Monday, July 31, 2023

Talking to Aliens?

A friend sent me a saying the other day that I really like.

It goes like this: "Addiction is the giving up of everything for one thing.  Recovery is giving up one thing for everything."

This is a saying that is simple – yet very true.

For those of us in recovery, if we just look back over our shoulders we can see a trail of wreckage behind us.  Maybe our families cut us loose because of our behavior.  Perhaps we lost one or more jobs because of our addiction(s).  Many of us even lost our freedom because of crimes we committed that were related to drugs or alcohol.  There's no limit to the problems we create for ourselves when we're living in addiction.

My experience with addiction has never been different from what I described above.  In my lifetime of using heroin and alcohol I never met a long-term success.  Admittedly, I knew people who successfully sold drugs or committed other crimes while they were in their addictions.  But eventually all of them paid some kind of a price that made their brief success a heavy price to pay.

As I described above, they either lost their families, their freedom, or their health and material possessions.

It used to puzzle me how many parents and others thought that quitting an addiction was an easy thing.  Now that I've been sober for over 32 years, all of that time in the business of dealing with addicts and alcoholics in recovery, I understand why they think that way.  After all we don't know much about things we don't have experience with.  And most families and friends don't know what their loved ones are going through.  A lot of them think that their addict or alcoholic should this be able to just say no. Kind of Nancy Reagan style.  But that's not reality.

Those of us who are addicts can all remember someone pleading with us to stop.  To just quit. To give it up.  However, that's not the way the world of addiction works.

Non-addicts don't understand the disease that we're battling with.  They're looking at our dilemma from the standpoint of logic.  When were talking to them, we're talking to aliens.

We see their lips moving, but we don't understand the sounds coming from their mouths. They don't understand that our drug of choice is what puts vitality in our lives, a spring in our step, joy in our heart, and a reason to live another day. They don't realize that addiction is a very complex firing of synapses in our brains, a chemical reaction we can't live without until we get some kind of intervention.  And only when we get that intervention can we understand what they're saying and even agree with most of it.

I'm here to attest that recovery is a wonderful thing.  And I have a life worth living today only because I got into recovery almost 33 years ago. The sad reality is that most of us in recovery do not make it and will die of our disease. That's what the statistics say.

But the only thing those statistics tell me is that we have to try harder and become more innovative in helping our fellow addicts become active in recovery.

Click here to email John

Friday, July 28, 2023

Can I? Or can't I?

 "Those who say they can, and those who say they can't, are both right." Unknown

I was talking to a friend who said he had difficulty incorporating exercise into his life.

He says he'll make a commitment to take a walk, or ride his bicycle, but is rarely able to fulfill his commitment.  He'll get started okay.  But then before he knows it he's turning around to go back home.  For some reason, he's unable to do what he needs to do to take care of his health in regards to exercise.  And he's been this way over the many years I've known him.

My experience is that doing things that require self-motivation means we need to raise it to a level of importance so we can follow through.  It's kind of like doing anything else that's important to us: going to the doctor, going to a business meeting, going out to dinner with friends, planning for a vacation and so forth.

When things are important enough, we set aside the time to do them.  And the way we set aside the time to do them is to set our alarm for the morning – for example for exercise – and get up and work out.  And it really is that simple. We need to schedule the time to do things for ourselves, just as we would schedule a time to do things for our family and friends.

The only way I get anything done is to set aside time to do it.  I set my alarm for 5:30 every morning and do mindfulness meditation for 30 minutes.  Immediately after that, I hit my home gym for 45 to 60 minutes of exercise. Do I always feel like doing these things?  Hell no.  Sometimes I tell myself that I deserve a day off.  I need to get to the office a little earlier today.  Or I deserve a day off.  But I never give in to those thoughts.  Instead, I complete what I set out to do and my day goes much better because I do that.

We all have the same amount of hours, minutes, and seconds, in our days.  And people who make weak excuses about not having time to take care of themselves or to do good things for themselves are really lying to the most important person in the world – themselves.  Very few of these people will miss their favorite TV show or the opportunity to spend time fooling around on the Internet.  So there is no excuse that we don't have time. Somehow we have to reach down inside of ourselves and find the motivation to take care of ourselves so we can live the best lives we can.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, July 25, 2023


Sadly, many of our clients have a sense of entitlement.  So what is entitlement?  And how come it shows up so frequently among drug addicts and alcoholics?

Well, I believe most of it has to do with how the person is raised. Many of those who display this attitude were raised by permissive parents who gave the child anything he or she wanted as they were growing up.

I'm not sure why they did this.  Maybe it was parental guilt because they didn't feel they were doing a good job of raising the child. Or maybe their own parents abused them as children and it was a way for them to compensate for what happened to them in their childhood.

