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 13, 2010

The other day I was talking with a young man I sponsor about power and powerlessness. He was relatively new in the program and he was having difficulty with what he called "the ignorance" of others. I asked him to elaborate and he told me that other people around him irritated him a lot. That was my cue to have a discussion with him about what he did and did not have power over.

He told me that he knew he was totally powerless. My response was that he knew on an intellectual level that he was powerless. But I told him that practicing powerlessness is totally another thing. He didn't quite understand what I meant. So I explained to him that knowing something is one thing, but that putting what we know into practice is another.

I told him that when I first came into the program I understood all of the steps on an intellectual level. But book knowledge is one thing and using what we know in our daily lives is another. By the time our discussion ended he had a better idea what I was talking about.

We learn about staying sober as we do the steps. And then life, our daily life, gives us an opportunity to put those steps into practice. While I didn't want to discourage him, I explained that even at nearly 20 years sober, practicing the steps and the principles of the program is daily work.

We don't spend 15 or 20 years drinking and drugging, then take a magic 12-step pill, and have our life change overnight. For many of us it takes a lifetime of constant practice and vigilance to learn to live sober. In my case I spent nearly forty years drinking and drugging. How can I reasonably expect that one to five years of sobriety will erase all of that?

When my sponsee and I parted he had in his hand an assignment to write a page about powerlessness and the role it played in his life.