Thursday, September 29, 2022

New Detox

TLC opened it's intensive outpatient treatment program in January of 2012.  It seems almost like yesterday that we took in our first client.  Since that time we've had hundreds of clients graduate from the program and have developed a system where clients who are serious about treatment have the opportunity to get Arizona insurance and enroll in the program.

The program works like a well-oiled machine.  All of the billing and records are computerized and the staff has increased by about 50%.  We have an experienced staff, many of whom have been with us for years.

Today we took the next step to growing the program and looked at a property in Phoenix that is already zoned C-2, which means we can detoxify addicts and alcoholics at that location, which eliminates one of the hurdles we would have to go through if it were zoned differently.

If we succeed in leasing or buying this property it would nearly  double the size of our program and would provide a wider range of services to our clients.

While the building is more than I've ever dreamed of I know that somehow we'll be able to find financing to purchase it.  I believe that everything happens at the right time and this is the time for us to open a detox and help even more addicts and alcoholics.

We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Click here to email John

Monday, September 26, 2022


At one time TLC had the worst reputation of any recovery program in Arizona.

While it was a reputation that wasn't deserved, it was nonetheless the reputation that it had to live with. Among the things that former clients complained about was that they had to get up early in the morning and go to work. They had to go to 90 meetings in 90 days during their first three months in the program. They had to pay a service fee that was quite reasonable; in fact in the early days it was only $85 a week and included housing and three meals a day.

One of the things that clients didn't like about it is that the buildings were old and needed a lot of maintenance, attention that they received and are still getting today. In fact, TLC's 50 some houses are constantly being maintained on a rotating basis. The roofing and remodeling crew is continually going through the properties, putting in new showers, repainting rooms, replacing bed frames and mattresses, and working on the landscaping. When a program has over 500 clients, there's a lot of wear and tear on the property and it continually needs to be maintained and refurbished.

TLC accepts a lot of parolees and clients coming from jail who are sent there by the state, or probation officers. When a prisoner goes up for release they must have an address to give their prison case manager.  And that's where we come in because we accept anyone as long as they're willing to follow our guidelines. And these guidelines are very simple. They must work and pay for housing, keep their quarters clean, attend outside 12-step meetings and educational groups inside the house.

In other words, they must do their best to live within the norms of society and be a positive influence in the community as much as they possibly can. Now I can understand why we get a bad reputation because a lot of people do not like to be directed in any part of their life. They don't like to be told what to do. The reason they ended up in prison is because they were risk takers and rebels and criminals – along with being drug addicts,  or alcoholics or both. It is probably unrealistic to expect every person who comes through the door to easily adapt to a life of discipline, self-care, and growth into a law-abiding citizen.

But one of the things about TLC that differs from other programs is that our program was designed - and has been managed - by addicts and alcoholics since the beginning. The core rules were written by a small group of addicts and alcoholics who had a serious desire to stay sober. They were people who were tired of walking the big yard burning up their days telling war stories about drug deals they were in, crimes they'd committed outside, and what big shots they were.

The only people who wanted to come out of prison and come to TLC were those who were serious about wanting to stay sober. In fact, people who have been sent back to prison because they couldn't adapt at TLC would warn people that they shouldn't be paroled here – only unless they were serious about staying sober. People who are not serious about staying clean and sober don't belong in TLC. There are plenty of small halfway houses around town where where a resident can do pretty much as he pleases as long as long as he pays his rent.

Today we have a much better reputation. We have several small businesses, including a treatment program, an air conditioning company, a labor group, a roofing and remodeling company, convenience stores, and other businesses that help support TLC's mission. We are State licensed contractors. In 30 years we've had almost 3/4 of a million clients come through the program; though not all of them are sober we've had a large impact on many people's lives and will continue to do so in spite of any naysayers.

Click here to email John

Friday, September 23, 2022

Practicing Patience

Today I had a chance to practice what I preach. And what I preach is patience, compassion, and tolerance. And today I had all three of those attributes tested over and over, it seemed.

It started out like this: I'd been talking to our commercial real estate agent about leasing office space in a large building next door to our treatment program. It was a perfect space, 4000 square feet. The dark brown carpet was in great shape, and clean. The entire space was protected with a sprinkler system. It had plenty of parking for the purpose we planned to use it: an extension of the group rooms for our treatment program.