I'm not educated enough to know all of the ins and outs of raising a child – or the psychology behind it.  But I do have a strong opinion about about how children should be raised – even though I did a lousy job of raising my own.  Because I was in the grips of a long-term heroin addiction as they were growing up.  I wasn't there for them, because most of my money went for drugs and parties.  And when I was making a lot of money I was always Santa Claus when I went to visit my children.  When I had money I showered them with gifts and when I didn't have money I just didn't show up.

I believe our primary job is to teach our children to be resilient and tough.  And educated enough to take care of themselves when they're adults.  But many of the addicts in our program weren't taught the basics.  Some of them didn't know how to make a bed when they got here.  Nor did they know how to cook, do laundry, clean the bathroom and many other basic chores of daily life. 

Myself, I was raised in a strict household where everybody took care of their own stuff and did their share.  They had to clean their room and do chores, including taking out the trash, cleaning the fireplace, and helping with food preparation or cooking.   In other words, we learned to do things for ourselves so that when we enter the real world we could face the challenges of life,

As we live in recovery we learn to take responsibility  When we see clients cross over from the world of addiction into the world of sobriety we have hopes for them.   

Click here to email John

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Staying Healthy

I've been going through some routine medical procedures lately, some of them kind of painful.

When I talk to my cohorts and fellow workers, they'll make some kind of remark such as that's why they don't go to the doctor because they don't want have any pain or "to get any bad news."  And my response is always the same: one way or the other we'll all get bad news about our health.  And the only thing we can really do about it is take care of ourselves to mitigate problems as we walk our path through life.  And that's not me being negative.  This is one of the realities of life.  Sooner or later we end up paying the price for years of drug and alcohol abuse or just having a poor diet and fitness regimen.

One of the realities I deal with today is that I'm in my 84th year on the planet. I can no longer lift the heavy weights I once did.  I don't recover from injuries and ailments as fast. 

So what I do to accommodate my present reality is that I switched from weights to calisthenics and walking.  I no longer have the goal of being a bodybuilder.  My goal today is to stay functional and able to keep my balance when I'm walking or going up and down stairs.  It's surprising that a person can stay strong and healthy by just doing push-ups and squats along with sit-ups and taking long walks.  Maybe once in a while throwing in a few chin-ups.  

But for me the ultimate goal is to stay functional and enjoy life.

When I decided to get sober over 32 years ago I made a commitment to myself to stay healthy. I didn't build a business and develop relationships and make friends when I got sober only to throw that away with poor living habits. For most of my life I've been quite healthy and that's because when I'm not using drugs or alcohol I try to feel good in other ways, like eating right and getting exercise.

Click here to email John

Sunday, July 16, 2023

I accept my problem

At a 12 step meeting this morning the topic was acceptance.

But for those of us old timers who have been around for over 30 years it's still one of the most important words that one will hear in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  And why is that?

In most cases it is quite simple.  But we alcoholics and addicts seem to have a proclivity for making things complex.   Those who are newcomers seem to have the most difficulty with this concept.  But think about it for a moment.  Until we accept the idea that we have problems there is not a chance in hell that we're able to solve it. 

It's like the discovery that our automobile has run out of gas.  Until we accept the fact that our tank is empty we're not going to be able to get going again until we buy a couple more gallons of gasoline.

It's not uncommon to hear people in the rooms blame nearly everything and everyone else for the fact that they have the problems they do.  They may have gotten a divorce.  Many have just been released from prison. They may have lost their job.  They may be ill or have suffered an accident. Whatever the situation, they don't accept that where they are in life is their responsibility.  Yet they must look in the mirror and point the finger at the image looking back at them: the face in the mirror looking back at them is the cause of all their problems.   

While it is true that many of us were brought up in an alcoholic home or bad neighborhoods what does that have to do with our lives today?   What can we do with that poor history?  About the only thing we can do about it is accept it.  Or we could take the destructive way out and go get drunk or high.  And it's really about as simple as that.

Nothing gives me more joy than when I hear an AA member accept the fact that all of his problems can be solved by one word: acceptance.  

If you're having a problem with that word, just try it on. If you let it sink in really deep you will find that you have discovered a wonderful cure for your alcoholism and addiction.

I promise that it works.

Click here to email John

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Promise Four

"We will know peace"  Promise Four from the big book.

Before we escaped from the bonds of alcohol and other substances how many of us truly knew what peace meant?

When we were out there drinking and doing our thing peace was the last thing we expected to encounter.  Most of us awoke in the morning and confronted the problem of dealing with our addiction.  And that challenge was way on the other end of the spectrum from peace.  Until we could get enough of our favorite substance in our system, life was a series of challenges.  Going through hell to get the right chemical balance so we could make it through the rest of our day.  In fact our lives were so chaotic, that if something like peace did show up we would wonder what was wrong. Was the world coming to an end?

