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


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 devastate 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


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


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


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