Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

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

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In the literature we read the phrase "cunning, baffling, and powerful." That was demonstrated for me one more time this week when a client I've worked with for three or four years seemed on the verge of relapse.

When I first met him he had just been released from prison and was working on one of our construction crews. I was impressed with him because he was a single parent working hard to raise a daughter by himself. Because I had raised a daughter as a single parent in early sobriety I felt a special affinity for this man.

As time went on he started having a few medical problems. One required painful surgery, and a recovery period during which he had to use painkillers. Because of issues we've had with clients who use painkillers, we restrict their use to a very short period following a medical procedure. It's not that we think we know more than the doctors. It's just that when clients have painkillers it creates challenges. Other clients might want to steal the drugs. And the managers that monitor the drugs are sometimes tempted to use them themselves. 19 years of history has taught us that chronic use of prescribed opiates by our clients has never worked.

When I explained to him that he couldn't continue to work for us and use painkillers every day he seemed puzzled. He believed that because he had graduated from our primary program that we shouldn't have anything to say about his use of prescription drugs. He said that he was in pain and needed them. I didn't disagree that he was in pain or that he needed the drugs. I simply explained to him that we have never have had good results when employees or clients use opiates on an ongoing basis.

I gave him a choice. I told him that he could ask his physician about substituting a non-narcotic painkiller for the opiates he was using. If the physician was unable to find him something non-narcotic then he would have to leave our employment. To me the decision would have been easy. But I could tell by his hesitation that his choice would probably be to give up his job and his apartment rather than the painkiller.

The power of our addictions is amazing..