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.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Accepting Ourselves

Because I was unhappy most of my childhood I did everything I could to escape. The unhappiness was about the violence and chaos of alcoholism. It was about a lot of hard work with little acknowledgement for my efforts A lot of times I felt sorry for myself.

Because television didn't exist, I whiled away my hours reading. Or I would disappear half a day, exploring the river and woods behind our house. Anything to get lost.

Because we lived in farming country in Oregon, everyone grew some kind of crop. I picked strawberries. Pulled weeds. Harvested hazelnuts. I escaped into making money, helping neighbors take care of their gardens. Or sometimes I'd feed their animals. I collected cans and bottles for the pennies they would bring.

Eventually the courts returned me to my mother in California. But I brought my childhood angst with me. I found different escapes. As a young teenager it became alcohol, pills, marijuana -anything to make me feel better.

Later, as I began going to jail, I escaped back into reading. And now it was all about self-improvement. About bettering my vocabulary. I taught myself Spanish. I learned to write and went to work as a news reporter when I got out of prison.  I learned business and communication.

Now there's nothing wrong with improving ourselves. We need to learn as much as we can so we can take care of ourselves.

But today, in my late seventies, I realize that though self improvement helped - I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I just wanted to feel better about myself. That's what I was doing, trying desperately to feel better.

Today, with 25 years recovery I have learned a different approach. I've learned that sometimes life's a bitch. And that's okay. I don't have to fix it. I don't have to change it. I accept the negative that sometimes drifts into my life. I welcome it and accept it each time it shows up; and I've learned that acccepting things exactly as they are has near magical power.  We no longer cling to outcomes.  We accept things just as they are.

Through absorbing myself in Mindfulness I've learned that just paying attention to - and accepting - whatever happens in my life sets me free.  And I've learned I don't have to like it - and I don't always have to feel good.  I've learned to be okay with things I used think were big deals.