Friday, December 30, 2022

New Year's Coming

So, do you have big plans for 2023?  Are you going to start working out?  Lose weight?  Go to school?  Or are you pretty much okay with who you are? 

There aren't really any right answers for questions like these.  If you are good with your life, great.  If you're not okay with your life, that's okay also.  After all, when you were born you were issued something like 4,000+ weeks of life to spend pretty much as you choose if you live an average lifespan of 78 years.  And, whatever you decide to do with those 4,000+ weeks is pretty much up to you.  As soon as you start living independently anyway.

Time plays a unique part in most of our lives, at least when we're sober.  And I think it's unique because whatever we do with our time, once we use it we can never do much else with it.  Except maybe reflect upon how we spent it.  In any event, whatever we do with our time we're never going to get it back.

I'd like to suggest that to become more rewarded and satisfied with our lives that maybe we take a moment from time-to-time and reflect upon what we're doing with our 4,000+ weeks.  Because when we start living within this mindset we might make more intelligent choices with how we spend our time.

Often we hear the question, "Wow, where did the time go?"  Sometimes it comes from our mouths, sometimes the mouths of others.  But it's the sort of existential question we should ask ourselves once in a while so that we can be fully aware that we have a certain amount  of time to use.

In the end we ultimately are responsible for the use of our time.  Because if we don't use it with awareness, then we only can look to ourselves as the responsible parties.

Have a useful and productive New Year.   And use those 4,000 weeks wisely.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Divine Intervention?

I was raised all of my life among religious people of various denominations.  When I was a young child I was raised as a Catholic and went through all of the rituals of the Catholic church.  While living with my father, who disappeared with me and my three year brother when I was five years old, I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian.  It wasn't that my dad was a Christian, it was because the church was conveniently located across the road from the farm my father had moved us to. Then, after my mother kidnapped us and moved us back to California, I found myself back in the Catholic church.  And later a Catholic high school.  All kinds of confusing dogma for a youngster in his formative years.

So I really don't know what franchise to believe in.  I have a hard time picturing a God living somewhere above us blessing one set of humans over another.  Yet, each different franchise will fight about what version of belief or faith one should have.

One says follow Allah.  Another Jesus.  Another Joseph Smith.  Bhudda.  I mean the choices are endless, yet people of different faiths will die - or kill you - for their beliefs.   So, what to believe?

I don't really know.  But when I step from my porch and look at the stars at night I know that all the stars in the heavens didn't happen by accident.  I believe there's a supernatural plan to our universe, regardless of how we characterize and package our beliefs.  I myself have fallen away from organized religion because it doesn't seem to deliver what is promised.  Yet there are incidences in my life that happen that can only be explained by divine influence - if you will.

This comes up because the other day I was on the phone with a friend in an Eastern state and was telling her about my plans to attend a conference in a Central American country.  My plan was to invest in real estate or some other business venture in that country.  She didn't say much about my plan and said she'd be in touch later.  And sure enough she sent a text with the name and phone number of a friend of hers that she wanted me to talk to.

Before I could call her friend, her friend called me.  And to make a long blog shorter, her friend vehemently cautioned me against stepping one foot into that country.  And said that I shouldn't ever contact that group again because they were criminals who'd been convicted of various scams and frauds.  And I was given some links to news articles about the group that backed up everything her friend told me.

So I bring this up today because I believe this is nothing but divine intervention in one form or another.  I mean, what are the odds that a woman I talk to a couple times a year would know someone who had the kind of information I was given?  And a friend who would contact me within a week or so before I was planning to buy plane tickets and reserve my place at the conference?

Things like this don't happen by coincidence.

Click here to email John

Saturday, December 24, 2022

A different World

Thirty-two years on Christmas Eve I was living in an entirely different world.  I was homeless.  My bedroom was a stolen car.  I had a heroin habit that cost over $100 a day.  I drank alcohol whenever I could steal some.  There were warrants for my arrest.  I was at the end of a long drug run.  My life was going nowhere and I wasn't sure whether I was going to live or die.  And the strange thing is that I didn't much care about where I was at in life, not really,

Yet, against all odds, three weeks after that Christmas Eve, my life took a sudden turn and I was on the path to recovery.  Exactly what led me to get sober I'm not sure.  I know that I wasn't okay with the way I was living on New Year's Eve of 1991. I found myself having one-sided conversations with myself about doing something different with my life.  If I didn't change I was going to wind up in jail, prison, a mental institution or a cemetary.

One day, in the second week of January, 1991, I found myself calling places where I could detox from the various substances I was using.  And, I finally found a place in Mesa, Arizona, that had an open bed even though I had no money or insurance.  January 13, 1991 I entered that facility and never looked back.

After spending 11 days going through the detox process, I found a halfway house that would accept me without funds.  I'd planned to spend 30 days there, then find work and a place to live.  However, I lived there for a year while I got my life in order,

When I left the halfway house I moved into a beat-up old triplex, which I converted into a halfway house of my own.  My plan was get enough space to house 50 people and open my own recovery program.  I worked a full time job while I rehabilitated that tri-plex.  I soon had so many clients that I had  to started working at the halfway house fulltime.  Within 18 months I had 150 residents and was seeking space for more.

Before I go on here for too long I want to say that I never expected the success that TLC has had over the past 30 years.  I had no grand plan, other than to work at helping others to get sober - just like people had so generously helped change my life.

I have been blessed beyond my dreams, while living in the world of recovery.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

"Your Mother died 15 minutes ago"

At 4:15 pm, Christmas Eve of 1994, those words came from my telephone.  On the other end of the line, sounding a long-distance away, was a nurse at Mesa Lutheran Hospital.

The nurse explained in a soft voice that my mother had experienced a pulmonary embolism, which killed her in less than a minute.  She explained that it was a clot that affected the lungs, blocking blood and oxygen circulation.

Everything after that was a blur.  Through my tears and grief I heard her say that if I came to the hospital in around an hour I could visit her.  I said I'd be there.  After that I called other family members to let them know.

I write of her death during this time because the Christmas season has never been the same since she passed.  I always thought of it as a joyous season.  But somehow, since her passing, it's different.

I think one of the reasons it's so is because the last time I saw her she had a discharge plan which would have had her released the next day.  The staff had said nothing to indicate it was premature to release her.

Even though it's been 26 years, her departure is still fresh in my mind and heart - and probably always will be.  It may be the shock of her sudden death or it may simply be that I lost a life-long friend who had tried to do so much to help me change my life.

I know she'd be happy to see how things turned out.

Click here to email John

Sunday, December 18, 2022


"The quality of obstinately doing what one wants in spite of the wishes or orders of others."  Definition  of self-will found in Oxford Dictionary.

This morning at a 12-Step meeting the topic of self-will came up.  It's a term we hear quite frequently at 12-Step meetings because it is one of the primary character defects that we substance-abusers deal with during our runs of addiction.  And, often self-wIll is the trigger that sets us off.  So, it was especially important to the newcomer who brought the topic up for this morning's discussion.  He was looking for a solution to his own issues with self-will.

Most of the times I've run into  self-will issues is when dealing with an authority figure.  When a teenager, of course  it was back in the  50's in conflicts with parents who didn't want me using alcohol.  And, later it was that they didn't want me to use the range of other drugs that I used such as marijuana, pills, opiates and other serious drugs.

But my strong self-will allowed me to drive right over what they wanted and use whatever I liked and hope they didn't catch me.  Besides, I thought they were being hypocrites because they drank almost daily, even though they didn't get into the kind of problems I did when I drank.  They were more or less what today is called "social drinkers." Though by today's definitions they would be considered alcoholics, being that they consumed three to five drinks a day.  But that's a story for another time.

Circling back to self-will, I believe that it is closely tied to my ego.  And nothing more.  I, for a long time,  thought I knew everything, that I was always right no matter what the argument.  But one day, during my older years, I began to realize that most of the things I felt strongly about really didn't mean a hill of beans.  

Who cared who was wrong or right?  Life teaches us strong lessons.  And if I make a wrong money decision, I'll quickly learn about it because I'll either profit or go broke.  If I pick the wrong mate I'll learn about that also, sometimes very soon.

But if people are telling me I use too much dope or alcohol and I go with my self-will I'll also soon learn about it because I'll pay a heavy price.  I'll either end up in jail, a mental hospital, or be paying a divorce attorney.  Many people tried to give me good advice about my lifestyle and chemical intake. But, because I was a know-it-all, I followed the path of self-will.

