Monday, November 29, 2021

Christmas Tree Sale!

Each year for the past 20 years TLC volunteers have been selling Christmas trees on various street corners around the valley.  

This year, because much of the Pacific Northwest was on fire for several months, we weren't sure we would be able to secure enough trees to make it worthwhile to try to sell them.  Some of our sources had lost their inventories to the wildfires.  And many of those who had trees were charging too much to make it worthwhile to try to sell them.

However, this year we got lucky again.  One of our longtime suppliers - out of Oregon - works with us each year and supplies trees at a lot he owns at 3889 W. Bethany Home road in Phoenix.   

He sold us some 2000 trees, including Douglas, Noble, Grand Firs and Nordmans of all sizes.  Prices range from $45.00 to $250.00, depending on size.  We also flock trees for $10.00 a foot.

100% of the funds raised by this project will be used - after labor and cost of trees - to provide Christmas meals, housing, toys and other benefits to formerly homeless addicts who are now in recovery from substance abuse.

Early arrivals will find the best selections.  And they will be helping recovering addicts on their paths to a better life.  If you have questions you can reach our lot supervisor at 602-348-6102.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 26, 2021

Learning a Trade

Over the past 30 years we've had many addicts come into TLC with just the clothes on their backs.  Most of them have no money, no jobs, no cars. Nothing.  No trade skills.  No job references.

But because they have suffered through homelessness, hunger, and sometimes even prison, they are grateful to have a roof over their head, a bed, and three meals a day.  They become very grateful.  And they express their gratitude by volunteering for various positions around the program.

Some become drivers.  Some work night security.  Others become maintenance men.  Some volunteer as cooks or house managers.  And those who stick around for four or five years often end up buying an automobile and a house and start living like so-called "normal" citizens.

Then we have those who - after they graduate - become employees and start making a salary comparable to what they could make in the private sector.  Most of these employees stay on track and do their jobs and are happy to be sober and show it by their behavior.  

Others leave the program and start their own their own businesses.  One early graduate moved out of state and earns around $150,000 a year as a painting contractor.  Another resident who was with us in the mid-nineties sent me a video of him receiving a Doctorate Degree in Business.  Others have volunteered at TLC as roofers, carpenters, tile layers, and maintenance men and moved on and found permanent positions outside the program.

Their success has inspired us start making plans to add a formal trade school component to our program.  We have enough skilled supervisors who are willing to pass their skills on to clients.  We simply have to figure out how we're going to fund it, how long we'll train them, etc.  We expect to get this program working sometime after the first of the year, perhaps in late January.

Stay tuned.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Around the Holidays

Thanksgiving at a treatment program like TLC always creates more work for the staff.

First of all the managers of the various houses have to start planning at least a month ahead, gathering turkeys, hams, and the side dishes to fix dinner for their residents.  While we normally provide three meals a day, we make every effort to go above and beyond on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

Fortunately, we always have a few residents who jump in and help on the holidays, and we always have volunteers who help take some of the burden off of the kitchen staff.

Most of our residents are homeless when they arrive or else have been released to us from a prison term.  The majority of them are grateful for having a roof over their head and food on the table. 

At this time of year I like to recognize and express gratitude to our food banks and other businesses that donate food and supplies so that our residents can enjoy the holidays.

Click here to email John 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving is a good time to be grateful for our lives, our health, our families, our freedoms.  And for us addicts it's a good time to appreciate our recovery.

But like so many of our holidays - Christmas, 4th of July, Easter,  Memorial Day - Thanksgiving seems to have drifted away from the reason it was created.

Instead of an emphasis on gratitude, the focus is on sales, and what kind of meals we're preparing,   In this sentence I placed a link for those who are interested in learning more of the origins of this holiday and what it stands for. 

I don't need a national holiday to find gratitude.  I get up in the morning grateful to be alive, particularly after the kind of life I've led.  For forty years I drank when I had the chance.  I used heroin for 38 years.  And yet, here I am today, relatively healthy and functional and enjoying my 31st year in recovery.

