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 13, 2013

Back to the "Hell Hole"

A client who was angry about receiving consequences for his behavior raged at me on the telephone.

"You're not transferring me to that place. That's a hell hole!" He said. "Last time I was there they worked me like a slave! I’d rather live on the streets!"

 He went on and on like this for a while.. Then he hung up in frustration and anger.  But ultimately he decided to not live on the streets.

This dust-up was about an outpatient client who was being transferred to our Phoenix Hard Six program because he wouldn't modify his behavior. Even after countless suggestions about his poor communication he refused to change. So, in frustration, we decided to transfer him in a last-ditch effort - before we discharged him for noncompliance.

And, in the case of this client, we'd sent him there several months ago. And for six weeks after his return he behaved very well.  But apparently his memory of his last week-long stay there had faded..

While many clients talk negatively about the Hard Six program, it's one of the more effective tools we have in helping hard-core addicts and alcoholics change. It’s the last stop for chronic relapsers and those with serious behavior issues.

Clients in that part of the program work seven days a week. But usually they work six - if they behave well. They're not allowed to have more than five dollars on them. They can’t say no. They must meet the requirements of the regular program - plus attend extra groups and adhere to stricter guidelines..

While most clients don't make it with this tough regimen, many do change. Some Hard Six graduates have been sober nearly 18 years. And many work in TLC management today.

So while this recalcitrant client is complaining about what a “hell hole” it is, it's also the kind of place where he can change his life as long as he doesn't run away.

We just want him to have the same great life many of us addicts enjoy today. He just has to follow our lead.