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.     

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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