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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The magic of Pain

Pain is the great motivator.

Many parents write to tell me they've done everything for their addict children. Given them the niceties of life. Cars. Clothing. Tuition. Housing. Some even kick down money when the kid's dope sick. Yet, in spite of the this kindness they can't motivate them to quit using. And they wonder why? Do I have any ideas or advice?

And I tell them they should immediately stop giving them anything. Cut them off. Evict them from the house. Allow to them descend into the pain and misery that comes with drug and alcohol addiction.

"But how are they going to eat? Where will they live? They might overdose. They may go to jail." They have these and many other fears about what will happen if they stop helping their child. And I tell them that bad things will happen anyway, given enough time.

Over and again I've seen this. An addict is dependent upon their family and friends for help. But any help they get somehow prolongs their addiction.  The help must stop.

I saw a recent example when a woman told her sister she'd no longer help her in any way as long as she was using. And she didn't. Not a dime. Not a meal. When she was ready to change, then she might help.

It wasn't long before the sister lost everything, including the subsidized apartment she lived in. She slept in a car for a while. She later moved into a tent in a park with other addicts who were also at the bottom.

Then one day she had enough. She told her sister she wanted help. She entered a treatment program. Found work. Someone gave her a car. Today, less than a year later, she's clean and living a stable life.

All it took was enough misery and pain to motivate her to change. And that came when people stopped helping her.

And she still loves the sister who was tough on her.

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