Now the good thing about self-will is that if  we're wrong we learn about it fairly soon.  I've always said that education is expensive, no matter where we get it.  We can  get it in college at some expense.  Or we can get it in jail after we break the law.  Either way, we pay for what  we learn.

Today, when I get into self-will I either speak to my sponsor.  Or I find someone who has more experience than I do.  Whatever choice I make, I try to keep my ego and self-will out of the equation.  

Life somehow works better that way.

Click here to email John

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Are Addicts Sensitive?

A while back I hired a non-addict, a so-called "normie," to work as my office assistant.   I've never had anyone working in my office so it's been interesting to see the reaction of a non-addict to the behavior of those who are addicts.

For example, the management team made a decision to dispose or donate some outdated workout equipment that had been donated to us earlier in the year. For one thing it was much too bulky for the space we had for it. And the other thing, is that that there was conflict when someone was trying to study their recovery literature at the other end of the room while someone was using the machines and making a lot of clanging noise.

Our decision created a minor uproar among the exercisers before they had a chance to think the situation through. After all, we're here to work on recovery first.  Exercise can be part of the picture, but anything that interferes with learning about recovery is not a priority.

My assistant was kind of surprised about the intense emotion our decision brought among some of the clients and managers.  I explained to her that one of our jobs at TLC is to help clients - and managers - understand that life is full of changes as long as we're breathing.  And part of staying sober is accepting that things might be different tomorrow.  Just because we don't like change doesn't mean we need to get drunk or put a needle in our arm.  Or even throw a tantrum.

Those in true recovery understand that life is sometimes a rollercoaster of disappointments and that if we accept that idea we can get through most any difficulty.

My assistant will be much more knowledgeable about addicts once she moves on.

Click here to email John

Monday, December 12, 2022

Christmas Tree Sale

Each year, between Thanksgiving and New Years, TLC sells Christmas trees and wreaths at different locations in the Valley.

This year we're selling at our regular location at 37th Avenue and Bethany Home Road in Phoenix and also at a new location at Riverview in Mesa, across from Peter Piper Pizza.  We're grateful to the owners for allowing us to use their properties for our fundraising.

100% of the proceeds from the sales go to support homeless addicts and alcoholics who are working hard to change their lives and get back into the mainstream of the community.

To date we'ves sold over 1400 trees, about 600 short of what we sold altogether during last year's sale.  We fully expect to match last year's goal of 2000 trees - or hopefully do even better.

We are grateful for everyone's support and hope you'll stop by for your beautiful Oregon tree.

Thank you,

Click here to email John

Friday, December 9, 2022

Learning from Death

In my last blog I wrote of the passing of Fabian, who operated a shoe repair shop North of our downtown Mesa facility on Macdonald Street in downtown Mesa.

When that blog was published there was some question about whether Fabian died of natural causes or of foul play.  And it was a question, because a year or so ago he'd suffered a stroke that nearly took his life.  And he'd spent some time with his family in Mexico while he recovered.  We were happy when he returned to work, though I think he worked a more limited schedule.

Today two local news stations came by and asked if I'd mind answering a few questions for a news story they were  doing about his murder.  And I agreed to an interview, though I wasn't able to contribute much.

When they asked how I felt when I heard of his death I was able to tell how terrible I felt about the news of his passing,  I was able to tell about how well-regarded he was by his neighbors in the immediate business community,

I told of his kindness to those of us who knew him, about his humility and sense of humor.  I spoke of his usual good mood and spirit.  I mentioned that he was the kind of person who would have helped anyone, had they simply asked.  I felt that he died for no purpose, that he'd have given anyone anything had they simply asked.

He left a legacy of of kindness and friendliness to others; something that we could all aspire to in these times.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

RIP Fabian

 My first day back in the office and we have a tragedy in the neighborhood.

Two doors to the North of TLC Treatment Clinic is a small shoe repair shop operated by a Latino gentleman named Fabian.  He's been there for many years and has several steady clients.  After all, there aren't many shoe repair shops in our area.  It seems that people would rather throw the old ones away or into a donation bin and buy new ones, rather than repair the old ones.  In any event, Fabian had steady customers who kept him quite busy. 

But Fabian was more than a shoe repair man.  He was a friend to all of his neighboring merchants.  He had a hearty greeting for us as he arrived at the office in the morning.  I saw him quite often in the back parking lot as he arrived to work, and as he headed home for the day.  He had several family members and at times they would pick him up from work.  We would always give each other a wave whenever we encountered one another,

A few years ago we had a scare when he suffered a stroke and went home to Mexico to recover.  He was gone for several months then returned to work once he recovered.  We were happy to see him.

Today, when we saw the police units in front of his shop we assumed that he'd suffered another stroke. But when we saw the police tape cordoning off the area a rumor started that his passing might have been something more than natural-that he may have been murdered. That bothered us all because he was one of the sweetest and kindest people we knew.  I'm sure the police will resolve his death, but it's hard to fathom why someone would take the life of someone who was so kind to everyone.

May he rest in peace...

Click here to email John

Sunday, December 4, 2022

On Vacation

I'm not doing a blog today because I'm on vacation and simply decided to take the day off.  I'll resume in a few days after I return tomorrow.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Enjoying the Days

Because of having to be at home for business and legal issues this is my first vacation in a while.  And it is very pleasant to get away from the constraints of working and following the same routine all of the time.

I very seldom get into a routine of just totally relaxing and not having to be in a particular place at a certain time.  It's healing and relaxing.

One of the reasons I'm able to get away is that I've surrounded myself with good people who have the same goals I have.  At least the primary goals of staying sober and out of trouble with the law.  Some of these people have been with us for years and it feels good to be able to depend upon them. 

While I was checking into my hotel I was reminded of why I work with alcoholics and addicts.  A drunk in front of us was impatiently waiting in line for the desk clerk to move faster checking us in.  I heard him tell his wife he needed a beer and he was going to go look for one.  I had been there many times before and knew there was a bar and restaurant about two hundred feet across the lobby.  I directed him to it and he quickly headed that way for some relief.

When I saw his behavior it reminded of the many years that I couldn't do without alcohol or drugs.  And how I embarrassed the people with me by my behavior.  

Because of what I do today those times are far behind me, something for which I'm eternally grateful.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 28, 2022

On Vacation

Well, this morning I'm boarding a flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a week's vacation.  

Puerto Vallarta is one of my favorite places in the world to vacation.  The weather is nice and balmy.  The food is good.  The people are friendly and the city is safe.  Part of the safety is because there's a marine base right at the north side of the city.  It's not uncommon to see military patrols on the streets.

Also, there are all of the amenities of home.  There are shopping malls nearby that offer everything we need just in case we left something behind.

This trip we'll be staying at a resort in Nuevo Vallarta, which is about 10 miles North of the airport.

Someone told me how lucky I was to be able to take a vacation.  And while that is true, there's more to it than that.  If I hadn't gotten sober 31 years ago, I probably  wouldn't even be around to take a vacation.  But once I got sober, blessings kept coming into my life.

I've had the same job for 30 years.  I'm able to help other addicts change their lives.  I have the same home I've lived in for over 20 years.  I lease a nice car.  I have fairly  good health.  There's really not much in life that I want or need,

And the only reason I have this existence is that I decided to live a sober life.

Click here to email John

Friday, November 25, 2022

Accepting Change

Until I got sober 30 years ago I always had a problem with accepting change.  Even though I didn't realize it, change is all we can count on each day of our lives.  Yet if something changed in my life, no matter what it was, it was enough to set me off.

Losing a job.  A flat tire.  Arguing with my wife.  No matter what it was, it was an excuse for me to pick up the bottle or the spoon.  And I'd be off and running again.

But when I got sober 31 plus years ago all of that changed.  It didn't change immediately.  But it began to change when I incorporated the "one day at a time" philosophy of the 12-step programs into my life.  When I began to look at life from a 24-hour perspective it changed things for me.l  Instead of being on the hunt 24 hours a day for drugs or alcohol, I was living my life in manageable slices.

And when I started living within those little slices of time my focus narrowed and I was able to see what was right in front of me.  And not always looking into the future or lamenting the past.  I was able to focus on the moment and notice that life was full of little surprises, changes, and twists and turns.  And whether or not I liked those changes, they were part of reality, of the tapestry of my existence. 

