Monday, August 8, 2022

Extended Family

A client who has been with us for at least 15 years - who started out with us in Las Vegas - is in the hospital today with several serious medical issues.  There is some question as to whether he'll survive because of the health issues he's dealing with.

He's allowed to have visitors and some of our staff have been to visit him each day.  However, over the weekend his situation began to decline and he was moved back to the emergency room.  Where he remains.

I bring this up because TLC has a policy of caring for its residents, regardless of their condition as long as they have a desire to stay sober.  And Randy, who has spent most of his time with us serving as a manager, has worked a good program all during his time with us.

All we can do now is pray that he pulls through these physical challenges.

Click here to email John

Friday, August 5, 2022

Doing what I Like

A family member asked me last week what I was going to do with rest of my life. I mean, after all, here I am perching on the edge of my mid 80s and still showing up at the office every day. They asked me why I didn't just relax and enjoy life?

That would probably be a relevant question if I was unhappy with what I'm doing. However, for the past 31 years, I have been working one way or the other helping drug addicts and alcoholics rebuild their lives. And this is a job that's one of the most rewarding that I've ever done.

Now I'm not Mother Teresa. I get compensated well for what I do. I have a decent middle-class home that's paid for. I lease a new Tesla Plaid, which I rationalize by saying that it's a luxury that I can take off of my expenses each year when I do my income taxes. However, what senior citizen needs an electric vehicle That goes 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds and tops out at 200 miles an hour?  Well I guess I do.  And why? I guess it's just because I can.

I'm not sure how successful our organization is in helping people stay sober. But every once in a while, I run across someone in the community who approaches me, sometimes hesitantly, and breathlessly tells me they have been sober now for one or two or three or four or maybe even more years. And you know, to me, that's a better feeling than when I was out there using drugs over 30 years ago and had just taken a good fix.  I mean there is no greater privilege than to be able to be a positive influence in someone's lives. Plus I even get paid for it. What more could one want out of life?

Click here to email John

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

More than Sobriety

I quit drinking alcohol and using heroin and other drugs because I wanted to have a better life.  And you know, that decision has given me a good 31 years.  

I didn't quit because I wanted more stuff, more things.  I quit because I knew that I need to craft a new way of living, a way of life that would be rewarding and give me a sense of accomplishment.  And that has happened for me.  I needed to learn that I didn't have to always feel wonderful.  To learn to accept that life sometimes can present us with problems.  Not to expect just because I got clean and sober that things would be wonderful.  Life happens to us as it does to everyone and recovery teaches us how to deal with obstacles.

I bring this topic up today because I see some who are new in recovery, who stop growing.  They do stay sober but beyond that they do little or nothing to rise above the ordinary.  They maybe still smoke cigarettes.  They may eat a crappy diet.  Maybe they don't exercise.  Or get more education.  It's enough for them to have simply gotten sober.

But I believe that life is more than that.  I think we can give back to the world many of the things we took when we were in our addictions.

If we have a mission in life every day can be more fulfilling.

Click here to email John

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Free at Last

Being out of quarantine is a good thing.  I'm back at the office.  I'm able to go shopping.  I'm no longer in a self-imposed limbo of trying to get things done and then never accomplishing what I set out to do.

The first time I had Covid-19 I did the same thing I did this time.  I tried to put a happy face on it.  I told myself that I was going to read a couple of books that I'd been meaning to finish.  I was going to go through my closet and sort some clothes I seldom or never wear and donate them to TLC.  But I never really accomplished anything.  Except to clean out a junk drawer I'd been planning to work on for the past year.

But, for some reason I wasn't able to accomplish much more than that.  The part of the Covid-19 protocol that I didn't pay attention to was the part about about fatigue, about being tired.  But, when I looked at the side effects on the CDC website, among them was tiredness and fatigue.

And I find that even now - after testing negative for two days in a row - I'm still not a ball of energy.  I talked to someone who's in the medical field and she said "pay attention" to your body. And she was right. Because I know it's going to take a few weeks to get my energy back and being able to resume my normal routine.

I'm going to take the course of least resistance and not push my 80+ year old body.  It'll let me know when it's ready to work harder.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

R.I.P. Phyliss

One of my best friends called me two nights ago and told me he'd just arrived home to discover his mother dead on the floor.

I don't know what I expected, if anything.  But he was peaceful and clear as he told me the details of finding her body near the couch.  And he was clear and calm as he described the details.

It's no surprise that she'd passed away, regardless of the circumstances, because she'd been suffering from Parkinson's disease for at least five years.  Plus, she was nearing her mid-eighties.

He called 911 and the police and and others came in a short time. He provided them with paperwork they requested. They told him what he needed to do.  So he called a mortuary and made arrangements for them to pick up her body. 

Because he's been a friend for at least 15 years, he and I had more than one discussion about the reality that one day he'd lose his mother. And because of her health, he anticipated her passing and said he was prepared.  And he was.

But what impressed me about my friend was how he cared for his mother during her last years.  He was always there to clean her house, change her bedding, do her laundry, see that she ate, take her to medical appointments,  see that she had caretakers if he was unavailable.  He saw that she lacked nothing.  She even visited the casino with one of her daughters and won $900 the weekend before her death.

And he gave her tough love to force her to move her body.  Her doctors said she needed more exercise and when he had a chance he'd force her to get it.  He got her various exercise equipment, such as a treadmill, and equipment she could use while in bed.  When she'd ask him for a glass of water he'd insist she get it herself, because she still had the ability to walk.

Sometimes family members thought he was rough on her because they wanted to baby her. On some occasions he told them they were welcome to care for her if they chose. But for some reason they never took him up on the offer.

For me, he was a perfect example of love in action.  He always saw that she had care and everything she needed.  And the strong thing he did was to not baby her.  He showed his love by giving her the things that would keep her healthy - even when others might disapprove.

If I'm ever in his situation, I hope I can show half the dedication that he did when caring for his mother.  May she rest in peace.

Click here to email John

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Friends

I mostly view myself as independent.  But when I become ill I find how dependent upon others I can really be. And that's a lesson that was repeated when I came down with Covid for a second time this last Tuesday.

Many friends and business associates called to offer help. Mostly, they offered food.  And those are the offers that I took them up on. So at least once a day, meals would appear on my porch.

It's not like I can't cook for myself.  But for some reason this Covid makes me unmotivated. One of the symptoms of Covid is fatigue, something that I experience periodically. So if I do cook, it has to be something really simple.

I could do something like go to a local restaurant drive-thru and order something to go. But I do feel a sense of responsibility to the community.  And I don't want to be responsible for giving someone else Covid.

I am grateful to have people who want to make my life easier.  And one of these days I'm sure I'll have a chance to reciprocate.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Covid's Back

Ever since I returned from a California vacation, I've had a scratchy throat and a slight cough.  I didn't think that much about it because it didn't seem too bad. Yesterday I got worse, and someone suggested that I take a covid test.  And sure enough, I was positive for Covid.

So now I'm isolated in my house for the next five days, hanging out mostly in my bedroom catching up on my reading.  And once in awhile, I field a question from the office.

Yesterday I did put in a call to my doctor's office. He's a pretty straight-up guy and he told me that he could prescribe something for me but that he didn't think it would help very much. So I told him to not bother calling in a prescription to the drug store.

It must be human nature but it always amazes me that everyone asks the same question when I tell them I have Covid.  And the question is,"Where did you get it from?" And if they ask me that question, I always ask them "What difference does it make?"  Even if I do know where it comes from, what am I going to do with that information?  I don't know.  Call the health department? Beat up the person who gave it to me? Warn everyone to stay away from the person? The reality is that we don't know where we get Covid from. It might have blown-in during the monsoon. I might have picked it up on the beach in California. Nobody knows for sure.

The only thing I know to do about COVID is to get plenty of rest. Stay away from other people as much as possible.  And wear a mask when I'm around others.

Other than that, I'll see you in 5 days.

Click here to email John

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Home Again

Yesterday I arrived home from my annual week long vacation with the family in Imperial Beach, California, directly South of San Diego.  I do this every year, during the month of July.

The temperature was about 64 degrees when we left the beach. When we got out of the van at a restaurant in Yuma, Arizona we were greeted with a blast of hot air that was about 111 Degrees.  It seemed like what one might imagine to be hell.

"Ahh.." I thought, "Welcome to Arizona."

Actually the heat doesn't bother me that much.  Of course, That's because I don't work outside and when it gets too warm I just go inside an air-conditioned room.  In any event, after 40 years my body has become accustomed to the Arizona climate.  In fact, I like the heat much better than I do the cold.

The other good thing about being home is that I can get back into my business life.  I have good people taking care of things all the time.  But being close to home works better for me.

So, tomorrow, it's back to the office for a while, until my next trip which I assure you isn't far off.

