Thursday, March 30, 2023

Are we Invincible?

When it comes to not overdosing or dying from alcohol many of our young clients act as if they're invincible.

A man in his early 20s was recently found dead of an overdose behind a building in downtown Mesa.  He'd been in more than one treatment program - including TLC's - yet he would leave within a few days of entry acting as if he didn't have a problem after all.  The day before he was found dead he'd encountered a friend of mine who asked how he was doing.  He said he was fine, but that he wasn't done yet.  He wasn't ready to quit using.  Then he passed away the next day.

When I was a user in my 30s I had sort of the same attitude - that nothing could kill me, so I used drugs and alcohol with abandon.  I'm not even sure that I thought that my lifestyle could kill me and fortunately it didn't.  

But the  situation today is different.  Exotic and potent new drugs are on the market.  And many of the pills addicts buy off the streets are laced with Fentanyl or animal tranquilizers that make them deadly. Yet, the hope of another high is so alluring that users ignore the danger.  Like many addicts - and people  in general - they have the idea that bad things only happen to others.

One thing that I've learned is that people don't respond to danger or fear of dying.  They respond more to the promise of a better life - one that gives a purpose for living.

And that's what we try to give the clients who come to us.  The ones who are ready will grasp the  opportunity for change.

Click here to email John

Monday, March 27, 2023

Gratitude is the Key

The other day I was reading about a scientific study of gratitude performed with psychiatric patients at a university.

The 30 day study included around 100 patients, many of them veterans with PTSD.  The results showed, among other things, that depression was lowered by half among many of the participants.

The study was simple:  participants were to write a list each day of ten things they had gratitude for.  The researchers were surprised at the results.

Measures of depression went down among many of participants.  Others had a drop in anxiety.  Others became less hostile and expressed compassion for others.  None of the participants became worse.

I know that when I look at the world with gratitude my life is better on most every level.  If I'm ungrateful or having other negative emotions my whole world is darker and I'm not nearly as productive.

I believe one of the reasons gratitude works is that I have to look inward, as opposed to always looking outward.  So how do I find things to have gratitude for?

I find a lot of things while driving the three miles to my job.  A homeless guy pushing a couple of carts.  A woman curled up in a pile of rags outside Circle K.  A man struggling to push his wheelchair in the blazing sun.

There's no shortage of things to be grateful for.  Look around you.  Watch the news.  Everywhere there's something that will provide you with material for your gratitude list.

Have gratitude for the sponsor that tells you to write three things you're grateful for every morning.  Put him on the list - because he's trying to save your life.

Click here to email John

Friday, March 24, 2023

A Pleasant Surprise

I left my office a couple of days ago, headed for lunch, and found a note tucked under the windshield of my car.  I figured it was someone with an anger issue who was sending me a message.  Then I was pleasantly surprised to read the following note:

"TLC took me in off the streets. Fed me.  Clothed me. Handed my dignity back to me.  Gave me shelter. A chance for a better life.  Made me work for it.  Taught me to never underestimate nor take for granted the gift of a new start. 

Miracles do happen . People make miracles happen.  You Gifted me my recovery miracle.  I will be eternally grateful.  This is what you have done for me and so many others.  Because you cared.  Thank you for fulfilling your dream.  You have saved lives!"

The note was unsigned but it was a pleasant reminder that sometimes we're able to help addicts change their lives.   Gratitude goes a long way toward helping us stay sober and the person who wrote this probably has a good chance to live a productive life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Recovery Relationships

We often get requests from couples - some married and some not - to come into our treatment program or transitional housing to do the program together.  And our answer is always the same:  no.

Now sober citizens without addiction problems might not understand why we deny them.  But the answer is simple.  

When couples are together in a program they often lose focus.  They don't pay as much attention to the treatment they're receiving as they do to each other.   Another factor is that they can't be as transparent about their issues when they're in the same group as their partner.  Plus, jealousy may arise if one of them finds another member of the program attractive or interesting.  There are many other potential conflicts which I won't go into here.

We have rules for our single clients of both sexes that are designed to keep them from getting into relationships while in the program.  We don't allow them to pair up with one another, for example.  Because what often happens is that Mother Nature takes its course and before we know it they're looking for ways to get together.  Many times couples become so enamored with each other that they leave the program together to start a "new" life.  Sadly, the new life usually ends up at the dope house and they're in the same situation they were before - living in their addictions.