And when I began looking at life's changes from that perspective things became much smoother.  When I didn't like whatever change came into my life I was able to talk to myself and accept that part of existence is welcoming change because maybe hidden in that change was a new opportunity or challenge.

It used to be that we all got excited when we lost an employee, or a vehicle broke down.  But I came to learn that we always found another person to work for us.  And somehow we'd find a way to finance a vehicle.  Things always worked out for us, one way or the other.

Today I look at life as being perfect just as it is - it's as it's supposed to be.  And I should simply be happy that I'm here to experience it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022


One who truly is in recovery never has a problem finding things for which to be grateful.  Until I was beat down enough  to want to stop using, I always was unhappy about something.  Once I got sober things changed for me very quickly.  And with seemingly little effort on my part.

The first time I noticed that I was deeply grateful for what was going on in my life was about 30 years ago as I was riding to work on an old used bicycle that someone had sold me for about $20.  It was a perfect sunny day, not to hot, nor too cold.  I suddenly became aware of a sense of satisfaction about my life.  I began to examine it because I hadn't felt that sense of well-being since I'd quit drugs and alcohol.  And I wanted to know more about it and learn to maintain it.

I examined my emotions and realized that because I'd quit using I no longer lived in fear.  I didn't have to worry about where I was going to get my next fix because I no longer needed heroin to survive.  I didn't need to think about where to get the next drink because I didn't drink any more.  I didn't have to look the other way when the police cruised by because I had no warrants for my arrest.

Because I'd found  a halfway house that would accept me without money when I first left detox, I had a place to live with others who were trying to change their lives.  I'd also found a sponsor who patiently took me through the steps of recovery.  

All was just as it was supposed to be at that stage of my life.  I had a job.  A place to live.  Supportive people around me who were facing the same challenges as I was.  I really needed nothing more than I had at that moment.  That was mid-1991.

Thirty-one years later, a few days before Thanksgiving 1992, I'm about as happy as I was that first day I noticed my level of gratitude while riding that bike.  Oh, I have a lot more stuff.  And financial security.  Homes. Cars.  More clothing and so on.  But material things are superficial and fleeting.  They come and go.

The gratitude I have today is the same as I had when I first noticed that I no longer live with fear and that I have a deep satisfaction in my life.

And I believe that as long as I remain grateful and continue my sobriety life will always be okay.

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Vultures Show Up

It seems that every family has them.  At least every family of any size.  I'm writing of those who - when a family member dies - immediately go into drama mode and create chaos and and anger among those who simply want to quietly grieve a lost family member.

Here I'm referring to the passing of my youngest daughter's mother, Mona, of a heart attack four days ago.  She had a large family.  And like many large families, hers has its share of addicts, alcoholics, losers, ex-cons and other fringe characters.  And before her body was even cool, they descended upon what she'd left behind like a flock of starving vultures.

Last year my daughter had helped arrange for the purchase of a fixer-upper house so that her mother would have a place to live during her last days.  My son-in-law, who has an extensive construction background, made it comfortable and livable.  He put in a new bathroom and kitchen.  Repaired plumbing. Re-painted the interior and exterior.  Repaired the fences and made it livable.  Mona loved the place.

However, as soon as she passed, a few family members immediately began using it for a crash-pad and dope-house.  So when they were informed that the house was going to be sold they were highly irate.  They accused my daughter and son-in-law of "being only about the money," even though they'd invested nothing in the house nor had they made any contributions toward Mona having a better life.

This is another case of family members having a sense of entitlement, even though they hadn't made the smallest contribution to the woman's life.  None.

It's sad that there are some people in the world who contribute nothing, yet have the idea that someone else should take care of them.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Mona's Passing

Early yesterday morning Mona, the mother of my youngest daughter, Veronica, passed away in an Apache Junction hospital of heart failure and other health issues.  She'd been in declining health for a number of years and her death was not a surprise.

She and I met when I came to Arizona in the early 1980s and entered a substance abuse treatment program in Globe, Arizona, where she worked as a counselor. 

After I left the treatment program she quit working there and we later became good friends.  Eventually we began living together in Superior, Arizona, where she was raised and where her family had lived for many years.

Our daughter Veronica was born after we were together a while, but we eventually parted ways.  However, it wasn't an angry separation.  She and I simply had different views of the world and drifted apart.

The one thing I always liked about her is that she had a sense of humor.  Even during our worst disagreements - which weren't many - we could make each laugh and defuse the situation.

Mona leaves behind many family members, including her children, Veronica, Theresa, Krystel, Arturo, Raymond, and Robert.  She also leaves many nephews, nieces, grandchildren, siblings, friends and others.

May she rest in peace

Click here to email John 


Sunday, November 13, 2022


TLC accepts anyone into its program who asks for help.  It doesn't make any difference if they have money.  Or clothing.  TLC accepts anyone who asks for help as long as they aren't a sex-offender or arsonist.  They can have a criminal record.  They can be broke.  They can be jobless or homeless.  Have no clothing or car or insurance. 

The only  thing they must have to enter the program is the desire to change their lives.  And in most cases the real change we're looking for is that they decide to get sober and educate - with our help - themselves about their drug habit.

While this must seem an easy chore, changing from a drug lifestyle to a sober lifestyle it is not always the easiest thing to do.  Depending upon how long they've been homeless, it can be quite difficult.  What we're asking is that they change their culture completely.  No more panhandling. Regularly bathing and changing clothing.  Seeking employment.  Attending 12-step meetings.  Becoming part of our sober community.  Yet, we're only successful as far as helping them change probably half the time.  

Because when they get frustrated it's easy for them to pick up  their bedroll and hit the road.  No more responsibilities.  No more stress.  Maybe a cold beer.  And a hot pipe of meth.  They're back in their element with no one to answer to but themselves.

Is there more that we could do?  I don't know.  I think a lot of it has to do with how deeply entrenched in their lifestyle they are - their perceived freedom of being homeless and irresponsible.

They most important thing I've learned about being sober is that we aren't motivated to change until we experience enough pain.  And I guess that's what I'd hope for the homeless.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 10, 2022


Even though it's none of my business, I hate to see people become ill because they don't take care of themselves.

This came up for me this evening when I learned that someone I've known for a number of years ended up in the emergency room because he couldn't afford a medicine he must take each day to keep him alive.  I'm not going to mention the medicine or the person to protect his anonymity.

However, I'm disappointed that he didn't talk to me about his lack of funds, because I would have helped him get the medication he needs to stay healthy. 

One thing about men, is that we hate to go to the doctor.  And, in many cases we also don't exercise or eat right.  All I can figure is that it's a macho thing; we don't want to appear weak or to depend on others for our well-being.

One thing I decided 31 years ago - when I first got sober - was that I was going to stay healthy enough to enjoy the years I have left. Therefore, I have no problem visiting doctors on a regular schedule and taking the medications I'm prescribed.  I didn't get sober to sit on my butt and rot away into decrepitude.

Simply getting sober isn't enough for me.  I like to feel that I'm contributing to the world and to those around me.  When I think of living sober I like to think of myself as an example to others.  Sobriety is much more attractive when it looks like we're having fun and enjoying success.

I encourage anyone who needs medical care of any kind to talk to their house advisor about what resources are available.  I promise that we'll come up with the medical care you need.  

We have one staff member who works five days a week contacting doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals to help our peers who are in need of healthcare.  And he's very good at getting dental care, glasses, and other medical assistance for those in need.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 7, 2022

Peer Recovery

When new clients arrive at TLC they are usually confused.  They don't know why they have to go through an orientation period.  They don't understand the guidelines.  All of a sudden, they're in an environment of a group of strangers who are all attempting to achieve sobriety just as they are.

If it's their first time attempting to live sober, the program can be confusing.  They don't understand that everything that occurs at TLC is about teaching them to live without drugs or alcohol.  Each facet of the program has some connection to the process of living in recovery.

Finding employment is related to recovery.  After all, how else is one going pay a service fee of $140.00 a week without a job of some kind?  The majority of substance abusers don't know how to work because they come to us from prison.  Or from living homeless on the streets.  Or staying on Mom's sofa.

So learning to show up for work is something they must learn.  We teach them how to dress and provide them with the clothing they need for work, if necessary.  We teach them that they must put forth effort each hour they're on the job site if they want to be a good employee.

