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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


A client makes an uninvited visit to my office to ask a question.

He wonders why, when he achieves a modicum of success, he always sabotages it. He once started a business, then began using drugs, and lost it all. His marriage was destroyed after he went to prison on a drug charge. He claims to have repeated this pattern over and over again. And his claim is credible because he spent 20-some years on the installment plan locked up on various charges.

Further in the conversation this man diagnoses his issue as being "lack of self-esteem." He says it stemmed from his childhood during which he was raised by parents who manufactured drugs and abused him and his siblings. He says he began using before age ten. By the time he was in his teens he was an out-of-control addict.

His profile is common among our clients. Many come from fractured childhoods where they learned drug abuse, sexual abuse, and violence. Not a lot to feel good about.

As they mature they begin to mirror in their behavior the dysfunction they learned as children. Many have an inkling that these memories burned into their psyches are contributing to their self-destructive behavior. But most don't know how to start a new pattern of behavior that will help override the old one.

At TLC we suggest they start taking baby steps in order to rewrite their life story. Some of these baby steps are quite simple: stay sober, work hard, make your bed, maintain personal hygiene, keep your living area clean, don't steal or fight.

And while these simple things might seem obvious to the average person, many clients don't have the foundation other people take for granted. And once they learn how to take care of themselves we suggest they reach out to others who are new to recovery. We believe these things enhance self-esteem.

Changing self-esteem can be a long-term process and requires work. But the work is probably the best investment we can make for our long-term heatlh.

For those interested in learning more about self-esteem go to He offers many free tools for those interested in improving self-esteem.

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