Click here to email John

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Blessings of Sobriety

When I got sober over 31 years ago I never even dreamed about being able to take my family on a summer vacation for a week in San Diego. And this year there are about 26 people here that I'm related to one way or another. Quite a crowd. 

But as time passes, and one stays sober and works a program, good things begin to happen. Your family starts talking to you again. You might open a bank account and buy a house. Maybe you go back to school and get a good career job. Once one gets sober, the possibilities in life are endless.

In my 31 years of running a recovery program, I've seen many former homeless addicts succeed beyond their wildest dreams.Nothing makes me happier than seeing a former client tell us their life has turned around and that they're happier than they've ever been. And while they give us a lot of credit, I always tell them that they're the ones that did the work and used the program the way it was designed.

And today my sobriety allows me to sit in my condo living room and watch the waves break on the shore while I eat breakfast.

Click here to email John

Monday, July 11, 2022

From the Beach

 Each year for the past 25 years I've been taking my family on a vacation to Imperial Beach in California.  

And it's very rewarding in so many ways. For one thing, it's a chance to get out of the Arizona desert for a week. And for another thing it's a chance to catch up with family members face-to-face, instead of on the telephone.  And it's good for me to be far away from business because I sometimes can get a different perspective on it when I look at it from a distance.

Also, because I bring family members with me who also work at TLC, it's a chance for us to talk about different ideas to improve the quality of the program.  In fact, our treatment program was born in Las Vegas when we all were at a restaurant talking about what it would take to start a State licensed treatment program. 

As it turned out, I had the building and office space. Another person had insurance experience and knew all about billing insurance companies for treating clients. And yet another person had lengthy experience in creating and operating treatment programs. There's something about being away from your normal environment that helps stimulate a person's creative juices.

In any case by January 2012 we had taken our first patient into the treatment program and it has been successful ever since.

We haven't come up with any new plans so far this week. And maybe we won't. But the one thing we have accomplished is getting plenty of rest and recreation.

Just enjoying the fruits of our labors and the benefits of sobriety.

Click here to email John



Friday, July 8, 2022

Vacation Time

Each year, usually in July, our whole family gathers in Imperial Beach, California for a week's vacation. The exception was 2020, when the place we normally stay was closed down due to Covid 19.

This year we're renting six condominiums and will have around 30 family members coming from different states to enjoy a week at the beach.  I can already feel the 65° temperatures that greet us when we wake up in the morning.

And I'm sure we will follow our usual rituals.  The first night we normally go across the street to Aroma, a Vietnamese restaurant.  It has a wonderful selection of food, something for everyone.

During the rest of the week the routine is time at the beach, visits to a local fitness center, or one of the many shopping malls in the area. The closest one is the International Mall on the border of the United States and Mexico, about ten miles to the south.

I always keep in mind that none of this would have happened had I not gotten sober 31 years ago. When we first started about 25 years ago, we only rented one condominium.  But, as the family grew we kept having  to rent more space.

While there's a lot more to sobriety than great vacations or material things, it's nice to be able to join the rest of society and enjoy the benefits of living a productive life.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Coming Back

We once did a study to see how long clients would stay once they were accepted into the program. It was no surprise to find out 50% of them left within 10 days.

Many people come into the program with the wrong motivation.  What do I mean by that? Well, many come in because they're hungry and just want to get a couple of meals under their belt.  And maybe a little sleep.

And of course, a few of them come in because their probation officer sends them. Those clients stay a little longer because they're afraid of going back to jail or prison.

Other clients who leave early soon learn that the streets are not very friendly. We welcome them back and they stick around for a while, especially if they're motivated to stay sober. 

Then there's another category of client that comes here because their families sent them. They stick around for a while because they realize they're not going to get back home until they change.  

Yet another client might come to TLC they have no other place to go. They don't have a family any longer because they lost track of them. And many of them stay for years. Some as long as 10 or 12 years.

There are no bad reasons to get sober.  And we continue to welcome people back in the hope that they will figure out how to stay clean and sober.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Drinking increases during Pandemic

While on my way to the office this morning I heard a radio discussion about how the intake of alcohol has gone up across the country some 14%.  They were quoting statistics produced by the U.S. Department of Health so their information seemed pretty reliable.

Neither the program host nor the guest were alcoholics, though the host was on some sort of medication for depression - and had been for about ten years.

They said drinking increased about the time people started working from home because they were quarantined.  They reported that some of them said they were drinking out of boredom.  Others reported that because they were without supervision that they took advantage of the lack of supervision they would have normally had while at work.  The interesting thing is that the rate of drinking has decreased little since workers returned to the workplace, though most reportedly weren't drinking on the job.

Another interesting statistic was that 12-step meeting attendance had also decreased during the pandemic.  That's something that's easy to understand because many people were staying at home and observing social distancing and mask guidelines. While the hosts didn't identify as alcoholics, they seemed to have done their research, as I've seen other studies that corroborate their reporting.

As a recovering person myself, sober for 31 years, I wasn't tempted to relapse nor even think about it.  I was one of those abusers who didn't need an excuse to drink or use drugs. If the sun came up that was reason enough for me. But I can certainly understand those who grasp any reason at all to lower their anxiety level, having spent so many years as a practicing addict.

I wonder what the statistics would look like if we had a more serious plague or even a civil uprising?

Click here to email John

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Forgetting a Birthday

Last week I did something I haven't done before:  I forgot my sponsor's 48th sobriety birthday.  And for a while I was beating myself up about it. Then I decided that being angry at myself wouldn't accomplish anything.  So I accepted that I had screwed up and wrote him an apology.

Now some might think I'm making too big a deal of it.  But it was a a big deal to me because I'd never before forgotten it.  I'd always gotten him a nice chip and arranged a speaker meeting for him to talk about his recovery.  But this year just slipped right by me.  I felt really dumb.

And I probably wouldn't have remembered even now, but I got a text message a few days ago from him asking if I was okay. That was probably the embarrassing part. But I didn't even make a pretense of an excuse, because anything I'd tell him would sound really lame.  Plus he'd always taught me about being honest and straight up.

We're going to have lunch this Friday.  And I might give him the chip I purchased for him yesterday.  Or, I may present it to him at a meeting this next Sunday where I can also publicly apologize for missing such an important anniversary.  We'll see.

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Making Friends

An addict's life can be lonely.  That's because their only friend is the alcohol or drug that props them up and gives them a reason for living.

At a meeting last week a woman told her story of addiction.  She said she had come to Arizona within the last month from out of state.  She came here, she said, to escape her addiction and start a new life.  However, once she arrived, she found that she met herself as soon as she arrived.  She'd  brought her old addict self with her, her same thinking patterns and coping skills.

Through her tears, she described how lonely she felt.  She only had a family member who lived here.  And the family member - while supportive - didn't want to spend time with the woman.  After all, she had her own life to live and didn't have the time or inclination to deal with an addict's issues.

So, what the woman did was pick up several 12-step meeting lists and planned to spend her days attending a series of meetings.  From past experience she knew that she'd encounter people just like her, people who had been through the loneliness and anxiety of early recovery.  Her intense meeting schedule left her little time to be lonely and would give her a chance to make friends in a new city.

There are few excuses for us to not get sober.  And this woman's solution was the perfect one for someone who was feeling the pangs of loneliness.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Feet on the Floor

When you put your feet on the floor in the morning the it may be on cold tile. Or it may be a nice carpet or rug. Or rough cement. Whatever it is, pause for a moment before you do anything else. 

Spend a moment to realize that you have been blessed with another precious slice of time by our creator. Realize that your time is the most precious gift you've been given. Realize that it's the one thing you shouldn't waste, because you can never replace it. The wealthiest person in the world can't - with all their wealth - replace one second of it. If it isn't used wisely it goes circling down the drain, gone forever. 

So, in the morning decide how you're going to use this valuable gift from the universe. Are you going to the gym? Are you going to a meeting? Going to your job? Is there something you've been procrastinating about? A project that needs completing? Whatever it is, get moving. Do something productive. 

Don't go back to bed. Don't turn on the TV.  Don't get on social media and try to see how many so-called friends you can make. Remember that probably none of those people are your friends; they're just like you. Getting on social media because they're lonely and can't make friends with with real people who'll really care about them. And I've seen people have emotional meltdowns because someone "unfriended" them. The only important thing about that social interaction is that the people wasted their precious time even engaging in such a shallow communication. I mean do you really give a crap about what some anonymous face half way across the country thinks? And you foolishly gave them precious time you'll never get back. 

My message is to use time wisely. Does that mean you should always work? Of course not. Sometimes a vacation or a long weekend is a wise use of your time - a period of rejuvenation. You only have 80 or so years and you've probably used a lot of that, maybe half. Start thinking of the time you wasted on drinking and drugging (if you're an addict) or on other frivolities if you're a "normie." 