Another aspect of the program is the sobriety education they receive.  They attend different types of 12-Step meetings the first 90 days they're in the program.  They also attend two in-house meetings with their peers, both related to recovery.

After a week or two of them observing what their peers are doing to stay sober, they begin to get the idea.  And if they simply do what their peers are doing, follow their lead, they'll be on the road to recovery.

And that's the beauty of a peer-drive program.  If we follow the example of our sober peers we too will begin accumulating sober days, weeks, and months.  If we really want the blessings of sobriety we can have them simply by mimicking our sober peers.

Click here the email John

Friday, November 4, 2022

Addicts helping Addicts

From the very beginning TLC's recovery program has been about addicts helping addicts.  

On the first page of our website is a line at the top of the page which says: "Addicts helping Addicts since 1992,"  which really sums up our mission in just a few words.  Therefore, we have always operated as a peer-run organization with only a few professionals on staff, such as accountants, bookkeepers, etc.  

Decisions about the policies of TLC, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, were made by the residents themselves.  In the first months, the houses were pretty much unstructured.  But those who were serious about their recovery met with corporate staff and asked to have more structure to aid in their recovery.

So as time passed peers put curfews in place.  House meetings were scheduled twice a week to deal with house issues. Things such as repairs that needed to be made, house chore schedules, food menus, outside meeting requirements - anything that could affect their sobriety or daily living was up for discussion.

Although we advertise a 90-day program, there really is no upper limit of how long residents may stay as long as they adhere to program guidelines.  Many who come to us are homeless or have no family ties.  Those clients sometimes stay for years and we become a surrogate family for many of them.  We have peers who have been with us for over 20 years, happily pursuing their recovery.  And most them were never able to stay clean and sober in any other environment.

We have always been evolving.  And in the weeks and months ahead you'll see more changes in our website, in our program structure, changes that emphasize our focus on adhering to the idea that peers helping each other is at the heart of our mission.  

For example, our houses will now be called Transitional Housing, as opposed to "Sober Houses," "Halfway Houses," or "Sober Living Houses."  Names have power, and we believe that using "Transitional" when referring to our housing will more closely reflect the spirit of our peer-driven organization.

We're always trying to improve the program and will continue to work toward that goal.  We believe there's great benefit to our community when peers help each other to a better life.

Click here to  email John

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Enjoying Recovery

I got word today from an out-of-state TLC graduate that a former resident who lived here in Arizona had passed away at 65 years.  It seemed kind of like an early death to me, because those who reach that age can have a life expectancy of 75 or older, depending upon how they care for themselves.

I know that none of us actually know how long we'll be here.  But those of us who get sober and take care of ourselves hope to enjoy our recovery for as many years as possible.  I'm one of that group.  Even though I'm approaching my mid-eighties I spend time each week exercising, eating right, getting rest, meditating, helping others and enjoying whatever time I have left on this planet. Keeping busy and moving is my credo.

When I got sober I made a commitment to live as wholesome a life as possible - something I've done for for over 31 years of recovery.

However, sometimes when I talk to my peers in recovery many of them aren't dedicated to caring for themselves.  When they're sick I might suggest to them that they see a doctor.  And I've actually had more than one of them tell me that the reason they don't see a doctor is because they don't want any "bad news."  My response is that someday we all get "bad news" whether we want it or not. 

Most of us got sober because we were tired of living in pain.  None of got sober to be unhealthy or unfit and feeling poorly all the time.  I believe that many of us did a lot of damage to ourselves while we were pursuing our addictions and that hopefully we can repair some of that damage by living a healthy life.

I hope that all of us who are sober learn how to savor the remainder of our life and enjoy it to the fullest.  I'm not judging anyone, but this man's untimely passing reminded me that I should make the most of each day - which is why I got sober.

Click here to email John

Saturday, October 29, 2022

War on Drugs?

 For most of my life - at least since I reached the age of reason - I've heard politicians talking about the "War on drugs."  Every time someone new runs for office they say they have a "plan" to eliminate illicit drugs from our society.  Yet, the other day I read that more than a million Fentanyl pills were confiscated in our state capitol, Phoenix.  Supposedly it was a new record.

So what is going on with the war on drugs?  How come drug addiction has been growing since the 1940s?  Why are 60 to 70 percent of our prison beds occupied by those convicted of committing drug related crimes?

Well, for sure part of the reason is politics.  I mean only a small percentage of the population is concerned about the drug issue.  And those are most likely the people who have family members suffering from addictions of some kind - whether it be alcohol or drugs.  Yet, even though addiction and alcoholism are classified as diseases, our government's answer generally comes down on the side of putting substance abusers in jail. But, is there another solution?

Well, yes.  A few countries have taken bold steps and decriminalized drugs for personal use.  Among these are Switzerland and Portugal.  And they have seen positive results such as a lowering of AIDs cases and the population of their jails getting lower.  And Vancouver, British Columbia, has a clinic where addicts can legally obtain heroin under conditions similar to Methadone clinics that operate in the United States.

Another curious thing about this country is that most states have very stringent laws that hamper entrepreneurs that operate recovery centers or homes.  Rather than support these efforts, many states have prohibitive regulations that make it difficult or nearly impossible for addicts to get help. Thus, they end up either homeless or in jail.  And continue to use drugs.

The last report I heard on drug deaths here in Arizona, was that five people a day die from opiate overdoses. Other states report similar statistics.

I believe the only solution is some kind of decriminalization coupled with substance abuse treatment programs that are affordable to all.

Until steps are taken, the plague of addiction will continue on its historic upward trend.

Click here to email John


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Power greater than Ourself

A longtime acquaintance relapsed the other day, much to my surprise.  He was a guy who sometimes hit four meetings on a weekend day.  He had more than 10 years clean and sober.  He chaired meetings.  He served on committees. He sponsored others.  He was the exemplary A.A. role model when it came to service and doing the right thing.  I probably don't know anyone who who did as much service work as he did.  

Yet, his employer gave him a drug test and he was dirty for a couple of drugs.  He had alcohol in his car.  It shouldn't have surprised me, yet it did because of his seeming dedication to the 12-Step way of life.

I'm not judging this guy.  I'm only talking about him here because it illustrates the power of substances in the lives of alcoholics and addicts.

Because this guy was steeped in the program I try to imagine what led him to open up his life to something that he had to know would take him down.  I know he had a sponsor because I'd met him a few times.  What prevented him from picking up the phone and calling him?  He also has many substance abusers around him on his job.  Why couldn't he pull one of them aside and tell them he felt like using?

These are things that I have trouble understanding.  But it shouldn't, because in the literature it says "...cunning, baffling, and powerful..." in reference to our susceptibility to substances. When we have flaws or cracks in our program we may succumb to using again even though we have all the knowledge and support in the world.  But it's scary to seem someone so seemingly dedicated to recovery walk almost blindly back to using again.  

Probably there is no explanation other than that "the insanity returns" and we fall once more.  In any event, it's a lesson for me and my own recovery.  When I see someone relapse who's been clean for a long time I realize that the enemy is still out there waiting.

Click here to email John

Sunday, October 23, 2022

In touch with Ourselves

 I believe the most important person we can be in touch with, is ourselves.  

Some might disagree and say "No, it's my family.  Or, my children. Or my employer.

But the reason being in touch with ourselves is so important is that if we are, all these other communications will take care of themselves.

If I'm in a crappy mood and not aware of it, I may rub that mood all over the other people in my life.  We must look at ourselves as the ones who are primarily responsible for all of our moods.  And I say that because if we're aware of where we're at emotionally, we'll behave better when we're dealing with others in our lives.

I was reminded of this the other day when I read about a horrible road rage incident.  Two families were on the freeway and reportedly got into an argument over one accidentally cutting the other one off.  Reports are that the argument escalated to the point where they began shooting pistols at each others automobiles.  However, instead of hitting the other driver, each of the shooters shot a daughter of the other driver.  The last reports were that the children were alive and their fathers were in jail for attempted murder.

Now, could this disagreement on the freeway have been handled differently?  The answer is obviously yes.

 Either one of them could have asked themselves, "Is getting enraged over this other driver really worth risking my family's lives' and my life?"

