Thursday, January 29, 2015

January 30, 2015

Rich Virgins
I went to the gym that night and ran into an old friend named Mikey.  He was singing to himself, but loudly enough for me to hear.  “The money’s enormous, or so they inform us, and I know a virgin striking it rich,” he sang.  He saw the puzzled look on my face and added, “It’s a Warren Buffett song. You should play that song at the rehab.  It kinda ties money to virtue.  He’s a virgin who’s gonna be rewarded.”

“That’s from Jimmy Buffett,” I said.  “Warren Buffet is an eighty-four year old investor.  I think that line is ‘I’ve no aversion to striking it rich,’” “It’s from a Miller beer commercial.  Don’t think it’s appropriate for the rehab.”

“Oh, I was so off base,” Mikey said.  “Still a good message, virtue being rewarded."

“Still a good message,” I agreed, “No matter where you heard it.”

Today I will listen for the good message.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

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The Kindle version of Hauling it to the Curb: Cleaning up your life in early recovery is available today free of charge at:

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 29, 2015

“Whatcha doing? my son asked  me on a Wednesday night.  I was sitting in my writing chair with my laptop open.
“Pondering,” I said.
“Pondering looks a lot like staring into space, listening to really old brain cells die.  Whatcha pondering?”
“Whether to start the next book tomorrow, or just send out a notice saying the new series begins on Monday.”
“I know what you’d say to me, ‘don’t put off until tomorrow, blah, blah, blah.’”
I knew he was right, but I said, “Now I’m pondering the cost versus the benefits of sending you to military school.”

Today I won’t procrastinate.  I will hold myself to my own standards.

Life on Life’s Terms II © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebies
The Kindle version of Hauling it to the Curb: Cleaning up your life in early recovery is available for free at:

If you don't have a Kindle you can download a free app to read Kindle books on your PC or Mac.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

January 28, 2015

Epilogue: Martell
Several years later I read an article about the company where Martell had worked.  The young man Martell saved had risen to floor supervisor.  Like Martell, he had shaken off an addiction.  He attributed his success to the lessons he had learned from Martell, and the example he set.

Today I will try to pass on what I know and set a good example.
Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Monday, January 26, 2015

January 27, 2015

Epilogue: Michelle

After her husband passed away Michelle stayed sober, much to her own surprise.  Five years later she remarried.  I ran into her waiting to be seated at a local restaurant.
“He’s a great guy,” she said. “We both have adult children who all get along.  In fact, our family gatherings are hilarious.  I work four days a week. On Friday’s I have lunch with his mother.  She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.” She paused for a moment, and wiped a tear from her eye. “I can’t believe after all I’ve been through I’m finally getting to live happily ever after.”
“I’m happy for you,” I said.  I couldn’t have told her how happy I truly was. Her story was the antidote to all the depressing news I heard that day.

Today I will be glad for people who finally find their ‘happily ever after.’

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebies

These  Kindle books are available for free at:
  • Hauling it to the Curb: Cleaning up your life in early recovery
  • Forgiveness in Recovery

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

MondayJanuary 26, 2015

The Prodigal Father
A year after the final group meeting, I ran into Seal at an AA meeting. She was very unhappy that Tony died but his father got sober.  She pointed out that Mike was the one who introduced Tony to booze and drugs. Mike drank the whole time Tony was struggling to get clean. Mike dragged Tony to the casino, not the other way around.
“You’re still sober,” I said to her when I saw her at an AA meeting. “Why not focus on that?”
“My life is so much better,” she said, “but I can’t help but think it should be Tony enjoying his sobriety. Every time I see Mike smiling and laughing at a meeting I wanna smack him.”
 “You’re going to want to smack me, but I gotta say this -- letting someone who’s down pull you down makes no sense.  Letting somebody who’s up pull you down makes even less sense. You need to come to your senses and enjoy what you have.”

Today I will remember, letting up people pull me down makes no sense.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 23, 2015

Epilogue: Tony
Two weeks later, Tony overdosed and died.  He had gone to the casino with his father “just to keep an eye on him.”  Mike, Tony’s father, said Tony ran into someone he knew, and they disappeared for a while. Apparently Tony bought some Oxycontin, but didn’t take into consideration how long he’d been off opiates.  His tolerance was much lower than it had been a year before.
Tony’s father stopped drinking and gambling. He stopped going to strip clubs, lost fifty pounds, and became a familiar sight at local AA meetings. He helped a lot of people get sober.  He just never forgave himself for not getting clean before Tony died.
“I always told Tony I’d stop drinking tomorrow,” Mike said.  “Now I know there’s only today.”


Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

January 22, 2015

Hanging around
Martell told the group he was done with treatment at the end of the week.  I told the rest of them I couldn’t justify holding group for just three people.  “Besides,” I said, “I think you three have done well.  I would have graduated you soon. You’ll still see each other in your other groups.”
Tony was a little down about the group breaking up, but Michelle and Seal were surprisingly upbeat.  Seal said she’d never had a female friend before she met Michelle.  Michelle said she was glad she’d still see Tony at the clinic.  She told Tony he could focus on the people who were gone, or be happy for the people still around. 
“And you my friend,” Michelle said, playfully punching Tony’s shoulder, “should consider yourself lucky to be around such fine, intelligent women like Seal and me.”

Today I will be happy for the people who are still around.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January 21, 2015

Changing course to the same destination
The next day Kim told the group she was going to a yearlong rehab out of state.  “I’ve relapsed four times in two years,” she said.  “I don’t like the idea of going away for a whole year, but what I’ve been doing hasn’t been working.  It’s time to take a different course.”
I thought about something I had been told about families when I was in grad school.  When things don’t go well, many families try ‘more, louder, harder.’ They do more of whatever wasn’t working, or they say it louder, and they try harder at failed strategies.  The sad thing, I was told, was these families often had worthwhile goals such as keeping a family intact. The trick was to get them to try something different, but with the same goal. 
I was glad to see Kim was choosing a new course, but working toward the same goal.

Today I will look at what’s not working and seek a different course to a worthwhile goal.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Monday, January 19, 2015

January 20, 2015

Sleeping Beauty
When I got home that night my son met me at the top of the stairs.  He held a finger to his lips and said, “Grandpa’s sleeping.”  He was smiling as he pointed to my father, asleep in his favorite chair.  We talked about what a great father and grandfather he was, and how he’d earned his rest. 
I remembered going to a friend’s house and being warned to be very, very quiet.  His father was sleeping and “waking the old man could get us all killed.” Other people said my friend wasn’t exaggerating very much.
“I hope you turn out just like him,” I said to my son.
“Sleepy, near-sighted, and wrinkly?” he said laughing. 

Today I will try to be someone who deserves his rest, rather than someone people are afraid to wake.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 19, 2015


What’s up with you?” I asked Michelle.
“Here’s a sad coincidence,’ Michelle said, “my husband and Julie are in the same hospital.  He had a stroke.  He’s in bad shape, probably not long for this world, but he’s at peace.  Strange.”
Michelle was sad, but thought she should have been more broken up about him.  They had been together twenty years.  She said, “I can’t tell you how mad I was when I found out he was sleeping with his twenty-somethings.  Then I started to blame myself, and all my rage turned inward. After his second heart-attack, I felt sorry for him.  Now I’m at peace because he’s at peace. Is that wrong?”
“I’m grateful whenever someone I love is at peace,” Martell said. “You’ve been through so much with him.  Maybe you could be grateful you two found some peace, no matter what the reason.”

Today I will be grateful for whatever peace my loved ones find.
Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Thursday, January 15, 2015

January 15, 2015

What could go right?
Martell showed the group a picture of his first great-granddaughter.  She was blowing out five candles on an birthday cake. He described all the things that had gone wrong during his granddaughter’s pregnancy.  I could tell from the details he gave he’d read a lot about each complication his granddaughter had faced.  He must have worried right along with her.
“This child here,” he said pointing to the picture, “will keep me from feeling sorry for myself when things that couldn’t possibly go wrong, go wrong.  She’s that shining example of when something that couldn’t possibly go right, goes right.”   

Today I will make a list of things that couldn’t have turned out right, but did.
(I will read it whenever things that couldn't go wrong, do.)

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2015

The devil, you know?
“Do you remember the guy who wanted to take me to Majorca?” Kim asked the group.  “He showed up at my door with some really good champagne.  He wanted to go out. When we go out, I never know how things are going to end. I thought it would be better to stay in and just drink the champagne.”
“And how did it end?” I asked.
“I had a couple of glasses of champagne and we wound up in the bedroom.  Afterwards I couldn’t sleep. He gave me an Ambien.  I don’t remember much more.” Kim looked around the room, catching the sadness and disappointment in her friends’ eyes. “Hey, I made the safe choice.  It’s like people say, better the devil you know.”
Michelle said, “How about an even safer choice. You let Majorca man come in, but he leaves the champagne in the car.”
“Better yet, you find somebody who respects your sobriety, somebody who won’t show up with booze,” Martell said. “No devil is better than the devil you know.”
Seal nodded her head in agreement, but Tony looked confused. He asked Martell, “When you say ‘no devil is better than the devil you know,’ do you mean the devil you know is best, or having no devil is better than the devil you know?”
Martell chuckled, “Having no devil is better, Tony.  Having no devil…”