No one has ever told their son or daughter to go down to the local recovery program to find a good life mate or partner.  There's a reason that all of us went into recovery.  And it wasn't because we were such great human beings.  Most of had nothing when we arrived.  We might have a criminal background.  Little or no education.  We might have health issues.

And I tell clients regularly that if you find someone in the program that you really love, then that love can wait a while until your recovery gets stronger.

Click here to email John

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Making the neighborhood a Better Place

A prosperous businessman called the other day and invited me to lunch.  I was kind of surprised because I didn't know him that well.  Even though I'd met him on a few occasions over 25 years ago when we first located a few transitional  houses in a neighborhood in Phoenix where he has several businesses and real estate investments.

We met for lunch here in Mesa and he thanked me for the positive influence we'd had on the neighborhood where his businesses are located.

He said that since we'd located there over 20 years ago that drug use and drug dealing, as well as prostitution and other crimes had gone down substantially.  I recall that when we first located there, hookers strolled through the neighborhood and meth addicts were using and peddling their wares on all corners of the area. At the time there were also a high number of violent crimes and a large police presence.

During our meeting I explained that once our program moves into a neighborhood the word gets around to the dealers and users and they tend to stay away.  Except when one of them wants to get sober and change their life.  Then they come see us.

This is the kind of thing that doesn't just happen in his neighborhood.  Everywhere we're located, our presence tends to improve the quality of life in area.  We seem to cast an umbrella of security wherever we put down roots.  We develop good relationships with the neighbors.  We keep our yards manicured, our buildings maintained, and don't have parties or loud get togethers.  We become part of the fabric of the community.

And at the same time we're helping addicts and alcoholics become better people.

I left our meeting feeling gratitude for his recognition and support.

Click here to email John.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A Subtle Disease

Our addictions can creep up on us when we least expect.  I heard a story about a fellow who had spent six months in a treatment program and was about to graduate and seek employment.

Before he graduated, however, he requested a pass to visit his family in another city to celebrate a relative's birthday.  Since he'd been an active participant in the program and seemed to be working a strong program his overnight pass request was approved.  But it didn't turn out so well.

It seems that some of the family members were social drinkers and were enjoying a few beers in the presence of our client.  A few days later he showed up at the program, 24 hours late, with a bad hangover and requested to return to the program.  Of course he was discharged and told he could return in a week to start the program over.

He said he had no plans to drink with other family members at the party.  But before he realized what he was doing he had a can of beer in his hand and you know the rest of the story.

This anecdote exemplifies how cunning and powerful our addictions are in spite of our best intentions.  We must always be vigilant when away from our support system.  Especially when we're in the presence of so-called "social drinkers."

Click here to text John 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Guaranteed Sobriety

Our program offers a 100% sobriety guarantee. Yes that's right. This is not a misprint. Your eyes are not deceiving you:  a 100% sobriety guarantee.

Now, you may ask yourself, how can anyone make such a brash statement? After all, professionals have been trying for years to get us addicts and alcoholics clean and sober. And all of a sudden you guys come along with your little recovery program and make a statement like this. What up? And why isn't the world beating a path to your door?

Well, I guess this is sort of tongue-in-cheek.  And there is one caveat. And that is that this guarantee is 100% -
 but only if the client does exactly as we say.

Because the information we dispense and the program that we run works for anyone who seriously wants to get clean and sober. But it always comes down to the willingness of the client.

After all, no one ever held any of us down and put a needle in our arm. No one forces alcohol down our throat. No one puts pills in our coffee. No one forced a crack pipe between our teeth.  We are always co-conspirators in our addiction, authors of our own misery.

But what happens for many clients – those who don't succeed – is that after a few meals and a few nights rest they start looking at externals: I don't like the food. TLC is trying to get rich off us addicts. They expect me to get a job.. They don't treat me with respect (After all I'm a grown ass adult). They want me to bring my uncashed check to the office to make sure they get their money. The list of reasons why TLC doesn’t work for them goes on and on.

At this point their addiction once more is waking up. They need a fix. Or they need a drink. In other words, they're not done yet.

However if they do what we suggest: go to meetings, get a job, pay their child support, get a sponsor, and become responsible, they will succeed in recovery. 100% of the time,

It takes a while for many of us to cross over that bridge from our addiction to the land of sweet recovery.

However, if our clients do what we suggest they'll get there. Guaranteed.