Don't throw away what you can't get back. You'll find that life will be richer if you treasure each moment. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

More than Ourselves

I used to think that my addictions didn't hurt anyone but me.  After all, I was the one who went to jail.  I was the one who ended up in the Southern California mental hospital.  I'm the one who lost his job. I'm the one who always paid the price for my bad behavior. So why should I listen to those who suggested that I change?

But the other day I met a woman who'd lost her husband to a drug overdose.  And she wasn't a kid either.  She was a very nice middle-aged woman who'd never been in trouble a day in her life.  She had a couple of grown children and one in his late teens still living at home.

She was a professional person who had to take a part time job to pay the debts her dead husband had left behind.  Because of his addiction he'd left her nothing in the way of insurance or money to care for herself.

It was sad to hear her story and see her working manual labor to take care of her responsibilities.

When I was out in the streets using I never gave a thought about those I was impacting by my behavior.  I stole from others, anything that wasn't nailed down.  Never had a thought about how hard they had to work to obtain what they had in life.

It was only until I was sober a few years and had gone to many meetings and listened to the stories that others told, that I realized that I was just like them.  Selfish and self-centered and thinking only of myself.

It was only later that I realized the damage I'd done to my family and others and was able to make amends to them.

Sobriety has a way of changing our perspective.

Click here to email John

Friday, June 17, 2022

Relapse?

She was doing so well since she started getting sober 90 days back.  She went to meetings twice a day.  She found a job that was a perfect fit for her.  She had a sponsor, plus she encouraged others to get sober. Everyone was proud of her.

She had a family member helping take care of her kids until she find a home and reliable transportation.  It seemed like the first time in many years she'd gotten off the pills and was on the road to recovery.

Than a few days ago she was found lying on the floor unable to breath, her heart stopped. Some family members started CPR, while others summoned fire and police assistance. Fortunately they arrived in time and she was resuscitated with Narcan and taken to a Valley Medical Facility. She survived.

It's always a a surprise when someone's doing wonderful, then all of a sudden relapses. Yet this person denied that she'd relapsed. That a doctor must have mixed up her medications/ Or someone slipped the wrong pills in her prescription bottle. But addicts aren't stupid and stories like hers are told all the time. 
"I'm not responsible,"  Someone must have slipped me something."  No believes something like that, that one "accidentally" relapses. In 31 years of recovery I've never seen it happen.

And the other thing, is that it's okay to relapse.  That's how we find out things still don't work for us when we're high or drunk.  If we fall, we just get up and start over again.  All we can do with this girl is call on whatever higher power we believe in to help her get back on track.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Gratitude

I've often read that one of the healthiest emotions we can enjoy is gratitude.  And I've met a lot of people in our program over the past 30 years who ask what they have to be grateful for. They're living in a halfway house or recovery program. They might have a roommate they don't get along with. Their wardrobe sucks. They don't have a car or a job. They can't even afford a cell phone.

And I tell them that one way to develop gratitude is to do something for others. We can always find someone who has less than we do if we simply look.  And sometimes they look at me like I'm a little off-center. But other times they seem to want to hear more. And so, I share with them what I do to generate gratitude.

For example, this weekend a group of us who are in recovery decided to take a few carloads of food, clothing, and water to Phoenix, which we would distribute around the Phoenix homeless shelter.  We ended up with a caravan of about six cars and pickups loaded with bottled water, toiletries, bag lunches, new socks, underwear, tee shirts, and other clothing items.

Outside of the shelter there are an estimated six to seven hundred homeless living in makeshift encampments along the nearby streets.  As soon as we pulled to the curb we attracted groups of homeless who came over to see what we had.

As we handed out water and clothing we received many thank yous and other expressions of gratitude. Albeit, there were those wanted a certain color of socks or tee shirts. But generally, they were all grateful for whatever they got from us.

Once we passed out all of what we had we headed back to Mesa. And most of us talked of the sense of euphoria we had at being able to help a fellow human being on such a basic level.

So the message today is to reach out to those who need help. Give them an encouraging word.  Give them food or clothing. Do something to better their lives.

Your life will be better for it.

Click here to email John


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Father's Day

June 19th is Father's Day, which always falls on the third Sunday in June.

And many people are looking forward to celebrating it.  Some are trying to figure out the right gift for their dad. Maybe a dinner.  Or a necktie. Maybe cologne. A gift card tucked inside a greeting card.  Something to show their esteem and love for the man who raised them. And that's a good thing.

As to me, I never celebrated anything about my father. Even though he passed in 1970 at the age of 60 it's difficult for me to dredge up anything good about him. 

In fact, when he died someone called to tell me about it, and I said "Good," then hung up the phone..  I never went to the funeral and I never grieved over his death.  As far as I was concerned he was dead to me the last time I saw him, when I was about 15 years old.

I know it sounds like I'm still angry and bitter toward him. And while I used to feel that way, I no longer do. Once I got sober, I started using the principles of the 12-step programs to get rid of my anger and resentment toward him.  And anyone else that I had angry feelings toward.

My anger and resentment toward my father stemmed from his alcoholism, his brutality to his children and anyone else he felt like beating.  But it wasn't until I got a few years into sobriety that my feelings changed.  And that was when I began to understand the dynamics of alcoholism and how it affects different people.  While I don't have warm fuzzies toward him, at least I understand him better.

After working with alcoholics for 30 plus years I've learned that most of us had terrible relationships with our fathers.  And those relationships pushed us into our own addictions in many cases.

But eventually, we learn we must move on with life, regardless of who harmed us in the past. Otherwise we might follow the same path and have a miserable life..

Click here to email John

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Losing Friends

A reality of the recovery business - and of life itself - is that one day we'll suffer the loss of our friends and acquaintances.

And during the last week of May we heard about two long-term residents of TLC who passed suddenly -within a day of one another.  One succumbed to a heart attack.  And the cause of the other's death is still being investigated by the Coroner's office in Colorado, where he'd moved after leaving TLC.  Each of them had been at TLC - either as client or employee for around 15 years. Each reportedly died sober.

Such deaths have a strong impact on those of us who lived and worked with them. When we live and work closely with someone for so many years we develop a bond. They become an integral part of the TLC family and are people we count on to show up every day and help keep the program functioning.  Those who stay that long become an example to newcomers who see living proof that one can remain clean and sober if they just put forth the effort.

Their deaths remind me that we all should live each moment to the fullest.  And live up to our full potential each day.  

May they both rest in peace; they will live on in our memories.

Click here to email John


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Losing our Children

One of the saddest stories I hear at 12-step meetings is about Child Protective Services (CPS) taking an addict's children.

And usually the mother telling the story presents herself pretty much in the role of the victim.  She usually is crying when telling the story and often does elicit some sympathy from others in the room.

When it comes to my opinion, I always share that I believe that when CPS takes children from parents it's because they believe it's in the best interests of the children.  After all, how many children are abused - or even die - because of the lack of care by addict parents.  And I don't believe the CPS has time or resources to care for more children than than they currently are responsible for.

My counsel is that a parent should look at the short term loss of her children as a blessing.  If she can't take care of the children, who will?  If she doesn't have family members or the father to care for them, then a CPS foster home is the only logical solution.

Sometimes losing children to CPS is the one thing that shocks a mother into getting into a treatment program, finding and job and renting an apartment or home for her children.

Life in the drug world comes with its perils and the loss of everything we treasure is is sometimes what it takes to make us change.

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Drug Deaths

If you click the link in this sentence you'll see statistics on the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) website that show that last year an average of five people a day died of opioid use in Arizona.  The website is very well done and provides an excellent and clear picture of the magnitude of the opioid epidemic.  

In my opinion, we are undergoing an unprecedented epidemic of opioid use.  An epidemic for which no one seems to have a solution.

When addicts seek help to break their addiction there are resources available, but not nearly enough for all who seek help.  Just last week the director of our treatment clinic reported that every residential detoxification facility in this area was full.   

Our organization, for example, is licensed by ADHS to provide intensive outpatient treatment and for most of this year we also have been at capacity.

During the process of licensing our treatment program 10 years ago, I had several conversations with ADHS staff members.  I left my meetings with them quite impressed with the dedication they have to their jobs.  For some reason I had a preconceived notion that their job was to make things difficult for those of us who operate residential and outpatient treatment.  But, to the contrary, they did most everything they could to guide us in the right direction and were quite helpful.

I only wish that the politicians who formulate our laws had the same caring attitude as does ADHS toward the treatment and welfare of the thousands of addicts and alcoholics that live in Arizona.

Instead, those who have spent years trying to save lives must navigate a maze of senseless restrictions in order to help those who don't have the strength or ability to overcome their addictions on their own.

