It’s a little known fact that 10% of the toys made by Santa’s elves do not pass quality control inspection.  This is a story about one of those toys.

Timothy’s Train toy #MCH1385633762 came off the assembly line in June 1987.  He had a powerful looking black engine, a sleek yellow freight carrier, and study red caboose.  “I will make a great present for some lucky family,” though Tim.

Although he felt good, Tim kept having problems during his evaluation by the quality control inspectors.  He kept turning right and running into things.  He ran over a Christmas tree, several of the other toys, and two very indignant elves.    “Sorry, Tim”  said the inspectors, “but you won’t be making the trip with Santa this year.  You have a problem—you can’t stay on track.”

And so, instead of going to Christmas Wrap and Shipping, Tim was sent to live with the other toys who had failed inspection.  He felt angry and lost.

After a while, Tim made friends with Kelly, a kite who string was too short, and Howard, a football whose laces kept coming untied.  They mostly sat around feeling sorry for themselves.

One day they were approached by one of Santa’s elves who suggested they attend a daily meeting held by a group of toys who had also failed to pass inspection.  “Why”, asked Tim, “What do they do?”  “Well”, the elf replied, “They talk about their problems and how they can overcome them.”  Tim decided to attend, while Kelly said she would think it over and Howard stated that it sounded like a waste of time.

Although he was scared and felt uncomfortable at first, Tim attended the meetings and felt a new sense of both hope and challenge.  Finally, he asked his new friends, “Can anyone help me get on track?”  He had many offers of help and encouragement.  Bill, a toy stethoscope, said to him “Tim, you tend to go to your right, you should do the opposite, go to your left.  This will straighten you out.”  Fearfully, Tim tried something totally new to him and after many attempts struggling to change, and a lot of encouragement from Bill and the others—He got it!  Tim could stay on track!  “Now What?” Tim asked Bill.  “You wait for the miracle,” Bill replied.

Tim faithfully attended his meetings and even began to help others.  Kelly finally started showing up but Tim never did see Howard again.  One night after his meeting, Tim was approached by the elf who had originally told him about the meetings.  “Yo, Tim,” he said, “The Man wants to see you.”  “Who?” asked Tim.  “The Man,”  the elf replied, “you know—Santa.”

The next morning Tim was shown into the Corporate Office, top floor, of Christmas, Inc.  Santa met him personally and congratulated him for getting on track.  “You will be riding with me on Christmas Eve,”  Santa said.  At first Tim was very excited and happy about the news but suddenly he became angry and confused.  “Wait, Santa,” he almost shouted, “ Why now?  Why couldn’t I go right away like most of the toys?”  “Why did I have to go through all the hard times of getting on track?”  “Why?”  “Why?”

“Tim,”  Santa said, “I have always had special plans for you.  That’s why your time here has been more difficult and more challenging than for the others.  You will be going to a very special family, not as what you were—a Christmas present—but for what you have become—a true gift.”

And so on Christmas—That special time of giving–Tim was connected to his family and brought a very special meaning to them all.


Happy Holidays to all of you who work each day to stay on track. 

Share your gift! — Mike

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I have been wondering about who started this business about giving Christmas presents and decided it was those three wise men who traveled to Bethlehem.  You know, the ones bearing gifts.  Apparently, Sears, JC Penney’s and the Pottery Barn found out about it, printed up their catalogs and the rest is history.

There are two basic kinds of people who receive Christmas presents.  Kids, and those of us who are no longer kids.  It is a much better deal when you are a kid.  Everybody asks you what you want for Christmas.  I even remember a creepy-looking Santa who smelled funny asking me what I wanted when we went to Marshall Fields.  The best present I can remember from when I was a kid, was a hockey stick I received.  Whoever gave it to me included a roll of black tape so I could wrap the blade the way the players on the Chicago Blackhawks did.  I probably played hockey with it, but mainly I remember walking around the neighborhood with it over my shoulder, looking cool.  What I remember most about Christmas presents are the ones I didn’t get.  Each year I asked for: 1) an archery set; 2) a hunting knife; 3) a b-b gun; and 4) a chemistry set.  My mother explained that I would not get any of them because:  A) I would hurt somebody; B) I would shoot my eye out; C) I’d blow the house up.  I still want these things for Christmas but now my wife says “no”, for all the same reasons!  One year I did get a stupid little bow with wooden arrows that had suction cups on them.  My grandmother took it away one month later when she found me in the basement using her carving knife to whittle points on the arrows.  C’mon, how can a kid go hunting in the woods without real arrows?