But the problem is that they were not aware.  They didn't pause and evaluate the situation. If they had, they would have slowed down or pulled off the freeway until they were away from the other driver. The reality is that they likely would never see the other driver again and in a few days they would probably have forgotten all about it.  

This is an important lesson for those of us in recovery.  Learning to be patient with others and not making a big deal out anything.  We can't control others and we're lucky if we can control ourselves.  If we can't, we might find ourselves in a fit of anger heading into a liquor store or dope house before we've given ourselves time to think the issue through.

Click here to email John

Thursday, October 20, 2022

100% Guarantee

 It might sound brash or arrogant, but TLC guarantees 100% that you can get sober in our program. That is if you do exactly what we ask you to do.

Never again will you cause yourself to be be homeless. Never again will you end up in prison because you committed a crime to support your drug habit.  You will no longer lose your wife and children because you drink or use other substances.  You will enjoy a new life that you never imagined.

But the key to what I've promised here is the part that reads "...if you do exactly what we ask you to do..."  If you have the ability and self-discipline to follow a few simple rules you'll be able to live a clean and sober life.

Most of us have heard someone trying to explain why they relapsed.  And it's never about anything they did.  It was always their stupid boss, their mean girlfriend, the economy, etc.  It was never their fault that they picked up a bag of dope or a bottle from the liquor store.  They just couldn't help themselves.

But here at TLC we expose clients to the tools they need to change their lives. We have them go to 12-step meetings for ninety days.  We teach them anger management.  We offer them intensive outpatient treatment for 90 days and longer. 

We allow them to work outside the program after they're with us a while.  If they can't find employment on their own we find them jobs through our Labor Group.  Or we offer them employment working at TLC in various positions.

In other words, if a client relapses it's not because he doesn't have the tools. Because we taught him how to stay sober through our various programs.  He/she relapsed because they didn't use what they were taught during their time with us.

Click here to email John

Monday, October 17, 2022

Recovery gave me Freedom

I recall as though it were today when I decided to put down the bottle and syringes and get sober.  I was sitting in a park wondering what I was going to do with my life.  I'd owned businesses at one time.  I'd owned homes.  I'd been married. I'd traveled and sometimes enjoyed life.

But I - sooner or later - drank enough - and used enough drugs - that I lost everything.  And this isn't something I did once.  I repeated this pattern over and over for nearly 40 years.  I'd start a business.  Enjoy success, then somehow talk myself into getting high. I was always trying to fill that empty space inside me and the only way I could do dit was to drown myself in alcohol and heroin and whatever else was available.  And this was my pattern into my early fifties.

But sitting in that park, I ended up looking at my options.  I'd be sent back to prison.  Go to a mental hospital.  Or go to a detox and get sober. I was in so much pain that I chose the latter.  I found a free detox, stayed there for 11 days, then found a halfway house that would accept me with no money. It was one of the wiser things I'd done in my life.

When I went to that halfway house I had only the clothes I was wearing.  No Money.  No car.  No job.  And no phone numbers of people who would talk to me.  But yet getting sober was like having a light turned on in a dark room.  I found some entry level work.  I bought a used bicycle.  And things kept getting better from there.  Eventually I decided to start another business, a halfway house.

Even though I had no investors or money, I was able find someone who'd give me the credit to buy three beat up old houses.  Once more I was on a path to success.

And I attribute every bit of my success to that decision made in that park over 31 years ago.  Getting sober and staying sober brought me to where I am today - living a peaceful life where I look forward every day to living free of the bondage of substances,

Click here to email John

Friday, October 14, 2022

The Solution

I've read in Eastern literature that being in this moment is healthy for our emotional stability.  Is it because when we're in this moment we're fully at the center of our  personal universe?  We're alive in this second that our creator has granted us?

When we're in this small moment life is manageable. The problems we have are present now, in bite-sized moments of time. That's something we can handle. That's why the 12-Step programs emphasize staying sober a day at a time.

But the problem with me - and many other addicts - is that we often look outside of ourselves for solutions.  We blame other people and situations beyond our control when things go sideways.  But regardless of what happens - most all of our answers and solutions lie within.  And, you may ask what is this magic solution that lies within?  How does it work?  How do I apply it in my life?  After all, many  of us have read all kinds of self-help books and we still have no tranquility or satisfaction,  But it's simple.

Acceptance.  It will bring us emotional stability.  If there's no solution to what's going on in our life at this moment, then we accept it.  And that acceptance will vaporize the problem.  Maybe the problem will remain unsolved.  Maybe it won't. But because we've accepted it, we have our solution.

Many can't believe it's that simple.  But try it; it's free.  Plus, we can always go back to not accepting whatever it is and see how that feels.  This is a wonderful tool you can use for a better life.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Hypnosis Works

About 10 years ago I became interested in hypnosis.  I wanted to learn how to hypnotize myself.  And then after I learned, I wanted to use it on TLC clients.  So, I did.  I took a course that I completed in about a year and began practicing on a few close friends and family members.

When I finally felt confident enough I started working with clients who wanted to quit smoking.  I learned how to interview those who were serious because I needed to separate them from those who thought it was an easy, magical way to quit the deadly habit.  If they thought it was something easy that could be accomplished through hypnosis alone I would try to educate them before I would waste the time.  I'd make sure they were highly motivated to kick the habit and understood that it would require effort on their part.  And I'd love it when someone would ask me for help and be on fire for change. 

To date I'd estimate that I've helped at least 30 clients change into healthy non-smokers.  And you may wonder why I focus on this group.  And it's because I had at least 10 aunts, uncles, cousins and other close family members who developed lung diseases that killed them prematurely.  It was painful to see the suffering they went through prior to their deaths. 

I do sessions with those who have various psychological issues with which they are grappling.  Things like self-confidence, self-esteem, self-image and so on. Hypnosis works best when I can get a specific idea of what the clients need, then we work toward that goal.

Helping clients through hypnosis is one of many ways we help them grow and improve their lives.

Click here to email John

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Why get Sober?

I was talking to a newcomer to our program last week and he asked a serious question.  What he asked, essentially, was why should he even get sober? To go through the effort?

So I asked him why he came in.  He said his probation officer told him that it was either our program or time in the County Jail.

"And jail didn't appeal to you? I asked him.

"This was my only choice," he replied.

"Not really," I told him. "We have a lot of people who would rather be locked up rather than put in the effort here to change their lives."

He reflected for a while, as if examining his options.

Then I told him some of my own story.  I, for many years, decided I'd rather be in jail than in a rehab somewhere trying to change my life. But then one day I had a long conversation with myself while I was in a park sipping a bottle of rotgut wine. l knew that I was either going to drink myself to death, or end up in a mental hospital or return again to prison. So I went to a detox and my life changed,

When I left that detox I spent a year in a halfway house.  It's too long of a story to tell here, but when I left that halfway house I purchased a building and started a program of my own.  I knew that working around addicts and alcoholics would help me stay sober and it has - for 31 years now.  But many more blessings came about.

I was back in the good graces of my family after three or four years.  I began to make investments in real estate, and became financially free.  I wasn't looking over my shoulder any longer, wondering if the police were going to pull me over. Yes, life still had its problems, but I found that being sober made them manageable.

The biggest blessing, though, is that I can communicate with my children and grandchildren.  I can have a relationship with them.  And happiness, for me, is good relationships with others.  And most of all - with my family.

After I talked with him for a while I think he's going to stick around and try to make the changes he needs to live clean and sober.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, October 5, 2022


A prospective client was asking me questions about our program, trying to decide if he was going to come into the program.

One of the things that was holding him up was that he had a dog and didn't want to get rid of it, which he would have to do because of our policy of not allowing clients to bring pets into the program.  Our reasoning for that rule is that some clients don't like or else fear pets and that they also can bring bugs and dirt into the house.  Another problem he had was that he owned a vehicle and wouldn't be able to pay for it if he had to be in counseling all day.

I agreed with him that these things could be a problem if he wanted to get sober with us.  Then I asked him what was the important thing; his life and health?  Or his possessions?  After all, he could always purchase another vehicle or find another pet. I know people care about their pets and the material things they've accumulated - but they must get their priorities in order when it comes to the important things; like changing their lives.

He reflected a moment on what I said and left, telling me that he needed to talk to his family and make a decision.  As he left, I thought there might be a 50-50 chance he'd return.

I was pleased to see him applying for entry  the next day when I returned to work.  Now he's taken the first step by making a wise decision about his future.