Today I will remember: (having) no devil is better than the devil you know.
Relapse Prevention Group © 2015 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebies

The Kindle versions of these books:
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  • Meditations for the First 30 Days: How not to become roadkill on the highway to recovery

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

January 14, 2015

Seal told the group her cousin, who had been dating her ex, had called.  Her cousin was out of the hospital.  She blamed Seal for being in the hospital and for her new boyfriend’s incarceration.
“Try to follow the logic,” Seal said to the group.  “According to my cousin, I did a lot of dumb things that enraged my ex.  My ex told my cousin he loved me so much, he only hit me occasionally, and only after I provoked him. That allowed his anger to build up, which he took out on my cousin.  He knows he shouldn’t have hurt her, and he’s truly sorry I pushed him into it.  He’s ready to forgive me, but she called to say she never will.”
“That’s insane,” Martell said. “Does your cousin really believe your ex’s line?”
“Not so long ago I would have believed it, just because my ex said it.  Now I see right through him. He’s a manipulative, lying, coward who works on people’s insecurities.  He’s an expert at deflecting responsibility, and playing the victim.” She paused, and added, “I’m grateful.”
“What are you grateful for?” Kim asked.
“He’s a heartache I’ll never have to experience again.”

Today I will be grateful for all the heartaches I never have to experience again.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Monday, January 12, 2015

January 13, 2015

Chasing My Tale
Tony told the group he’d spent the weekend writing his mother a long letter.
Michelle said, “Not to be mean, but if you’re parents split when you were ten, what kind of relationship did you have with them? I’m betting they were too busy fighting to spend quality time with you. No offense.” 
Tony seemed stunned.  He sat quietly, pondering her question.  “I have a few good memories, but mostly I remember the tension. At the end, the only relationship I had with my mom was being her messenger.  She’d tell me mean things to say to my father since she wouldn’t talk to him.”
“Then why exactly are you trying to connect with her?  I know she’s your mother, but you really don’t have a happy relationship to restore, and she hasn’t given you anything to hold onto since the divorce twenty-odd years ago.  What are you chasing?”
“I think I’m chasing a relationship with her because I’ve got this fairy tale in my head.  She forgives me for choosing my dad.  I forgive her for ignoring me all these years.  We live happily ever after.  I chase that tale.”
The group talked about tales they had chased – relationships that could never be, fantasies about hitting the lottery, and stories they told themselves about themselves, dressed up with denial about their faults and addictions.
“Maybe it’s time we stop chasing our tales,” I said to the group.

Today I won’t chase my tale.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebies

The following ebooks are free at

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  • Home Groupies
  • Meditations for the First 30 Days: How not to become roadkill on the highway to recovery

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January 12, 2015

Life on Life’s Terms
Over the weekend Julie ran a red light.  She had been drinking coffee and Kahlua from a travel mug. Her twins weren't harmed, but she suffered extensive brain damage.

Today I will remember Life plays for keeps.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

January 9, 2015

Do Tell, Smartell
Martell was a little choked up when he said, “My father remembered me, maybe just for a minute or two, but that time was a gift.”
“What did he say?” Seal asked
“I was reading to him.  I stopped and said ‘this writer really understands struggle.’ My dad said, ’Do tell, Smartell.’  It was an old joke between us.  When I was a kid I thought I knew it all.  I had an opinion on everything. My dad had started calling me Smartell.  He’d say ‘do tell Smartell, ‘cause only you know!’”
“That’s wonderful,” Seal said.  “I hate to ask, but how long did it last?”
“Oh, not so long.  I wanted to talk, but he said I should keep reading.  I read maybe five more pages.  When I was done he asked if I was one of the nurses.”
“That sucks,” Tony said softly. “You only got a minute with him the way he used to be.”
Martell shook his head, “No, I got decades with him.  Then, when I thought I’d lost him to old age, I got one more moment.  Like I said, that was a gift.”

Today I will be grateful for the gift of time spent with loved ones.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebies
You can download free copies of:

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  • Choosing a Higher Purpose: Early recovery for atheists and agnostics

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January 8, 2015


Kim held up a hand. 
“I’m not sure what I’m looking at,” I said, puzzled.
“It’s a callous.  Probably my first.  I helped my stepmother plant flowers this weekend.”
“You’ve never had a callous before?” Tony asked.  “How is that possible?”
“I was a spoiled kid who never did any manual labor.  I loved it.  I loved the dirt, I loved the sunshine. I loved the flowers.  I loved the work.  I wouldn’t want a job digging ditches or pouring concrete, but I liked working with my hands.”
“I still can’t believe you never had a callous before,” Tony said. 
“And that’s the point,” Kim answered, “At my age I’m learning I like getting a callous or two.  I’m grateful I get a lifetime to learn, to find new things to like.”

