source is us.  We're the masters of our fate,  Unless we have mental issues we're in control of our lives.  We're responsible.

Yes, many of us were abused and neglected.  But that was the past.  To succeed today you must open your mind and heart and realize that this is the only moment our creator has given us.  

We must use it to our betterment - or lose it.

Click here to email John



Sunday, July 4, 2021

4th of July

The 4th of July is one of the biggest celebrations in our nation.  This day in 1776 we celebrated the independence of the 13 colonies from Great Britain.

But for us sober alcoholics and addicts it denotes much more than the political freedom that was declared way back in history.  For us, real freedom came when we threw away the spoon and threw out the bottles.  For it is the day we reclaimed our lives.  We stopped being slaves to substances and alcohol.  We found that our new freedom allowed us to rebuild our lives. We could take responsibilties and follow through with them.

On the day we declared our personal freedom we took a major step.  We were able stop going to prison.  We were able to build relationships.  To get married.  To return to our families or to start building one of our own.

Many Americans I meet aren't that philosophical about the 4th of July.   It's merely a time to celebrate.  Maybe take a day from work and go fishing or have a barbeque.  Do something fun.  But out freedom allows us to do much more than that.  We are now free to express ourself as we wish - as long as long as it doesn't hurt others.

If we look about we can discover the freedoms we have in our country that others don't enjoy.  We can educate ourselves.  We can build a business.  We can become a benefactor to others.  Our choices are unlimited.

Today my freedom allows me to make positive choices to enhance my life.

Click here to email John

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Strange Times

When clients at TLC can't find work we usually find jobs for them to through our Labor Group.

But these days things have changed.  Since the government started giving out extra unemployment during the pandemic it's hard to find people who want to work.  The government even gives money to addicts in recovery, at least to those who had jobs before they came to us.

Who wants to work when they can get paid an extra four or five hundred to stay at home and watch television?

While the Government thinks they're helping people by paying them to stay home I think they're teaching them to be irresponsible and dependent on others.  And I believe our country is as great as it is because we all worked hard to build it - not because we sat around watching TV.

We literally have people lining up to hire our guys but most are unavailable because they have filled the jobs of those who quit working and are at home doing whatever.  So our people, even the ones with records, have no problem finding work.  And, because of this, we have a hard time finding workers for our regular employers.  However, we think that once people stop getting extra unemployment things will get back to normal for us.

It may take a few more months, which is what we're counting on.

Click here to email John

Monday, June 28, 2021

Finding Gratitude

We often hear clients complaining because they live in a sober living community, treatment program, or halfway house.  Mostly the ones complaining are new residents who've never made an effort to change their lives or get clean and sober.  And often those are the ones who leave before giving the program a chance.

I'm not sure why they complain.  Because the things TLC teaches them is simply how to live like so-called normal citizens.  We require them to work and pay a service fee for the services we provide.  We require them to attend educational groups inside the program.  And to go to outside 12-step meetings to meet other recovering people to learn more about their disease.  

Yet many of them are ungrateful because living in the recovery world can be hard work.  And most of them who come to us are unskilled, unschooled, and not highly motivated.  Yet, when they arrived they were homeless and broke - something they seem to forget when they start losing their initial gratitude for finding a place that would take them without funds.  They have everything they need to live a sober and healthy life if they stay and take advantage of the program.  They can change their future.

I do have some suggestions of how they can live a happy and productive life.  And while I normally don't recommend comparing ourselves to others-in this case I do.  Because it works for me

When I start feeling ungrateful I just look at the world around me and quickly become grateful.  Maybe I notice a homeless person pushing a shopping cart of trash.  Or a panhandler outside of a Circle K.

Or I find compassion for the people who lost loved ones when over a hundred of their loved ones disappeared when their apartment building collapsed on them in the middle of the night in Florida.  

We find gratitude when look around us and find those who have real problems.

Click here to email John

Friday, June 25, 2021

Live Life to the Fullest

Recent events have reminded me that we should live life to the fullest each day, each moment.

For example, a 12-story building collapsed in Florida this week at 1:30 am.  Probably most of the inhabitants were sleeping and died without realizing what was happening.  Others survived, but maybe lost some of their famly members.  Rescuers are working to save some 99 people still missing.  

Last weekend 19 people were shot in Chicago, with four of them dying.  
Probably in a dispute over the corners from where they dealt their drugs.

Last week one of our clients was found lying unresponsive at a bus stop on his way home from work.  At first it was assumed he died of a drug overdose; only later he was discovered  to have suffered a brain hemorrhage from an unknown cause.  He could have been struck by an assailant, he could have fallen and hit his head.  At this point it is a mystery.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, over 600,000 Americans have died from it - many of them in the prime of life and younger.  Three years ago this might have sounded like science fiction, instead of the harsh unanticipated realtiy that it is..

The point of of this is that life is precious, each moment is a gem, a gift from the Universe or your God.  You should treasure each morning that you are able to open your eyes, put your feet on the floor, and start your day.

We never know when fate will befall us, when our days will end.  You can be the richest person in the world but your clock ticks like everyone elses.  You may be the healthiest person on the team; yet some rare disease will leave you bed-ridden.

Show your gratitude for your time here by being kind and generous to others. Having a giving heart, and you will find your moments full of joy.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Doing the Work

I get a nice Father's Day card in the morning mail. It is full if gratitude for what the sender had learned while here.  And she described how she's putting her new knowledge into action.

She'd left a few weeks ago and already had a decent job near the room she'd rented.  She had already found a temporary sponsor and a home group and was diving head first into a new life of recovery.

She gave TLC much of the credit for her success.  But the reality is that she's the one who did the work; she's the one who followed the directions to get where she's at today.

What many clients don't realize is that we don't get anyone sober.  That is, until they're ready.

What TLC provides is the structure, a path to follow that will lead an addict out of the hell of their previous life. This woman took advantage of what the program offered her - and while things were bumpy for a while - she kept her goal of a living sober as a priority.

It's nice to receive gratitude from graduates - but I never forget who did the hard work.

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Sponsors

Tomorrow morning I have the pleasure of presenting my sponsor with his chip for being sober for 47 years.  One thing I learned is that it's not that easy to find a chip for someone whose been sober that long.  A few shops had 45 year chips, but I had to drive to the Scottsdale Fellowship to find one for someone whose been around 47 years.  Sponsors are an important part of our support system.  Because there's an important principle involved.  For example, a friend asked me to help him find a sponsor.  So I introduced him to a man who had over 40 years.  I told him to ask him for help.

So my friend went up to him and said "I need a sponsor and I understand you've sponsored a lot of people?"

"Yeah, probabaly hundreds," he responded

"What's your success rate?"  my friend asked him.

"100%"

My friend looked amazed.  "You mean to tell me that 100% of those you sponsored are still sober?"

"No," the sponsor replied.  "But I am."

Click here to email John

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.