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, April 27, 2011

Compassion or Policy?

One of our managers came to me with a dilemma. He wanted to help a client who had diabetes, and other medical issues, but who’d lost his medical insurance because of government cutbacks.

The dilemma stemmed from the fact the client really wasn't doing anything about his own health. He was overweight. He smoked. He did no exercise. At TLC we encourage clients to stay healthy. And we have resisted helping those who have medical problems but who aren't doing anything to take care of their health.

In fact, on more than one occasion we have terminated senior employees because they wouldn't quit smoking when it interfered with their work performance. In one instance a long-time employee had a heart attack and repeated bronchial infections, yet continued to light up. While he was recuperating, another employee had to do his job. He was warned he would be let go if he didn’t take his doctor’s advice to quit smoking. He didn’t quit and eventually was fired.

Another long-term employee, who was regularly taking time off because of emphysema was similarly warned – and ultimately terminated because he wouldn’t quit smoking either. Several days a month he’d be sick and off work because his health was worsened by smoking.

In this present case, though, the client had come in with health issues and had been in the program only a few months. After some discussion, we decided this client’s immediate needs superseded TLC policy. So we arranged medical appointments at clinics and set aside funds to cover prescriptions. In his case it would have been inhumane to not do what we could to help him toward a healthy sobriety.