Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Support your Team

 I'm not sure whether this is only characteristic of recovering addicts and alcoholics.  But over the past 30 years a pattern has emerged among our volunteer clients and it kind of goes like this: 

A client comes in with only the clothes on his back.  We feed him.  We clothe him.  We help him find a job in the outside community.  We get his teeth fixed.  We provide him with eye care and glasses if necessary.  If he can't find outside work we allow him to volunteer within our community, where he can receive a stipend that we provide all of our volunteers.

As time passes those volunteers with good skills are sometimes elevated to TLC staff members and receive many benefits that make their volunteer services more satisfying.  They sometimes are provided a company vehicle and nicer housing.  But once they're employed by the corporate office that's when we begin to see changes.

I think it has something to do with success; they have a hard time handling it.  Many in this position start assuming they're more important than the next client because of their position.  They forget that a few years back they were in the same situation as our newest clients.  In other words they forget where they came from..

Often, when they reach this stage their ego comes into play and they begin competing with other parts of the company.  Or they start competing to make their department "better" than some of the others.  They forget they're part of a team - a team put in place to benefit all of TLC's clients.  So. what to do?

My solution is to talk to the volunteer and point out that he/she may be taking the wrong path.  I ask them to examine their conscience and values and see where they could be a benefit to the company, rather than solely pursuing their own interests.

Sometimes they're too stuck in their ways to change,  If they can change they can continue to learn how to navigate their sobriety and enjoy the benefits of a clean and productive life.

Click here to email John


Saturday, February 25, 2023

Caring for Ourselves

When I was in my 20s and 30s I felt like I probably wouldn't live to 40.  I didn't pay attention to my diet; if it tasted good I'd eat it.  If it was a choice between alcohol or drugs I'd take both of them.  When I was using, exercise was an afterthought.  My life was about hedonistic pleasure.  If it tasted or felt good that was for me.

I bring this up today because on the 23rd I underwent a four hour ablation on my heart to alleviate a condition called atrial fibrillation that had started affecting me following an auto accident I'd experienced February 7 of 2022.  Not sure if the accident had anything to do with it, but that's when the condition began to affect me. It has to do with the electrical impulses in the heart.  And the surgery is to remove the electrical nodules in the heart chamber,

The condition didn't cause pain.  In fact, the only discomfort was a constant lethargy that slowed me down and sapped my energy.  My cardiologist had some options for me if I chose to do something about the condition.  So, I elected to have the ablation.

A few people asked why I would do something that called for surgery on the heart, that it might be dangerous.  But I did my research before deciding to proceed.  And the real reason I included this in a blog is to encourage addicts to care for themselves.  Especially men.

I've heard a lot of guys say they don't want to see a doctor because they don't want "any bad news."  But the reality is that we're all going to get "bad news" at some time in our lives.  

That's why we should take care of our health so we can maybe enjoy a few more healthy years.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Not a Job - A Mission

I was reading an article on the internet the other day that said the average job in the United States lasts 4.3 years.  

I paused to reflect when I read that because I've had the same job since I got sober 32 years ago.  It's been the longest job I've ever had.  And I had to think for a while until I figured out the difference.

And I think the reason I've worked here so long is that I really don't consider what I do to be a job.  Yes, I do show up every day and see that different aspects of the company are functioning as they should be.  In other words, are the bills paid?  Are we carrying out our mission of helping addicts and alcoholics change their lives. Are the buildings in good repair?  Is our population where it should be?

Rather than this being a job, I consider what I do to be a mission.  And TLC's mission is to help recovering substance abusers rebuild their lives.  

When I awake in the morning and put my feet on the floor I don't do any negative self-talk about having to go to work.  My outlook is that I get to go to work.  I'm happy to go to work.. 

I'm blessed with the opportunity to help others change their lives.  I'm able to share with others what it's like to live a free life, unburdened by the pressure to find drugs or alcohol.  I look back on the years when I was using and think that those were some of the most difficult years of my life.  I never had enough of anything.  It seemed like I was always struggling to find drugs or money.  And, I was always looking over my shoulder to see if the police were behind me.

Many of our clients who stay sober are those who find employment they enjoy. They also look forward to getting up in the morning and doing something productive with their lives.  They feel the growing self-esteem that comes with contributing to society - and along with staying sober, they are caring for their loved ones.

