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, July 24, 2011

The Enemy

“We have met the enemy and it is us…” Pogo.

The client sat across from me at the desk, a bundle of raw emotion. He had a tangled ball of issues. He was going through divorce. He couldn't find a job. He was losing his home. He was suffering from a hernia. He felt like smoking crack.

I asked what he could do about these things right now.

"What do you mean?" he asked me.

"How are you going to deal with all these things right now?" I asked him.

"I don't understand," he responded.

"You can only deal with one of these issues at a time," I told him.

This client was like many who show up: very emotional, very upset, and ready to go drink or do drugs. He had taken everything negative that's going on in his life and bundled them up into one package of emotion. He had made his issues so complex by mixing them together that he was understandably upset.

I asked him to list everything that's going on in his life. Then I asked him to select the ones that he could deal with at the moment. Obviously this man couldn't deal with his divorce at the moment, nor could he deal with losing his home or with his medical issues. But he could deal with his feelings of wanting to smoke crack and his inability to find a job.

I told him he could deal with his desire to smoke crack by talking to his sponsor and perhaps going to a meeting. As to finding a job, he needed to look every day until he found work. His full-time job should be to find a job. Once I broke these issues down into smaller pieces he could deal with he felt better. He started to realize he was mixing everything together and putting all his problems on an equal footing. I explained to him that when him we have something going on in our lives it might take weeks, months or even years to resolve them all. I told him that, for example, my divorce took nearly three years before it was resolved.

We addicts seem to build situations in our mind that could lead us to use again. Do we do this because we subconsciously know that we can remove the pain with a quick fix or drink? It says in the book that our disease is "cunning, baffling, and powerful."