Sunday, October 2, 2022


I have many people who have been following this blog for many years. Some are former clients, some are friends, and some people just looking for answers to questions that pop up in all of our lives.

One fellow touched on the topic of invasive thoughts that that pop into his mind without rhyme or reason at different times.  He was wondering about them.  Would they be with him with him all of his life?  What if he developed dementia and spent the rest of his life wrestling with the sins of his past?  Trapped in a bubble of thought with memories of something terrible that he'd done when he was drinking, using drugs, or just living on the edge?

For me these are the kinds of questions that don't have answers.  We all carry in our brain a huge reservoir of memories, a neural record that probably means little, yet stays with us from the time it was imprinted there.  I think that much of our dream life is our subconscious attempting to sort out this huge record of our past, trying to make sense of it all.

My own answer, now that I'm getting older, is to do my best to live in this moment.  Because the reality is that all we have is the here and now.  Yet many of us - especially those of us in recovery - spend a lot of of our moments in the past or else speculating about a future that we're not promised.

But my experience is that nothing in the past can be changed.  As to the future, no one knows what the Universe has in store for us.

Click here to email John

Thursday, September 29, 2022

New Detox

TLC opened it's intensive outpatient treatment program in January of 2012.  It seems almost like yesterday that we took in our first client.  Since that time we've had hundreds of clients graduate from the program and have developed a system where clients who are serious about treatment have the opportunity to get Arizona insurance and enroll in the program.

The program works like a well-oiled machine.  All of the billing and records are computerized and the staff has increased by about 50%.  We have an experienced staff, many of whom have been with us for years.

Today we took the next step to growing the program and looked at a property in Phoenix that is already zoned C-2, which means we can detoxify addicts and alcoholics at that location, which eliminates one of the hurdles we would have to go through if it were zoned differently.

If we succeed in leasing or buying this property it would nearly  double the size of our program and would provide a wider range of services to our clients.

While the building is more than I've ever dreamed of I know that somehow we'll be able to find financing to purchase it.  I believe that everything happens at the right time and this is the time for us to open a detox and help even more addicts and alcoholics.

We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Click here to email John

Monday, September 26, 2022


At one time TLC had the worst reputation of any recovery program in Arizona.

While it was a reputation that wasn't deserved, it was nonetheless the reputation that it had to live with. Among the things that former clients complained about was that they had to get up early in the morning and go to work. They had to go to 90 meetings in 90 days during their first three months in the program. They had to pay a service fee that was quite reasonable; in fact in the early days it was only $85 a week and included housing and three meals a day.

One of the things that clients didn't like about it is that the buildings were old and needed a lot of maintenance, attention that they received and are still getting today. In fact, TLC's 50 some houses are constantly being maintained on a rotating basis. The roofing and remodeling crew is continually going through the properties, putting in new showers, repainting rooms, replacing bed frames and mattresses, and working on the landscaping. When a program has over 500 clients, there's a lot of wear and tear on the property and it continually needs to be maintained and refurbished.

TLC accepts a lot of parolees and clients coming from jail who are sent there by the state, or probation officers. When a prisoner goes up for release they must have an address to give their prison case manager.  And that's where we come in because we accept anyone as long as they're willing to follow our guidelines. And these guidelines are very simple. They must work and pay for housing, keep their quarters clean, attend outside 12-step meetings and educational groups inside the house.

In other words, they must do their best to live within the norms of society and be a positive influence in the community as much as they possibly can. Now I can understand why we get a bad reputation because a lot of people do not like to be directed in any part of their life. They don't like to be told what to do. The reason they ended up in prison is because they were risk takers and rebels and criminals – along with being drug addicts,  or alcoholics or both. It is probably unrealistic to expect every person who comes through the door to easily adapt to a life of discipline, self-care, and growth into a law-abiding citizen.

But one of the things about TLC that differs from other programs is that our program was designed - and has been managed - by addicts and alcoholics since the beginning. The core rules were written by a small group of addicts and alcoholics who had a serious desire to stay sober. They were people who were tired of walking the big yard burning up their days telling war stories about drug deals they were in, crimes they'd committed outside, and what big shots they were.

The only people who wanted to come out of prison and come to TLC were those who were serious about wanting to stay sober. In fact, people who have been sent back to prison because they couldn't adapt at TLC would warn people that they shouldn't be paroled here – only unless they were serious about staying sober. People who are not serious about staying clean and sober don't belong in TLC. There are plenty of small halfway houses around town where where a resident can do pretty much as he pleases as long as long as he pays his rent.

Today we have a much better reputation. We have several small businesses, including a treatment program, an air conditioning company, a labor group, a roofing and remodeling company, convenience stores, and other businesses that help support TLC's mission. We are State licensed contractors. In 30 years we've had almost 3/4 of a million clients come through the program; though not all of them are sober we've had a large impact on many people's lives and will continue to do so in spite of any naysayers.

Click here to email John

Friday, September 23, 2022

Practicing Patience

Today I had a chance to practice what I preach. And what I preach is patience, compassion, and tolerance. And today I had all three of those attributes tested over and over, it seemed.

It started out like this: I'd been talking to our commercial real estate agent about leasing office space in a large building next door to our treatment program. It was a perfect space, 4000 square feet. The dark brown carpet was in great shape, and clean. The entire space was protected with a sprinkler system. It had plenty of parking for the purpose we planned to use it: an extension of the group rooms for our treatment program.

In my mind's eye, I was already signing on the dotted line for whatever kind of lease the agent wanted. From the way he started, it seemed like he was pretty flexible. He said we could lease it month-to-month or by the year. His company was even willing to make modifications to the building so it would satisfy our needs. But then, all of a sudden, for some reason I didn't understand, he told me that he would need to talk to other people on his staff. That his company had hopes of leasing the entire 60,000 feet to one company. Whereas, if he leased us the 4000 feet that we'd hoped for it could create problems for his company if they were dealing with future prospects that might want the whole building to themselves.

I have to admit that I was disappointed about not being able to obtain the lease. However, downtown Mesa is surrounded with other buildings and surely we would be able to find something else. And the one message I try to give everyone in our program is that patience truly is a virtue, because when we are patient it keeps the stress down.

Then the next thing that tested my patience was a real estate deal that fell through. It wasn't necessarily anyone's fault, but for some reason I had high expectations that I would be picking up the check today. I felt disappointment come over me when that didn't happen. I quickly reminded myself that probably 50% of the deals that I try to put together don't work for one reason or the other and to move on to the next person who might be interested in the property.

Then the last thing that happened was for me probably the worst one of all – a computer glitch because of a virus that got into my laptop. I had just spent much of last week having my patience tested by having both of my computers crash. Then today someone who works for me sent me a link that had a virus associated with it and all of my accounting software crashed. Talk about being pissed off for a minute. But instead of being angry for more than a moment, I mapped out a solution that I'm going to put into place this weekend and rebuild the program.

One of the things I've learned in the 31 years I've been sober is the problem with getting angry is that I just have to get happy again. So I might as well take a shortcut and stay happy. After all, I got sober to be peaceful and happy – not angry and frustrated. And I do my best stay that way.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Sometimes we don't See

I have a daughter who's one of the people in my life I really look up to.  I also have three others I love very much and respect - but for different reasons.

The subject of this blog is a military veteran, the only one of my children who made it to the service.  This week she went on a retreat for wounded veterans.  It's a five day get-together in the Arizona mountains where the participants can share their stories and dig into the experiences they went through that are related in some way to their military service.

According to my daughter, women veterans are not treated as equal to male veterans.  And part of this retreat is to have them do different exercises that allow them to examine aspects of themselves that they struggle to suppress because people don't view female veterans as on par with males.  Even though they faced the same bullets and the same danger of death and disability, somehow they don't receive the same regard as the men.

Even though my daughter seems as normal as the next person, the military pays her 100% disability for the PTSD - along with other lesser injuries - she'll live with for the rest of her life.  So generally, she keeps the vulnerable parts of who she is shut down - buried in her subconscious.  She rarely volunteers that she helped fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the rockscape of Afghanistan's frontier with Pakistan.  She doesn't engage in war stories - even with her dad.

But I'm happy she went on this retreat.  Because she needs to know that those she served with also experience the same shadowy memories as she has since returning to us.

Click here to email John

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Counting Blessings

 I just heard a story that made me grateful again.