As I moved from the kid phase into the “not a kid”, I found out that now I had to ask others what they wanted for Christmas.  I also discovered that the holidays meant a lot of drinking, office parties, house parties, and the endless “stop-by for a Christmas drink”.  The holidays, the alcoholic’s custom-made excuse for “a-drink” days.  I never really liked shopping to buy Christmas gifts until I discovered that Ace Liquors sold your favorite booze in a stylish holiday decanter, which came in the attractive gift box, ready to give as a present.  I could do all my Christmas shopping in one stop!  Christmas morning soon became a blur of lights and family as I sat each year with my coffee cup, laced with brandy, trying to stop the shakes while I slid off into that alcoholic fantasy world.  Despite the protests and offers of help from others, this continued until one Christmas there was no family.  Just me.  And my coffee Cup.  And my booze.

On June 21, 1987 I began my journey into sobriety.  As I struggled along, one day at a time, I began to think that, “maybe I can do this.”  Suddenly an insurmountable obstacle appeared before me…..the holidays.  An overwhelming sense of helplessness overcame me as I tried to imagine getting through the upcoming days without a drink.  Somehow, I managed to accept that I needed to combine the two types of people who receive Christmas presents into one.  I would give the kid in me a Christmas present and I would do this just for me.  On Christmas of 1987 I gave myself a Christmas present – the gift of recovery.  This has worked out so well that for each holiday, I give myself the same gift, and on Christmas morning I will be drinking regular coffee with my family.

To all of our alums, please let me wish you a joyous holiday season and my hope that you will give yourself this wonderful gift of recovery.  Our aftercare group continues to meet on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.; OA and AA meetings at the office/village on Wednesdays at 8:15 p.m. and Fireside AA meeting on Sundays in the village at 6:00 p.m. As always, our staff is here for you by phone.  I hope we will hear from you.

Well, that’s my story about the Christmas gift.  I guess those wise men started a pretty good thing, after all.  Sometime about Christmas I will find a quiet place to say thanks.  Oh!  And I will do one more thing. On Christmas morning, while my family is still sleeping, I will allow the kid in me to awake very early. I will quietly slip out of bed and check all around and under the Christmas tree.  I will be looking for a present in a 4-1/2 foot, oblong-shaped package with my name on it.  Maybe this year, I’ll get that archery set.

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I remember when the most important part of the holiday season was the drinking. Office parties, house parties, bar parties—all in the name of holiday “cheer”. I remember going to the liquor store to “stock up” and buying bottles of liquor in fancy boxes to give as gifts. I remember the effort I made buying gifts for bartenders—but why not, I spent more time with them than I did my family. What I don’t remember are all the happy times that didn’t happen because of my alcoholism.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Today, I embrace the holidays as a time of sobriety, of family togetherness, of sharing real friendships, and appreciation of the wonders in my life—a time to rejoice in the gift of recovery.

I find my recovery described on page 8 of the Big Book, “I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.”

My holiday wish is for you to rejoice in your recovery.

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IMG_1477Holidays can have a way of revolving around food and family and the joy of being together. Does it sometimes seem that parties and holiday celebrations are mostly high fat and high sugar foods? As you plan your shopping list for a holiday meal, look for ingredients that can make family favorite recipes not only tasty but good for you, too. Look for plenty of fresh vegetables like potatoes, both white and sweet, winter squash, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, and green beans. Apples, cranberries and pears can be combined for a tasty salad. Have ever tried adding pomegranates to your salad? Use whole grain rolls and wild rice for the stuffing or as a side dish. You can use the following tips to enjoy foods without all the fat and sugar.