Today I will be grateful learning can be a lifelong adventure.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Today's Freebies

Heroin, Oxycontin, and Other Opiates: Breaking your addiction to them is available at

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

January 7, 2015

The next morning Seal was beaming over a brand new pair of black Converse Chuck Taylors with white laces.  She walked in front of the group, held up a foot, did a little dance step, and walked back to her chair.  
Seal said, “My ex-boyfriend made me wear boots or high heels all the time. You have no idea how much I love these sneakers.”  
“What do you like most about them?” I asked.
“I picked them,” she said.  “When I was with him, he made all the decisions, he told me what to wear, what to say, who I could talk to.  He had the only set of car keys and the only ATM card.  I couldn’t even choose my own shoes.  Now that idiot is gone, I’m loving every choice I make.  I will never, ever take for granted the freedom to choose.”

Today I will be grateful for the freedom to choose.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Monday, January 5, 2015

January 6, 2015

Listen Closely
Later that night I found myself sitting on a bench in a locker room, sweating a puddle and trying not to have a heart attack.  To my left, two Vietnam vets whose paths had probably crossed while they were overseas, but who didn’t think they had met, were comparing where they’d served.  I heard a message in the pride, camaraderie, and sadness in their voices.
To my right an older man from India was talking with a college student about his first impressions of American elections.  He still had an outsider’s view, not yet swayed by the anger and polarization of our politics.  I was very interested in what he had to say.
Just when I thought I’d settle in to listen, The Inane Brothers Cliché Festival started up across the locker room.  I had caught their act many times. Even though they both looked to be in their late forties, I had given them old-fashioned nicknames.
“You can’t win ‘em all!” Twaddle said for no apparent reason, laughing loudly.
“Well what if you could?” Bunkum asked, laughing louder than Twaddle had.
“You’d be a winner, but would you prosper?”  Twaddle replied. They both laughed.  My eyelid started to twitch.
“It’s cheaters that never prosper,” Bunkum said, injecting some seriousness into their conversation. It went downhill from there.
How justifiable does a homicide have to be, I wondered?  And why do people who have nothing to say always say it so loud?
I realized I couldn’t make out what the man from India was saying, but if I strained a little I could still hear the conversation between the vets.

Today I will listen for the message that sometimes gets lost in the noise.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose


Today's free ebook is The Road Way Less Traveled: Starting Recovery Young, available at:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

January 4, 2015

Confident vs. Cocky
The next day the local police and two men in suits arrested Roger.  We never heard from him again.
Roger’s mentor had been David.  Like Roger, David had gone to jail because of shady financial dealings.  David’s sponsor had been Robert.  Robert had also gone to jail for the very same reason. Roger had thought he was smarter than David.  David had thought he was smarter than Robert.  All three had thought they were too smart to get caught. I would have described each of them as ‘cocky.’
In contrast, I would have described Seal as ‘confident.’  She had gotten free from her abusive boyfriend, discovered she could stay clean and sober, and learned to live on her own.  The world was opening up to her, but she was cautious.
Later that day I told Seal I admired her growing confidence.  We talked about Roger, and I asked her what she thought the differences were between her and Roger, between confident and cocky.
She said, “The difference between me and Roger?  I’m confident because I know what I can do.   I also know what the world can do to me if I’m not careful.  Roger was too cocky to see anything other than what he could do.  He couldn’t see the world realistically.” 

Today I will be realistically confident.
Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose

Thursday, January 1, 2015

January 2, 2015

New Year’s Resolutions
The next group was the last session before the New Year.  We talked about refining and jumpstarting resolutions. 
“Try out your resolution before you commit to it,” I suggested. “If your goal is to get more exercise, go to the gym a couple of times.  Refine your resolution by figuring out how much and what kind of exercise works best for you. If you do commit to getting more exercise, you’ve jumpstarted your resolution with those workouts.”
“I want to resolve not to smother my husband with a pillow,” Michelle said with a sly smirk. “Should I put the pillow over his face a couple of times, without smothering him, just to jumpstart the resolution?”
“Just don’t let the nurses at the hospital see you doing it,” I said.

Today I will jumpstart and refine whatever changes I want to make.

Relapse Prevention Group © 2014 by Ken Montrose
Happy New Year!