Click here to text John

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Gratitude for Everything

When we awaken in the morning we start our day in a certain state of mind.  Some of us are rested.  And grateful for a good night's sleep,  Others of us are grumpy bears because know we have a lot of issues awaiting us when we arrive at our desk.  And the way we wake up will dictate the kind of day we're going to have.  We've set the course for our next several hours.

 But what if we could develop a way of thinking, and continual state of mind where we're grateful and accepting of whatever goes on in our lives.  Then we'd be happy as anyone could be because we're living a life where nothing is wrong.  Everything is going the way it should be, and we find fulfillment in the life we're leading.

I've heard tell there are millionaires and billionaires who live miserable lives in the middle of their cushy wealth.  Maybe somewhere along the way they came to believe that if they just had enough material stuff that they would be happy and satisfied.  But my belief is that more stuff will not make me happy.  Bigger and better is not what happiness is wrapped in.  

Now it's true that riches and expensive toys can bring us pleasure.  But true happiness is not found in pleasure on a long term basis; eventually pleasure becomes the new norm and we need to find another level of pleasure better than the pleasure we've become used to.  So how do we repair this fixation on material pleasure, how do we escape it's grasp?

Simple.  We learn to accept that the world is exactly the way it's supposed to be at this moment.  We find that there's a reason for everything and deeply accept it.  We embrace the fact that we're human and that shit doesn't  always go our way.

Try this right now as an experiment:   Find something you're unhappy about that you can't change.  Accept deep in your insides, your inner soul, that this is exactly the way life is supposed to be right now.  Try to change nothing, just melt into acceptance and tell yourself that life is just as it's supposed to be.  If you keep practicing this you'll find that your world is changing to one of happiness because you want nothing other than what is at this moment.

Click here to email John

Monday, March 6, 2023

The paradox of Change

 In the 32 years since TLC opened it's doors we've undergone nothing but change.   And change is something that clients profess to like.

And the changes didn/t always come from management.  Most of the changes came from the residents themselves.  In fact, many of the early rules were the ideas of clients, as opposed to being made up by staff.  Job search, curfews, meeting schedules, were all the work of the residents.  As were many other policies and procedures.  But the idea of change often bothers both staff and clients.

A good example was that someone decided we needed a new floor in the hallway.  Many of the tiles were cracked, missing, or stained - so refurbishing the floor was long overdue.

But as soon as the project began, we heard nothing but rumbling from all sides.

"No one told me anything about it"

"That paint's the wrong color."  And so forth.

The project created so much uproar that we decided to discontinue any more improvements until we can figure our how to please everyone.  There's nothing less gratifying than doing a lot of expensive work and to make everyone unhappy.

Bur whatever we do, be sure that the future is made of nothing but change.  Count on it and you'll be much happier when it comes.

Click here to email John

Friday, March 3, 2023

Don't give Up

From the early days of my addictions people tried to help me.  My mother sent me to a private school.  I was always offered jobs and opportunities to improve.  But, it never helped me to stop using or drinking.  I was such an angry person at an early age that I'm sure it seemed like a waste of effort to try to help me change.

By the time I was 18 and had committed a serious crime like heroin possession, the legal system decided that the only cure for my problems was time in prison.  And that's what they gave me.  At that time - in the late 50's - the landscape wasn't dotted with treatment programs and detoxification centers.  The establishment idea of treatment was to lock addicts up.  And so I went away for a six month to ten year term in the California Department of Corrections.

I spent a little over four years that first term.  Then I went back again for the same offense.  I kept up this pattern of living for years.  I finally accumulated around 16 years in various institutions, including one year in a state mental hospital where I lived with 300 other addicts.  But none of this attention from the legal system helped much.

Because whenever I was released it wasn't long before I was back in the drug and crime world.  And I would continue that way until I was over 50.  So why did I change?

It really boiled down to one simple word:  pain.  With over half my life behind me I was tired of existing only to be drunk or shooting heroin.  I got tired of being homeless.  Of having to steal each day to obtain drugs and alcohol.  Of not living up to my potential.  Of just drifting and having no goals other than being out of my mind and drowning self-induced pain with whatever substances I could find.

I write this today for the parents, friends and others who have given up hope on the addicts in their lives.  Have faith that there is hope.  Accept that you have no power over them and hope they'll get tired of the pain and start seeking the help they need.

Click here to email John