For dips and sauces, use non-fat yogurt or lite sour cream, use egg substitutes instead of whole eggs, try evaporated skim milk instead of whole milk, use low fat cheeses in recipes instead of full fat versions, use lower sodium, fat free chicken broth in your gravies and mashed potatoes, top casseroles with almonds instead of fried onion rings, make hearty appetizers using fresh veggies and fruit, steamed shrimp and low fat dip and whole grain crackers, if you aren’t the host, offer to bring some healthy foods, try to eat a healthy salad before the meal.

The fiber in the vegetables will help to fill you up, don’t bury health foods under fat and sugar: sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and don’t need sugar. Bake them and sprinkle with cinnamon, don’t starve yourself before a holiday meal. Being too hungry can make it difficult to make good food choices and moderate portions, enjoy wonderful cup of flavored coffee or tea to curb temptations of rich desserts, check food websites and cooking magazines for updated health conscious versions of your family’s favorite holiday recipes.

To enjoy your meal and prevent over indulgence, eat slowly, savor each bite and engage in mealtime conversations. Don’t forget to engage in regular physical activity throughout the holiday season and beyond. This can be a great stress reliever. Get the entire family involved—work, bike, play catch, rollerblade or golf. For fun indoors a great game of Scrabble or my favorite with a larger group is a game of Apples to Apples (what dietician wouldn’t love that game?!) Holidays are opportunities to be social with your family and friends, don’t let the food distract you from talking with them. Even if your tables are displaying your favorites, a little forethought and preparation, you can make healthy food choices without the guilt.

Have a healthy and blessed holiday season!

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In Memory of Margery Porter, B.S., C.A.P., C.E.D.S.
May 1942 – November 2004

What did you say to yourself this morning—“Good morning, God!” or “Good God it’s morning!” Interestingly enough, the small change of wording can make a world of difference in the type of day you set up for yourself.

For many of us, positive affirmations are a change, a new way of looking at life. AS the disease of addiction has progressed (either our own or someone close) we have a tendency to look at the dark side almost as if we’re afraid to think in a positive manner. You know, “If I don’t expect it, I won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.”

In recovery, we’re encouraged to seek a balance in our lives. When completing the inventories required in Step 4 and Step 10 we’re often reminded to identify the qualities we want to enhance along with the character defects we want to eliminate. It’s also important to acknowledge the accomplishments of the day along with the wrongs for which we need to make amends.

Imagine if all the people at the 12 Step meetings were still in the “Good God it’s morning” attitude when new people come to the meeting. Why would anyone stay or want to come back? Instead of having what we want, all those people would appear to only habe what we are already too familiar with—negativity!

One of the responsibilities of recovery is to share experience, strength and hope with others. Among the many slogans that may be heard in the rooms is “You’ve gotta give it away to keep it.”

Think about how this works… when you smile at a new person, there’s a good chance you’ll get a smile in return. If you share what is was like for you, what happened, and what it is like today—it’s certainly a reminder for you about all you have to be grateful for, AND – those words may be just what someone at the table needs to hear to help them stay clean, sober and/or abstinent and in recovery for one more day.

Affirmations, gratitude lists and positive thinking all have benefits that reach far beyond our personally limited scopes. I remember how wonderful it was when someone remembered my name when I went to my second 12 Step meeting. Today I have to believe that she was feeling positive and unencumbered by her own self-centeredness. Chances are she had followed direction, asked her Higher Power for support and had been able to be kind to herself and acknowledge the positive aspects of her life throughout the day. In doing so she was able to reinforce her accomplishments and feel good about herself. As an added bonus she got to help me (without even knowing it). I know she didn’t know because in a chance encounter recently, we had an opportunity to reminisce about the good old days and I told her how much those words, “Hi Marge!” meant to me.