Click here to email John


Monday, May 30, 2022

Happy 83

When I was nearing 40 I thought I was coming to the end.  Really, I didn't expect to survive past 42 or 43.

And why would I?  I was living like a wild dog.  I was addicted to heroin and alcohol.  I was in and out of jails.  I didn't work and had to steal, cheat, or lie for everything I had.  I never got lost, because when I was homeless I had no place to really be.  But that life became boring.  In fact, I didn't care whether I lived or died.

But one day I had what some might call a spiritual awakening.  No, God didn't whisper in my ear, nothing like that.  I might have been drunk even, when I decided that I must do something different. I was sick and tired of being a worthless bum.  Long story short, I went to a detox in Mesa, Arizona, where I stayed 11 days.  And from there to a halfway house.  

That was a little over 31 years ago and at the time I never dreamed that life could be as good as it is today.  Is it perfect?  Mostly.  It has it's ups and downs.  But that's life.  All about changes.  Of still learning new things.  Of trying to be a better human.  Of learning to be calm in the middle of a storm.

Once in a while someone will ask when I'm going to retire.  Never, I tell them.  Because to me to quit working and striving to help others is a death sentence.  I have a mission in life and I plan to carry it out.

I was given a new life when I got sober.  And I'm going to honor that gift I was given on January 13, 1991.

Click here to email John

 

Friday, May 27, 2022

What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is to honor those who who died while serving in any United States war or military action.  While Veteran's Day is to honor those who either served - or died while - in the military.  Memorial Day is always observed on the last Monday in May each year.

I have several family members who served in the military, at least half a dozen. My youngest daughter was the last to serve and did a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  One favorite uncle of mine was in the Navy and served in the battle of Guadalcanal and several other theaters in the South Pacific - receiving some 13 commendations.

I only bring this up because not many of us know what these holidays mean.  And how much those who served our country have contributed to our way of life. And a lot of us don't realize how much many veterans suffer today because of the trauma or injury they experienced while in the military.

A lot of veterans in our program found their way to us because of war injuries, either physical or psychological.  The only way they can erase their pain is to use drugs or alcohol - or else learn to live by the principles of the 12 step programs.

Even though this is Memorial Day, if you know a veteran thank her or him for risking their life to give us the freedom to pursue our dreams in a free country.

Click here to email John


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Responsible for Me

My life began changing the moment I took responsibility for my addiction and decided to do something about it.

I remember that I was sitting at a bus stop January 13, 1991, looking at the path my life was on.  I was addicted to heroin and alcohol.  I was homeless.  I was having to steal every day to take care of myself and my drug habit.  All I had was the clothes I was wearing and less than a dollar in change.

I was having this conversation with myself, trying to decide what I was going to do.  I knew that if I chose to keep using, I'd either go back to jail, prison, the mental hospital, or maybe even the cemetery. A different choice I could make would be to go to a detox and get on a path to recovery, something I'd never done.

The only way I ever stopped using was if I'd gotten arrested and went through withdrawals on a jailhouse floor.  But my pattern was always the same:  as soon as I was released I'd immediately steal something to drink, then steal something else so I could buy some drugs.  That was my pattern, whether I was in jail for an hour or for several years.

Having never gotten sober or clean voluntarily, I opted to go to detox and get into recovery.  At that moment I became responsible.  And that's when everything changed for me.

Once we take responsibility for what happens to us things can become different.  Today they are.

Click here to email John




Friday, May 20, 2022

Raising Addicts

Once parents discover their child is an addict it changes their life immediately.  But not all of them react the same.  What most mothers seem to do is blame themselves for the child's addiction - particularly mothers who are codependent and those who feel like they didn't do a very good job of being a mother.

This kind of mother is probably the most difficult to deal with. Because they blame themselves for the addiction they will sometimes call me and complain about their child is treated in our program.  They might not like the fact that the child has to get up at 4:00 in the morning and report to a job.  They might not like the idea that their son or daughter has to be responsible for themselves at all. I've even had them call to complain about our menu; they might think their child needs a certain type of diet and a private room. In a word, they think we're too hard on our clients.

But the reality about addicts and alcoholics, in my opinion, is that most were pampered and not taught responsibility as a youngster.  We are strict with our clients because we know - as addicts ourselves - that an addict will try to get away with whatever they can.

 For that reason the first thing we teach them is to be responsible for themselves.  Part of that teaching is that they must find a job. They must go to outside 12-step meetings.  Cleaning their room is their responsibility. They must submit to drug tests. They have to follow a curfew.  And there're many more guidelines.

Many of the most successful graduates we have are those who had a tough childhood and who had nothing when they arrived at our doors. Tough circumstances often makes tough, resilient people.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Addicts Everywhere

While filling out the paperwork to make a large purchase today, the man I was buying from asked what I did for a living.

When I told him I managed a large recovery program that assisted homeless addicts and alcoholics  with their recovery he told me he wanted to speak with me privately once we finished our business.  So once we completed the paperwork he and I had a private conversation. Of course I already had a sense of what he wanted to talk about - that likely someone in his family had a drug or alcohol problem.

And I was right.  He told me that a family member had been in and out of jails and hospitals because of drug arrests and a few overdoses.  He was afraid this person might die of an overdose.  He didn't know what to do to help her change.

Of course I did what I normally do,  which was to offer to help this person into recovery. I gave him my contact information and told him to have her call when she was ready to get clean.  He was very grateful.

Years ago it used to take me by surprise when things like this would happen.  But now that I'm familiar with government statistics about the number of addicts in our population I'm never surprised.  According to the Federal Government 15% of the population in our country has a problem with either alcohol, drugs, or both.  Fentanyl alone took more lives in the past year than all other causes combined.

When I look at these numbers, I'm never surprised when I encounter people in the business world and other segments of the community who need our help.  And we readily give it to them.



Saturday, May 14, 2022

Retire?

When I was a lad I remember my parents talking about their goals in life.  And one of their ultimate goals was to work until they reached 65, then retire and live on Social Security and whatever savings they'd accumulated.  Which is what they did.

But today - even though I'll soon be 83 - the last thing I think about is not working.

Recently one of my children asked when I'm going to retire and start enjoying life. And my response is always the same.  I told him that I do enjoy life.  And I asked what I'd do if I quit working?  He told me I could relax and take it easy.

But my idea of enjoying life is not loafing around.  Or sleeping late.  Or watching television.  My idea of a good life is accomplishing things, of setting goals, of managing businesses, of being productive.

I have a firm belief that if we're not physically active and using our brains, then we're deteriorating. - rusting away.

I think the biggest health problem older people have comes from them becoming inactive and unmotivated.  Now none of us are living forever.  But when we stay busy and functional we make demands on ourselves that keep us healthy and productive for a few more years.

Don't get me wrong.  I like going on vacations and trips and relaxing.  But after 10 or 12 days I start missing my home and my work routine and am ready to come home.  And that's what I do.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

R.I.P Dennis

This last weekend we lost a 12-year member of our community to cancer and other medical issues.

While on one hand I'm sad to see him go, on the other I believe it was a blessing for him to pass on. And that's because he suffered a lot of pain over the past few years. His illness also seemed to affect his cognitive abilities and he at times didn't recognize those he'd known for years.

A week or two before he died his family in Missouri wanted him to come home.  And while TLC staff was making flight arrangements, his family decided they wanted to come and take him home themselves.  Which they did.

He was a good example to those of us who knew him. He continued to volunteer for several hours each day doing maintenance, right up to a few weeks before he passed.  

He was a friend to many of us.  And we're pleased that he was able to live his last years in recovery.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Mother's Day Lesson

I was at a 12-step meeting this morning and the topic was "acceptance."

There was a young woman who had chosen the topic.  She explained, with tears in her eyes, that one of the reasons she picked the topic is because Child Protective Services had taken custody of her children.  And the only way she could get them back was to go to treatment and deal with her addiction.  The CPS was making her prove that she could stay clean and sober and provide a home for her children.

We could all see that she was in pain, that she missed her children very much.

But one person at the meeting suggested that she might look at the situation from a different angle, which might make her feel better about the separation from her children.  After all, she could feel sorry about the separation and remain in pain.  Or she could look at the separation as an opportunity for her to work through the issues that led her into drugs and alcohol.

After all, how often do we get to be in a situation where we can totally focus on our addictions without the distraction of raising children and feeding our habits?

As we get older and gain more experience, we also learn that we can learn from the negative experiences in our lives.  And if we do learn from our experiences we may not repeat them.

After all, we probably learn more from pain of our bad choices than we realize.  For example we don't touch a hot stove after we get burned the first time we do it.  Pain directs us to make better decisions.

I know the pain of my heroin and alcohol use were great teachers.  Because I haven't used either of them in 30 years.  So I know that I learned the lesson well.

If we change our perspective we can often change our lives.

