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.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It sometimes amazes me that Transitional Living Communities functions at all. Our total staff, top to bottom, is made up of recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. We use outside consultants for a couple of areas that are highly technical. A consultant reviews our accounting records once a month. And periodically a professional counselor will come in to deal with specific issues that can't be dealt with by our peer counselors.

When this company was founded in 1992 there were no plans for it to become as big as it is today. There was no business plan, there were no financial backers. The company consisted of a small group of recovering addicts and alcoholics who wanted to stay sober and help others rebuild their lives. It was just a few of addicts working hard and putting their money into the project.

The company started with five beds and some broken down houses in Mesa, Arizona. Within six months there were over 150 residents. At the two-year mark the population was over 300. By the late 90s the company had expanded to Nevada and New Mexico and the population was near 1100. The residents currently operate five small businesses, though at one point TLC had over 10 businesses.

We learned along the way that we do best with businesses that are labor-intensive and low technology. The important thing we consider in our planning is, "what is the worst thing that can happen if we fail?" If we believe that we're not going to bring down the company we're likely to start the new business. Some of our businesses were closed, not because of lack of expertise, but because of a downturn in the economy. One of these was our construction business, which closed last year due a slowdown in the housing industry.

I guess the amazing part to me is that are able to survive financially, even in rough times. Unlike many nonprofits, we receive no funding from the government or outside sources. Our revenue comes from our small businesses and service fees paid by our clients.

The lesson for me is that even a diverse group of people without much of a record of success can accomplish a lot when they work together and stay clean and sober.