A friend of mine called about a friend of his who's dying of cancer and has less than two years to live.

He said that, under the circumstances his friend's taking it quite well.  He's a medical professional, was athletic until recently, and is also dealing with financial issues.  He has a wife and children and one of his main concerns is caring for them once he passes.  Very understandable that this would be important to him.

I don't know the fellow, other than what my friend shares.  But when I hear stories such as this it makes me thankful for the life I have.  My health, while not perfect, is good enough that I can function and take care of myself.  At 83 I'm able to function physically, emotionally and have no problems making it to the office six days a week.  Not because I have to.  But because I want to.  I enjoy life and only work because I have to, not from necessity.

One of the most important missions for me is helping others stay clean and sober and to build enriching lives.  I have little patience for those who feel sorry for themselves because it serves no purpose.  I was one who felt self-pity at different periods of my life.  I spent 15 years incarcerated plus over a year in a mental hospital.  I looked in the mirror and felt like I was a nobody who'd get nowhere in life.  But one  day I changed my perspective and my life totally changed.  I decided I could do what I wanted in life and things have been different ever since.

I feel genuine compassion for this fellow with the cancer.  Yet I know that someday we'll all join those who cross over and that we should enjoy each moment because that's what we have - this moment right now.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Life Choices

Behind our offices are three large concrete block enclosures.  They are well constructed and have large green metal doors on them.  When the doors are closed, the enclosures are tall enough that passersby can't see what's inside.

But when they're open one can see large trash dumpsters that serve the surrounding businesses, including the ones occupied by TLC.

I know that whoever designed the block enclosures probably never envisioned what a mess or eyesore they would become.  Because they have become a magnet for landscapers who don't want to take their trimmings to the dump, along with others who don't want to make the journey with their rubbish.

But the worst thing is that the dumpsters attract the homeless who sometimes climb inside the dumpsters in hopes of finding aluminum cans, bottles, or other treasures they can exchange for a few coins at a salvage yard. And periodically, maybe once a month, one can observe a couple slip inside because they can't afford a motel.

To me, the saddest of all are those who forage through the trash in hopes finding something of value that they can trade for drugs, food, or other goods.  In my mind they could make a lot more money at a minimum-wage job if only they put forth the effort. Other than being unwashed and unkempt, they appear fairly healthy and energetic.

However, the ones that I've spoken with every so often tell me they enjoy the homeless lifestyle.  They have no bills, no responsibilities for anyone but themselves.  They enjoy the freedom of doing whatever they want whenever they want. Most of them will tell you that they first thing they do when they are released from jail or the hospital is find a nice shopping cart and start all over again.

It's difficult for me to understand this lifestyle.  Yet, I'm grateful to live in a country where people can choose to live as they please.

Click here to email John 

Sunday, September 11, 2022


One of the things we can truly count on in life is that changes happen. But if we know that, when changes do come we can learn to expect and accept them.

I sometimes feel like a damn fool. Because I become very disappointed when someone lies to me on multiple occasions. At first, I couldn't figure out what was going on. But I had an intuitive feeling that I wasn't being told the truth or being treated honestly. Had the person just come to me and told me what was going on I probably would be forgiving and been able to move on. Not with happiness and joy. But still, able to move on with my life with a modicum of understanding.

But when but when someone flat lies to my face it's a sign of total disrespect. It's kind of like the person thinks I'm a damn fool and I'm not smart enough to figure out that something's going wrong even though I might not know exactly what.

The universe, God, or whatever higher power one believes in designed the world on the basis that things will change. That's why flowers grow, so that we can see their beauty as they change before our eyes. That's why we have the ability to grow food; as the plants change and create nourishment that will feed us and keep us strong and healthy.  Without change we'd all perish and wither.

So when someone lies to us it's not necessarily a bad thing. This person who lied to me professes to believe in God, goes to church on Sundays and sometimes during the week. But the lies she tells will turn back on her and maybe teach her how to tell the truth and make her into the honest person she professes to be when she walks into her place of worship. She might learn that lies only prove that she doesn't trust the person that she's lying to and that she's smarter than he is and that he won't figure anything out.

But there's a purpose for everything. And sometimes the fact that we get caught lying makes us smarter and makes us realize we were not quite as clever as we think we are.

Changes as I know them come in all forms: physical, spiritual, and emotional. And anyone of them can be painful – but for me probably the worst ones are the emotional changes that I go through. But those too can be beneficial. Because if I accept those changes I become stronger and more emotionally resilient.

Click here to email John


Thursday, September 8, 2022

Slow Suicide

Since the first of the year we've had several clients die from the effects of smoking. COPD. Emphysema. Pneumonia. Lung cancer. Not being a doctor, I can't say that all of these deaths were caused from smoking. But statistics show that using tobacco on a regular basis causes many of these.

But there probably aren't too many habits in the world that do as much damage as smoking tobacco. When I was a kid, some 50 years ago nearly half the people in the United States smoked cigarettes or some other form of tobacco. Today the percentage is a lot lower; reports are from the government are that only about 17% of people smoke cigarettes.

I myself smoked at one time and I remember the exact day I quit. It was July 25, 1984, at 9 AM, at 110 N. Broad Street, in Globe, Arizona. And the reason that I remember it so well is because it was one of the most difficult things that I'd done in my life. I have withdrawn from heroin at least 15 times during my addiction, but quitting cigarettes was more difficult than any withdrawal from heroin or other kinds of opiates.

On top of that I had seven aunts and uncles who smoked. And they all died from the effects of smoking, either emphysema, COPD, or lung cancer. And I had a cousin who died when she was 35 from emphysema because she was such a heavy smoker. All in all, smoking had a heavier impact on my life than nearly anything else in terms of losing loved ones and family members.

And I write this today because someone I cared very much about spent much of this year attempting to quit smoking. She went to treatment, and lasted nearly over four months before she relapsed and went back to smoking. It was the longest period she'd been without cigarettes in her many decades of smoking.

I'd been in a many-year relationship with her but her smoking relapse made me terminate it. I knew it was hopeless and I knew that she didn't have the strength to quit and never would.  Oh, I'm sure she had rationalizations about why she "slipped."  But when a person is sober for over four months I don't believe their is any such thing as a "slip."  It's a conscious choice.  

I think it's a conscious choice to get that high from using again.  And screw the effect it has on anyone else's life.

Monday, September 5, 2022

13th Stepping

In my 31 years of being sober I never heard of a mother telling her daughter to go to the local AA meeting to see if she could find a good man. Yet, we often hear of people developing relationships with people at meetings.

Of course, biology being what it is, it's not surprising that people in meetings end up in relationships. Some of them begin living together. Others get married and even have children.  And often times we play the tape to the end and hear about them getting divorced. I'm one who met a woman in a 12-step meeting, and was friends with her for 10 years before we got married. The marriage lasted about 10 years before we split up. Some of my more cynical friends congratulated me for lasting that long.

I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing that people get into relationships with people they meet in the rooms. Or for that matter, even getting married. After all, most of the statistics that I've heard are that the average marriage ends up in divorce 50% of the time. I'm not sure what mysterious person keeps track of these kinds of things, but I doubt that alcoholics and addicts do neither better nor worse than the average person when it comes to relationships

I bring this up today because I heard a newcomer in a meeting this weekend talking about how he had ended up at the meeting. He said that he had met a woman at a park – who was not an alcoholic – who suggested that a nice fellow like him should do something about his drinking problem. So he decided to go to our meeting and now claims to have been sober for two weeks. Maybe this woman is grooming him for the future and has plans for him.

But I believe that people shouldn't get into relationships for at least the first year they're sober. After all we begin to go to 12-step meetings because our lives are unmanageable and many of us are even homeless. I think a person should start going to meetings because they have a problem with alcohol or drugs – not a problem with relationships. The strong emotions that often go with relationship are the same emotions that can make us want to pick up a bottle or a drug.

I think that the strong emotions that go with relationships are the same emotions that can make us vulnerable to relapse.

Click here to email John

Friday, September 2, 2022

Terrible Things

"I've been through many terrible things in my life, and some of them really happened." – Mark Twain 

This has always been one of my favorite quotations. Why?

Because I believe that it perfectly sums up what goes on within my head when I get too much anxiety over something that "might" happen. I'll get very concerned about something to do with my health. My job. My investments. And I can overthink it until it becomes something "terrible."