It worked for me.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

No Power

"You can't heal the people you love.

You can't make choices for them.

You can't rescue them.

You can promise that they won't journey alone.

You can loan them your map.

But this trip is theirs."

A friend of mine sent me this verse today and I thought I'd share it with readers because it encompasses the exact way we should treat those we love who are in recovery.

One of the things that stood out for me 30 years ago when TLC first opened its doors, is how some parents who have their first experience with an addict child somehow have the idea that they have some kind of power over them.

While they may have the best intentions, once their child has stepped into the muck of addiction they have no authority that will allow them to change.

As the verse above states, they can be there for them, help them find a map to guide them - such as helping them get into treatment.  

But the real work of recovering and changing their life is a trip for them take on their own until they are blessed with healing.

And the parent can be there along the way - and at the end - grateful the child survived.

Click here to email John

Monday, May 2, 2022

Relapse

One thing we never do at TLC is get excited when someone relapses.  After all, part of the process of getting sober for many of us was to have our butts kicked by drugs and alcohol over and over until we realized that substances just didn't work for us.  So when clients relapse we almost always give them another chance if they express a sincere desire to change.

For many of us, it took losing everything over and over because we were too hard-headed to get the message the first time.  Many of us - myself included - somehow weren't smart enough to connect the misery in our lives with the fact that were addicts, alcoholics, or both.  

I've known addicts who kept cycling for years through a journey of addiction, then getting sober, then relapsing again.  Sometimes they would take a detour to prison, jail, to a mental hospital, or homelessness.  Whatever path they took they ended up in a worse place than before.  Only when the pain became intense enough do we addicts decide to change course.  I speak with authority because that's what happened to me.

Many times I've had parents want to take a son or daughter home so they could pamper them with home cooking and better living conditions. Several years back a pastor and his wife took their son from our program before he was ready to graduate - against our advice.  About a year later I encountered the pastor and his wife in an elevator at an airport.  And I inquired as to how the son was doing.

They told me that he'd overdosed on cocaine a few months after they took him out of the program.  Even though I'd advised against them taking him home, I felt so bad for them because I knew they suffered from his untimely death and blamed themselves for it..  

While not everyone who relapses dies, there are a wide range of potential consequences - short of death - that will often inspire a client to return.

We just hope he or she lives until they reach that decision.

Click here to email John

Friday, April 29, 2022

Homeless

We had a client leave the other day to go live on the streets. When his manager asked why, he said that he'd been homeless for several years before coming to TLC and missed the freedom of being homeless.

He said that on the streets he could panhandle enough change to get by.  He didn't have to get up at a certain time to go to work.  Nobody told him what to do. No one asked him for drug tests.  He could always find something to eat.  When his clothes got too smelly he could always steal some more from the Salvation Army, off a clothes line, or out of a donation box. Plus he could drink and do drugs whenever he chose.

I've thought about the homeless in the past. And I know many are mentally ill and most have drug or alcohol problems. But I'm sure few of them think logically. Because if they thought about it, they'd realize they sometimes have to put out a lot of effort to eat, clothe themselves, bathe, and find enough drugs and alcohol to stay high.

I really believe that if they expended the same energy on living a normal life they would likely become quite successful. In fact, I've read of more than one billionaire who was once homeless - then decided to change.

I know I'm being too logical and oversimplifying the problem. But in America there are so many jobs available and opportunities for success, that being homeless really is a choice - rather than something that's forced upon someone.

Click here to email John 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Rewards

Perhaps the biggest reward in life is when we can be a positive influence on others.

And I was able to witness that last Sunday when TLC celebrated its 30th anniversary.  My best guess was that at least 250 clients showed up to share in award presentations, barbeque, and desserts.  While this is an event we hold every five years, most attendees rated this one as the best of all of them.  There were actually clients who had been with us for 20 years.

While many in the community give our staff a lot of credit, the real credit goes to those who stick around and do the hard work that it takes to stay sober.  And this is especially true for those who have been addicted for many years.

For those with years of addictions it is a genuine cultural change to go into a program like ours and change their whole lives.  But our responsibility is to teach clients to live a so-called normal life.  Teach them that life has its ups and downs.  And that as long as we live we'll face challenges.

The reward comes when we see clients stay sober - and pass it on to others. 

Click here to email John

Saturday, April 23, 2022

A bit of History

Tomorrow TLC celebrates it's 30th anniversary.  Of course, the real anniversary occurred January 9 of this year.  But, it's always too chilly in January in Arizona to have a picnic or spend a lot of time outside.  So we normally put it off until sometime in April when the temperature moves up.

And what's different now than it was 30 years ago?  Well, of course our population is much larger that the day we opened.  On the day we opened, I was the only resident.  In fact for the first month I was the only resident because I was busy cleaning and painting the Robson house, preparing for the second resident.

But once we got the first few residents, things began to snowball.  To our surprise we had about 50 residents by the end of the year.  Within two years we had 150 residents.  And our population kept climbing monthly after that.  And today we have the ability to house around 900 clients.

One thing that makes our program stand out from others is that we have started several businesses.  And the reason we started was not about making money, it was more about saving money.  We ended up acquiring so many properties to house our clients that we had to do a lot of maintenance to keep the housing in decent shape.

Out of that need we ended up getting a general contractors' license.  And under that license we have an air conditioning and refrigeration license, and a roofing and remodeling license.  Plus we have a mechanic's shop, a labor group that provides workers for local businesses, a convenience store, and a State licensed treatment program. These businesses provide training for our clients plus generates income for our programs.

In addition, we've started a training program where our clients can become certified as air conditioning technicians, plumbers, electricians, apartment maintenance workers, behavioral health technicians, and carpenters.  We're quite excited about this aspect of our program.  Because not only are we helping people learn to live sober - we're also teaching them a trade so they can care for themselves and their families.  This investment in their lives will give them another reason to live sober.

Studies have shown that those with a legitimate trade or skill have a better chance of staying sober.

And as our mission is helping recovering addicts rebuild their lives; learning a marketable skill will give them another reason to stay sober.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Happy all the Time

Many addicts and alcoholics (and for that matter, most anyone) think they would be happy if they just had enough stuff, or everything they could imagine. Cell phones. Automobiles. The perfect apartment. A great wardrobe. The right job. The right mate. The list goes on and on.

And the media educates us all the time about those who finally succeed in obtaining all those things anyone could want. Yet they end up being drug addicts or alcoholics. Some kill themselves. Or end up in prison or a mental hospital. And they're seemingly never happy because they're living on the hedonic treadmill, never happy with the new thing they acquired. And then begin looking for something else to fill the desire for the new thing.  And they quickly learn that it didn't work either.

But, there/s a key to happiness and satisfaction in life.  And it dates back over 2000 years ago to the times of the Stoic philosophers, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca, and many others.  To sum up, their philosophy is pretty simple. In fact, I've read that the core idea for the Serenity Prayer has its roots in stoic philosophy.  

And the short form of the philosophy is deciding what you want from life.  If it's something you can obtain, then do it.  If it's something that's beyond your grasp, then accept that you can't have it and move on.  And it's really that simple.  If I can achieve my desires, then do so.  If I can't get what I want, then accept that.  There's no room for unhappiness once we accept that some things are beyond our reach.

It may sound too simple.  However, it won't cost anything, but a little bit of time to try it. And just think, you'll never be stressed - and you'll always find happiness.

Click here to email John

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Hurting those who Love Us

In my last blog I wrote about running into a former client whom I hadn't seen for a year or so.  When I saw him, I didn't recognize him because he'd deteriorated so much from his alcohol habit.

That blog inspired a lady to write me about her 50 year old son who's been living on the streets of a Midwestern city for many years. She writes me periodically whenever she reads a blog that reminds her of the son she treasures.  She's a sweet personality and I really feel the depth of her pain and love when she updates me about his current situation.  In her email to me she said that her son was also rapidly deteriorating.  He'd lost his bottom teeth, was wearing old clothes, and had an odor about him.

Her son was injured in an accident on the job some 20 years ago.  And from what I understand his life has been a mess every since.  According to his mom, he's been on the streets most of that time, including a couple of years when he lived on the streets of Washington D.C., attempting to speak to the President about the injury for which he hadn't been compensated.

Years ago, his mother had trouble dealing with the situation, as do most parents of alcoholics and addicts.  But this woman eventually took charge of her life and went into the community to find resources to help her cope.  From what I understand she's sought therapy and is also a practicing member of Alanon - an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I publish this blog because I want our clients to understand that their disease - whether drug or alcohol addiction - has a profound affect upon family and loved ones.  As we progress through our addictions we must be aware of the pain we cause those who are close to us.

Our disease doesn't only affect us; it has a profoundly negative affect upon those who raised us.

