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 come 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