In my mind's eye, I was already signing on the dotted line for whatever kind of lease the agent wanted. From the way he started, it seemed like he was pretty flexible. He said we could lease it month-to-month or by the year. His company was even willing to make modifications to the building so it would satisfy our needs. But then, all of a sudden, for some reason I didn't understand, he told me that he would need to talk to other people on his staff. That his company had hopes of leasing the entire 60,000 feet to one company. Whereas, if he leased us the 4000 feet that we'd hoped for it could create problems for his company if they were dealing with future prospects that might want the whole building to themselves.

I have to admit that I was disappointed about not being able to obtain the lease. However, downtown Mesa is surrounded with other buildings and surely we would be able to find something else. And the one message I try to give everyone in our program is that patience truly is a virtue, because when we are patient it keeps the stress down.

Then the next thing that tested my patience was a real estate deal that fell through. It wasn't necessarily anyone's fault, but for some reason I had high expectations that I would be picking up the check today. I felt disappointment come over me when that didn't happen. I quickly reminded myself that probably 50% of the deals that I try to put together don't work for one reason or the other and to move on to the next person who might be interested in the property.

Then the last thing that happened was for me probably the worst one of all – a computer glitch because of a virus that got into my laptop. I had just spent much of last week having my patience tested by having both of my computers crash. Then today someone who works for me sent me a link that had a virus associated with it and all of my accounting software crashed. Talk about being pissed off for a minute. But instead of being angry for more than a moment, I mapped out a solution that I'm going to put into place this weekend and rebuild the program.

One of the things I've learned in the 31 years I've been sober is the problem with getting angry is that I just have to get happy again. So I might as well take a shortcut and stay happy. After all, I got sober to be peaceful and happy – not angry and frustrated. And I do my best stay that way.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Sometimes we don't See

I have a daughter who's one of the people in my life I really look up to.  I also have three others I love very much and respect - but for different reasons.

The subject of this blog is a military veteran, the only one of my children who made it to the service.  This week she went on a retreat for wounded veterans.  It's a five day get-together in the Arizona mountains where the participants can share their stories and dig into the experiences they went through that are related in some way to their military service.

According to my daughter, women veterans are not treated as equal to male veterans.  And part of this retreat is to have them do different exercises that allow them to examine aspects of themselves that they struggle to suppress because people don't view female veterans as on par with males.  Even though they faced the same bullets and the same danger of death and disability, somehow they don't receive the same regard as the men.

Even though my daughter seems as normal as the next person, the military pays her 100% disability for the PTSD - along with other lesser injuries - she'll live with for the rest of her life.  So generally, she keeps the vulnerable parts of who she is shut down - buried in her subconscious.  She rarely volunteers that she helped fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the rockscape of Afghanistan's frontier with Pakistan.  She doesn't engage in war stories - even with her dad.

But I'm happy she went on this retreat.  Because she needs to know that those she served with also experience the same shadowy memories as she has since returning to us.

Click here to email John

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Counting Blessings

 I just heard a story that made me grateful again.

A friend of mine called about a friend of his who's dying of cancer and has less than two years to live.

He said that, under the circumstances his friend's taking it quite well.  He's a medical professional, was athletic until recently, and is also dealing with financial issues.  He has a wife and children and one of his main concerns is caring for them once he passes.  Very understandable that this would be important to him.

I don't know the fellow, other than what my friend shares.  But when I hear stories such as this it makes me thankful for the life I have.  My health, while not perfect, is good enough that I can function and take care of myself.  At 83 I'm able to function physically, emotionally and have no problems making it to the office six days a week.  Not because I have to.  But because I want to.  I enjoy life and only work because I have to, not from necessity.

One of the most important missions for me is helping others stay clean and sober and to build enriching lives.  I have little patience for those who feel sorry for themselves because it serves no purpose.  I was one who felt self-pity at different periods of my life.  I spent 15 years incarcerated plus over a year in a mental hospital.  I looked in the mirror and felt like I was a nobody who'd get nowhere in life.  But one  day I changed my perspective and my life totally changed.  I decided I could do what I wanted in life and things have been different ever since.

