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, July 30, 2015

Intangibles

Much of my work involves intangibles that don't exist. Memories of trauma.  Ghosts from a distant past. Anxious fantasies of the future.

Rarely does anyone sit across my desk and tell me about something concrete that I can help them with at the moment.

It's hardly ever so simple as "I need food and clothing." Or "I'm looking for a job."

Instead, most don't understand why they're feeling pain. Why they're in the grip of feelings they can't identify. Why they peer into the future with trepidation.

So I ask questions. I probe, because I know that somewhere within they do have an idea of what's going on with them. Where it all started.

But many remain semi-comfortable in the mess they carry around. So we make little progress. Their pain is familiar and safe - and thus more comfortable than an unknown solution. And if it gets too bad they know they can default back to the dope house or the bar.

I have a solution. There's a way out I tell them. There's a safe haven that's much better than where they're at: it's in the here and now. The present moment.

But when I try to bring them into the moment they often resist. They have this important thing that happened years ago that they can't accept. Can't assimilate. Or they've got something in an imaginary future that they're rehearsing for.

Sometimes I can get them to take a deep breath and join me in the moment. Their face becomes smooth and they're okay for a while. Then they follow the narrative in their head once more and lose their peace.

I never give up.  I know it takes practice to be in the moment.

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