Think for a moment about something in your recent past that you were very concerned about. Maybe it was your job. Maybe it was your marriage or relationship. Maybe you're having trouble with your car – or at least think you do. But take a moment and look back upon your life and think about how many terrible things you were expecting to happen, yet they never did.

But inside your head things were going around and around. One calamity after another. One disaster after another. The worst scenario always seemed to show up and ruin your day. And the more you focus on these perceived problems the more gigantic they became. But once you struggled through the day, and slept for the night, for some reason you woke up in a world that was fine. That's the kind of power that our monkey mind has over us. We allow our emotional brain to push us around until we become highly emotional and upset.

So why this quotation is so important to me is it allows me to know why I sometimes imagine my way into emotional problems that are totally unnecessary. So it isn't so much about what really happens, it's about what I imagine could happen.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Recovery Lessons

I once had a very good friend and for many years I did everything I could to help him rebuild his life. And eventually he became very successful. It was quite remarkable to see the changes in his life. Because when he came to us he had virtually nothing, including his health.

He was a hard worker and spent a lot of time trying to improve the program at TLC, which he did. He created special programs, and helped many clients get sober over the years.

He bought a home. He got married. He took lavish vacations. He bought a car, then two cars, then three cars, until soon he owned around a dozen automobiles or more. But the interesting thing is that as he became successful and sober and acquired more things, he seem to become less and less grateful and happy. He was angry at most everyone all the time. He was always right, even though he often knew very little of the subject he was talking about. He alienated his friends and became suspicious of everyone. And very few people would disagree with him, because he would explode in anger and throw tantrums. Most of the people who worked directly for him were fearful every time he came around.  It wasn't really worth the drama to get into a conversation with him about anything unless you totally agreed with his point of view. He was never wrong.

He even told me once that he could no longer trust me, even though I gave him the opportunity to become a millionaire and had provided him with a well paid position for many years.  Which he could have had for the rest of his life.  But at the point he stopped "trusting me" we went our separate ways.

I learned a great deal from this fellow over the years about human nature. I learned that people change for no apparent reason. I knew he was suffering from a few illnesses and I attributed the change in his behavior to the changes in his physical health. I'm not now and never have been really angry at him because anger serves no purpose for anyone. As the Buddha says: "You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger." Life is too precious and too short to waste our time wanting to always be right and being angry at everyone over things that really don't make any difference.

As I approach my 32nd year of sobriety I learned that we encounter all kinds of people in recovery. If they stick around for a long time, most of them improve and enjoy a happy life. But many of them are disappointed with what they find in recovery and they're still seeking that next best thing that will make their life better. It might be more property.  Maybe more money. It might be a better car. It might be a better relationship. Who knows?

Whatever it is, I hope this friend of mine finds it. 

Click here to email John

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Close Call

 Within the last few months a very close family member, who had been sober at least eight years, came up with the idea that it would be good for him to start using drugs again.

Even though I've been working with addicts and alcoholics for 31 years, I've never heard of one of them explain to me why they thought it was a good idea to start using again.  If he hadn't been lucky enough to have a couple of family members in the house at the same time he overdosed, we'd be having a different conversation today. Instead, we'd be making arrangements for another funeral.

It obviously wasn't his time to go. Because he didn't want anyone to take him to the hospital someone finally insisted and the paramedics were called. At the time they arrived his respiration rate was down to three per minute. If it hadn't been for a few lucky "coincidences," he wouldn't be breathing today.

In America today the leading cause of death is opioid overdose. And as most of you know who are reading this, opioids include a whole class of drugs. Heroin. Fentanyl. Morphine. Codeine. Oxycodone. Yet the only thing anyone talks about is having a "war on drugs", which is code for I'm running for office please vote for me and I'll try to pass some legislation. "That way you'll want to vote for me."

The reality is that there's not a lot that anyone outside of ourselves can do about our desire to use drugs or other substances. We need to want to live bad enough so that we don't put our family members through the pain of our untimely death. During my 30+ years in the drug field I have seen so many people overdose and die because of drug and alcohol use. If they could only see the trail of misery and sorrow that they leave behind them they would never risk using any kind of substances.     

Click kere to email John

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Lost Luggage

As I do three or four times a year I went on a vacation to Mexico this month.  Mazatlan to be specific. Normally, I have a great time when I go there, no matter what city we end up in. The people mostly are amiable.  The food is excellent. And it's a lot of fun hanging out on the beach and driving into the countryside and enjoying the greenery - something we don't see much of here in Arizona at this of year.

But this year was different, and we didn't have a  very good time at all.  And that's because the airline lost my suitcase.  So,"What's the big deal?  A lost suitcase?  But there was more in the suitcase than clothing and toiletries.  There was also about five different medications my doctor prescribes me, medications I wasn't sure I could obtain in Mazatlan. Plus, I had no toiletries nor changes of clothing.

Now I know that these are things one can purchase.  But, when you haven't been to a city for a while you don't always know where to find everything you need.  And that was the case for us. We had to do a bit of searching before we could locate a druggist. Then more searching before we could find a doctor to write  prescriptions.

All in all it was a frustrating experience - one I don't plan to have in the near future.

Plus I got off my three-day schedule with my blog - which irritated me as much as anything.

Click here to email John.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Vacation In Mexico

Blog will resume after I return from vacation on August 24, 2022. 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Acceptance is the Key

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971

The history of the Serenity Prayer dates back to a 1932 diary entry by German-American theologist, Reinhold Niebuhr. Finding this entry closed a 5-year long debate regarding the origin of the prayer.

The prayer was ultimately brought into the mainstream by the 12 step programs, particularly Alcoholics Anonymous.

And in this writer's opinion the word "accept" is one of the most important ingredients in a person's recovery. And why do I say that?

The primary reason is that we cannot resolve a problem or situation until we admit we have one.   That's why many people – before they get sober – will strongly deny that they have a problem.  And I was one of those people.  I was using alcohol and heroin and still denying every day that I had a problem.  Even though I was living in a stolen car and stealing every day to support my habit, I still couldn't accept the idea that I had a problem. I only accepted that I had a problem when life became too painful for me.

But it's amazing how quickly my life changed once I went into a detoxification program and started learning about recovery. In fact, it seemed almost effortless. When I went into the detox all I really wanted was for the pain to stop. And it did stop. Immediately. And that change was all based upon my acceptance of the fact that I had a problem with substances of all kinds.

While this blog mostly is about alcohol and substance abuse, the reality that is that the idea of acceptance can be applied to many of the problems in our life. If we have a problem with cigarettes, we can accept that we have a problem and find a program that will help us quit. If we are overweight, we can develop some kind of weight loss plan. If we have financial problems, we can either find employment or start a business. While it might seem simplistic, the starting point of all of our changes is to accept that we have a problem to solve and then get busy solving it.

And in closing, I want to say that if we don't accept that we have a problem with drugs or alcohol – and we do – then we don't have a chance in hell to save sober.

Click here to email John

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Teaching Recovery

Clients stay at TLC longer than they stay at many programs because we give them opportunity to learn how to work and behave.

Everyone who works at TLC is a volunteer - with a few professionals such as counselors that serve in positions that require the type of credentials they possess.  Among these would be those with Master's degrees in counseling, social work or nursing degrees.  And, of course, the Doctor who's our Medical Director.

But our typical client is classified as a volunteer.  And doesn't even get paid, instead receiving a weekly stipend for what they do.  Not only that, most of our volunteers don't spend 40 hours a week on their responsibilities.  It's rare that someone needs to be at a desk for more than three or four hours.

I have a philosophy about how many hours one should work.  For example, here at TLC very few volunteers spend eight hours a day or 40 hours a week performing their duties.  My rule is that if a person is through with the project they should take off.  It proves nothing to have someone sitting at a disk surfing the internet after they've completed a chore.

A percentage of clients come to us from jail or prison.  Many of them have never had a real job and so the experience they get volunteering with us is invaluable.  We have many people who come to us who don't know how to make a bed, clean their room, wash clothing, prepare themselves a meal, or to work in the real world.

Others come to us because they have no friends or family who want anything to do with them.  Many in this group stay with us for years.  Not only do we give them a place to learn about recovery; they also find with us a surrogate family to care for - and who cares for them. Many of them develop good friendships here and see no reason to go somewhere else and leave them behind.

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