As you will note, Promise Four says "we will know peace." It did not promise that we will have peace.  It simply states that we will "know" peace.

I believe that this promise means something more in the nature that we will know peace from time to time.  And after years of recovery peace will become more of a way of life as time progresses.

I know that as time goes on, and as I arrive at my 33rd year of sobriety in January, peace is with me more often than not.  And I believe that the further we go along in sobriety the more often we will experience peace or live in a state of peace.  We finally realize that the best place in life we can be is in a state of acceptance.  Which in my opinion, is where we find peace.

We come to realize that there are not too many big deals in life.  And that if we calmly accept whatever challenges we face we will enter a state of peace.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Out of Sync

Normally, I write a blog then wait two days and write another.  But because I had a medical procedure scheduled for the 10th, which was this morning at 9:45 AM, I somehow overlooked that I was supposed to write a blog Sunday night.

I was somewhat disappointed in myself.  And I think that's because I am a creature of habit, who gets a lot more done if he has a regular schedule.  So why did I forget?   Was it anxiety?  Was it the fact that I was busy getting transportation for the procedure because the doctor wouldn't let me come by myself.  I had to have a companion stay with me for 24 hours to drive me back and forth for my prescriptions and make sure I took them as prescribed.  

So who knows if If I post a blog?  And furthermore, who cares?  But the reality is that I care and look at it as a personal failing when I don't keep my appointments with myself or others.  And writing a blog is an appointment with myself, it forces me into a routine, a habit that keeps structure in my life.

I kind of look at writing a blog in the same regard as I look at exercise or any other healthy practices that I do.  Somehow having self-discipline keeps me from wandering all over the place and keeps me on track. 

So, I apologize to those who went to this page expecting opinions from the author.  Please count on me to do better.   I think I've only missed writing a blog maybe once in the last year.   and nobody seemed to notice.  Or at least no one chastised me for my oversight.  

I sincerely thank those who take the time to read the kind of stuff I write.  Sometimes something I write resonates with someone and that's what's important to me.  I don't pretend to have all the answers.   But if a blog that I write has a positive impression upon a reader and helps improves their life, then I accomplished what I set out to do.

I love you guys and I appreciate that you take the time to read what I put on these pages. Thank you from my heart,

Click here to email John

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Having good People

Someone once told me that you are about as successful as the people you surround yourself with.  And I am very blessed in that respect.

Yesterday I returned from a five-day sojourn to Las Vegas over the fourth of July weekend.  And while I had no anxiety about what I would find when I got back, I was pleased that everything was on track and running smoothly.

Each of our business operations is headed by an experienced and seasoned person in recovery. Everything was in order when I came back.  Our treatment population stayed level.  All of our business operations turned in good reports.  A couple of managers made serious decisions that weren't much different than I would've made myself.

The only credit I give myself is that I'm not a micromanager.  We operate differently than many companies.  We expect everyone to work 40 hours a week.  However, if someone gets their job done in three or four hours, I tell them that they can leave the office and go about their day.  I'd much rather see people get their work done, then go do something productive like go to a meeting, go to the gym, or just read a book. I hate to see people sitting around surfing the net or making posts on Facebook or some other social media. And the interesting thing about letting people leave once they get their work done is that they are actually more productive and enthusiastic about their jobs.

I'm grateful for my people.

Click here to email John

Monday, July 3, 2023

Reasons for Gratitude

Today I'm reflecting on gratitude. Because having gratitude is what helps me stay sober and keep balance in my life.

So what am I grateful for today?  At the moment I'm writing this in front of a window on the 27th floor of a condominium in downtown Las Vegas.  If one likes to look at a city, then this is a perfect vantage point to see it from.  I'm so high above the street that the automobiles passing below look like children's toys.  And in between the skyscrapers surrounding my condominium I have a view of the mountain range outside the city.  All in all it's a view that I'm enjoying while I'm in town with 20 family members for the July 4 holiday.  And I'm grateful for that.  I'm also grateful that I have the financial resources to be able to invite 20 family members for a five day vacation.  And for the fact that they all showed up, some driving from 500 miles away.

Quite likely, none of this would've been possible had I not gotten sober 32 years ago. Since the day I walked into a detoxification unit in Mesa, Arizona my life has gotten continually better.

Within five years of getting sober I had also become financially successful and had all of the material things I had wished for.

And while I'm grateful for being financially successful, I'm even more grateful for the fact that I've developed a certain amount of wisdom and emotional stability.  At one time I was the kind of drug addict and alcoholic who let everything that upset me drive me to the next binge. And that doesn't happen today.

So do I ever get upset?  Of course.  But I now – after 32 years of recovery – am able to get myself back on course very rapidly.  Another reason for gratitude.

Today I have gratitude for being able to live in peace and enjoy life, while still doing the work I love helping other alcoholics and addicts change their lives.

Click here to email John