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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yesterday one of our managers said he was suffering from a “spiritual malady.”

I asked him to elaborate and he said it was about money. To help him sort out what was going on I questioned him further.

“You have a place to live?” I asked. He lived in a comfortable apartment in one of our newer facilities.

“Enough to eat?” He seemed well nourished and agreed he had plenty of food.
He also had money in his pocket to meet his basic needs.

As we went down the list it seemed the universe had provided - not everything he wanted - but everything he needed. Plus he was enjoying the longest period of sobriety he’d experienced.

On a deep level he knew his needs were met, and knew his drug addiction was his real issue. His disease was telling him deserved more.

I ask clients who are obsessing about money to view life differently. Our consumer media seduces us through advertising to want more. We’ll be happier driving this hot car or draped in this designer clothing. Or living at the country club, or carrying this exotic credit card. We absorb subliminal images of satisfied people enjoying these golden enticements and we become restless to possess them. But that’s not reality.

Reality is that my three year old get Prius gets me from A to B just as well as Bill Gates’ limo gets him to his office. Donald Trump’s roof probably keeps the water off of his head about as good as mine does. My closet is populated mostly with clothes from discount stores and not much from Nordstrom’s. But no one ever says I look like crap. They don’t care what I’m wearing; they’re interested in what they’re wearing.

We purge ourselves of spiritual maladies by living by real values. Money and the things we acquire with money are not intrinsically evil. But neither are they an end in themselves. If we live only for the material – setting aside the spiritual – then we’re going to be very dissatisfied when the exigencies of life take our stuff away.

Those who live by spiritual values – and who pursue material things based on needs as opposed to wants - are much happier. And they may stay sober longer.