Wednesday, March 30, 2022
Sunday, March 27, 2022
I was on my way out the front door this morning, heading for my regular Sunday AA meeting on East Main Street in Mesa.
"Where are you going?" asked one of my relatives, who was visiting from out of state.
"To an AA meeting," I replied.
"Do you still go to those things?" she asked. "You've been sober for over 30 years, haven't you?"
"Thirty-one years," I replied. "But I still go to meetings."
Then I went on to explain that no matter how long one has been sober they're always an alcoholic. And that attending meetings on a regular basis is one of the things that reinforces their recovery.
Besides that, it's a chance to meet old friends in recovery - or maybe make some new ones.
And I don't care how many years I've been sober, I often hear a story about someone who's relapsed and what the consequences were. I've never heard an alcoholic say that their lives got better when they relapsed.
Instead it's always a tale of loss of family, jobs, illness, arrests or some other mess that that first drink led them to. And I'm done with that.
Every time I attend a meeting I leave with a good feeling. Either I heard someone's story of how AA has changed their life. Or I see old friends I haven't encountered in a while.
Thursday, March 24, 2022
We recently received a letter from the State that says we need a license to operate a recovery home that we've been residing in for over 25 years. For years we've had a city license, but now the state wants a piece of the pie. They want to do this by charging $100 a bed for every six months - plus a hefty application fee even for non-profit programs.
Now in my mind this is the the most flagrant example of government hypocrisy that I've witnessed in all the years TLC has been doing business in Arizona.
I say this because for nearly 30 years TLC has housed hundreds of thousands of homeless addicts and alcoholics at zero cost to any part of of the government, state, county, or city. Our program accepts anyone who asks for help with their addiction - with the exception of sex offenders.
We provide peer counseling, professional counseling, meals, jobs, dental and eye care, and many other services at no cost to the clients. We teach them job skills and trades and help them locate employment in the free market. We teach them living skills that help wean them from their addictions.
In the media we hear talk all the time that the Southern border of our state is the gateway for those who smuggle all kinds of drugs - Fentanyl in particular, into our state. In fact, in Pima County the leading cause of death in the 18-45 age group is now Fentanyl overdoses.
But, does the state really care about this pandemic of opioids? No. Not if you look at their record of creating draconian regulations that are tailored specifically for those who are giving their all to assist recovering - mostly homeless - addicts and alcoholics.
Those in power only cry about overdoses when they are attending the funerals and burials of their own children.
Monday, March 21, 2022
Acceptance, for me, is one of the cornerstones of the 12-step programs. But what makes it so? How does one word carry such power?
Personally, I came to realize the power of acceptance in my first year of recovery. And when I recognized that power I immediately felt free, as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders.
It came about when I heard another speaker at a meeting say that his life only began to change when he admitted he was completely powerless of over alcohol and drugs. Now I had known for a long time that I was an alcoholic. But for some reason I fostered the idea that even though I was an alcoholic I could stop any time I wanted to. I told myself that I simply didn't want to; my life was fine the way it was. I just wanted others to leave me alone and I'd be okay.
But that was a lie of denial. Sure, I could quit for a few days. But, I'd soon be right back at it, down at the liquor store or market stealing another bottle of wine or six-pack of beer.
When I did a personal inventory I had to cross examine myself and ask if that was the behavior of person who had self-control? If I had power over my drinking would I risk going to jail simply to get a drink?
And, of course you know the answer. And once I accepted that answer I made the first tentative step toward recovery because I knew that the answer was within the 12-steps. And, I just had to follow the directions and I'd be okay.
Acceptance is not only a word that works in AA. It's a word that is useful in every area of our lives. When we face an issue for which we have no solution, acceptance sometimes help us at least come to terms with whatever we're facing.
Friday, March 18, 2022
In the Alcoholics Anonymous Big book we find the phrase, "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God..."
Now most of us - not all of us for sure - have been exposed to prayer at different stages of our lives. But few of us have had formal training in meditation, how it works, or how to do it. I was one of those.
