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.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Being Self-Centered

A close recovery friend called the other day to tell me he'd been exposed to Covid-19 and that I shouldn't visit him for a few weeks as he was going to self-quarantine.  I thanked him for the heads-up and asked him how he was exposed - so he told me about it.

He's a successful businessman and one of his cousins in another state asked if  he could put her son to work so he could learn about business.  Since the kid was bright, but didn't want to go to college, she thought maybe her cousin could introduce the son to the world of business.  And since my friend believes experience is a better teacher than any classroom, he told his cousin yes.  And gave her 20-something a job and let him live rent-free at his home.

And he said things went pretty well for a while.  The youngster was a good worker, showed up on time, and became an asset to the company.  But he had one flaw: he didn't believe in wearing masks or social distancing.  And he had a habit of bringing different girls to the house and they didn't wear masks either.  

Finally my friend told the youngster he could no longer bring any of his friends to the house.  And the youngster made other arrangements.  But most of the time he wore a mask on the job and was reminded if he forgot to wear one.

When my friend asked if he and his friends wore masks when they were together outside the house he said they did.  But my friend didn't believe him because of previous conversations they'd had.  Once he brought the subject up and the youngster that "he'd be okay, that he wouldn't catch anything."  When my friend explained to him that wasn't about him, it was about the vulnerable people, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems it didn't seem to have much impact on him.  Though he did half heartedly nod in agreement.

And a few days ago the youngster exhibited symtoms of infection so my friend had him tested.  And, sure enough, he came back positive.

My friend was angry at first because he has to rapid test about 25 people who worked in the same office.  Plus the boy failed to use common sense and follow his advice.  

My friend wasn't amused when I reminded him of the old saying that "No good deed goes unpunished."

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Risking our Lives

As the pandemic intensifies I find it difficult to understand why people are so resistant to complying with measures that might save their lives or the lives of others.

For example there was a lot of controversy in the media about how to deal with Thanksgiving.  Eat with the family?  Or stay home?  And depending on the state one lives in, there were conflicting suggestions from government health officials about where to spend the holiday.

I believe that part of the issue is that we Americans have always been independent and don't like anyone telling us anything.

We see this when the government closes certain businesses or institutions.  Whether it's a bar, church, or school being closed the outcry is deafening.  People scream about their "constitutional rights" while half of them know little or nothing about the constitution and what it says.

From my perspective, whatever I can do to distance myself from others I'll do it.  I've heard that masks don't work and that they do work.  But I take a chance that they do work and wear one whenever I'm around people.

I think we've become a nation of entitled babies and don't want to suffer the slightest inconvenience.  When we don't care whether we spread a deadly disease to others we show the world how self-centered we really are.

I believe there's a lesson here for all of us.

Click here to email John

Saturday, November 28, 2020

A different Year

In a little over a month this year will be over and the hope is that the next one will be different.

Never have I experienced such a collision of interests, as if the universe had tilted and everyone went a bit crazy.  After all, political campaigns are bad enough, but when pandemics, riots, unemployment, and fires across the West Coast are mixed in at the same time it's a lot to absorb.

With several cures for the Covid 19 virus supposedly on the way next month and early next year we can hope that the world is taking a positive turn where the pandemic will subside.

A new president will probably assume office - and while he may not do a better job than his predecessor - at least the tone of the political world will change.  What politicians do has never had much of an effect on my life but sometimes it's hard to ignore the drama when it's mixed in with other layers of drama as during 2020.

For me the recovery world has even changed, mainly because meetings have become limited.  Because of my age, which puts me in the most vulnerable group, I've chosen to stay away from any large gatherings.  I go from my home to my office and not much anywhere else.  And I usually wear a mask when in public, regardless of what the skeptics say.

What helps the most is that I apply the principles I've learned during my nearly 30 years of recovery.  I live in the moment, recognizing that many in the world are truly suffering and that I'm blessed to be where I am in life.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Giving Thanks

Today those of us who have gratitude in our hearts celebrate it with a day our country sets aside for this occasion.

In this country we have much to be grateful for, even though we've been through one of the worst years since I was a child.  On top of the challenges of normal life, we were struck by a pandemic that ravaged our country and the world, we experienced all the vitriol of a vicious political campaign, riots raged in the streets of the Northwest and forest fires burned millions of acres in California, Oregon and Washington.

So one must  be very optimistic to find something to be grateful for after such a series of dramatic events.