I feel genuine compassion for this fellow with the cancer.  Yet I know that someday we'll all join those who cross over and that we should enjoy each moment because that's what we have - this moment right now.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Life Choices

Behind our offices are three large concrete block enclosures.  They are well constructed and have large green metal doors on them.  When the doors are closed, the enclosures are tall enough that passersby can't see what's inside.

But when they're open one can see large trash dumpsters that serve the surrounding businesses, including the ones occupied by TLC.

I know that whoever designed the block enclosures probably never envisioned what a mess or eyesore they would become.  Because they have become a magnet for landscapers who don't want to take their trimmings to the dump, along with others who don't want to make the journey with their rubbish.

But the worst thing is that the dumpsters attract the homeless who sometimes climb inside the dumpsters in hopes of finding aluminum cans, bottles, or other treasures they can exchange for a few coins at a salvage yard. And periodically, maybe once a month, one can observe a couple slip inside because they can't afford a motel.

To me, the saddest of all are those who forage through the trash in hopes finding something of value that they can trade for drugs, food, or other goods.  In my mind they could make a lot more money at a minimum-wage job if only they put forth the effort. Other than being unwashed and unkempt, they appear fairly healthy and energetic.

However, the ones that I've spoken with every so often tell me they enjoy the homeless lifestyle.  They have no bills, no responsibilities for anyone but themselves.  They enjoy the freedom of doing whatever they want whenever they want. Most of them will tell you that they first thing they do when they are released from jail or the hospital is find a nice shopping cart and start all over again.

It's difficult for me to understand this lifestyle.  Yet, I'm grateful to live in a country where people can choose to live as they please.

Click here to email John 

Sunday, September 11, 2022


One of the things we can truly count on in life is that changes happen. But if we know that, when changes do come we can learn to expect and accept them.

I sometimes feel like a damn fool. Because I become very disappointed when someone lies to me on multiple occasions. At first, I couldn't figure out what was going on. But I had an intuitive feeling that I wasn't being told the truth or being treated honestly. Had the person just come to me and told me what was going on I probably would be forgiving and been able to move on. Not with happiness and joy. But still, able to move on with my life with a modicum of understanding.

But when but when someone flat lies to my face it's a sign of total disrespect. It's kind of like the person thinks I'm a damn fool and I'm not smart enough to figure out that something's going wrong even though I might not know exactly what.

The universe, God, or whatever higher power one believes in designed the world on the basis that things will change. That's why flowers grow, so that we can see their beauty as they change before our eyes. That's why we have the ability to grow food; as the plants change and create nourishment that will feed us and keep us strong and healthy.  Without change we'd all perish and wither.

So when someone lies to us it's not necessarily a bad thing. This person who lied to me professes to believe in God, goes to church on Sundays and sometimes during the week. But the lies she tells will turn back on her and maybe teach her how to tell the truth and make her into the honest person she professes to be when she walks into her place of worship. She might learn that lies only prove that she doesn't trust the person that she's lying to and that she's smarter than he is and that he won't figure anything out.

But there's a purpose for everything. And sometimes the fact that we get caught lying makes us smarter and makes us realize we were not quite as clever as we think we are.

Changes as I know them come in all forms: physical, spiritual, and emotional. And anyone of them can be painful – but for me probably the worst ones are the emotional changes that I go through. But those too can be beneficial. Because if I accept those changes I become stronger and more emotionally resilient.

Click here to email John


Thursday, September 8, 2022

Slow Suicide

Since the first of the year we've had several clients die from the effects of smoking. COPD. Emphysema. Pneumonia. Lung cancer. Not being a doctor, I can't say that all of these deaths were caused from smoking. But statistics show that using tobacco on a regular basis causes many of these.

But there probably aren't too many habits in the world that do as much damage as smoking tobacco. When I was a kid, some 50 years ago nearly half the people in the United States smoked cigarettes or some other form of tobacco. Today the percentage is a lot lower; reports are from the government are that only about 17% of people smoke cigarettes.

