Sunday, January 29, 2023

Anger gets us Drunk

At least once or twice a year someone threatens to sue us.  A couple of days ago a client became angry at a counselor and packed his stuff and walked out.  On his way out he talked one of his friends into leaving with him.  Later that day he called back - drunk and angry - and told the person who answered the phone that he was filing a lawsuit against TLC.

Now this is nothing new to us.  We have alcoholics and addicts who get angry and leave the program every once in a while.  And - especially if they're drunk - they'll say they're going to sue us for god knows what.  But that rarely happens.  If they do go as far as to contact an attorney they soon learn that it takes thousands of dollars just to  get started and they drop that idea and continue getting high or drunk until they find out that maybe they acted a little hastily.  We rarely hear from them again.

But this anecdote brings up a problem that's at the core of alcoholism and addictions.  And that problem  is anger and resentment.  Many of us - me included - get drunk for years because we're angry and resentful at something that didn't go our way.

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't get angry at others or at situations that didn't go our way.  But most of the things we get angry about about are things that are out of our control.  Or, they're about things that are no  longer important or relevant to our lives today.

I'm a good example of that.  I was abused by my father for years.  And once I got into my teens I ran away from home and never went back.  All I did was live for years as an addict and alcoholic because I was so angry I was unable to mask the pain without drugs.

While I turned out fairly successful in life, how many years did I waste on anger at my alcoholic father?  Quite a few.  I spent a lot of time in prisons, jails, on the streets and in other bad situations all because I couldn't learn to forgive.

I know that if we survive our anger we may become stronger human beings - but wouldn't it be better if we could immediately realize that our anger will accomplish nothing and just forgive and move on.  After all, does it really matter if we're right or wrong?

Click here to email John

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Nobody Cares

One thing that many people have a hard a time with is that they believe they're the center of attention.

For example, I know this man in his 20s who was arrested about a year ago and was released from jail after he posted bond and agreed to wear an ankle bracelet and report to a probation officer.  He was pretty happy to get released.  But, he was very unhappy about the ankle bracelet.

When I questioned him about it, he told me that he hated it because he could no longer wear shorts when he went to the gym or played basketball.

When I asked him why he couldn't wear shorts, he said that people would see the ankle bracelet and know that he'd been in trouble with the law.

Of course my response was why does he care what others think?  And does he have skills with extrasensory perception that allows him to read what others have on their minds?  I asked why he would waste his precious time on this planet wondering what others might think about him?

I believe we should respect social norms and care what others think as far as our behaviour is concerned. I think we should care enough about what others think to to treat them with respect and politeness.  We get ahead in the world by observing social norms and standards.

But to let others control our behavior because we might be afraid of what they think of us is a whole different story.  When we're born we have about 4000 weeks to live.  So why should we be renting headspace to people we don't even know and might only see once; for example at a gym.

He and I have discussed the ankle bracelet issue more than once.  But I think his ego is not yet developed enough for him to accept that what other people might think is mostly irrelevant.  Someday he hopefully will find a better use of his time.

Click here to email John

Monday, January 23, 2023


A common character defect among addicts is that many of them have the ability to read minds.  You probably didn't know this.  But if you don't, you haven't spent much time around addicts.

Today, for  example I was in a productive conversation with a staff member with whom I was having a difference.  And because I'm this person's supervisor I have a certain amount of authority if I decide to exercise it.

The disagreement wasn't about anything important.  But, this person was of the  opinion that because the part of the company he works in brings brings in more revenue than other departments, that his department should dictate how and where the revenue is spent. He has a difficult time looking at himself as part of a larger team that's helping homeless addicts and alcoholics rebuild their lives.  He doesn't see the unity that makes TLC a successful organization that's helped thousands change their lives for the better.  At least, he he doesn't see it until he's prompted.

This person spent time telling me how others saw our business, as if he had a magic viewer that would tell him what others think.  But life doesn't work that way.  That's not to say that we all don't have our opinions and that's okay; it's when we get stuck on the idea that we know what others think that the problem arises.  I'm pretty sure that many people dislike me or our program - but the reality is that I don't give a shit who likes or dislikes us. For all I know, they love us - and I don't care about that either.

What I care about is if we're helping people learn to live better lives. That's what counts in my world - not whether my way is the only way.

Click here to email John

Friday, January 20, 2023

Who Cares?

Many years ago, barely out of my teens, I used to get upset if someone would cut me off in traffic.  That usually - at the least - was the trigger for a shouting match or perhaps something worse.  Like a car chase or a boxing match.  But, we hopefully grow out of those things as we mature.

