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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Living in the Moment..


“Notice your experience and know that it is the right experience.” from Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self – Nirmala

As addicts and alcoholics we often reminisce about better days. Or else we’re fantasizing about a future probably much more wonderful than the present moment. And in the meantime life is passing us by.

Many traditions teach us to live in the present moment as a spiritual tool. After all, there’s not much we do with the past other than have random feelings about it. And there’s not much about the future we can predict with any certainty.

However, if we accept the present moment – whether pleasurable or painful – then we are fully engaged in life.

A quote from 12-step literature states in part “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed it is when I find some person, place, or situation – some fact of my life - unacceptable to me…”

When I’m disturbed I find that it’s usually because I’m not present with what is.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Another Satisfied Customer.



When I get emails from clients – whether they’re complaints or compliments- I publish them here. That way readers can evaluate our program from the client’s point of view. 

By belief is that successful clients focus on what they learn at TLC. The unsuccessful  focus on the living conditions,  the food, the job market, the tough schedule of meetings at the program and everything outside themselves and their addictions.  Here's the latest:

“Hi John,

This is J…... and I stayed at the Mac House. I ended up getting a job opportunity back in Dallas that I couldn't pass up.  Anyway, I never got to tell you goodbye and thanks for all you and TLC did for me.  It wasn't until I got back home that I realized what tools your program gave me.  

Most of all, the friends I made while at the mac house will forever be with me.  It is easy to focus on the things that one may dislike about TLC, but if you can let go of all the negativity there is so much more to enjoy.  

What I noticed was the joking and laughing that took place built a brotherhood that slowly grew stronger everyday.  You have changed so many lives with TLC and mine is one of them.  I will never forget you or the mac house and I hope to be able to carry the message on to the addict that still suffers like you all have. 

Respectfully,  J….....

Saturday, April 28, 2012

From Slacker to Social Worker


Some emails make our day.  And this is one of them because it explains so simply what TLC is about. (Only first names are used for anonymity.)

“Dear Mr. Schwary,

I wanted to thank you for allowing me to work and live at your facility here in Tucson. If it wasn't for people like Mike C, Red M, Marvin S, and Jack M, I would probably be dead right now.

 I can tell you first hand that when I first walked into the office doors, I was another addict looking for the easy way out. It was my second time at TLC and I had a balance. I never went to job search and would just sign into day labor to make it appear that I was doing the right thing.

Mike C saw right through me and about two weeks into my stay, he called me in the office and said, "You are behind in your service fees to the amount of $550. Unless I receive some type of payment by Friday, I will have to let you go." 

I walked outside the office and did another foxhole prayer, praying for another bail out. Someone who was working the gem show offered me a job handing out flyers. I took it. I started to believe in the program and I wanted to tell you that I am grateful for everything these people (and yourself) have done for me. 

I am currently a senior at the ASU School of Social Work here in Tucson, AZ working toward my BSW. I hope to enter into the Master’s Program and obtain my MSW by the spring of 2015.

 I just wanted to thank you for giving me the chance to excel and have a rich life once again.

Thanks,

John M, BHPP”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pissed off in Puerto


Being angry doesn’t work with my recovery. So I do what I can to keep from going there.  After all, for me it seems like a waste of time - because I have to work my way back from being angry to finding that pleasant place in the middle that I call serenity.

However, once in a while – when I’m unaware - I slip into anger.  And one of those times was a few days ago when I arrived at the car rental counter here in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

Now I’ve done this trip with the same booking company half a dozen times without issue. And because I don’t want to pay insurance rates that sometimes equal the price of the rental; I buy a liability policy from a Mexican insurance company – one that’s accepted across Mexico.

However, this time – even though I had my own policy - they wanted me to deposit $10,000 in lieu of buying their insurance.  No amount of negotiation helped.  Even though I told them I’d done this with their company a number of times they wouldn’t budge.

Feeling anger overcoming me I started rolling our suitcases to the street to hail a cab for a trip to another rental agency, However, before I left,  one of the nice drivers  from the rental agency pulled me to the side and told me in a confidential manner that he could solve the problem.  When he started telling me his solution I got really hot.

He said could get me the car for a week for nothing, plus $200 cash, plus tour vouchers, if we would attend a time-share presentation at a local resort. I left as quickly as I could before I really expressed my anger.

I was probably angrier at myself than anyone else.  Having been in Puerto a number of times I’ve seen the time-share sales people in their various guises. Sometimes they work as waiters, tour guides, and doorman. They’re always friendly and strike up a conversation with something like “Where you folks from?” or “Where’d you learn to speak such good Spanish?”

I have to admit, these guys snuck up on me. Anyway, we found another car half a block away for the half the price – a gift from God.

Today’s state of mind: anger gone, acceptance back, awareness raised, serenity restored.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hanging out at the House?

A reader wrote the other day to say we should make a better effort to explain that clients without jobs have to seek work each day until they find steady employment.
 
The writer implied that it was unfair to wake clients at 3:30 am and send them off to the day labor hall to try for a day's work.  Further the writer questioned the propriety of making them spend each day looking for work until they have a job.  It was almost like we're mean. 
 
Which makes me ask a few questions:
 
Should we just let clients sleep as late as they want? Till 8:00? Till 10:00?  All day?
 
And should we let clients hang around the house? Maybe watching TV?
 
I don't think so. After all, how are they going to pay their $110 a week service fee?
 
When I get messages like this I kind of scratch my head. Doesn't the writer understand that someone has to pay the bills? And how is the client going to learn to be responsible lying around all day?
 
It's not like our clients aren't used to going after what they want. Many of them stayed up all night seeking drugs or getting high. So why is it an imposition to ask them to put forth effort to rebuild their lives?
 
After all, the reason people end up on our doorstep is because their lives weren't working.  We try to help them change that....