Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 900-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 30th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

New Measures

Here in Arizona we're now supposed to stay home after 5 PM. each day for the rest of the month of April. This was passed on to the public at a governor's news conference yesterday. Someone told me that we could get out to purchase certain necessities like food, gasoline, or medical treatment. But the reality is, this is so new that nobody really know what's going. The only people who are leaving home during the day are those who work in vital industries, such as hospitals, markets, and other institutions that provide the daily necessities of life.

For us recovering addicts and alcoholics things like this used to be an excuse to relapse and deal with anxiety as we always did: calm ourselves with a healthy dose of drugs or alcohol. 

At TLC those of us on the corporate staff really didn't know what to expect from clients. But not much has changed in our program. In fact, our population has increased by about 25 or 30 and everybody has continued to work on their outside jobs or at TLC on their volunteer jobs inside the program. Maybe the idea that we're all facing an unknown crisis – one like we've never encountered before – is bringing out the best in everyone. I've seen in the media that a lot of outside groups are  volunteering to help neighbors and others who are more vulnerable to this virus. And it's heartening to me to see people helping each other when things get tough.

Something that I commonly hear lately is that the world will never be the same again. And it's easy to believe that because because this is an enemy we've never encountered, at least on this scale. The last time anything of this magnitude occurred was in 1918 when some 50,000,000 people died from the Spanish flu. And possibly it could have been a larger number, because communication was much more primitive over 100 years ago and it was harder to come by reliable information from third world countries. Yet the world got through it and prospered to where it is today.

My thought is that the survivors will come through this as more grateful and stronger people.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Positive Results?

There's been a lot of chatter about the pandemic, Coronavirus – 19.

And after seeing some of the results of that chatter for the last few days I'm beginning to think that this pandemic may have some positive sides to it.

All of a sudden – or at least as fast as Congress moves – the government has come up with some sort of financial agreement that will put trillions into the economy to fight the expected results of this new disease. All of a sudden people in government – former adversaries – have overcome their animosity and hammered out some kind of an agreement. All of a sudden, they have found interests in common.

And just this evening I saw a blurb on the Internet where the Federal Drug Administration had approved a new testing device that will discover if someone is infected with the coronavirus within 15 minutes. Now considering that the coronavirus just came to the surface during the first months of this year, this is lightning speed for this agency to move. This is a great improvement over the former test, which took something like eight hours before results could be learned.

To me it kind of shows that when there's a common adversary such as a disease that threatens all of us, that people can forget their petty differences and learn how to work together. Large companies have joined in the effort by stopping the production of automobiles to produce ventilators for hospitals that are supposedly short of such equipment.

While there has been some petty bickering around the town I live in over toilet paper, hand-sanitizer, and other "necessities" of life, the few people who are out in public seem to be much nicer and more considerate. I think that we've learned that we all have a common enemy – a disease that we really don't know anything about or understand – and that we're not going to overcome it by squabbling.

When people join to battle a common adversary it seems that a lot of creative energy is released. Even though a lot of them have different motives there's a common goal. Some are concerned about the health of their families. Others about the health of their companies. 

And many are loving human beings who have compassion for their fellow man and will do whatever it takes to help the world become a better place. I want to be a part of this latter group.

Click here to email John

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

CDC Coronavirus Information


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. 

Can people in the U.S. get COVID-19? 

Yes. COVID-19 is spreading from person to person in parts of the United States. Risk of infection with COVID-19 is higher for people who are close contacts of someone known to have COVID-19, for example healthcare workers, or household members. Other people at higher risk for infection are those who live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Learn more about places with ongoing spread at transmission.html#geographic.

Have there been cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.? 

Yes. The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020. The current count of cases of COVID-19 in the United States is available on CDC’s webpage at

How does COVID-19 spread? 

The virus that causes COVID-19 probably emerged from an animal source, but is now spreading from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses at coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of • fever • cough • shortness of breath 

What are severe complications from this virus? 

Some patients have pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure and in some cases death.

How can I help protect myself? 

People can help protect themselves from respiratory illness with everyday preventive actions. • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. 

If you are sick, to keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, you should 

• Stay home when you are sick. 
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. 
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 

What should I do if I recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19? 

If you have traveled from an affected area, there may be restrictions on your movements for up to 2 weeks. If you develop symptoms during that period (fever, cough, trouble breathing), seek medical advice. Call the office of your health care provider before you go, and tell them about your travel and your symptoms. They will give you instructions on how to get care without exposing other people to your illness. While sick, avoid contact with people, don’t go out and delay any travel to reduce the possibility of spreading illness to others. 

Is there a vaccine? 

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to take everyday preventive actions, like avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often. 

Is there a treatment? 

There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms.


Saturday, March 21, 2020


One thing in life that we can be sure about is that things will be different tomorrow. And this new virus from China is an example that proves it.

People in all walks of life were blindsided by the rapidity and suddenness of this new pandemic.

Those in the political world had their minds deeply wrapped around the different ways they were going to run their campaign. Inventors were working on their latest project, trying to figure out an answer to a problem that might have eluded them for years.

Parents trying to figure out how they were going to save going to save enough money to send their children to college. And the children who are graduating from college were trying to plan their next career move. Should I accept this job? What's the best use of my newly acquired skills?

Others were planning their social lives. Some were working on marriage plans. Others on vacation plans.

I'm willing to bet that not one of them was sitting around figuring out what they were going to do while they were quarantined for a week or a month or two months. Or how they were going to find enough toilet paper to wipe their butts while they stayed at home. Or how many different ways they could figure out how to prepare beans and rice so that their families could eat.

