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.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Accidentally Stealing

Last night, while buying groceries, I accidentally stole something.

Now those who know my pre-sobriety history are probably saying, "Yeah, sure, an accident." But, it was.

It happened at our local Sprout's Market. I'd loaded several things into a shopping cart. One of them was a small box of blueberries.

Somehow, while going through the checkout line they slipped into a crack in the basket. And I didn't see them as I loaded the conveyor belt.

I only noticed them after I was at the trunk of my car. And there they were, edged sideways into a small crevice in the cart.

I checked my receipt, and sure enough I hadn't paid for them.

Oh well, I thought, I'll just give them the money next time I go there. After all, it was a small item anyway. Plus you're already in the parking lot. No one knows about it. And what difference did it make?

But as soon as I heard this narrative I was telling myself I went back into the store.

The guy at the checkout line was surprised. I told him they hadn't charged me $4.99 for a box of blueberries. For a moment he didn't seem to know what to do. But then he looked up the price and took my money.

He thanked me for coming back and paying. I told him I did it because I didn't want to be thinking about it all night.

As I drove away I realized that my world is different today. Twenty five years ago I used to pride myself on the number of things I could shoplift.

Televisions. Cameras. Cigarettes. Jewelry. Tools. Liquor. Clothing. I'd take whatever I could turn over for quick money .Not once did I take something by accident.

And now it seemed strange to be wrestling with my conscience over a $4.99 box of berries.

But then I realized it wasn't about the value of the item. It was about keeping a commitment I made when I got sober.

And that commitment was to change most everything about my life. And that didn't just include not drugging and drinking.  It also included being honest and staying straight with the world.

Click here to email John