Friday, December 30, 2022

New Year's Coming

So, do you have big plans for 2023?  Are you going to start working out?  Lose weight?  Go to school?  Or are you pretty much okay with who you are? 

There aren't really any right answers for questions like these.  If you are good with your life, great.  If you're not okay with your life, that's okay also.  After all, when you were born you were issued something like 4,000+ weeks of life to spend pretty much as you choose if you live an average lifespan of 78 years.  And, whatever you decide to do with those 4,000+ weeks is pretty much up to you.  As soon as you start living independently anyway.

Time plays a unique part in most of our lives, at least when we're sober.  And I think it's unique because whatever we do with our time, once we use it we can never do much else with it.  Except maybe reflect upon how we spent it.  In any event, whatever we do with our time we're never going to get it back.

I'd like to suggest that to become more rewarded and satisfied with our lives that maybe we take a moment from time-to-time and reflect upon what we're doing with our 4,000+ weeks.  Because when we start living within this mindset we might make more intelligent choices with how we spend our time.

Often we hear the question, "Wow, where did the time go?"  Sometimes it comes from our mouths, sometimes the mouths of others.  But it's the sort of existential question we should ask ourselves once in a while so that we can be fully aware that we have a certain amount  of time to use.

In the end we ultimately are responsible for the use of our time.  Because if we don't use it with awareness, then we only can look to ourselves as the responsible parties.

Have a useful and productive New Year.   And use those 4,000 weeks wisely.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Divine Intervention?

I was raised all of my life among religious people of various denominations.  When I was a young child I was raised as a Catholic and went through all of the rituals of the Catholic church.  While living with my father, who disappeared with me and my three year brother when I was five years old, I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian.  It wasn't that my dad was a Christian, it was because the church was conveniently located across the road from the farm my father had moved us to. Then, after my mother kidnapped us and moved us back to California, I found myself back in the Catholic church.  And later a Catholic high school.  All kinds of confusing dogma for a youngster in his formative years.

So I really don't know what franchise to believe in.  I have a hard time picturing a God living somewhere above us blessing one set of humans over another.  Yet, each different franchise will fight about what version of belief or faith one should have.

One says follow Allah.  Another Jesus.  Another Joseph Smith.  Bhudda.  I mean the choices are endless, yet people of different faiths will die - or kill you - for their beliefs.   So, what to believe?

I don't really know.  But when I step from my porch and look at the stars at night I know that all the stars in the heavens didn't happen by accident.  I believe there's a supernatural plan to our universe, regardless of how we characterize and package our beliefs.  I myself have fallen away from organized religion because it doesn't seem to deliver what is promised.  Yet there are incidences in my life that happen that can only be explained by divine influence - if you will.

This comes up because the other day I was on the phone with a friend in an Eastern state and was telling her about my plans to attend a conference in a Central American country.  My plan was to invest in real estate or some other business venture in that country.  She didn't say much about my plan and said she'd be in touch later.  And sure enough she sent a text with the name and phone number of a friend of hers that she wanted me to talk to.

Before I could call her friend, her friend called me.  And to make a long blog shorter, her friend vehemently cautioned me against stepping one foot into that country.  And said that I shouldn't ever contact that group again because they were criminals who'd been convicted of various scams and frauds.  And I was given some links to news articles about the group that backed up everything her friend told me.

So I bring this up today because I believe this is nothing but divine intervention in one form or another.  I mean, what are the odds that a woman I talk to a couple times a year would know someone who had the kind of information I was given?  And a friend who would contact me within a week or so before I was planning to buy plane tickets and reserve my place at the conference?

Things like this don't happen by coincidence.

Click here to email John

Saturday, December 24, 2022

A different World

Thirty-two years on Christmas Eve I was living in an entirely different world.  I was homeless.  My bedroom was a stolen car.  I had a heroin habit that cost over $100 a day.  I drank alcohol whenever I could steal some.  There were warrants for my arrest.  I was at the end of a long drug run.  My life was going nowhere and I wasn't sure whether I was going to live or die.  And the strange thing is that I didn't much care about where I was at in life, not really,

Yet, against all odds, three weeks after that Christmas Eve, my life took a sudden turn and I was on the path to recovery.  Exactly what led me to get sober I'm not sure.  I know that I wasn't okay with the way I was living on New Year's Eve of 1991. I found myself having one-sided conversations with myself about doing something different with my life.  If I didn't change I was going to wind up in jail, prison, a mental institution or a cemetary.

One day, in the second week of January, 1991, I found myself calling places where I could detox from the various substances I was using.  And, I finally found a place in Mesa, Arizona, that had an open bed even though I had no money or insurance.  January 13, 1991 I entered that facility and never looked back.

After spending 11 days going through the detox process, I found a halfway house that would accept me without funds.  I'd planned to spend 30 days there, then find work and a place to live.  However, I lived there for a year while I got my life in order,

When I left the halfway house I moved into a beat-up old triplex, which I converted into a halfway house of my own.  My plan was get enough space to house 50 people and open my own recovery program.  I worked a full time job while I rehabilitated that tri-plex.  I soon had so many clients that I had  to started working at the halfway house fulltime.  Within 18 months I had 150 residents and was seeking space for more.

