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.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Overcoming Frustration

I remember when a parole officer once told me "John, no one is totally useless. You can always serve as a bad example."

At the time I thought he was being rude. Or sarcastic. Maybe he was trying to be funny? But the interesting thing about what he told me is that I've remembered it for some 50 years. He was making a point. And he did. It's something that has stuck with me.

I was in my early 20's when he told me that. At the time I didn't listen to anyone about anything. I was on a mission to destroy my life. All I wanted to do was shoot heroin, drink, and steal everything I could get my hands on. I was angry about everything. I was even angry at those who were trying to help me. I just didn't get it. I thought they should mind their own business.  Yet what he said made me look at myself - even though I didn't change at the time.

And today I sometimes become frustrated with clients who don't seem to get it. Some do the same dumb things, over and over. To me the answer is obvious. If you do this you'll get this kind of result. Yet it's almost as if they have blinders on.

Then I catch myself. I look back and remember that I was one of those people. And when I do that my frustration subsides.

All of us - when we reach a certain age - can look back and remember that mentors often stood by our sides. They must've been saints because we addicts and alcoholics are a difficult population to reach.

So when I want to give up on a client - as I sometimes feel like doing - I think of those who stood by me. None gave up.

When I'm working with those in our program I know the next thing they hear might make a difference in their life. And when I keep that in mind, my frustration subsides.