And the interesting thing about all of this is that no one knows where this thing is going. All of a sudden we are living in a time of immediate uncertainty.

This is really a big deal in my life because it's the first time I've ever encountered anything like this.

It's not one of those things where there's an easy solution. But it does make me tell myself how grateful I would be if this would all this go away and I could go back to the "problems" I was facing two to three weeks ago. It reminds me that I must always learn to live in the moment – because this might be the best moment I will ever experience.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Success Story

One of the most rewarding parts of operating a recovery program is when I get emails like the one below:  (Anything that would reveal the writer's identity has been left out to protect his anonymity.)

"Hey John, how are you?  

On May 17, 1993, I came to TLC helpless, homeless and hopeless. You and Rocky gave me a place to stay, food and a chance to make something of my life. Fast forward 27 years and I'm happily married, have kids in college, am an executive at a well-known global corporation and in May of this year I am graduating cum laude with my doctorate in business. Thank you for giving me a shot.

John, I learned something very important at TLC. I still use it today. 

Hitting a bottom that required me to show up homeless, full of ego, at one of your Mesa facilities with two plastic bags of dirty, urine-socked clothes, was not a death sentence. It was a second chance to start life over.  Only this time I could write the script. My biggest question at the time was what I wanted to be when I grew up (and got sober). 

I remember sitting out by that pool area and Janis Joplin came on the radio and sang a line I'd heard a  hundred times before: It was “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” 

With all my legal, IRS, financial and family issues still pending, that was my moment of clarity. I could do anything and go anywhere as long as I didn't drink. However, I also had to “build my brand”. I had to better myself in other ways to ensure I saw progress in other areas of my life along with my sobriety. 

Rocky used to tell me “You've got a thinking disease - you better find something to do with those f-d up thoughts of yours or your're going to drink again”. Well he was right. It was not good enough just to tell the world I don’t drink anymore, I had to become more valuable as a person, son, brother, employee and member of society. 

I chose the sobriety+school route. I started my masters right there at Pepper street, riding my bike and bus to UOP every weekend. For others it may be a different track. But the biggest take-away I learned was that starting over is a privilege not a consequence.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

More Hysteria

All of this hysteria about the corona virus is getting on my nerves. At least as much as I let anything get on my nerves.

When people ask me what I'm doing about the virus my response is "probably not much." I don't wash my hands any more than I normally do. I don't scrub my kitchen or bathroom any more than I normally do. I still wash my clothes on a regular schedule, as I normally do.

I haven't done any more grocery shopping than I normally do because I still have a freezer full of food, plus my pantry is three quarters full of beans and rice and other staples. I believe life presents us with enough issues without magnifying the threats that are posed by this virus.

After all, I wonder how many of these people thought about the dangers of our everyday life before this virus thing showed up. I think 70,000 people got killed last year by the flu virus, and I heard little or no hysteria about it. I didn't hear a lot more news about let's wash our hands more often. Let's stay out of crowds. Or let's cancel sporting events. People just went on with their everyday lives.

Nearly 500,000 people people died in the U.S. from smoking cigarettes last year, while another 41,000 died from inhaling secondhand smoke. But for some reason, we didn't hear this wave of hysteria about smoking, probably because a lot of big retailers would be losing major money if cigarettes were totally banned. However, the cartels would probably be happy because they would have a new product to put on the shelves.

Last year about 85 people died from jaywalking in the city of Phoenix; but no one heard much about that either. Opioid overdoses killed over a thousand people last year in Arizona, and at least that many each of the preceding three years; yet there was a little dust up about it and then it died down in the media and people went on to the next disaster.

One of the most ironic things I saw today was a 350 pound guy moving to the side of a market, pulling down a mask that he presumably was wearing to protect him from the corona virus, and lighting up a cigarette. Go figure. I guess he was trying to be kind of selective about what he was dying from.

I guess the point for me – besides an opportunity to vent – is that we can do a lot of things to take care of our health and to protect our families. But if we decide to mix in a large dose of hysteria and panic we do nothing to improve the situation. All hysteria and panic can do is cloud our thinking and prevent us from making the best decisions about how to survive whatever threats we're facing.

The reality is that most of us do not live optimal lives when it comes to taking care of our health. And the panicky worldwide reaction to this perceived threat – which may be a real threat as it has taken several lives – is doing absolutely zero to improve our odds of surviving.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Corona Hysteria?

Maybe I'm cynical, but this Corona virus thing is getting kind of boring. 

Not saying that it's not real.  Or that some people who have other conditions don't have reasons to be cautious, like people who are elderly or who have weak respiratory systems.

But when a person goes to the market and find that all the water or toilet tissue is sold out, that's what I pay attention to.  After all one must be on the hysterical side if they let the media excite them about a virus that so far - comparatively speaking - hasn't taken near the lives that some other diseases have taken.  Then there are the hucksters who sell masks on the internet at inflated prices that probably do nothing more than give others a false sense of security.  Fortunately, it's not against the law to look  stupid wearing a mask that has questionable value.

Not many people realize that something like 70,000 people a year succumb to flu in the U.S.  Or that around a hundred years ago the flu killed 50,000,000 people world-wide.  Some say it could have been twice that many because some believe that many third-world country deaths went unreported because of lack of communication at the time.

Yes, I'm profoundly sorry for those who have already lost a loved one to this disease, but I believe that our immune systems work much more efficiently when not being assaulted by hysterical media.

If one practices basis sanitation practices they'll likely be okay - in my opinion.

Click here to email John