My first sponsor was adamant about the importance of daily positive affirmations (whether I felt like it or not). She gave me many challenges in my early recovery that continue to be part of my daily routine. One that continues to help me “keep it by giving it away” is to honestly identify and tell another person something positive I want to hear.

So, my challenge to all of you—give yourself the gift of daily affirmations. Then, give yourself the gift of giving those affirmations to others throughout the day. In doing so, you will be giving yourself gifts throughout the day—regardless of what else is going on in your life. At some time during the day, jot the affirmations down. Do this for thirty days. At the end of the thirty days, look at the list of positive things you know about yourself.


Let me know how this goes for you.
Remember, it all starts with, “Good morning, God!”

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Sunset 07I arrived at Tampa International Airport in October of 2007.  I was a woman who would describe herself as being a very active sober member of AA since October, 1993. This woman has had the same sponsor since the beginning of her recovery.  She also sponsors women and would express with conviction that the 12 Steps has changed her life.  She would tell you that her marriage of 35 years was better than she ever believed possible.  This same woman, however, was filled with fear upon her arrival to treatment.  Her weight had climbed from a size 6 when she got sober to a size 22, a climb that she realized she was powerless over – she simply could not stop eating!

I’ve always had problems around food, my behavior being to overeat, then to restrict – extremes.  But when I got sober, overeating become dominant and my weight just climbed.  This constant gain led me to attend some OA meetings.  I had endless conversations with both my AA and OA sponsors about my fears of gaining weight.  Brief periods of sensible eating were always followed by compulsive overeating – a vicious cycle.  I quit smoking in October 1997 (a 30 year addiction); consequently, my weight climb took on “a life of its own.”  Having a few days of healthy eating, I spoke at my OA meeting about how I felt “on the recovery beam.” That same afternoon I binged.  I really needed treatment.

At Turning Point of Tampa I worked with the nutritionist and my therapist, along with my Higher Power. They were able to guide me and support me with my recovery.  I left Turning Point of Tampa with tools for continued recovery, tools which included a relapse prevention plan that I started implementing immediately after getting off the plane back home.  This was a good thing, as I came back home during the holidays.  Following Christmas, I had my own personal crisis – I broke the largest bone in the human body, the femur.  Extensive surgery was done, which entailed placing a large rod in my right leg.  My goal is to walk without a limp.

Through all of these challenges, I have remained sober, smoke free and abstinent.  I’m glad this program is about progress, not perfection.  With God’s help in these 12-Steps and the help of my support group, I am back to the basics.

Abstinence is freedom, freedom from the slavery of obsessive/compulsive drives to the kitchen.  I’m convinced that gratitude is at the core of my recovery from compulsive overeating. When I’m grateful for all the small things in life, when I’m consciously aware of the abundance all around me, then I am not feeling the negative force that catapults me straight to compulsive overeating.  When I acknowledge that my abstinence comes first and I act on that knowledge, all of my life, my relationship with my Higher Power, myself and others, just unfolds without a great deal of effort.  Because of abstinence, I am experiencing, as Bill Wilson once said, “a quiet place in the bright sunshine.”

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MAILBOX 02You seriously need to give yourself a break. You’ve spent so much of your life living in fear. Deep down, you know, truly know, that you are an infinite spiritual being having a temporary human experience. Why don’t you stop spending so much energy trying to deny this? You’ve been given the gift of addiction for the purpose of returning to your essential spiritual nature. You have been given enormous and uncommon gifts. Ignoring this is not an option. Living in ego, denying your essential spiritual nature, and attributing life’s daily miracles to coincidence will only work for so long.

You fear death, despite knowing that this is a return to the infinite, despite knowing that the world we see is only part of all that is. Still, the doubt lingers…”What if I’m wrong? What if all that awaits isn’t connection to the infinite, but infinite loneliness, disconnection, and ultimately nothing?” You fear the loss of the wall that separates you from all that is not you; that your authentic self is somehow broken or not good enough.

