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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Twenty some years ago I'd predict whether a client would stay clean. Whether they'd be able to make it in recovery.

I'm not sure it was a conscious habit. More of an unconscious judgmental thing that would randomly pop up.

I recall a man who came into our program years back with all the ingredients for success. Sharp. Well-spoken. A lot of sales skills. When I met him I just knew he'd get his stuff back together and and resume his business career. He even worked for us for awhile and did well..

But one day he relapsed and went off the radar. Then he showed up again and started over. He kept this cycle up for a few years, until the last time he left. We later got a message that he'd been found dead in an empty lot.

We've had more than one client with formal education in psychology and addiction. Maybe as many as half-a-dozen. Though I thought they'd do well, none seemed to last long. Even though they might put together a few years, their cravings would overwhelm them. And we'd hear they went back out.

And I bring this up because a few days ago I walked into a business to make a purchase.

As I started to pay the clerk said, "You don't remember me, do you?"

And while the person looked familiar, I wasn't sure where I knew him from. Then he told me his name and it all came together.

Needless to say I was surprised and pleased. Because this was a person who, the last time I saw him, couldn't carry on a coherent conversation. He made little sense at all. He was back and forth at the program a few times, but we didn't think he was in the right place. And he eventually left.

And now, here he was a few years later, functioning at a high level, helping customers in a retail establishment - seemingly a different human being.

And that's why today I don't make predictions about outcomes. Because we never know who'll hear the message and put it to use.

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