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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Still Addicted?

Smoking is one of the most difficult addictions to quit, especially for addicts and alcoholics. Statistics show that 75% of 12-step group members smoke, while only 25% of the general population is addicted.

I constantly preach to our clients and staff members to quit smoking. And once in a while one will succeed. For example, a salesman in our office has over 90 days without a cigarette.

As a former smoker, I don't minimize the difficulty of quitting. It took several tries before I finally stopped nearly 27 years ago on July 25, 1984. It was so difficult that I remember not only the address where I quit, but also the hour and the day. For me quitting was a personal mission. Seven family members died of smoking related causes, including my mother. Emphysema devastated her generation of my family. And my brother, who died at 60 of alcoholism, also had emphysema. It is a deadly habit.

When I discuss quitting smoking with clients and staff members they often have a common response. Many say, "I've given up drinking or drugging, but I'm not giving up cigarettes."

However, the reality is that even though they know it's bad for them, they're not willing to go through the pain of quitting. And we teach in the program that people shouldn't make major changes in their life during their first year of recovery. Too much stress during the first year might lead to a relapse.

Still, we have to look at our recovery and ask ourselves: are we really in recovery if we’re addicted to any kind of substance?