Your spiritual malady long predates your drug addiction. Your path was a purgatory of insanity, stumbling through life relying on your intellect, disconnected from your brothers and sisters. Your essential spiritual nature is a perfect expression of creation. Your fears, your ego, your desire to disconnect is part of this malady.
Recovery is the gift that allows you to reconnect to the infinite. Stop trying to disqualify yourself based on other people’s ideas of what a higher power is. Slow down, give yourself a break. You are a child of God, deserving of joy and freedom, a fully-connected part of all that is.

You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.

– Rumi


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So long you’ve been hiding

Deep inside my brain

Slowly taking control of me

And making me insane.



You’d make me think I was happy

But I’d always end up sad

And in my deepest depression

I thought you were the only thing I had.


You’ve made me lie to everyone

And deny that you are real

But despite my best attempts

I couldn’t even put down that pill.


My world revolved around you

Day in and day out

You’d never take a day off

For this I have no doubt.


I’ll never let you make me forget

That you are my disease

Even when I think you’re gone

And my heart feels at ease.


I know you’ll always be here

No matter where I go

Trying to outsmart me

And attempting to take control.


But it’s time for this to stop

Where you do all the talking

Finally, I See You

Pack your bags and get walking.

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Comedy Intervention VI

On September 10th, 2014, posted in: recovery by

He’s Baaaaack!  Mark Lundholm will be performing at Turning Point of Tampa’s Comedy Intervention VI.

Please check out information for the event online:


We hope to see you there.


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WOMAN WITH GOAL (136x200)I recently conducted a telephone interview for an article for my company; my interview subject was the president of one of our divisions. I had never met her. I was new to the company. I could not believe she said yes. This was not even my primary job, just a lifelong wish to write and go big, do a real interview and write a great article. I sat by my phone doing deep breathing exercises as I dialed and cleared my throat 17 times. GULP.  My brain: “Why did you think you could do this? Okay, you heard her presentation, she seems kind. But she’s THE PRESIDENT. I’m just the “junior mint” (a phrase she mentioned in her talk). I am prepared, but I have no idea what I’m about to do. Please, Universe, let this go well. Do not laugh too much. Try not to say ummm, uhhh, 5,000 times (which I did). OMG, it’s ringing, ahhhhh!

One of the things she mentioned in her career presentation the week before my interview was Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote, “Do something that scares you every day.” I broke the ice with that, telling her this was my “scare for the day” moment. She laughed. She pointed out that fear can be healthy, that it allows us to come prepared. She then proceeded to ask ME questions about me. My breathing slowed.  She’s funny, she’s NICE! I can do this. I hope. It’s 2 minutes in, and 28 to go. When I hung up, I felt the rush of having done it. Cool!

So I began thinking about that phrase. Sure, I’ve done some scary things in my life. As a child, I flung myself backwards and sideways, often on a 4-inch beam of wood 6 feet off the ground, near-misses all over the place, and one ankle crunching dismount. I climbed towering trees. Woohoo! In my military Air Force days, I flew in a Jolly Green copter with some nutso Army guys and did “auto rotations,” which are basically like spinning out in the air toward an untimely death, then righting the craft at the last second. AWESOME!  I also had the good fortune of flying in the backseat of an F-16 fighter jet over the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain, Mach 1 with my tresses aflame, taking the stick control from the pilot and flipping upside down and straight up, my brain on supersonic and my body squeezing with G-forces, trying to appear uber-cool, like this was just another day for me. Ha! Fly by wire fab. WILDY EXCITING. (No, I did not get sick.) So there were those things.

I am not a natural adrenaline freak. Repeat. I am NOT a thrill-seeking extremist. Am I?

In my later years, I gave birth, twice. This was scary to me but not out of the norm. Gazillions of women have done it and survived to tell. The resulting offspring…well, that IS scary…but in the happy, fun, scary way. Every day has been different, and parenting is like groping in the dark for the light switch, which is sometimes right there, but quite often you’re left in the dark to find the candles. (Did someone forget to buy candles?) Wonderful.

I must admit, I dig being scared. Scary movies, creeping around a dark campsite, critters above and below, no light and weird noises. Goosebumps… delicious.

