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.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My father was an alcoholic. My brother was an alcoholic. Both died of their disease at 60 years old. Somehow I'd hoped that alcoholism and drug addiction had stopped with me and my generation. The evidence is, though, that what I hoped is not coming to pass. In the case of my family, addiction and alcoholism are proving to be genetic.

As the years roll on it is becoming apparent that my children and grandchildren, nephews and nieces, are having their own battles with substance abuse. It's their battle, but somehow in my naivete I had the idea that if I didn't drink or drug maybe they wouldn't face the same battles that I have had to fight. This was wishful thinking. I guess I thought that in an age of enlightenment where everyone knows about 12 step programs and the risks of drinking and drug use that they would somehow have become immune. This hasn't happened.

Stories filter back to me about the escapades of my younger family members. One is not paying his bills and is maybe using pills. Another is found lying on the porch, drunk. Still another has been in a knock down drag out fight that has ruined an important relationship. One has broken down a door because she forgot her keys while drinking. The stories keep flowing.

At first I thought I could help. But I didn't get help until things got bad, really bad. And I wouldn't admit that things were bad, even when I was in jail or in accidents because of what I was using. Only when things kept happening to me did I finally accept that I had a problem. I wasn't going anywhere in life and finally connected the dots. I realized that my messed-up life might be a result of my substance abuse. After all, the normal person doesn't keep losing relationships, jobs and businesses without some kind of extenuating circumstances. It took a long time to accept that I had a problem.

Yesterday my sponsor and I discussed these issues over lunch. Since he's had some of the same experiences with his family he was a great sounding board. And of course he told me what I needed to hear: that life itself would help bring my relatives into recovery.

I guess that - because of my experience - I thought I'd have a pivotal role in helping them get sober. He agreed that I might, but not until they were ready.