As we age we learn more and more about what life is about and our perspectives change.  I know that when I got sober 31 years ago I thought that if I just had enough material things life would be wonderful.

But I've come to learn that when we have more stuff we just have more things to take care of and maintain.

Some of my associates have said that I should buy a bigger house.  But why?  It just means more work and responsibility. My gratitude lies in my relationships with friends and family - those with whom I can share the many blessings I enjoy each day.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Being Ill

Every two or three years I get a cold and don't make it to the office.

I know the signs that a cold is creeping up on me.  A slight soreness in my throat.  A general tiredness over my whole body.  My brain is foggy and I check my glasses more often because I think  they're dirty.  But they're not; I just think they just seem that way because my vision is blurry.  I clean them anyway.

Whatever I'm experiencing I know that I don't suffer very well.  I have this idea that I might read something I've been meaning to get to for a while, but before I know it I've been napping for an hour.

Ultimately I get to the point where I'm reminding myself that there are unfortunate souls who live with physical and mental pain of varying degrees all of their lives.

I remind myself that - considering the way I've lived - that that I shouldn't even be alive.  I talk a lot to myself about this and end up feeling foolish about letting a minor ailment be so irritating.

We addicts don't suffer very well because we know how to feel good right away.  But those of us who are serious about recovery know that we'd just end up in more pain and back on the merry-go-round of addiction and have to start all over.

And that's not where I'm going to go.

Click here to email to email John 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Becoming Responsible

A week rarely passes that I don't get an inquiry from a mother asking for help for their son or daughter.

And I always answer them, but I sometimes wonder what would happen if the mother told her child that she was old enough to find help for herself. 

The point here is not to be be hard hearted.  But the reality is that if the child wanted to get tickets to a concert or make reservations at a hotel for a vacation they would have no problem picking up the phone or going onto the internet to start searching.

The only time a prospective client calls on their own is when they've run out of people to help them.  When they get really desperate they somehow find the intelligence and energy to seek help for themselves.

The same thing happened in my own case.  I kept asking my family for help during the years I was using and finally they got tired of it.  It was only when they told me they were no longer going to help me that I sought help on my own.

And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I first got sober.  Then I started a business that has been operating for about 30 years.  Before my parents died I was able to make amends to them and repay them for the many times they'd helped me.

Once we take responsibility the for ourselves there's no telling where life will take us.  But it's usually to a much better place that we came from.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Honor to the Veterans

One of my early memories came in September of 1945 when the president of the United States announced the end of World War II and the surrender of the Japanese.  I recall how the neighbors ran into the streets of our Newport Beach neighborhood, singing, dancing and sharing bottles of alcohol.  It was a truly joyous time in our country and the beginning of a new era.

I think that many people at the time thought that world-wide conflicts would be a thing of the past.  But, as we all know that was a myth, a hope for a better future that many people shared.  Because there's rarely been a time when there hasn't been a conflict between countries in some corner of the world or other.

Military conflict touched my own life in a very personal way when my youngest daughter came home one day and announced that she'd was joining the army just three years after terrorists knocked down the towers in New York City.  When I said she couldn't do that without my permission she reminded me that she was 18 years old and didn't need my permission.

At first I was afraid she wouldn't come back but then I rationalized that the military probably wouldn't send a teenage girl into a dangerous area.  But, before I knew it she was on the border of of Afghanistan and Pakistan in as much danger as anyone else.

Even though she was in a danger zone I somehow was protected from fear and believed she would come back safely.  And she did come back whole.  Though she has had psychological effects from her experiences.

Today we honor those who put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us from harm.  There will likely never be a time when the warriors among us won't be sent to strange places to protect our country's interests,  some putting their lives on the line and some losing them in the process.

I'm just grateful that my child lives a few miles away and I can visitor her whenever I like.

