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.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Homelessness

The other day I left my office and noticed a man inside our dumpster in the alley mining for aluminum cans. He was busily tossing whatever he found of value onto a pile outside.

As I passed, I mused at how hard some work to survive. I often see the homeless around town. And their whole existence is about basic survival.

In fact, the homeless work much harder than the rest of us. It takes effort to find food. To find a safe place to sleep at night. A place to bathe once in a while. And for the 80-90% who are addicts it's even a bigger challenge to find enough alcohol and drugs to blot out reality.

Back in last century, when I was in California, I thought I would try being homeless. After all, no rent or utilities to pay. No one to boss me around. Kick back all day. But I was wrong. I spent all my waking hours looking for dope. For places to sleep and stay warm. For something to eat.

The final straw came when I realized I hadn't bathed in so long that my toes were sticking together. I wasn't tough enough to last even a week. Fortunately the police arrested me for trespassing and saved me from myself.

Ninety five percent of those coming to TLC are homeless addicts. And those who stay and work on their recovery become successful. Once sober, they're able to apply the same toughness and creativity that allowed them to survive on the streets. 

When they do that they can become as successful as anyone else. But it takes a while for many of them to make the decision.