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, February 20, 2014

Re-framing Loss

I spoke to an alcoholic this week who's been drinking for several years. He's now at a point where it’s causing marital, health, and financial issues. Our discussion revolved around him getting into recovery.

He revealed that his drinking stemmed from the loss of a child several years earlier. And when he spoke of this loss, it was clear he thought this was a justifiable reason to drink.

It's easy to commiserate with him. After all, what can be more devastating than the loss of an infant? There’s no logic when we're confronted with these kinds of losses. There’s just sheer, raw emotion that cuts to our very soul.  How do we move on?

I attempted to give him a different perspective. I shared with him what worked for me when I lost my mother – my best friend - 20 years ago.

I told him I came to realize that too much grief could be counterproductive. If I continued to live with overwhelming pain I might pick up a drink or a drug as an escape. I told myself I must take a larger perspective.

I asked what my mother would want, how she would want me to live my life? And I realized that she would want me to do my best. To remain sober and be a productive member of the community. And that's what I did because I knew anything else would dishonor her memory.

Of course pain remains. And this man's grief will never go away. But if we re-frame our loss by asking what our loved ones would want - we'll have an answer.

Whether it's a parent or an infant, we can safely surmise that they would want us to live our lives to the fullest – while still remembering them with love in our prayers and our memories.

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