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


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.


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


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,