Click her to email John                      

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Safe Harbor

I'm at a 12-Step meeting this Sunday morning where a man who's been sober for about four years says he really feels an intense need to have a drink.  He's choked up with tears as he tells about his wife taking their three children and leaving him for another man with whom she's been having an affair.  Everyone at the meeting can feel his emotion, the pain in his heart.  There are many damp eyes in the room.

He pours out his feelings for a while and appears to be somewhat calmer by the time he passes to another visitor.

As he was talking I was reflecting that this man's outpouring of emotion is exactly why AA has been such an effective organization for more than 80 years. It's available everywhere for anyone who needs support in rough times.  Or a place to fellowship with likeminded people who simply want to share their perspective on life in the realm of sobriety.

AA meetings are in most cities, large and small, and welcome anyone who needs a safe place to deal with any kind of  issue.  Everyone is welcome.  No one is judgemental.  People who went through hell to get to AA are smiling and supportive as they share their stories of the adventures that got them to the rooms in the first place.  And there's usually someone at the meeting who's been through the same experience and is willing to share how he found a solution.

And the great thing about the program is that everyone is welcome, it's free, and there are hundreds of meetings throughout the Valley.

Click here to email John

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Living in the Moment

I periodically meet people in recovery who beat themselves up because they believe they "wasted" a lot of years drinking and drugging.  Even though they've been sober for a few years they do this because of the time they devoted to drinking or drugging.  Many spent years.

While I understand where they're coming from - because I've shared some of those feelings myself - I don't think there is such a thing as wasted time.  I think that the experiences that led us to using, and the path we took to get into recovery, are part of our education so we are able to have the life we have today.

For those of us who used for years, we went through many rough experiences before we decided to change.  Some of us went to jail or prison or both.  Others had families that stopped supporting them - and sent them on their way.  Others were divorced.  Some of us impacted our health.  Myself, I had hepatitis C for nearly 30 years before science came up with a cure.

But once we go through the early struggles of learning to live sober we come to realize that some of the tough times we faced in our addiction made us stronger and more resilient people.  Today I'm able to look back at those who didn't survive their addictions; instead they stayed with them until they overdosed or became handicapped.

If we look around us we can always find others who didn't make it and feel good that we did.  When we look at our lives this way, we can find a reason to live in gratitude.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Crossing the Line

So why do some of us get sober?  And others are never quite able to get to the point where they want to quit.

While I'm not the answer guy, I do have 32 years of living a sober life and so feel qualified to weigh in with an opinion.  

I'll start with why I stopped using alcohol and drugs.  And the answer is simple.  Being drunk and high and paying the consequences for living that way was simply too painful.  In my forties I started to realize that I might spend the rest of my life struggling to keep a certain chemical balance and never quite reach that elusive feeling of euphoria that drugs and alcohol sometimes brought me for a short period of time.  

I felt like my life was a chemistry experiment.  One that I couldn't quite get right.  Oh, maybe for a moment I'd feel some kind of a rush or feeling of bliss.  But then, it was just as quickly gone and I'd be left to figure out how to get back to where I wanted to be.

That went on and on until I started to realize that what I was doing wasn't working anymore.  I was spending most of my time looking for something to steal and sell  so I could keep my head in the place I wanted to be.  And I never was quite able to get where I thought I needed to be.  And no amount of trying got me any closer.  And at about that point I began to entertain the idea of getting sober and living a different kind of life.  And that's what I did.

Being sober isn't always a bed of roses, but it's 100% better than the way I lived 32 years ago.

Click here to email John

Friday, February 10, 2023

Key to Happiness

I recently discovered an interesting article on the internet about a happiness study at Harvard University  that has endured since the 1920s.  

The original purpose was to have around 100 men participate in a lifelong study of what they found that made them happy and to report their findings to researchers.  All were elite students, many from wealthy families and enjoying the finer things of life.  In fact, one was John F. Kennedy, who later became president.  Many of the participants went on to become wealthy and famous.

When they were 60 and above, they reported about what made them happiest.  And the outcome was that the majority reported that the biggest factor that brought them happiness was the quality of their relationships.  All of their relationships were important to them.  Their wives and husbands.  Their family members.  Their business associates.