Click here to email John

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Power of Alcohol

Earlier this week I was walking on the sidewalk in front of my office when a man walking toward me greeted me by name and stopped and talked to me.  Kind of like we were old friends.

But for the life of me I didn't remember him or recognize his face.  We chatted for a few minutes about nothing in particular.  Since I still didn't recognize him, I finally asked his name.

I could tell that it angered him when I asked, because he told me his name and then abruptly walked off.  I could understand his anger because he'd been at TLC 15 years ago for quite a while, then left and returned a couple more times after relapsing.

I saw him last around a year ago.  At the time he was living on the streets, drinking heavily, and not interested in getting sober.  When I last saw him he didn't look too beat up or deteriorated. And I still could still recognize him.

But when I saw him this week I had no clue as to who he was.  He'd shrunk about three inches.  He was hunched over.  His voice had changed.  His face was weathered and drawn, like an unhealthy100 year old.

I was amazed at the change in his appearance and demeanor; and genuinely felt sorry for him. 

The important takeaway I got from this is the devastating power of alcohol to destroy our bodies and minds when we drink alcoholically.  While I haven't had the urge to drink in over 30 years, this encounter still reinforced my sobriety.

And made me realize that the best thing I've ever done is to get sober.

Click here to email John


Monday, April 11, 2022

Anniversary Picnic

On the 24th of this month TLC is having a picnic at Mesa park to celebrate its 30th anniversary.  

And in that 30 years hundreds of thousands of addicts have graduated from TLC's various programs and are living today as sober and contributing members of their communities. Actually the program opened its doors January 9, 1991 and every five years we have an anniversary celebration. We always have it later in the spring as January is a little chilly for an outside event.

So how do addicts celebrate an anniversary?  Well, what we've done in the past - and will do this year - is have a barbeque and a lot of food.  

We'll present awards, such as plaques and tee shirts, to the heads of different departments for their service to our community.  Many of those receiving awards have been with us ten or more years and have received awards at our past anniversary celebrations.  

These events always serve to boost morale and give recognition to those who donate their time to help others to get sober.

Click here to email John

Friday, April 8, 2022

Pain is Good

We've never had people apply to get into our program because their lives were going well. 

And, we have people of all descriptions show up.  Most have no money. No job. No insurance. Their family is done with them. The only person who cares even a little about them might be a parole or probation officer who's patiently waiting for them to screw up so they can put them back in jail or prison.

What brings them to our doors is the pain their addiction is inflicting upon them.  At first it was a love affair. They remember the warm sensation of that first drink. 

The confidence they felt after they had downed a couple of drinks. All of a sudden they were the life of the party. They could dance or sing. They could talk to girls. They were better looking and stronger.  And excellent conversationalists.

Or maybe alcohol wasn't their first experiences with substances.  Maybe their first high was cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines.  The first taste of this new friend was unforgettable, like their first climax. I remember after my first shot of heroin saying "I want to feel like this the rest of my life." And for the next 38 years I did everything I could to recapture that feeling. But then my new friend began to let me down.  I no longer had the thrill of that first encounter.  And soon I had a fulltime job trying to keep enough opiates in my system so I wouldn't be sick.

Eventually it was all about pain. I could never get enough drugs to feel normal for more than a few hours. It was only a few years later that I realized that the pain is what opens the door to recovery for us addicts and alcoholics. Even though we run from the pain at first - eventually it corners us and we start looking for help.

Eventually, after we're clean and sober a while, we recognize that pain was our friend.  Pain saved our lives.  That's why, when an addict is whining to me about all the bad things that happened to them and are feeling sorry for themselves, I congratulate them for experiencing the pain and doing something about changing their lives.

If we remember the pain that brought us to recovery we have a better chance of staying sober.

Click here to email John

 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Drunk Legislators?

I received a warning letter from the State of Arizona the other day saying that we needed to apply for a state license to operate a sober living home.  And after reading it, I started to wonder if the legislators who crafted Arizona's so-called sober housing statute might not be drinking or using drugs on the job.  

Just so you'll understand what I'm talking about, one of the requirements to get a license is that each of our houses must have a "good neighbor policy."  Now, for the life of me, I have no idea what that is.  Or how I would let the neighbors know that I'm a good neighbor.

Do I present them with a flyer that describes who we are and what we do?  Do I knock on the door of the house next door, and give them a flyer that describes that we're a group of recovering addicts and alcoholics who are trying to get clean and sober?  And let them know how we're going to behave?

Do I tell them we're not going to pee in their yard, play loud music, sell drugs to their kids, drive over 25 miles an hour past their house, or have a curfew for our resident?  I mean this list could go on-and-on I do believe.

I don't even know what a neighborhood is.  Is it the houses within one block?  Two blocks?  A mile?

This one requirement to get a license is one of several requirements that are equally laughable.

But the  reality is that this requirement, in fact the whole statute, is discriminatory on it's face. Are you aware of any other businesses in your community that have a "good neighbor" policy?  A bar?  A restaurant? A hospital?  A nursing home?  I've never heard of this kind of requirement.

Because of this bias against people who are trying to help themselves, our lawyers are busy drafting the legal paperwork to protect us from this egregious example of discrimination against handicapped people who are simply trying to better their lives.

The Fair Housing Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act were enacted to protect disabled people from discrimination.  

So, once again, we're going to be in court spending money that could be used to help addicts get clean and sober.  And believe me, we're in this battle for the long haul.

Click here to email John


Saturday, April 2, 2022

Choose your Mood

In working with addicts and alcoholics for over 30 years, I've discovered that one reason they relapse is they let their emotions and feelings control their lives.

If you're someone who's pushed around by your emotions when you're upset, this is for you. Whether you realize it or not, those uncomfortable feelings and emotions that seem to come from nowhere and give you the urge to stop your discomfort with drugs or alcohol can be controlled.  But it takes a little practice and work.

And here I can use myself as an example.  A few weeks ago TLC received a letter from the State of Arizona. The essence of the letter was that we needed to obtain a license for one of our houses or we would have to pay a $1,000 a day penalty until we complied.  Well, immediately a rush of anxiety came over me.

And the reason for that is that in 1998 we received a similar letter from the City of Mesa and spent five years in Federal Court until the matter was resolved by our lawyers.

However, this recent letter had me upset for a while.  However, I had a talk with myself and asked what was the worst thing that could happen?  And I decided that the best thing I could do was ask myself if there was anything I could do about the State's demands.  And that reminded me that we have an excellent attorney that we've employed for several years and that the State's letter should be forwarded to him.  Which I did.

And he got busy and sent paperwork to the State describing the action we would take if they pursued further discriminatory action against us.  As soon as the letter was sent I felt much better because I'd done everything I could in the moment.  I know that we're probably in for a long battle, but we've done the best we can in the situation.  And I didn't relapse or stay upset.

And you can do the same thing when life throws you a curve ball.  Ask yourself what you can do about the situation.  Then take action.  If there's nothing you can do, then accept that you're powerless and move on with your life.

And you'll live with little or no anxiety.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Discrimination?

After 30 years of operating one of the largest recovery programs in Arizona I still have a difficult time wrapping my brain around the state's attitude toward alcoholics and addicts.  And even more specifically, the attitude they have about those who spend their time, money, and lives helping substance abusers get clean and sober and rebuild their lives.

Within the past few years Arizona has created a statute that requires those who are licensed to house recovering substance abusers to have written policies and procedures that outline what kind of "good neighbor" policy they have.  In other words, they expect that addicts will behave so badly that they must present the neighbors a set of guidelines of how the residents of the house will act toward those who live around them.

The message they send to recovering people is that they are so outside the mainstream of society that they don't even know how to treat their neighbors or behave in normal society.  I wonder how a recovering person's self-esteem is impacted when they can't live in a neighborhood unless they tell their neighbors how they intend to behave outside their residence.  Discrimination anyone?

Have you heard of other businesses that are required to have a good neighbor policy?  How about the bar downtown that serves intoxicating beverages?  How about the convenience store that sells intoxicating beverages?  How about the new church that opened in your neighborhood?  How about the tire shop on the corner?  Why don't they have the same mandates that businesses that serve our most vulnerable citizens must adhere to?  Maybe discrimination?  Maybe the nice people don't want "those people" in their neighborhood.  You think?

Let's look at this from a different perspective. Whether you know it or not, substance abusers are a protected class because addiction is a disability that is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation Act. 

These Acts protect the handicapped and others against discrimination. Minorities are protected when they're seeking housing or obtaining a loan.  The elderly are protected when they seek access to a business and therefore must be offered handicapped parking and ramps for their wheelchairs or walkers. The list goes on and on.  And it's actually pretty good reading if you're in a protected class.

It's a sad day in our world when laws have to be written to protect those that might be exploited or denied help by a biased or prejudiced majority. The Acts were written to protect us.

