Monday, May 30, 2022

Happy 83

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, May 27, 2022

What is Memorial Day?

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Responsible for Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Friday, May 20, 2022

Raising Addicts

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Addicts Everywhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 14, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

R.I.P Dennis

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Mother's Day Lesson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It worked for me.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

No Power

"You can't heal the people you love.

You can't make choices for them.

You can't rescue them.

You can promise that they won't journey alone.

You can loan them your map.

But this trip is theirs."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Monday, May 2, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John