But I have a favorite technique I use when my world spins out of control as it has recently.  When things get crazy I play kind of a comparison game.  I look around and I can always find someone who has it really rough.

For example, I live within several blocks of some assisted living homes.  And as I drive to work I usually follow a route that takes me past them.  I often see the elderly and sick riding their electric carts on the sidewalks - even when the temperature is over 110 degrees.  Some are puffing a cigarette, or returning from the market with a basket of groceries, or maybe just escaping the confines of their rooms.  Whatever they're doing - which is none of my business - they remind me that I have a lot of freedom and blessings in my life.

And I'd suggest that you develop some techniques of your own that help you feel grateful when things get really rough.  Yes, many have it better than us - but don't look at them because you'll feel envy, or jealousy or some other ugly emotions that'll drag you further into depression.

Instead, have gratitude for whatever life has handed you because today might be the best day of your life.

Click here to email John

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Blessings of Recovery

In January I'll have 30 years in recovery.

And one thing I never had a problem with is finding things to be grateful for.

For example, my youngest daughter is going to be 36 tomorrow.  This is an anniversary I'd never have seen had I not gotten sober.  And I know that it's just a birthday and what's the big deal?  But the big deal to me is that I was able to get custody of her when she was about seven years old and raised her until she was 18 and decided to go into the army.

She served three years in the military, one of them in Afganistan.  She worked as a chef while in the service.  And when she was released she enrolled in Texas Culinary Academy and earned an associates degree.  Later she moved to Arizona and earned a bachelor's degree in liberal Arts.

Today she's married to an actor on the Discovery Channel's Gold Rush series and is raising my five year old grandchild and spends a lot of time bodybuilding.

I'm proud of her accomplishments and she gives me a lot to be grateful for.

Click here to email John

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Working Together

Last week I heard that two companies have developed vaccines that are over 90% effective in curing the Covid-19 virus.  And they did it in record time:  in less than a year.  It doesn't surprise me that this happened because I believe that humans can accomplish anything if they learn to work together toward a common goal.

But looking beyond the virus, what other problems could the world accomplish if everyone decided to work in unison?  What if researchers and governments decided to join together and wipe out drug addictions and alcoholism?  

I know it can be done; in fact there is already a trend to decriminalize drugs in countries around the world.  And in some states here in the U.S.  While it may take a few decades to bring common sense to society, I believe that this will be the norm:  rather that putting people in cages because they try to solve their problems with substances, we someday will send social workers to help them work through their issues.  Instead of them seeing parole officers or judges they will go to counseling sessions and learn new coping skills.  Society will teach them new ways to live rather than send to them away from their families and the real world.  Some people were never nutured or taught to live an ethical life.

Moving on from drugs, society could teach people how to escape poverty and the ghettos.  Someone had the bright idea that everyone needs to go to college to succeed.  And I think that those who want to become doctors or lawyers or scientists should do this- in fact they must.  But someone who wants to start their own business could learn all the skills they need in a trade school - which many millionaires have done.

If we can work for the common good there's nothing we can't achieve.  We've already seen this in many areas of the world.  We need to see it keep growing.

Click here to email John

Monday, November 16, 2020


I was watching a news show this weekend and the host was talking to a psychiatrist who stated that, according to a study done during the quarantine that one out of four college students had considered suicide.  And that was because they were so depressed about the pandemic and how the quarantine had limited their lives.  No parties.  Wearing masks.  No hanging out with their friends, etc.

And I found that somewhat shocking.  I'm still trying to understand it because a lot of bad things happen in life and not having fun or freedom for a few weeks is not - to me - that big of a deal.  

After thinking about this for a while the only conclusion I could come up with is that these students had never faced any kind of adversity or had never been told no.  They always got what they wanted when they wanted it.  They had never developed the resiliance that comes with facing tough challenges.  They probably never had to work or take care of themselves.

In the recovery field we encounter many people who have lived rough lives.  They suffered sexual and physical abuse in their early years.  They spent time in foster care and juvenile halls.  As soon as they were old enough they graduated to prison.  Yet they became tough people, people who knew that life had its ups and downs.  Of course they didn't become tough overnight.  They tried to escape their challenges by using alcohol and other drugs until they found that that cure didn't solve their problems either.

The only way we get tougher is by facing the tough challenges in life.  While this pandemic is terrible, those of us who survive will learn to value to our lives and appreciate each day we have been given.

We'll come through these challenges stronger, better, and more grateful for what we have.