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.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Often times, many of those of us in recovery end up going to work in the recovery field once we have a period of sobriety. That was the case for me because it helped me keep in touch with my own sobriety. But also it was a rewarding job because helping others somehow seemed to put new meaning into my life.

But a few weeks ago I met a man who changed careers in the middle of his life who was not an alcoholic. A few years ago this man had a great career with a large health care organization. He was in charge of communications within the organization and had a well-paid responsible job. But something was missing for him.

"My life had no meaning," he said. He didn't know exactly what he wanted to do but he wanted to do something more fulfilling. He had an emptiness inside that he needed to fill. He prayed and meditated and finally came up with a solution. He decided to start a ministry to feed the homeless.

But he decided to do something different than what a soup kitchen typically does. Instead of making the hungry and homeless listen to a sermon before he fed them he decided to feed them first and preach to them later. He said that the results he got were gratifying because about 60% of the people stayed to listen to the message.

And it didn't bother him that some just came for the food and walked away without listening to his message. Someone pointed out to him once that giving food to the homeless and hungry is in itself a message.

From a humble beginning a few years ago where his ministry fed only a dozen people, he now feeds upwards of 200 at a time. He says that while there are challenges in his new career choice, he has never been happier.

For those of us in recovery this man's career change might contain a valuable lesson. For me the lesson is that our lives must have meaning. Just because we quit drinking or drugging that doesn't mean that all of a sudden our lives are worthwhile. We must replace drinking and drugging with something that satisfies our souls. For me the choice was going to work in the recovery field. For others it might be going back to school. Or starting a business. Or becoming a volunteer.

Whatever it is we do it must be something better than what we were doing before. Drugs and alcohol took everything from many of us. Some of us report that alcohol and drugs put meaning into our lives for a while. But then we lost family, friends, and in some cases, even our freedom in our quest for fulfillment.

I believe we must regularly evaluate what we are doing with our lives. We don't want to get to the end of our journey and wonder if we wasted our time.