Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy 2022

I know that when I walk out my front door tomorrow the world will look pretty much like it did this morning.  Politicians will be fighting over things that don't mean much.  The economy will be going one way or the other, either up or down. Disease or viruses might take more of my friends.  Many people will come to our doors to try to get sober.  And some actually will get on the path.

But on this last day of the year I look back to kind of evaluate what happened or didn't happen during the previous 12 months.  And it seems to me that this past year was one of the strangest of my eight + decades on this planet.  It seems as if most of the world was covered with a blanket of anxiety because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and then the Omicron that followed it.

There was a lot of buzz in the media and internet about what was going to happen next in regard to the pandemic and where it was going to happen.  Depending on one's political persuasions it seems that most anything could happen.  After all, when Covid-19 first sprung into view no one was expecting it.

If we had the time to waste we could find all kinds of opinions.  Some thought it was a biological Armageddon that would presage the end of the world.  Others thought - even some of my family - that it was nothing real, that it was a political plot to control every moment of and movement of our lives.  Some even refused to wear a mask.

But, I plan to live in this moment and expect the best out of life no matter what it brings..  I'll soon have 32 years sober.  And will face whatever issues that come along with acceptance, probably the most important word I learned since I got sober January 13, 1991. I learned that with  acceptance the battle is half won - I just have to wait for the solution to present itself.

I wish all my family and friends the best in 2022.  Health.  Prosperity. And Happiness.

Click here to email John

Monday, December 27, 2021

Back to Reality

Tomorrow is our last full day in paradise, as we're returning to Arizona on the 29th.

I'm sad to leave this beautiful place.  Yet I'm happy to return to the office and see what has happened during my absence.  I enjoy vacations and usually come to this part of the world at least four times a year. The pandemic kind of interrupted our schedule this past two years.  But even a few weeks away are better than none.

I believe that vacations are a way to restore the spirit and allow us to work on new ideas about how to do a better job of helping addicts grow into a new life.  

For example, we're working on a plan to create training programs that will allow TLC graduates to go out into the world and support their families.  We hope to create a curriculum that will teach them various skills.  Among the ones we're planning to include are counseling, air conditioning, phone sales, roofing and remodeling, retail sales, data entry, auto mechanics and others.  An addict with skills is less likely to return to drug use.

It's quite likely that what we plan will look different from what I'm describing here.  But sometimes the things we start at TLC turn out to be much more successful than we imagined.  Stay tuned and I'll see you all in a few days - even though part of me wants to stay here at the beach.

Click here to email John

Friday, December 24, 2021

Somber Day

Even though it's been 27 years since my mother died suddenly on Christmas Eve, it's difficult for me to celebrate the day as many others do.

I had taken her to a local hospital on November 2, of 1994, to have a metal staple removed from her leg.  It had been put in her leg after a fracture and the doctors never removed it.

Periodically, she said it caused her pain and that she thought about having it removed.  I told her that if it was hurting her she should talk to the doctor about it because my opinion wouldn't mean much.  So she did, and he gave his approval.  It was supposed to be an outpatient procedure, with her being in the hospital less than 24 hours.  How dangerous could that be, I thought?

But things didn't go quite right during her recovery and the hospital staff recommended that she spend another day or two until they were confident she was fully recovered.

However, one thing led to another and what started as a one day procedure stretched beyond 50 days.  Finally the week before Christmas they placed her into a rehabilitation unit.  What had happened is once she was able to walk again her leg fractured in the same place and they had to put another piece of metal in her leg for support.  She finally recovered enough that they scheduled her for release on Christmas morning.  My brother and I would pick her up when she was released.

I still remember the call from the hospital at 4:15, the evening of the 24th, the day before Christmas.

The nurse told me my mother had suffered a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in her lungs, and had passed away about 15 minutes earlier.  She said she died within a minute of the formation of the clot.

Needless to say, I was in shock.  As I drove to the hospital I had tears running down my face because just like that I had lost my best friend - a woman who had encouraged me all my life.

In honor of my mother I remember her passing every Christmas Eve by writing a few words about her because she was such a strong influence on my life.  I still miss her all these years later.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Making Assumptions

 I try and not make assumptions, but sometimes I can't help myself.  A good example is when I came here to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico for a two-week vacation on the 17th of this month. I brought my computer with me - something I always do.

I don't bring it along to work, I bring it primarily because I'm obsessed with this blog - something I've been writing since at least 2010.  I post a new one every third day.  One day a blog, then two days off.  For years - until 2016 - I wrote one every day.  But finally I cut back, because I seemed to be running out of ideas.

Anyway, before I wander too far off into the weeds, let's get back to assumptions.  When I took it out of  my luggage, I discovered the screen was broken. It was covered with a spiderweb of tiny cracks  I didn't cry, but I was so angry I had a strong urge to throw it off the balcony of the condo we're leasing - a good 50 feet drop.