Before I go on here for too long I want to say that I never expected the success that TLC has had over the past 30 years.  I had no grand plan, other than to work at helping others to get sober - just like people had so generously helped change my life.

I have been blessed beyond my dreams, while living in the world of recovery.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

"Your Mother died 15 minutes ago"

At 4:15 pm, Christmas Eve of 1994, those words came from my telephone.  On the other end of the line, sounding a long-distance away, was a nurse at Mesa Lutheran Hospital.

The nurse explained in a soft voice that my mother had experienced a pulmonary embolism, which killed her in less than a minute.  She explained that it was a clot that affected the lungs, blocking blood and oxygen circulation.

Everything after that was a blur.  Through my tears and grief I heard her say that if I came to the hospital in around an hour I could visit her.  I said I'd be there.  After that I called other family members to let them know.

I write of her death during this time because the Christmas season has never been the same since she passed.  I always thought of it as a joyous season.  But somehow, since her passing, it's different.

I think one of the reasons it's so is because the last time I saw her she had a discharge plan which would have had her released the next day.  The staff had said nothing to indicate it was premature to release her.

Even though it's been 26 years, her departure is still fresh in my mind and heart - and probably always will be.  It may be the shock of her sudden death or it may simply be that I lost a life-long friend who had tried to do so much to help me change my life.

I know she'd be happy to see how things turned out.

Click here to email John

Sunday, December 18, 2022


"The quality of obstinately doing what one wants in spite of the wishes or orders of others."  Definition  of self-will found in Oxford Dictionary.

This morning at a 12-Step meeting the topic of self-will came up.  It's a term we hear quite frequently at 12-Step meetings because it is one of the primary character defects that we substance-abusers deal with during our runs of addiction.  And, often self-wIll is the trigger that sets us off.  So, it was especially important to the newcomer who brought the topic up for this morning's discussion.  He was looking for a solution to his own issues with self-will.

Most of the times I've run into  self-will issues is when dealing with an authority figure.  When a teenager, of course  it was back in the  50's in conflicts with parents who didn't want me using alcohol.  And, later it was that they didn't want me to use the range of other drugs that I used such as marijuana, pills, opiates and other serious drugs.

But my strong self-will allowed me to drive right over what they wanted and use whatever I liked and hope they didn't catch me.  Besides, I thought they were being hypocrites because they drank almost daily, even though they didn't get into the kind of problems I did when I drank.  They were more or less what today is called "social drinkers." Though by today's definitions they would be considered alcoholics, being that they consumed three to five drinks a day.  But that's a story for another time.

Circling back to self-will, I believe that it is closely tied to my ego.  And nothing more.  I, for a long time,  thought I knew everything, that I was always right no matter what the argument.  But one day, during my older years, I began to realize that most of the things I felt strongly about really didn't mean a hill of beans.  

Who cared who was wrong or right?  Life teaches us strong lessons.  And if I make a wrong money decision, I'll quickly learn about it because I'll either profit or go broke.  If I pick the wrong mate I'll learn about that also, sometimes very soon.

But if people are telling me I use too much dope or alcohol and I go with my self-will I'll also soon learn about it because I'll pay a heavy price.  I'll either end up in jail, a mental hospital, or be paying a divorce attorney.  Many people tried to give me good advice about my lifestyle and chemical intake. But, because I was a know-it-all, I followed the path of self-will.

Now the good thing about self-will is that if  we're wrong we learn about it fairly soon.  I've always said that education is expensive, no matter where we get it.  We can  get it in college at some expense.  Or we can get it in jail after we break the law.  Either way, we pay for what  we learn.

Today, when I get into self-will I either speak to my sponsor.  Or I find someone who has more experience than I do.  Whatever choice I make, I try to keep my ego and self-will out of the equation.  

Life somehow works better that way.

Click here to email John

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Are Addicts Sensitive?

A while back I hired a non-addict, a so-called "normie," to work as my office assistant.   I've never had anyone working in my office so it's been interesting to see the reaction of a non-addict to the behavior of those who are addicts.

For example, the management team made a decision to dispose or donate some outdated workout equipment that had been donated to us earlier in the year. For one thing it was much too bulky for the space we had for it. And the other thing, is that that there was conflict when someone was trying to study their recovery literature at the other end of the room while someone was using the machines and making a lot of clanging noise.

Our decision created a minor uproar among the exercisers before they had a chance to think the situation through. After all, we're here to work on recovery first.  Exercise can be part of the picture, but anything that interferes with learning about recovery is not a priority.

My assistant was kind of surprised about the intense emotion our decision brought among some of the clients and managers.  I explained to her that one of our jobs at TLC is to help clients - and managers - understand that life is full of changes as long as we're breathing.  And part of staying sober is accepting that things might be different tomorrow.  Just because we don't like change doesn't mean we need to get drunk or put a needle in our arm.  Or even throw a tantrum.