Next, I found myself strapped to a giant piece of fabric in a not-so-perfectly good aircraft, borderline rickety, in fact, with some gauges and cords, and a full-fledged maniac attached to my very being. The first time I jumped, surprisingly, I was not afraid. The air hit my face at 90 miles an hour and adrenaline surged through me in sheer joy. UNTIL I could not find the rip-cord. The dots on the ground were getting larger…where’s THE CORD? OMG! Aha. Rip, pull, FLOAT. Silence. Like a butterfly floating on the breeze, then a perfect 4-point landing. My exact words, “When can I do it again?” UNBELIEVABLE. There’s a piece of my soul that is so fully alive in these moments, nearly nothing can touch the physical and mental feeling of the chemical cascade that happens when pure fear lights up the amygdala, the reptilian part of our brain that registers fear, love and the base emotions. A drug-free, internally produced high. Amazing.

I’ve swum with sharks, giant sea turtles (oh my!) and dolphins. Anything bigger than me in the water is ominous, at best. The 500-plus pound female dolphin that was playing tag with me decided she wanted to show her affection by sliding her smiling mouth around my midsection, my body fully surrounded by gleaming little teeth. Her teeth did not touch me, but I was basically a human snack if she chose me for lunch. She did not. She looked up and gently backed away, circled around and bumped my back with her nose. WOW. Days later, I was cave-diving, and my dive-buddy and I found ourselves lost in a stunning underwater cave, far from the boat, land, and any humans…in Honduras. Air tanks getting lower. Thump-thump. Finally at the surface, a long, exhausting swim back to the boat. Exhilarating.

And, oh, yes, there’s the mental fright… job interviews, near-miss accidents, speaking in front of 10 people, 200 people. These are the day-to-day things that scare the wind out of me and cause me to quake in my well-worn combat boots. The first time I spoke in front of about 40 people I thought I was going to die on the spot, and it was a raised podium with a spotlight. The beautiful part was that the audience was darkened. The not-so-beautiful part was that this was one of my top fears. My voice shook and people were feeling uncomfortable for me. Ugh. A few minutes in, though, I found my groove and rattled on for 30 minutes; then afterward, proceeded to shake for the next 30, veins coursing with residual adrenaline. I still get that feeling years later, now having spoken to groups of 200-plus people. My secret dream is an amphitheater with thousands, which is on my bucket list. Ssssssccary!

Anytime I do something even a few levels removed from my comfort zone, ZING, breathing quickens, pupils dilate, heart gallops, temperature rises, beads of sweat form on my brow and on my brain. But I am ALIVE, in the moment, and always, always, charged up and grateful that I can try anything, no matter how scary it appears. I am not fearless; I am willing, a “junior mint” working on becoming the Peppermint Pattie. I can think about these things all day long, but unless I give it a whirl, I haven’t grown and faced the fear.  So try it. You won’t be sorry. You cannot fail if you haven’t tried, and it’s never a “fail” if you did it and remained alive to tell (a critical point since I do not recommend putting yourself in abject danger!) You are you, not me. You know what you’ve thought about but have been afraid to do. It could be asking for a raise, telling someone how you feel, running a 10K (or marathon!), joining a new group, speaking to that person you’re afraid will reject you, standing up for your position, starting your own company, interviewing the president of anything. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” So true. What scares you?

The next thing I am going to do is very, very scary. It’s a conversation about how I feel and what I want to do. It may not be well-received; I may get shot down. But I’m going to try…and learn from my attempt either way. It is not the end of my existence if it doesn’t go my way. It is, however, the continuation of “doing something that scares me,” which, to date, has not killed me off. In truth, it has kept me alive and growing. I challenge you to face the fright. Try something outside of your soft, cozy little world and feel the fear, taste the magic of having stretched your wings wide. If you come out on the other side and still feel scared, you’re onto something. Fear not, there’s always a lesson, an inspiration, a truth that’s revealed. Go forth and scare yourself. You may be wickedly, happily surprised.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not the one who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers it.”~Nelson Mandela


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