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.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

19 Years Ago

Christmas Eve is a day that brings mixed emotions. On one hand, there's celebration and happiness among those of us who look forward to this time of year.

But for me it’s kind of melancholy because 19 years ago today my mother died suddenly – the day before she was to be released from the hospital.

I got the call about 4:15 in the afternoon, as I was preparing to leave to visit her. The nurse, in a kindly but matter-of-fact voice, said "your mother died 15 minutes ago."

It was a shock. Because my brother and I had made plans to take her home the next morning. And instead we would be making funeral arrangements.

She'd been in the hospital for 54 days, after visiting for what was supposed to be an outpatient procedure. But complications set in, and the medical staff kept setting back her release date.

When she died I’d been in recovery for over three years, something my mother was very grateful for. In that time I was able to repay money she’d loaned me, and make other amends. I was able to move her here from California. She was finally able to see me rejoin society as a productive and sober human being.

And I know this was rewarding for her because she'd stuck by me from the time I was a teenager. She saw me go through 35 years of addiction, prison, mental hospitals, divorces, and other calamities. And during many of those years I had the attitude that I wasn't hurting anyone else, just myself.

It was only after I was in recovery for a while and started working with other addicts and alcoholics and their parents and families that I realized just how much damage I did to my loved ones.