Monday, February 26, 2024

Helping Newcomers

Many addicts  come into recovery and gravitate toward helping other addicts begin the walk toward recovery.  Some of them become very enthusiastic about becoming a mentor, or counselor or someone others can lean when times are emotionally challenging.

I used to discourage this behaviour at first.  I asked what does a newcomer know about recovery?  What kind of wisdom does he/she have to impart?  Maybe some drama.  But something of real value? something with a valuable lesson?  Probably not.  But then I changed my mind.

I changed it because I realized that sometimes raw experience is the best kind of  knowledge.  If I can tell you of a first hand experience it might have some real value in your life.  Vicarious  experience - the experience we learn from others- that's the kind of knowledge that's valuable because someone's experienced it first hand.  

And what could be more real than that?

Friday, February 23, 2024

Helping the Homeless

 Out of the 800+ clients that we have at TLC, probably 90% of them have been homeless at one time or other.  When drugs and alcohol are your priority a person doesn't have money for housing and food and the privilege of living indoors.

I bring this up today because once a month TLC has a business meeting. And today, after our meeting, the entire group, made up of about 35 staff members and managers, got into their vehicles and delivered food and bottles of water to the homeless.  Part of this was a way of giving back to others who were in the same situation we were in at one time, and the other part was to give those people an opportunity to come to TLC where  they would have the opportunity to change their lives.

All in all it was a very successful run and everywhere we stopped we passed out bags of food and water and it disappeared within minutes.

On the way home, those in our truck discussed what a lesson in gratitude it was to be able to do what we did. So many people – not just us addicts and alcoholics – take for granted the many blessings we have in our life. We all take for granted the idea that we have food to eat each day. That we have cold water.  A job to go to.  A place to take a shower and wash our clothes – the basic necessities of life.  But the people we saw today were so grateful for the tidbits that we handed them that it was almost overwhelming.

I'm not writing this to advocate that being homeless is a good thing, because it's not.  A lot of political people and others get into debates about why people are homeless, or why we should help the homeless, or that the homeless are lazy, or that they are drug addicts. I only write this to say that we should have enough compassion for our fellow human beings to help them on whatever level we can. None of us know the stories of how these people ended up homeless.  It may be true that they are drug addicts.  It may be true that they are lazy.  Perhaps they have mental issues.   Who knows?

But the bottom line is, the core of the issue is, that if people's lives are bad enough that they have to live outdoors and struggle for the basic necessities of life then they need our help. And once they get that help we can later sort out positive ways to help them change their lives permanently. Whether that help comes in the form of providing housing, jobs, education, healthcare, or whatever else they need.

Probably none of these people we saw today woke up one morning and said, "Gee, I think it would be a great idea to become homeless." Within each one of them is probably a long twisted story of how they ended up on the streets. But judging them, condemning them, or looking down upon them, is definitely not going to make their life any better. There are groups out there helping the homeless and doing it somewhat effectively.  But much more needs to be done to really make a dent in the problem.

It's so heartbreaking to see our fellow human beings suffering – no matter who caused the suffering or how they ended up on the streets.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Our Choice

When we bring our child home from the hospital it is with joy and gladness in our hearts.

Doe's he look more like me? His dad? His grandfather? We watch every move. to make sure he's covered. Take lots of pictures. We make sure that he keeps his medical appointments. And we're happy when the doctor says our baby is in perfect health.

But the doctor can't see into future. Nor can we. None us were able to see years ahead when this aberration pops up. This disease that takes control of his life - seemingly overnight.

One moment he's like any other kid. Getting decent grades. Playing sports. Chasing girls. The next his grades are falling. The police bring him home one night. He lies about the black eye he got because he didn't pay the connection for the oxies he got on credit.

Then we go into the next phase. We blame ourselves for this change in behavior. We didn't do enough, maybe? Or too much. We did our best? Or did we? Maybe we should have taken him to church, Or moved to another neighborhood.

The guilt and shame and puzzlement piles up. What to do? We've gone through money getting him to treatment and to shrinks. Nothing has helped.

Our health and finances are failing. Yet we still don't have answers. And we don't stop to think about the obvious one: that maybe his addiction is his choice. His fault. After all, we're not Gods. We're only parents. And the inexplicable happens to everyone. Good people and bad people all get ground up equally beneath the wheels of chance.

What to do? We can pray. We can put him on the streets where the rest of the addicts end up. Or we can live in self-condemnation and guilt while still supporting him.

But we must remember that we also have a life to live. And we need to make our choices: guilt and shame about something we can't control - or happiness that we still make choices that are in our own benefit.

It's our choice.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Forgiving the Mansons

Deborah Tate, the sister of Manson family victim Sharon Tate, told People magazine that she said a prayer for Manson's soul when she heard he'd died in a Bakersfield hospital. She'd previously said that she would pray for Manson and his followers upon their deaths.