The discovery has been consistent throughout the study.

And the reason I write about this is that many of our clients express anxiety about their relationships.  Will their parents ever talk to them again?  Will their marriages fall  apart?  Will their children speak to them again?  Relationships of all kinds seem to be the number one concern. 

When I read this study I understood why this is such a large issue with clients.  I think that being part of a social group is in our DNA, one of the most necessary to our survival.  If we look at prehistoric times, if we weren't part of the tribe or were exiled for some breaking a rule it might be a death sentence because we need society to help us navigate through life.

The good news for us addicts is that once we get clean and sober our families and friends usually come back to us - at least that's been my observation over my 32 years of sobriety.  Once our loved ones see us rebuilding our lives they normally welcome us back.  I know mine have.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The blessing of Pain

The universe gave us the gift of pain so that we could survive in a world that is sometimes challenging to live in.  For example, I didn't get sober and change until life became too painful.

And you might say - if you're not an alcoholic or addict - that you thought that alcohol and drugs took away pain.  And to a point you may be right.  But the kind of pain I'm referring to is the overriding spiritual pain that saturates your whole being,  Pain that seeps into one's bones and every organ of the body.   The kind of pain that we can only escape by drinking or drugging ourselves further into unconsciousness.  Only to wake up and start the vicious cycle once again. After a certain point there's nothing that can kill the pain of addiction except for complete abstinence.  That's how it happened for me.

 Now some of us have to go through the cycle of quitting and relapsing over and over before we finally get the idea that the only way to shed our pain is to abstain - and so we do.  Then we can luxuriate in the kind of life our creator intended for us.

Click here to email John

Saturday, February 4, 2023


During the Corvid 19 pandemic much of our office staff worked remotely, so as to avoid spreading the virus further.

There was a bit of anxiety about what we'd do when the virus subsided - as far as bringing the staff back to the office.  At that point I saw an opportunity to try an experiment that I'd been thinking of trying for a while.  I decided to allow staff members to set their own hours, unless they were working on a project that had to be completed on a certain schedule or by a certain deadline.  

The outcome was interesting.  When we allowed staff to leave once they completed their routine responsibilities it seemed we got more work done and completed it much sooner.  Not one person took advantage of the situation.

I think that at first there was some suspicion about what we were up to.  We still were paying the same wages and salaries, yet some of them were working half as many hours.  

My reasoning about the hours they put in was that I didn't want to walk past a desk and see someone surfing the web or posting on social media.  I'd much prefer to see them complete their jobs and then maybe go to the gym or to a 12-step meeting. And that's what many of them did.

We probably will continue this schedule as long as it's as effective as it has been.  When I see people just wasting time on busy work just to look like they're doing something productive I see us wasting the one resource we can't make more of:  our precious time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Ego is not our Amigo

Something interesting and curious I've learned during my 32 years of recovery is that when some people become financially successful they lose their gratitude.  Now this isn't all people. But a number of those I've been close to have started with nothing, become successful, then turned into different human beings.  

They've become arrogant, egotistical, and a couple of them actually were taking credit for TLC's success.

In fact, I helped two staff members - some 20 years ago - become successful enough to buy new homes and cars, only to see one of them relapse and lose everything and the other one disappear.  Later, another fellow, who showed up with just the clothes on his back and a lot of humility, also quit after a number of successful years.

When I asked why he was  quitting, he said "I can no longer trust you."  Then he left.  I thought that was an interesting statement considering that I'd picked him up from LARC when he had zero and gave him a job.  Then helped him with several financial investments over the years, investments that brought him enough passive income to where he'd never have to work again.

Now, most of us have an ego, especially me, but I do my best to keep it under control. One thing I never forget is those who have helped me get to where I am today.  Like most TLC clients, I showed up to detox with nothing but the clothes I was wearing.  I had 73 cents in my pocket.  I knew I was in a bad spot and that staying sober was the only way I'd be able to stay alive.

But I never forget the people around me who helped me build TLC into one of the bigger programs in this State - and without government subsidies.  There are many of them who are grateful, down-to-earth, humble people who still go to meetings and help others stay sober.

Click here to email John