Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th 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.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Clients daily come to TLC asking for help. Most of them are homeless. Ninety-eight percent of them have no money. Many of them own nothing but the clothes they are wearing. Some are on parole or probation, sent there by their supervising officer. After they sign paperwork agreeing to comply with our guidelines we accept them into our program.

Many are grateful for our help because it's difficult to find a place that will accept recovering addicts or alcoholics who have no money. Some of them, though, after getting some rest and a few meals, are not sure they want the kind of help we give them. They came to us desperate for help. But once they began to feel better their perspective changes.

Now the things we ask of our clients, with a few exceptions, are not really difficult for the average normal person. We ask them to get a job and pay us a $110 weekly service fee to live with us (an amount that includes housing, meals, counseling, job assistance and other services). We require them to obey the law and to stay clean and sober. We ask them to submit to random drug testing, either a urinalysis or breath test. For the first 90 days we require them to go to one 12 step meeting a day. During the first 90 days they attend relapse prevention class and a Big Book study.

But this regimen is often difficult for those who aren't ready to get clean and sober. They start objecting to the rules. They might begin complaining about the food. Or the management. Or the air conditioning. They begin to look at external things because they're not ready to change their lives. In their initial desperation they agreed to go to any lengths to change. But when they realize that “any lengths” might require some work and a psychic change on their part they begin to balk.

The idea of confronting the responsibility that comes with living sober is difficult for many addicts and alcoholics. But the real issue is almost never external conditions. The real issue is the thinking of the addict or alcoholic.

Are we going to change what we do? Not likely. We've had over 200,000 addicts and alcoholics come through our doors since 1992. Most of them didn't stay clean or sober. But we don't worry about the ones who didn't make it the first time. They might have heard something that will help the next time through.

The reward for us is the ones who took advantage of the opportunity we offered them and are living clean and sober today.