But today I was reminded of those days when a young driver cut off a vehicle in which I was a passenger.  Even though the other driver didn't have the right-away, he became highly incensed when we made our u-turn and went on our way.  As he passed us he made a point to wave his middle finger at us in a not friendly way and continued down the street.

Just in case he was looking at us, I gave him a smile and friendly wave as we continued on our way.  A couple of those in our vehicle were a little upset at the other driver's reaction.  But, my response was "who cares" if someone doesn't approve of our driving?  We'll likely never see him again anyway.

Too often we read about road rage incidents, mostly on our freeways, and sometimes the result is that someone gets injured or even killed. In these cases I always wonder what is going on in a person's life when they fly into a rage over something as minor as being cut off in traffic. I mean we'll probably never see the person again and yet someone goes into a rage over something as meaningless as being cut off in traffic?

I mean do we really care what someone in another vehicles is thinking or doing unless he drives into the side of our vehicle?  I don't think so. My philosophy is live and let live and to have peace in my life.  

And I can't picture myself letting someone I don't know and likely will never see again get me upset enough to ruin my day.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

What's Changed?

 When I was a teenager, around 16, I started using heroin for the first time.  Once I started, I didn't want to stop. And didn't until I was arrested about a year later.

The reason I bring this up today, is that I celebrated 32 years sober last week.  And during this period I went to a couple of meetings, was presented a chip by my sponsor, was given a birthday cake at work, and received an abundance of congratulations from friends, family, and co-workers.

But when I was a teenage addict there wasn't near as much in our culture that celebrated or recognized recovery.  Or if there was, I never was aware of it.  If you were an addict in those days the only thing available resembling treatment was the county jail.

If one were caught with syringes or spoons - collectively know as "paraphernalia," the sentence was a year in jail.  And there was nothing, no medication or anything resembling treatment.  Addicts just sweated it out until their system was clean.

The public attitude toward addicts is that they were evil or dangerous - or both.  Today, all of that attitude has pretty much changed.  Today one is considered to have a disease if they suffer from alcoholism or addiction to anything.  But in the 50s and 60s it was a moral issue.  If you were an addict you were a sinner, an untrustworthy evil person who deserved nothing better than a stretch behind bars.

Politicians got into the act in 1971 when Richard Nixon declared and funded a "war on drugs."  For some reason it doesn't seem like we're making much progress though because now there're are more drugs than ever.

What has changed?  To me it seems like that in our national subconsciousness we've come to the realization that we've lost the war on drugs after a years long and costly battle.  Fewer people seem to look at it as a moral issue and look upon it as the sickness that it is.  Today, something like 15% of the population is addicted to something for which they need treatment.

And a good thing is that our society is starting to accept addictions as a disease and is trying to do something about it.

Click here to email John

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Most Important Step

 The most important of the 12-Steps - in my opinion is the first one.  The one where we admit that we're "powerless and that our lives are unmanageable."

And I say that because that's the step we take that sends us into a different direction, a direction that will help us save ourselves from our addictions.  And, until we accept that step with passion and fervor we're not going far. It's like going upstairs in a building; we never begin our ascent at the 6th or 7th step. No, we start at the beginning.

For many years I believed that I was in control of my addictions and had power over them.  I could quit any time I chose to.  But I hadn't had enough pain to want to quit.  Drugs and alcohol were my friends and I wasn't going to betray them.

Today I work in a recovery program and I meet many clients who're fighting an internal battle, examining whether or not they're powerless over their habits.  Many create drama or self-pity so they have an excuse to go back into the world and try it one more time. Those who can remember how many times they they've failed because of their addictions are the ones who're less likely to relapse.

So, if one embeds the First Step deep in their subconscious, they will have a better chance of putting together a string of sober years.

I know that it worked for me.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Changing my Life.

I'll soon have 32 years sober.  And it's a strange sensation because in my mid-30s I figured my life expectancy was at the most in my mid-40s.  I figured that was how long my body could hold up under the constant onslaught of alcohol and drugs I assaulted it with.  If I wasn't completely high or drunk, it was a bad day.

Yet one day in 1991 had what the Big Book describes as a "moment of clarity," and my life immediately made a small incremental shift toward the idea that I had to do something to change the trajectory I was on.

And that course I was on was to be under the influence of something anytime I was conscious.  Heroin was the first choice, then alcohol.  And of course anything else that would change my level of consciousness was also welcomed.

I don't recall where I was when I was weighing my decisions.  But I think I was on a park bench, sitting a few feet from a car I'd stolen the day before.  Continue using?  Keep stealing?  Continue to sleep in the stolen car?  Go to a hospital or detox?  Maybe commit a crime that would send me back to jail, which for many years had been my second home?  Maybe go to a mental hospital.