Before I arrived in recovery, I had been exposed over the years to the prayer practices of different religions. But that was because my parents were divorced and each had their own choice of religion.
After being in AA for a while and not learning anything about meditation, I ended up finding a meditation teacher and took an 11-month course in mindfulness meditation. I eventually became a certified instructor. I now practice meditation for 30 minutes a day when I first arise in the morning. And I find it quite beneficial.
For those who are interested, it goes like this:
Sit upright on a comfortable cushion, chair, or - as I do - the head of the bed.
You can cross your legs if you wish, though it's not necessary. Gently close your eyes and focus your mind on your breathing.
Follow your breath in and out, focusing upon it as you do. As you proceed you'll likely find thoughts come into your consciousness. Observe the thoughts without judgement, then let them pass. Continue focusing upon the breath. The thoughts will come drifting back. Again, observe them without judgement, watching them as you might watch clouds passing through the sky, or leaves drifting on a stream.
Don't become frustrated at your inability to focus. All meditators report this as a challenge. And more important, remember that there's no good or bad meditation - there's just meditation.
Tuesday, March 15, 2022
TLC is losing a long-time resident this week. He's suffering from, among other ailments, stage four liver cancer and some symptoms of dementia. He also has several other physical issues. His medical providers don't give him much time.
(I don't use his name out of respect for his privacy and that of his family.)
Yet, in spite of his impending passing, there's a bright side to this story.
And you might ask what could possibly be positive about this man's departure from TLC? And ultimately, from life itself.
But in my mind, one positive thing is that he'll be able to spend his last days with his father and other family members who are driving from the Midwest to take him home. While he never talked to me about his family, I'm certain that if he's like most of us, his addictions created issues that at the very least strained their relationship with him. Yet here they are, driving thousands of miles so he can spend his last days with loved ones.
Another positive thing this man leaves behind is the example he showed by not running away. Some times when addicts are terminally ill they revert to their old ways and do what they can to kill their physical and emotional pain. But this man never did that. He stuck around. He didn't whine or complain. He accepted his illness with a quiet dignity. And did his best to show up to work every day and complete his duties. He is a good example for those of us he leaving behind.
God speed, my friend. We love you.
Saturday, March 12, 2022
In the past 30 years we've had thousands of addicts and alcoholics come through our self-supported program - a program that anyone can enter, even if they're without money or insurance.
Since starting January 9, 1992 with just five beds, we've grown to where we can accommodate up to 900 clients if necessary. However, since the pandemic began we've been hovering at around 600 clients.
I've had many outsiders and non-addicts ask me over the years how many of our graduates are still clean and sober. And I always have to tell them that I don't know; we don't keep track of clients after they leave.
And why not? Well, if one thinks about it, it would be a costly endeavor to track hundreds of thousands of graduates to see if they're currently living clean and sober. Think of the money it would require. The office space. The payroll.
I believe that a more important use of our time and resources is to do our best to help the addicts who are with us now. And also to conduct outreach to those who are currently using and don't know about the program we offer. To accomplish that we have application forms on our website, plus we have two to three telemarketers who work full time contacting hospitals and detoxification facilities to let them know how to apply to TLC and be accepted.
Aside from that outreach, we also have relationships with the Department of Corrections, and other facets of he justice system who regularly refer clients to us.
One of the realities though, is that probably half of those who come to us aren't really serious about changing their lives, especially the younger ones. Many of them come here because a family member wants them to get sober, or maybe a parole or probation officer has referred them after they drop a dirty drug test. They figure that if they last 90 days with us, mom and dad will welcome them back home.
We measure success by what we do each day. The only way we grade addicts who come through here is if they follow our guidelines and stay sober. It's quite easy to tell who's serious about changing their lives and who's not just by the enthusiasm they put into their program.
Those whose addiction had caused them much life pain seemed to do best of all. They're the ones who are tired of chasing drugs and alcohol each day.
When they get the message we feel we've succeeded.