And I was upset because I positively knew it would take a couple of weeks to get it repaired under the best of circumstances, especially in a foreign country. However, my lovely companion, adding fuel to the fire, suggested I take it to a computer repair shop. Or buy another one at Walmart or OfficeMax. However,I explained to her that Spanish keyboards are different than English keyboards because the Spanish alphabet has 27 letters, while English has 26; but the difference affects how the keyboard is laid out.  So buying one wouldn't help me.

Anyway, she felt so sorry for me that she called around and found a repair shop that showed up on Google maps.  Assuming she would soon learn what I was telling her about computer repair was correct we set off to find the computer repair store.  I mean there's a computer repair store near my office and it takes him a couple of weeks to get parts so what's the likelyhood of this shop in the ghetto in a foreign land going to be able to fix my screen.

Google made it's usual mistakes, but finally we got onto a street that Google said had a computer repair store on the next corner. Google was right.  However, I've been to dope houses in Arizona that looked better than this computer store. It was probably 600 square feet and was stacked with computer parts from floor to ceiling, arranged in no particular order.  It was a hoarder's paradise.

I deposited my trashed computer on the counter, which was about three feet from the front door.

   "Can you fix this?" I asked in Spanish.

He examined it for a moment, then told me he could.  I wouldn't have believed him except that he was 18 or 19 years old and everyone knows that kids who are into computers can do anything.  I told him that the computer was about nine years old and he probably wouldn't have a screen for it.  He said he did and went rummaging through different piles until he came back with a new one he said would fit that computer.

Within 45 minutes my Hewlett-Packard was good as new and he was $150 richer.  And I'm producing this blog on it right now.

And for today, at least, I'm going to assume that I don't know as much as I think I do.

Click here to email John

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Issues in Mexico

For those of you who are used to seeing my blog post every third day, let me tell you what happened. I always take my computer with me when I go on trips to Mexico. When I arrived, I opened it up and the screen had some kind of a strange pattern on it. I did everything I could to get rid of the pattern and get a regular picture on it, but nothing worked. Then I thought I would use my iPad. No luck there either. And for some reason this Airbnb that I am at, doesn't have very good Wi-Fi.

Since I brought my iPad I thought I would use that to post my blog.  But, sure enough it didn’t work right either because I couldn’t get a Wi-Fi connection. Now I’m getting really frustrated.

This morning I went down to Walmart to see about buying a new computer. The prices were OK. But the keyboards are set  up for people who are good at Spanish punctuation.  And are laid out somewhat different from an English keyboard.

Luckily, my daughter offered to make the posts for me if I would send her the blog in the message app.  So, this is the first one.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021


This morning a treatment program employee, Keith H., who was in the hospital on life support - died.  

A little over a week ago he was working in his position as office manager.  Then we got word this weekend that he'd gone to the hospital and not expected to live through the night.

The last time I talked to him he told me that he'd lost 40 pounds and was scheduled to begin chemotherapy this week for a tumor in his throat.  I'm not sure what his diagnosis was, but some of us who worked with him were surprised at how suddenly he died, even though we knew he was quite ill.

Because many of our residents didn't take very good care of themselves while using, it seems like some of them suffer more health problems than the average person.

We lose many residents and staff to liver disease, heart problems, and COPD.  The majority of them don't have close family ties and if they know they're dying they usually choose to stay with us until they pass on.  Our policy is let them stay as long as we're able to care for them.

Thank you Keith for all the addicts you helped while you were with us.  May your journey be peaceful.

Click here to email John

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Needing a Drink

When I stopped at Circle K for my morning coffee there was a disheveled, bearded man who appeared to be sleeping on the sidewalk next to the building.  As I left my car and started into the store, though, he opened one eye and asked if I had any change.

Not now, I told him.  But that I might have some when I come out of the store.  When I came back he was waiting expectantly, but the only change I had was a five dollar bill.  After wrestling with myself for a minute I decided to give it to him.  After all, he looked like he was hurting and could use a drink.  And that five dollar bill might get him a small bottle of Vodka, enough to at least carry him for a couple of hours.

While I rarely bummed money for a drink because it was faster to steal it, I certainly could relate to what he was going through.  Because there was a period of my life when I was never far from a bottle.  Even when I was using heroin I always had a beer or other beverage close by.

I felt some pity for the man because help is available.  There are programs that will take him in right away - whether he has money or not.  But 30 years of experience working with alcoholics has taught me that until an alcoholic or addict has had enough pain and suffering they won't quit.  When life becomes miserable then we stop - unless we die first.

