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,


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 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.