Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Idealism vs. Reality

About once or twice a year I get a call from someone who wants to start a halfway house or recovery program.

And this week a lady called with the same question. "Could you help me start a halfway house?" she asked, "I really have it in my heart to help people."

When I asked if she would call up McDonald's and asked them how to make a hamburger she seemed puzzled. She went on and on about didn’t I care about people? Didn't I want to help people?

By the time the phone call was over she was pretty abusive. She was easily discouraged, which is what I wanted to accomplish. To be in the recovery field one has to have gritty determination and be willing to deal with a lot of setbacks in order to succeed. If my answers deterred her then she needed to be in another field.

Usually these questions come from people who are well-intentioned. They want to help addicts in recovery. But the conversation doesn't go on for very long after I start asking them about their business experience. In fact they usually get off the line pretty quick when I start explaining to them that they've got to figure out how they're going to pay the bills.

In the 20 years I've been in this business I've seen probably a dozen halfway houses and recovery programs start up, then close down within a short time. Most don't last more than two or three years.

Because the reality is that to carry out any kind of mission, whether it be a church or recovery program, one has to figure out how they're going to make money. How they're going to get funded. How they're going to pay the bills.

When my son-in-law was going to Rhema College in Oklahoma they taught him that a church was 80% business and 20% mission. In order to carry the message, one must keep the lights on, pay the bills, insure the church bus, cover the mortgage, etc.

There are plenty of people to help in the world, but one must balance idealism with reality.