As I drove away I had a moment of gratitude.  Because, had I not reached a point of pain that had become intolerable I might have found myself panhandling outside a convenience store instead of living sober for over 30 years.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Power of Mindfulness

Many of us don't understand the power of mindfulness.  However, if we learn and practice it we can lead a satisfactory and productive life.  Maybe we can even stay sober.

Mindfulness means living in the present moment, immersing ourselves in this second - which is all we really have.  Each second of our life is more valuable than a gold coin for the simple fact that time is one thing we never get more of.  If we don't live in this moment then we've wasted something invaluable and irreplaceable.

How many times have you heard the term "I was completely out of my mind" or "or that stuff was so good it got me completely out of mind"

Some of us take drugs or alcohol because the present reality is so painful that we escape into a chemical haze so we don't have to feel what we're feeling.  If we continue to live our lives this way we find that we've thrown away large chunks of precious time, time that can never be reproduced or replaced.

"But," you might respond, "sometimes I can't deal with reality.  I need something to cover the pain of my broken heart, my lost fortune, my failure in school." There is an answer though.  And the more we practice it the more powerful of a tool it becomes.

And that answer is to learn to practice mindfulness or its close cousin, meditation.  

Instead of running from the reality of our pain, we mindfully face it, like facing a bully that is trying to control our lives.

If it could be summoned up in one word, that word would be acceptance.  If we stand up and accept what is going on in our lives we become stronger.  We always accept what is going on in our lives.  And we do this by telling ourselves that whatever's happening right this moment is perfect, it's exactly the way the universe is supposed to be.  If we characterize something as painful or insufferable then that's the effect it will have on us.

A good technique to overcome our perceived pain or unhappiness is to look about us. All over the world there are people who are starving, suffering from disease, or lack of clean water to drink.  So many others live lives of suffering from malnutrition or lack housing.  If we look at  the world from this perspective all of sudden we find gratitude in whatever we have.

If we live our lives in this moment - and accept it as perfect - we find a perfect world.

Click here to email John

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Sprituality vs. Religion

Most alcoholics are a contrary bunch and often don't agree with one another.  A good example of that is when the the topics of spirituality and religion comes up.

Many members said they nearly didn't get into the 12 step programs because they believed it was a religion or even a cult.  The Oxford Dictionary defines spirituality as:

  1. "The quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
    This shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way."  

When many of us came into the program a lot of what we focused on was a plan to get "our stuff" back.

Most of us had nothing when we arrived.  We'd lost our car, our jobs, our wives and other family members.  We were suffering and at the bottom rung of the ladder.  

No one respected us any more, often to the point of even wanting to talk to or associate with us.  The reason we stayed with AA or other 12 step programs is because no one tried to pump us full of dogma or tell us we should believe in mythological or spiritual beings that supposedly existed ages ago and sent us instructions about how to live or believe today.  

No one told us we were going to hell.  And most of us understood hell because our lives before we became sober was a hell on earth.

 Now please don't think that I'm anti-religion.  Because some religions do much good in their communities.  What I take exception to is when a church teaches that if you don't follow their dogma to the letter then you don't have much chance in the afterlife.  That you're only good if you do things the way they teach them.

In AA, in our home group, we seldom discuss religion as a subject, though we do say the Lord's Prayer at the closing of the meeting.

I personally like the Oxford dictionary definition of spirituality because I can choose a higher power and better way of life.  It's easy to be kind and generous and compassionate.  And if one regularly practices some version of these things their life may become better.

I believe in a higher power but I can't define it.  I do believe that the stars in the sky didn't just magically appear all of sudden and that the cycles of  life on our planet probably didn't create themselves.  There's a force behind all of our lives that I don't understand - but it's more powerful than all of us.

Thursday, December 2, 2021


Nothing warms my heart more than when someone has finally grasped the concepts of sobriety.  And it's even better when I've known the person for most of her life.

The other day I overheard someone talking about a young woman at TLC who's from a city not far from Mesa.  She was telling someone she didn't want to return to her hometown because she knew all the addicts who lived there,  Since coming to TLC she'd come to realize that being around other active users, particularly ones she knew, was dangerous for her.  That she might be tempted to relapse.

It's heartwarming because this person has been in treatment before.  But when she returned home after graduating  other programs she usually ended relapsing within a short time.

That seemingly simple realization is a big step for someone who's been addicted since she was in her early teens.  But she fortunately has broken through the lies that we addicts tell ourselves:  that one pill or fix or drink won't hut us, that we have control over this powerful and deceptive disease.

Here at TLC we look at our addictions as a life and death disease.  Those of us who are serious about recovery also have that realization and we absorb all the knowledge we can about our disease so that we can recognize when we're heading into relapse because we have the wrong attitude.

I'm so proud of this young woman.

Click here to email John