Friday, April 29, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Rewards

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Saturday, April 23, 2022

A bit of History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Happy all the Time

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Hurting those who Love Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Power of Alcohol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Monday, April 11, 2022

Anniversary Picnic

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Friday, April 8, 2022

Pain is Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Drunk Legislators?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Choose your Mood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you'll live with little or no anxiety.

Click here to email John