I myself smoked at one time and I remember the exact day I quit. It was July 25, 1984, at 9 AM, at 110 N. Broad Street, in Globe, Arizona. And the reason that I remember it so well is because it was one of the most difficult things that I'd done in my life. I have withdrawn from heroin at least 15 times during my addiction, but quitting cigarettes was more difficult than any withdrawal from heroin or other kinds of opiates.

On top of that I had seven aunts and uncles who smoked. And they all died from the effects of smoking, either emphysema, COPD, or lung cancer. And I had a cousin who died when she was 35 from emphysema because she was such a heavy smoker. All in all, smoking had a heavier impact on my life than nearly anything else in terms of losing loved ones and family members.

And I write this today because someone I cared very much about spent much of this year attempting to quit smoking. She went to treatment, and lasted nearly over four months before she relapsed and went back to smoking. It was the longest period she'd been without cigarettes in her many decades of smoking.

I'd been in a many-year relationship with her but her smoking relapse made me terminate it. I knew it was hopeless and I knew that she didn't have the strength to quit and never would.  Oh, I'm sure she had rationalizations about why she "slipped."  But when a person is sober for over four months I don't believe their is any such thing as a "slip."  It's a conscious choice.  

I think it's a conscious choice to get that high from using again.  And screw the effect it has on anyone else's life.

Monday, September 5, 2022

13th Stepping

In my 31 years of being sober I never heard of a mother telling her daughter to go to the local AA meeting to see if she could find a good man. Yet, we often hear of people developing relationships with people at meetings.

Of course, biology being what it is, it's not surprising that people in meetings end up in relationships. Some of them begin living together. Others get married and even have children.  And often times we play the tape to the end and hear about them getting divorced. I'm one who met a woman in a 12-step meeting, and was friends with her for 10 years before we got married. The marriage lasted about 10 years before we split up. Some of my more cynical friends congratulated me for lasting that long.

I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing that people get into relationships with people they meet in the rooms. Or for that matter, even getting married. After all, most of the statistics that I've heard are that the average marriage ends up in divorce 50% of the time. I'm not sure what mysterious person keeps track of these kinds of things, but I doubt that alcoholics and addicts do neither better nor worse than the average person when it comes to relationships

I bring this up today because I heard a newcomer in a meeting this weekend talking about how he had ended up at the meeting. He said that he had met a woman at a park – who was not an alcoholic – who suggested that a nice fellow like him should do something about his drinking problem. So he decided to go to our meeting and now claims to have been sober for two weeks. Maybe this woman is grooming him for the future and has plans for him.

But I believe that people shouldn't get into relationships for at least the first year they're sober. After all we begin to go to 12-step meetings because our lives are unmanageable and many of us are even homeless. I think a person should start going to meetings because they have a problem with alcohol or drugs – not a problem with relationships. The strong emotions that often go with relationship are the same emotions that can make us want to pick up a bottle or a drug.

I think that the strong emotions that go with relationships are the same emotions that can make us vulnerable to relapse.

Click here to email John

Friday, September 2, 2022

Terrible Things

"I've been through many terrible things in my life, and some of them really happened." – Mark Twain 

This has always been one of my favorite quotations. Why?

Because I believe that it perfectly sums up what goes on within my head when I get too much anxiety over something that "might" happen. I'll get very concerned about something to do with my health. My job. My investments. And I can overthink it until it becomes something "terrible."

Think for a moment about something in your recent past that you were very concerned about. Maybe it was your job. Maybe it was your marriage or relationship. Maybe you're having trouble with your car – or at least think you do. But take a moment and look back upon your life and think about how many terrible things you were expecting to happen, yet they never did.

But inside your head things were going around and around. One calamity after another. One disaster after another. The worst scenario always seemed to show up and ruin your day. And the more you focus on these perceived problems the more gigantic they became. But once you struggled through the day, and slept for the night, for some reason you woke up in a world that was fine. That's the kind of power that our monkey mind has over us. We allow our emotional brain to push us around until we become highly emotional and upset.

So why this quotation is so important to me is it allows me to know why I sometimes imagine my way into emotional problems that are totally unnecessary. So it isn't so much about what really happens, it's about what I imagine could happen.

Click here to email John