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, August 19, 2012

Getting to vs. Having To


Received a call today from a young woman whose probation officer told her to enter a treatment program as a condition of remaining free.

She’s broke.  She lost her insurance when CPS took her children and placed them with her family.  She’s on psychiatric medications.  And she’s looking for a program that will provide free services.

When I told her we didn’t offer anything free, except for entry to our halfway house program, she sounded depressed.

            “I have to do something or I’ll be back in jail,” she said.  And she went on to tell me about all of the things she “had” to do, that she was “required” to do. She sounded almost like a victim because of the requirements placed upon her so she could remain free and regain custody of her children.

As the dialogue went on I suggested she might start using terms like “I get to” or “I’m allowed to,” because that perspective might help her feel better about her situation.

If we look at the things we’re “required” to do as things we “choose” to do we regain power. And we have power in our lives.

As I explained to this caller she doesn’t have to do anything her probation officer says. She can simply go back to jail and finish her probation time inside. She can leave her kids with her family. And I’ve seen clients do that because they don’t like to feel like being forced to do anything.

When she protested that she didn’t want to return to jail I told her that she’d then made a choice.

We always have choices. Sometimes they just don’t seem very palatable.