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.

Monday, July 15, 2013


We had another example this month of emotional hostage taking.

This time it was a young man who’d enjoyed a privileged upbringing. So privileged that his family was giving him enough allowance to underwrite his drug habit. And they didn't pay much attention until he started really getting in their pockets because his habit was out of control. He started selling their stuff. And drop the F bomb when they would question him or suggest he get help.

At that point they turned to us. And it's always a problem when people arrive at our program with issues of entitlement. Drug use is bad enough. But when coupled with an entitlement mentality it's difficult to overcome.

We've had clients from these "privileged" backgrounds walk in expecting us to wait on them hand and foot. They’re looking for the mint on the pillow. They're angry at everyone. Especially their parents. They have all the answers. Because they were raised getting their own way they expect to have their way with us. But that's not how it works at TLC.

We start out, both in the halfway house and in the outpatient treatment program – with the idea that the client is personally responsible. In counseling sessions we don't talk about others. We talk about the client. That's because the other people aren’t in our program. And even if they were - it still wouldn't make a difference in terms of the client getting better.

We might agree that the parents are jerks. Or that no one understands. But the reality is that nothing can be done about that. It's always about the client and their level of personal responsibility.

My heart goes out to parents who lament and grieve over the pain their almost adult children cause. In these situations it’s near impossible to give them an answer.

Our suggestion is to let the addict hit bottom. Suffer enough pain so they're willing to change.

However, there's always the risk the child won't survive. So what do you do? If you don’t want to be tough are you willing to remain a hostage? It’s a difficult choice.

The situation sometimes solves itself when the parents exhaust their retirement money trying to help their addict child. Or else when the child ends up in jail or the cemetery.

There are no easy answers.