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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

He'd been in our program for over a year, his longest period of sobriety. But yesterday he relapsed.

I first met this man when he started attending our aftercare groups. He had an interesting story of living in parks and river bottoms for several years. Like most people who live on the streets, he is a survivor. He has an air of toughness about him that comes from living homeless day to day in the Arizona heat.

When he relapsed he had been in our aftercare group for nearly nine months. In fact, he was to graduate in about three weeks. Last night he didn't show up for group, telling a roommate he wouldn't be there because he was sick. Because he hadn't been sick before I didn't think much of it. I did send a message through one of the group members that the next time he was sick he should ask me to excuse him.

It didn't surprise me that this client relapsed. In fact, it seemed a miracle he stayed sober as long as he did. When he shared in group it seemed like he was always taking his emotional temperature. He spent a lot of time second guessing himself. He had a lot of "whys" about his behavior. He wondered “why” he did things. He said that many times strange thoughts would pop up in his head and he would wonder “why” he was thinking what he was thinking. I told him he was engaging in a lot of mental masturbation.

I tried to explain to him that it wasn't important "why" he did things. "Why" only provided fodder for a lot of indecision. I tried to explain that if it served some purpose to know why he did things the 12-step programs would probably focus on why we do things, instead of on living one day at a time.

I believe that there are myriad reasons why we do things. But learning to function in the present moment is what's important. How I do things right now is what will keep me sober. I sometimes felt like this man was driving himself to relapse wondering why things happened in his life.

And this morning he 's probably living in a park, or somewhere along the river bank.