Finally, after a few hours, I opted to go to a detox that was a few miles away.  Although I didn't know it then, that was one of the best decisions I'd ever made.  I spent 11 days in that facility, then went from there to a halfway house, where I spent a year learning how to live without alcohol or drugs.

When I arrived, I had nothing but the clothes on my back.  No money.  No friends. No phone. The one thing I did have was a burning desire to change my life.  And that's all I focussed on.

I went to 12-step meetings.  Found a job with a company I used to work for.  Eventually I started my own business and the rest is a history that I'm not ashamed of.

In closing, we choose how we're going to live.  And, I finally made the right choice.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Feeling Problem

Much of the controversy that we have at TLC revolves around feelings.

"This person doesn't like me."

"He thinks he's better than I am."

Or "He thinks he knows more than me."

These kinds of utterances come out of peoples' mouths all the time at our program.  And we actually have some people who don't talk to one another over hurt feelings.  

But the reality is that if I think someone doesn't like me that doesn't mean it's true.  The reality is that unless someone tells me they don't like me, then I have to have some super form of extrasensory perception to be able to tell how they feel toward me.

But even more important is that most of the time what someone thinks of us is not really important - unless we're married to them or they're signing our paycheck.

I read something by a philosopher the other day that made a lot of sense.  He said that if we consider every disagreement we get into as 100% our responsibility we'll have a pretty smooth life.  And, you might say, well I'm not always 100% wrong, you may need to rethink your position.  After all, didn't you get yourself into a situation where you got into the disagreement in the first place?

And, in the final analysis, is it really important who's right or wrong to the point where we waste our precious  time on it.  The only time being right or wrong might be important is if we're mixing up the ingredients for a nuclear bomb - then we better get it right.  But really, how often do we get into arguments that involve life or death results?  Not often.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Learning in 12 step meetings.

I was at a 12-step meeting recently and the topic was about what was the most important thing we'd learned since we'd been in the program.  The participants ranged from their early 20's to some in their 60s.

It was a meeting that had me thinking a few days later because a lot of people said similar things.  While others had their own unique perspective on what the program had taught them.

For example, one member said that for much of his life he'd tried to control others.  And that because of that he'd experienced much difficulty in many areas of his life. He'd been in trouble with employers, the law, his family - nearly all his relationships.  What changed him, he said, was that a sponsor who was working with him took him outside the meeting room and had him draw an imaginary three foot circle around his feet.  He was puzzled, but did as he was asked.  Then the sponsor told him that from now on he needed to understand that everything outside of that circle was none of his business.  His business was everything inside the circle.

At first he thought his sponsor was crazy.  But, soon he learned that if he lived by the guidelines his sponsor had given him, his life worked much better.  The longer he was sober and the more he practiced the fewer problems he had,

There were many other lessons that members had learned since joining AA, too many to describe here.  But the one thing I got from the topic was that hanging out with others who had experiences similar to ours, is a wonderful way to learn how to benefit from sobriety.  Learning from our fellow addicts and alcoholics is a good way to learn how to live a good life.

Click here to email John

Monday, January 2, 2023

The hard work of Recovery

I get at least one or two calls a year from people who want to start a recovery program, a half-way house, a sober house, a transitional house, or some version thereof.  And because I believe that the best policy is to help others change their lives, I offer them all the help I can in the form of advice.  Even though they might turn out to be competitors. 

But the interesting thing, is that in 30 years of doing this, I've never had anyone follow through.  And, I'm pretty sure I know why.

When I start telling them what's involved in opening living facilities for groups of dysfunctional alcoholics or addicts they begin to realize that it's a lot of relatively complicated hard work. And they never call back.  I've had a few people go through our transitional program and go on to start their own program.  But, I've never seen any of them last long.

You see, a recovery program has a lot of moving parts.  It's about a lot more than just leasing or buying a house and filling it with clients.  Furnishings are necessary.  One needs everything from bedding to cookware. Maintenance is needed.  Staff members must be trained. Policies and procedures must be developed.  The list goes on.

Besides the physical plant, management must deal with insurance, the local government, tax filings, public relations, and sometimes angry clients or their family members.

The operators of these kind of facilities at first don't realize that running a recovery facility is quite labor intensive and also can be emotionally draining.  It's like being a landlord in some ways, except one must be prepared to sometimes be a referee, a parent, a friend, a counselor and a good listener.  

Even when the last thing you want to do is listen to anyone about anything.

Click here to email John