And you can believe that TLC's lawyers are busy working on lawsuits to protect its clients against discrimination.


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Why go to Meetings?

I was on my way out the front door this morning, heading for my regular Sunday AA meeting on East Main Street in Mesa.

"Where are you going?" asked one of my relatives, who was visiting from out of state.

"To an AA meeting," I replied.

"Do you still go to those things?" she asked.  "You've been sober for over 30 years, haven't you?"

"Thirty-one years," I replied. "But I still go to meetings."

Then I went on to explain that no matter how long one has been sober they're always an alcoholic. And that attending meetings on a regular basis is one of the things that reinforces their recovery.

Besides that, it's a chance to meet old friends in recovery - or maybe make some new ones.

And I don't care how many years I've been sober, I often hear a story about someone who's relapsed and what the consequences were.  I've never heard an alcoholic say that their lives got better when they relapsed.

Instead it's always a tale of loss of family, jobs, illness, arrests or some other mess that that first drink led them to.  And I'm done with that.

Every time I attend a meeting I leave with a good feeling.  Either I heard someone's story of how AA has changed their life.  Or I see old friends I haven't encountered in a while.

Click here to email John



Thursday, March 24, 2022

Hypocrisy at it's Best

We recently received a letter from the State that says we need a license to operate a recovery home that we've been residing in for over 25 years.  For years we've had a city license, but now the state wants a piece of the pie.  They want to do this by charging $100 a bed for every six months  - plus a hefty application fee even for non-profit programs.

Now in my mind this is the the most flagrant example of government hypocrisy that I've witnessed in all the years TLC has been doing business in Arizona. 

I say this because for nearly 30 years TLC has housed hundreds of thousands of homeless addicts and alcoholics at zero cost to any part of of the government, state, county, or city.  Our program accepts anyone who asks for help with their addiction - with the exception of sex offenders.

We provide peer counseling, professional counseling, meals, jobs, dental and eye care, and many other services at no cost to the clients.  We teach them job skills and trades and help them locate employment in the free market.  We teach them living skills that help wean them from their addictions.

In the media we hear talk all the time that the Southern border of our state is the gateway for those who smuggle all kinds of drugs - Fentanyl in particular, into our state.  In fact, in Pima County the leading cause of death in the 18-45 age group is now Fentanyl overdoses.  

But, does the state really care about this pandemic of opioids?  No. Not if you look at their record of creating draconian regulations that are tailored specifically for those who are giving their all to assist recovering - mostly homeless - addicts and alcoholics.

Those in power only cry about overdoses when they are attending the funerals and burials of their own children.

Click here to email John

Monday, March 21, 2022

Acceptance is the Key?

 Acceptance, for me, is one of the cornerstones of the 12-step programs. But what makes it so?  How does one word carry such power?

Personally, I came to realize the power of acceptance in my first year of recovery.  And when I recognized that power I immediately felt free, as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders.

It came about when I heard another speaker at a meeting say that his life only began to change when he admitted he was completely powerless of over alcohol and drugs.  Now I had known for a long time that I was an alcoholic.  But for some reason I fostered the idea that even though I was an alcoholic I could stop any time I wanted to.  I told myself that I simply didn't want to; my life was fine the way it was.  I just wanted others to leave me alone and I'd be okay.

But that was a lie of denial.  Sure, I could quit for a few days.  But, I'd soon be right back at it, down at the liquor store or market stealing another bottle of wine or six-pack of beer.

When I did a personal inventory I had to cross examine myself and ask if that was the behavior of person who had self-control?  If I had power over my drinking would I risk going to jail simply to get a drink?

And, of course you know the answer.  And once I accepted that answer I made the first tentative step toward recovery because I knew that the answer was within the 12-steps.  And, I just had to follow the directions and I'd be okay.

Acceptance is not only a word that works in AA.  It's a word that is useful in every area of our lives.  When we face an issue for which we have no solution, acceptance sometimes help us at least come to terms with whatever we're facing.

Click here to email John


Friday, March 18, 2022

How to Meditate

In the Alcoholics Anonymous Big book we find the phrase, "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God..."

Now most of us - not all of us for sure - have been exposed to prayer at different stages of our lives.  But few of us have had formal training in meditation, how it works, or how to do it.  I was one of those.

Before I arrived in recovery, I had been exposed over the years to the prayer practices of different religions.  But that was because my parents were divorced and each had their own choice of religion.

After being in AA for a while and not learning anything about meditation, I ended up finding a meditation teacher and took an 11-month course in mindfulness meditation.  I eventually became a certified instructor.  I now practice meditation for 30 minutes a day when I first arise in the morning. And I find it quite beneficial.

For those who are interested, it goes like this:

Sit upright on a comfortable cushion, chair, or - as I do - the head of the bed.

You can cross your legs if you wish, though it's not necessary.  Gently close your eyes and focus your mind on your breathing.

Follow your breath in and out, focusing upon it as you do.  As you proceed you'll likely find thoughts come into your consciousness.  Observe the thoughts without judgement, then let them pass.  Continue focusing upon the breath.  The thoughts will come drifting back.  Again, observe them without judgement, watching them as you might watch clouds passing through the sky, or leaves drifting on a stream.

Don't become frustrated at your inability to focus.  All meditators report this as a challenge.  And more important, remember that there's no good or bad meditation - there's just meditation.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Goodbye to a Friend

TLC is losing a long-time resident this week.  He's suffering from, among other ailments, stage four liver cancer and some symptoms of dementia.  He also has several other physical issues.  His medical providers don't give him much time.

(I don't use his name out of respect for his privacy and that of his family.)

Yet, in spite of his impending passing, there's a bright side to this story.

And you might ask what could possibly be positive about this man's departure from TLC?  And ultimately, from life itself.

But in my mind, one positive thing is that he'll be able to spend his last days with his father and other family members who are driving from the Midwest to take him home.  While he never talked to me about his family, I'm certain that if he's like most of us, his addictions created issues that at the very least strained their relationship with him. Yet here they are, driving thousands of miles so he can spend his last days with loved ones.

Another positive thing this man leaves behind is the example he showed by not running away.  Some times when addicts are terminally ill they revert to their old ways and do what they can to kill their physical and emotional pain.  But this man never did that.  He stuck around.  He didn't whine or complain.  He accepted his illness with a quiet dignity.  And did his best to show up to work every day and complete his duties.  He is a good example for those of us he leaving behind.

God speed, my friend. We love you.

Click here to email John

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Measuring Success

In the past 30 years we've had thousands of addicts and alcoholics come through our self-supported program - a program that anyone can enter, even if they're without money or insurance.

Since starting January 9, 1992 with just five beds, we've grown to where we can accommodate up to 900 clients if necessary.  However, since the pandemic began we've been hovering at around 600 clients.

I've had many outsiders and non-addicts ask me over the years how many of our graduates are still clean and sober.  And I always have to tell them that I don't know; we don't keep track of clients after they leave.

And why not?  Well, if one thinks about it, it would be a costly endeavor to track hundreds of thousands of graduates to see if they're currently living clean and sober. Think of the money it would require. The office space.  The payroll.  

I believe that a more important use of our time and resources is to do our best to help the addicts who are with us now.  And also to conduct outreach to those who are currently using and don't know about the program we offer.  To accomplish that we have application forms on our website, plus we have two to three telemarketers who work full time contacting hospitals and detoxification facilities to let them know how to apply to TLC and be accepted.

Aside from that outreach, we also have relationships with the Department of Corrections, and other facets of he justice system who regularly refer clients to us.

One of the realities though, is that probably half of those who come to us aren't really serious about changing their lives, especially the younger ones.  Many of them come here because a family member wants them to get sober, or maybe a parole or probation officer has referred them after they drop a dirty drug test.  They figure that if they last 90 days with us, mom and dad will welcome them back home.

We measure success by what we do each day.  The only way we grade addicts who come through here is if they follow our guidelines and stay sober.  It's quite easy to tell who's serious about changing their lives and who's not just by the enthusiasm they put into their program.  

Those whose addiction had caused them much life pain seemed to do best of all.  They're the ones who are tired of chasing drugs and alcohol each day. 

When they get the message we feel we've succeeded.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

"Fair Share"

If you want to learn patience try to open any kind of facility to help addicts of any kind to get clean and sober.  And I know what I'm talking about because I've been dealing with this issue for over 30 years. 

One of the most common statements you hear from a government official when applying for a permit is "We already have more than our fair share of social service agencies in this town (or city)"

I'm dealing with the municipal government in a certain city and running into some pushback.  I won't say what city because I have to continue to deal with them.  But one of the bureaucrats made the statement above, about having our "fair share."

This statement always amazes me because the leading cause of death in the U.S., at least a few months ago, was Fentanyl overdoses.  There were more overdose deaths than from all other causes combined.  That includes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, auto accidents and so forth.