And today I get to thank her for her service.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 8, 2021

Losing Friends

There's an aura of sadness over our office today because one of our long-time employees is on a ventilator in a local hospital.  He's had health problems for some time and has been in and out of the hospital more than once over the last few years.

He's been with us for so many years he's become part of the family.  He'll do anything for anyone and we're afraid that maybe this time he's not coming  back home.  Though no one can predict whether he's going to make it through this, the reports coming from the hospital are less and less positive as the hours pass.  We all are praying that he makes it through.  We hope he proves us wrong because he's done it before but this time his condition is more complicated, at least from the reports we've been getting.

One thing that's different about TLC from a lot of programs is that if one wants to stay here they can stay for the rest of their lives.  Whether they have money or not.  And for many people who have lost their family and relatives over the years it's the perfect place for them to be.  We have become a surrogate family for many of them.

A few have been with us for 20 years.  And many times people tell us they thought we were a transitional program.  That people come here to get well and learn to live and then move on. 

While that's true in most cases, there are many who come here and become part of the volunteer team that helps others get sober and change their lives.  They build a circle of friends around them - an extended family that helps one another rebuild their lives.  A family that helps them stay away from drugs and alcohol.

They learn generosity and find love and caring for their fellow man that they never had before. And in the end I think they (and all of us) find that the most important thing in life is those around us - the people we love and who love us.

We hope our friend gets home once again.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 5, 2021


We've all seen them as we drive through our city.  Panhandlers.  Bums.  Some of them with crude signs standing on the corners asking for donations.  Some will be playing a guitar and singing.   And the question is should we give them anything?  After all,  I work for my money.  I have a home and a car.  And I work for them.

Sometimes, if it's convenient and I have change I'll pass it out the window.  And they'll bless me with a thank you.  But other times I'll be in a mood and drive by and give them nothing.  Later I'll think I should have given them something.

Once I gave $5.00 to a couple outside a Walgreen's.  And as I did so a woman sitting in a car next to mine told me I shouldn't have done that because they would just use the money to buy dope.  While it was none of her business, I really couldn't disagree with her.

And the reason I didn't disagree with her is because of something my sponsor told me one time. He said always give panhandlers what you can afford, that way they may get to the bottom quicker.  And it was good logic because until I reached my bottom I never had any motivation to get sober.

Many of us went through a lot of dope or booze or both before we came to the point where we could no longer stand the pain.  

So I believe we should give what we can - we might help save a life.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Art of Giving

For 15 years or more I've had a friend who is a perfect example of giving.   When asked, he never says no.  If someone needs a ride, he gives it to them.  If they need help with moving, he's there.  For example he recently flew to the East coast to drive a friend in a U-Haul who was moving back to Arizona.  Other than complaining about being a little tired after the trip, I think he'd probably do it again if asked.

He often volunteers to help others to the point where he's exhausted.  And I think one of the reasons he's so generous with his time and energy is that he lives a live of gratitude.  Much of his conversation revolves around the blessings he's found in his life of sobriety.  And while this is only my opinion, I think his generosity is based on what sobriety has brought to his life.  His walk is an example to others.

While I've been sober for much longer than he has, I only wish I had a portion of the helpfulness he gives others.  He's a person who asks for nothing, who seldom displays anger or ego - all qualities we could strive for.

He does his best to make the world a more beautiful place.  Because he likes to garden, new plants and flowers appear all the time whenever he finds an empty plot of dirt.  A picture will appear on a bare wall.  Once in a while he'll show up at my office with a lunch he's prepared in our community kitchen.

Because he has training in barbering and hair care, he often volunteers to cut a newcomer's hair at no cost.  And while he's doing it he gets a chance to tell them what recovery has brought to his life.

For the past few years, in the midst of all his busyness, he's been acting as a caretaker for an elderly relative who is fighting a terminal disease.  Any of you who have take care of a sick relative knows how stressful and draining it can be to care for some who is in the final stages of life.

If you have a challenge, ask what he would do.  You may not know who I'm talking about.  But ask me and I'll introduce you to him.