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
If you want to learn patience try to open any kind of facility to help addicts of any kind to get clean and sober. And I know what I'm talking about because I've been dealing with this issue for over 30 years.
One of the most common statements you hear from a government official when applying for a permit is "We already have more than our fair share of social service agencies in this town (or city)"
I'm dealing with the municipal government in a certain city and running into some pushback. I won't say what city because I have to continue to deal with them. But one of the bureaucrats made the statement above, about having our "fair share."
This statement always amazes me because the leading cause of death in the U.S., at least a few months ago, was Fentanyl overdoses. There were more overdose deaths than from all other causes combined. That includes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, auto accidents and so forth.
Yet a minor city bureaucrat will have the nerve to say something about "fair share," like give addicts a lot of opportunities to get sober isn't a good idea. Perhaps this person should look into the eyes of the families of dead addicts and make a sophomoric statement like that.
It may require that our organization employ the services of a competent lawyer or two before we're able to carry out our mission of helping addicts change their lives.
We've had to sue government agencies before. And because we spent five years in Federal Court over a decade ago, there are a lot of addicts clean and sober today who might have died without our efforts.
Sunday, March 6, 2022
When Covid-9 first hit a couple of years ago I got the shots as soon as they were available. And the nice thing is that because I'm in my 80s, I went right to the front of the line. And when the booster became available I jumped right in line for it.
Eventually I caught the variant version, Omicron. But the reality was that it was nothing, kind of like a medium-strength cold.
But the reason I bring this up today, is because more than one person asked me why I was getting the vaccine. Didn't I know that it was a government plot? That the bureaucracy wanted to invade my privacy and control my life?
Of course, I didn't pay any attention to them, even though they were mostly family members. Even though I'm a conservative, I don't believe in a lot of the far right crap about government plots or conspiracies. In fact, I'm not sure any segment of our government is organized enough to plan and carry out the day-to-day business of government, let alone pull off a conspiracy that involves mind-control. If you don't believe me, look at what's going on in Washington these days.
My real belief is that I'm not important enough that the Government wants anything from me - other than to be sure I pay my taxes. I believe that there's enough in life to be concerned about without feeding into someone's paranoia about black helicopters and government schemes to turn us all into robots.
If I simply stay sober each day and help others do the same, that's enough for me to be concerned about. My ego is not big enough for me to think that someone's conspiring to control my life.
Thursday, March 3, 2022
When I first came to Mesa, Arizona over 30 years ago I rarely noticed homeless people with shopping carts or improvised camping gear. In Phoenix, yes. But not many outside of there.
Maybe it was just me, but I could stop at a convenience store and it wasn't often that I saw a panhandler out front. Or, maybe a homeless person camping out back with a large inventory of what looked like junk in a shopping cart. But then that was in the early 1980's.
Now I understand that it's not against the law to be poor. That question has actually been adjudicated in the higher courts in various jurisdictions, with mixed outcomes. For one thing, it's difficult for police to have to be responsible to keep homeless people off the streets, considering the many more serious crimes they much deal with on their shifts.
And I know that a lot of smart people have tried to come up with solutions. But we can see the effects of their efforts in the downtown areas of our communities. Not much luck.
I don't feel sorry for, or look down on the homeless. Behind every homeless person there's a sad or tragic tale. No one grows up with the goal of living a hard life on the streets.
On the other hand I believe that we live in a world of abundance and opportunity. And if the homeless just make a small amount of effort they can locate resources to help them get back into the mainstream of life.
I once read a story in the old Life magazine, which was doing a story about a billionaire who lived in Michigan. As they were researching his early life they discovered that at one time there was a homeless alcoholic who had the same name as the billionaire. The bum was always drunk and slept on bus benches and in parks. During subsequent research the reporters asked the billionaire if he knew about the homeless man who shared his name.
"That was me," he replied.
"What happened? asked a reporter.
"I got tired of living like that. So I changed, he replied."
I believe that any of us can do the same thing - change. We just need to make the decision.