Those in true recovery understand that life is sometimes a rollercoaster of disappointments and that if we accept that idea we can get through most any difficulty.

My assistant will be much more knowledgeable about addicts once she moves on.

Click here to email John

Monday, December 12, 2022

Christmas Tree Sale

Each year, between Thanksgiving and New Years, TLC sells Christmas trees and wreaths at different locations in the Valley.

This year we're selling at our regular location at 37th Avenue and Bethany Home Road in Phoenix and also at a new location at Riverview in Mesa, across from Peter Piper Pizza.  We're grateful to the owners for allowing us to use their properties for our fundraising.

100% of the proceeds from the sales go to support homeless addicts and alcoholics who are working hard to change their lives and get back into the mainstream of the community.

To date we'ves sold over 1400 trees, about 600 short of what we sold altogether during last year's sale.  We fully expect to match last year's goal of 2000 trees - or hopefully do even better.

We are grateful for everyone's support and hope you'll stop by for your beautiful Oregon tree.

Thank you,

Click here to email John

Friday, December 9, 2022

Learning from Death

In my last blog I wrote of the passing of Fabian, who operated a shoe repair shop North of our downtown Mesa facility on Macdonald Street in downtown Mesa.

When that blog was published there was some question about whether Fabian died of natural causes or of foul play.  And it was a question, because a year or so ago he'd suffered a stroke that nearly took his life.  And he'd spent some time with his family in Mexico while he recovered.  We were happy when he returned to work, though I think he worked a more limited schedule.

Today two local news stations came by and asked if I'd mind answering a few questions for a news story they were  doing about his murder.  And I agreed to an interview, though I wasn't able to contribute much.

When they asked how I felt when I heard of his death I was able to tell how terrible I felt about the news of his passing,  I was able to tell about how well-regarded he was by his neighbors in the immediate business community,

I told of his kindness to those of us who knew him, about his humility and sense of humor.  I spoke of his usual good mood and spirit.  I mentioned that he was the kind of person who would have helped anyone, had they simply asked.  I felt that he died for no purpose, that he'd have given anyone anything had they simply asked.

He left a legacy of of kindness and friendliness to others; something that we could all aspire to in these times.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

RIP Fabian

 My first day back in the office and we have a tragedy in the neighborhood.

Two doors to the North of TLC Treatment Clinic is a small shoe repair shop operated by a Latino gentleman named Fabian.  He's been there for many years and has several steady clients.  After all, there aren't many shoe repair shops in our area.  It seems that people would rather throw the old ones away or into a donation bin and buy new ones, rather than repair the old ones.  In any event, Fabian had steady customers who kept him quite busy. 

But Fabian was more than a shoe repair man.  He was a friend to all of his neighboring merchants.  He had a hearty greeting for us as he arrived at the office in the morning.  I saw him quite often in the back parking lot as he arrived to work, and as he headed home for the day.  He had several family members and at times they would pick him up from work.  We would always give each other a wave whenever we encountered one another,

A few years ago we had a scare when he suffered a stroke and went home to Mexico to recover.  He was gone for several months then returned to work once he recovered.  We were happy to see him.

Today, when we saw the police units in front of his shop we assumed that he'd suffered another stroke. But when we saw the police tape cordoning off the area a rumor started that his passing might have been something more than natural-that he may have been murdered. That bothered us all because he was one of the sweetest and kindest people we knew.  I'm sure the police will resolve his death, but it's hard to fathom why someone would take the life of someone who was so kind to everyone.

May he rest in peace...

Click here to email John

Sunday, December 4, 2022

On Vacation

I'm not doing a blog today because I'm on vacation and simply decided to take the day off.  I'll resume in a few days after I return tomorrow.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Enjoying the Days

Because of having to be at home for business and legal issues this is my first vacation in a while.  And it is very pleasant to get away from the constraints of working and following the same routine all of the time.

I very seldom get into a routine of just totally relaxing and not having to be in a particular place at a certain time.  It's healing and relaxing.

One of the reasons I'm able to get away is that I've surrounded myself with good people who have the same goals I have.  At least the primary goals of staying sober and out of trouble with the law.  Some of these people have been with us for years and it feels good to be able to depend upon them. 

While I was checking into my hotel I was reminded of why I work with alcoholics and addicts.  A drunk in front of us was impatiently waiting in line for the desk clerk to move faster checking us in.  I heard him tell his wife he needed a beer and he was going to go look for one.  I had been there many times before and knew there was a bar and restaurant about two hundred feet across the lobby.  I directed him to it and he quickly headed that way for some relief.

When I saw his behavior it reminded of the many years that I couldn't do without alcohol or drugs.  And how I embarrassed the people with me by my behavior.  

Because of what I do today those times are far behind me, something for which I'm eternally grateful.

Click here to email John