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.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Our recovery program has over 600 clients at the moment. One of the major challenges facing them is finding work. About a year ago, in response to this challenge, our staff created job centers at our larger facilities. There are four centers in all.

Each day at 4:30 in the afternoon, Sunday through Thursday, all of the job seekers get together. I often attend these meetings to evaluate how they are functioning and to give encouragement to our clients. During the meeting the clients sit in a circle and talk about how their job search went that day and discuss their plans for the following day. It is striking to me how different attitudes affect their success in obtaining a job.

Not surprisingly, those with enthusiasm are often successful in obtaining work right away. Those who are gloomy and downcast sometimes spend weeks on their job search. When it is their turn to speak during the meetings they have every reason in the world why their job search is not working.

"No one is hiring," they will say.

"I'm too old," a man over 50 might say.

"I went to the store, but they're only taking applications online."

"I have felony convictions."

The list of excuses and reasons goes on and on. They might not have bus fare. Or their bicycle might have a flat tire. They don't have identification. Or they don't have a driver's license.

My response is usually always the same: I ask them if they ever let anything stop them when they were seeking drugs or alcohol? This question usually gets a laugh. I go on to explain that when they needed a drink bad enough they would shoplift alcohol or they would panhandle money to get it. If they went to one dope house and the dealer was out, they would go to the next one and the next one until they found what they wanted. And many of them pursued this course of behavior until they ended up either in the hospital or in jail.

I point out to them that the same determination they exhibited when they were busy destroying their lives can be turned into positive energy when they are trying to rebuild their lives. If they use just 10% of the energy and time to seek employment as they did to get high then they will be wildly successful.

I often cite the example of a client I met in the early days of our job centers. This man had just been released from prison on parole the day before. He was covered with tattoos. Worst of all, he had a large tattoo depicting a knife slash across his throat, with blood running from it. This tattoo would have been difficult for him to cover up. However, when he reported on his day I was amazed.

This man was a ball of fire! He said that he had gone to three or four businesses to put in an application without positive results. He said that he stopped in an auto parts store that was not hiring and talked to the manager. It seems the manager was so impressed with his enthusiasm that he hired him on the spot! I sometimes use this man as an example to encourage clients to be enthusiastic in their job searches.

Sometimes a client will point to unemployment statistics as a reason why he can't find a job. My response is always the same: if 10% of the people are unemployed, then that means that 90% of the people are employed.

"Which group do you want to be in?" I challenge them. And of course the answer is always the same. They want to be with the 90%.