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.

Monday, September 27, 2010

For two years I've been writing to a former client who relapsed and returned to prison. My correspondence with him reminds me that 12 step work can sometimes be unrewarding.

Every month or so I would write him. On a few occasions I sent him 12-step literature and a little money. Sometimes I sent him books he requested. I did this because when he first communicated with me after his return to prison he told me that he wanted to stay sober. He said he never wanted to return to prison again, that he was tired of being locked up. He was using me as a sponsor.

Because a major premise of 12 step programs is that we carry the message to others I started corresponding with him. Because I am very busy with TLC I didn't correspond with him more than once a month. But still, I was pleased that I was able to do that.

Then I got a message that he had gotten in trouble over drugs he'd purchased on credit. Because he was unable to repay the debt he was afraid of being killed. To protect himself he arranged to have himself caught with a knife that he had hidden in his cell. This infraction caused him to be moved to a high-security unit and to lose all the good time he'd accrued. But at least he was no longer in danger of being killed because the gang he owed the money to couldn't get to him.

I felt disappointed and used because this man misled me by saying he wanted to stay sober. And the reality is that maybe he does want to stay sober.

Perhaps in the environment he's in he succumbed to a moment of weakness. Who knows? One thing is certain though. I'm still going to reach out to others who say they want to get clean and sober. That's what we do in the program: we carry the message.

And even though this man is sitting in a special security unit in Florence, Arizona, I'm still sober today.