Deborah told NBC4 that while she forgives the Manson Family, what they did will remain with her forever. And even though she's forgiven them, she's played an active role in objecting to the release of any of them in front of the California parole board. But forgiveness is one thing, and protecting the public from further harm is another. Which is why she objects to the parole of any of them because she thinks they're still dangerous.

“I’ve forgiven them, but that doesn't mean I’ve forgotten what they did,” she said. “I'll never forget.”

This woman is a good example of forgiveness and of praying for those who harm us. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, she's practicing one of the concepts taught in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous on page 552. And that is learning how praying for two weeks for someone we resent can help us get over that resentment.

In commenting on her forgiveness, I have to admit that even after being sober for over 26 years, I'm not sure I'm as big as she is in that regard. Though I would like to be.

The idea of spending much of our lives being angry at someone or hating someone – no matter what they did – is harmful to our health and sanity. That's why forgiveness makes sense.

It's not about them, it's about us - and our freedom.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Success at Last

The e-mail surprised me. It was from a former client that many of us didn't expect to see again. When he left us in mid-2007, he had relapsed and some of us didn't think he would survive.

It is not unusual for clients to leave because they have relapsed – and many of them return to try again. But this man's situation was unique. He had lost his kidneys a few years before entering our program. He had previously received a transplant which didn't work. He received dialysis a few times a week during his time at TLC. He struggled with his health and fought the doctor's instructions that he shouldn't drink sodas. To many of us, the idea that someone without kidneys would start using again demonstrated for us the power of our disease.

His e-mail said he had been sober for three years, was in town on vacation, and would like to drop by the office. It was a good visit and he told how his life is going. He lives in another state with his fiancee and will soon graduate from nursing school. He goes to dialysis a few times a week and is on a transplant waiting list for a new kidney.

I asked how he had finally changed and was able to remain sober for over three years. He explained that he started accepting his situation and that made all the difference. He said that once he got into acceptance his life began to change. He accepts the hours-long drudgery of being hooked to a machine. Sometimes he reads, sometimes he studies, sometimes he naps. His life has been working and he is enjoying his sobriety.

It says on page 417 in the literature that “acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.”

It seems like this former client has successfully incorporated the concept into his life.

Saturday, February 10, 2024


A while back I dealt with a client who had a severe case of anxiety. He had trouble sleeping. He had trouble relaxing. He spent a great deal of time looking into the future, or dwelling in the past.

And like many of the addicts in our program he had the perfect solution for his anxiety: he would bury it with drugs or alcohol until he passed out. The only problem is that he had to wake up the next day and start all over again. This regimen didn't work out very well for him because eventually he lost his job, his marriage, his automobile, and the home that he lived in for seven years.

As I got better acquainted with him I learned that he had been treated poorly as a child. But instead of blaming those who mistreated him, he blamed himself for the bad things that happened to him. And of course that affected his self-worth. When in school he got poor grades. He ended up hanging with other students who had similar experience to his. He had found a clique of drug addicts to whom he could relate and who accepted him just as he was. And because of his association with them he eventually ended up in juvenile hall and then jail. And for the next 20 years he spent a lot of time associating with people like him and ultimately returning to jail or prison.

During my sessions with him I was able to help him understand that he could do nothing about the past. Nor could he really plan a future. But something that he would be able to do that would bring him some happiness and peace was to learn how to live in the moment. It took a while for me to help him understand that the only thing he had control over was this moment. And when he spent his time in the past or the future he was wasting a lot of the brief time that we all have here on earth.

After a while his anxiety went away because he began to grasp the concepts that I was teaching him about living in the moment. Someone taught me that concept a long time ago. And when I'm able to share it with others who begin to use it in their lives I feel like I'm helping someone learn how precious each moment of our life is.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The cost of Greed

 It's only been within the past year that I've become aware of fraudulent treatment programs taking advantage of our indigent populations.  And the fraud is so massive that much of the money may never be recovered.

The story I heard was that a group from another country perpetrated the fraud, provided zero services, yet collected premium rates for their so-called services.  The real victims here are those who expected treatment  and received nothing.

Hopefully, Arizona authorities will find the perpetrators and give them them the justice they deserve,  After all it's hard enough to provide treatment when circumstances are favorable, let alone when criminals are taking advantage of the system.

Click here to email John

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Don't Expect

When I went to Puerto Vallarta last November it was with the idea of having my usual good time enjoying the food, the culture, and the total experience.  But as those who've been following this blog know my life on vacation didn't quite out as planned,  Instead, I slipped and broke my foot when I tripped on a carpet,

It took about a week for me to accept the injury.  But once I accepted my injury guess what happened next; I came down with the flu.  And the next thing that came along was a reoccurrence of atrial flutter.  I finally decided to stop expecting to get better because it wasn't working very well.  And it has, since I've not been expecting to feel better i've have no more ailments.

So the lesson here is to accept whatever comes our way.  We'll be happier.