Yet a minor city bureaucrat will have the nerve to say something about "fair share," like give addicts a lot of opportunities to get sober isn't a good idea. Perhaps this person should look into the eyes of the families of dead addicts and make a sophomoric statement like that.

It may require that our organization employ the services of a competent lawyer or two before we're able to carry out our mission of helping addicts change their lives.

We've had to sue government agencies before. And because we spent five years in Federal Court over a decade ago, there are a lot of addicts clean and sober today who might have died without our efforts.

Click here to email John

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Covid conspiracy?

When Covid-9 first hit a couple of years ago I got the shots as soon as they were available.  And the nice thing is that because I'm in my 80s, I went right to the front of the line.  And when the booster became available I jumped right in line for it.

Eventually I caught the variant version, Omicron.  But the reality was that it was nothing, kind of like a medium-strength cold.

But the reason I bring this up today, is because more than one person asked me why I was getting the vaccine.  Didn't I know that it was a government plot? That the bureaucracy wanted to invade my privacy and control my life?

Of course, I didn't pay any attention to them, even though they were mostly family members.  Even though I'm a  conservative, I don't believe in a lot of the far right crap about government plots or conspiracies.  In fact, I'm not sure any segment of our government is organized enough to plan and carry out the day-to-day business of government, let alone pull off a conspiracy that involves mind-control. If you don't believe me, look at what's going on in Washington these days.

My real belief is that I'm not important enough that the Government wants anything from me - other than to be sure I pay my taxes.  I believe that there's enough in life to be concerned about without feeding into someone's paranoia about black helicopters and government schemes to turn us all into robots.

If I simply stay sober each day and help others do the same, that's enough for me to be concerned about.  My ego is not big enough for me to think that someone's conspiring to control my life.

Click here to email John

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Homeless?

When I first came to Mesa, Arizona over 30 years ago I rarely noticed homeless people with shopping carts or improvised camping gear.  In Phoenix, yes.  But not many outside of there.

Maybe it was just me, but I could stop at a convenience store and it wasn't often that I saw a panhandler out front.  Or, maybe a homeless person camping out back with a large inventory of what looked like junk  in a shopping cart. But then that was in the early 1980's.

Now I understand that it's not against the law to be poor.  That question has actually been adjudicated in the higher courts in various jurisdictions, with mixed outcomes.  For one thing, it's difficult for police to have to be responsible to keep homeless people off the streets, considering the many more serious crimes they much deal with on their shifts.

And I know that a lot of smart people have tried to come up with solutions.  But we can see the effects of their efforts in the downtown areas of our communities.  Not much luck.

I don't feel sorry for, or look down on the homeless.  Behind every homeless person there's a sad or tragic tale.  No one grows up with the goal of living a hard life on the streets.

On the other hand I believe that we live in a world of abundance and opportunity.  And if the homeless just make a small amount of effort they can locate resources to help them get back into the mainstream of life.

I once read a story in the old Life magazine, which was doing a story about a billionaire who lived in Michigan.  As they were researching his early life they discovered that at one time there was a homeless alcoholic who had the same name as the billionaire. The bum was always drunk and slept on bus benches and in parks.  During subsequent research the reporters asked the billionaire if he knew about the homeless man who shared his name.  

"That was me," he replied.

"What happened? asked a reporter.

"I got tired of living like that.  So I changed, he replied."

I believe that any of us can do the same thing - change.  We just need to make the decision.

Click here to email John

Monday, February 28, 2022

Following Suggestions

When I first got sober in January of 1991, I began following the suggestions that were given to me in AA meetings.

One suggestion was that I get a sponsor and I had a bit of a problem with that.  Why, I thought, did I need another person to teach me how to read a book or take an inventory?  But, I decided to get one anyway.  After all, it was my best thinking that had turned me into an alcoholic and addict so maybe someone else's experiences could help change my thinking.

So I went through two of them before I found one that I felt like I could communicate with.  The reason I got rid of the first one was because he came off like he thought he was a psychiatrist.  Plus he would never tell me how long he'd been sober.

When I found the second one we were a perfect fit.  He was a retired probation officer and he gave his opinion and never minced words.  For example, I once asked him how come I was always arguing with my wife.  He told me that he couldn't really give me any advice about that because he and his wife had a perfect relationship; he lived in Mesa and she lived in Prescott.  That way they never argued.  He was down to earth like that.

He also taught me how to volunteer and help homeless alcoholics get sober.  He set an example by volunteering at soup kitchens.  And he also gave money to alcoholics who approached him outside of convenience stores.  When I asked him why he did that, because they were just going to get drunk with the money he told me that was okay.  He said they might get drunk enough to decide to quit, that maybe someday they would get enough.

My point today is to get a sponsor; they might help save your life.

Click here to email John

Friday, February 25, 2022

Nothing New

TLC opened its doors January 9, 1992 at 132 South Robson, in Mesa, Arizona..  That was a little over thirty years ago.

And the reason I bring this up is because of something I read about our program the other day on a Google comment page.  

The guy who left the comment said something about everyone "is drunk" there.  About the "terrible food."  And "cockroaches."  He had more to say, but you get the drift.  Obviously, this was a former client who had been discharged from the program because he couldn't comply with the guidelines.  

Years ago it used to irritate me when I would read negative comments on the internet or hear them elsewhere.  Then I began to realize that normally when someone leaves a negative comment it has everything to do with them.  And nothing to do with us and the way we manage our program.

And the people that write slander like this are admitting that they were unable to comply with the simple rules that all of our clients live by.

We are one of the largest programs in Arizona, able to house around 850 residents.  Anyone can enter our program, whether they have money or not.  We allow those who are without funds to come into the program if they are willing to follow our guidelines and show motivation to change their lives.  There are very few programs that allow addicts to enter without insurance or money - which is probably why we have such a large pool of clients.

Those who complete the 90 day program have a good chance of living a sober life - actually we guarantee it - if they follow our simple guidelines and participate in the program.

To learn more about TLC either go to our website or call 480-833-0143 to learn how to enter.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

3000 Blogs

I happened to look at my blog counter today and realized that with my last blog I've completed 3000 postings.

It was while on vacation - in Mission Bay, San Diego in the summer of 2010 - that I posted the first blog.  And for many years I posted one each day.  

At first, I started doing a daily blog because I thought it would give our website a more personal touch.  And it has had that effect.

There were a few other reasons why I started.   One was to help acquaint readers with our website and program.  People would hopefully read the blog and get a better understanding of what we do here at TLC; and how, and why we do it.  And another reason was to force myself to post on a regular basis.  

For many years, both in and out of prison, I worked as a journalist and I wanted a commitment that would keep me writing on a regular basis.  I looked at it as another way to have to exercise my brain.  And, it has worked.  While I posted every day for the first five years, I eventually switched to posting every third day.  I think that it was getting more and more difficult to come up with a new topic each day.

While I do my best to keep to the topic of recovery, I sometimes wander off into other areas that I think might be of interest to our readers.

How long will I continue to do this?  I'm not sure.  I know that someday I'll likely take a long vacation in Mexico - or somewhere in that direction - and maybe take a week or even a month off.  Really, I don't want to look that far ahead because my rule today is to live in this moment.

Click here to email John

Friday, February 18, 2022

Dreams

Last night I awakened with a start. I'd been in the midst of a pretty boring dream about being in my car in a parking lot, backing up.  I recall making sure to look in my rear view mirrors to be certain the way was clear.  And it was.  At least I must have thought it was, because I kept backing.  Then all of a sudden I smacked into the front of a car behind me and I awoke and sat up.

As I sat on the edge of my bed I began having a dialogue with myself about what a strange dream I'd had. And then I realized why had I'd had it.

On the 7th of this month, around 11 days ago, on a Monday, I was passing through an intersection less than a mile from my home with my daughter as a passenger.  As I passed through the intersection another driver ran the red light and plowed into my driver's side door at 40-50 miles per hour.

The crash was explosive.  All of our airbags deployed and I felt like I was being squeezed in a giant fist into a tiny ball.  I remember thinking to myself that I was about to die.

Both my daughter and I were taken to the hospital.  She was released after a few hours and I spent two nights because I had a broken sternum and related injuries. Both of us are still healing.

But, back to the dream.  I knew that it must have occurred because of the accident, kind of like PTSD.  So, I devised a plan to help me absorb and accept the memory of that event.  What I'm going to do is take a route to work and home each day that requires me to pass that intersection.  And every morning and afternoon I'll make a turn on that corner and see what memories come up, if any.

I've heard that exposure to bad memories can help us accept them until they have no more effect upon us when they do come up. Because we come to accept them and absorb them as the accidents they were. 

In any case, I'm already a more cautious driver.

Click here to email John