Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Forgetting a Birthday

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Making Friends

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Feet on the Floor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 20, 2022

More than Ourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sobriety has a way of changing our perspective.

Click here to email John

Friday, June 17, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Tuesday, June 14, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your life will be better for it.

Click here to email John

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Father's Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Losing Friends

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Losing our Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Drug Deaths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to email John