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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A time for Feeling

What I like about the holiday season is watching the enjoyment of others as they celebrate. As for myself, I spent so much of my youth in institutions that holidays just kind of went by me. Most of the places I was at didn't allow inmates to celebrate such days as Christmas.  So it's never meant much too me.

In 1959 at California State Prison I remember that the guards had placed a large Christmas tree attached to a wall about 10 feet above the floor. I guess a few of them were soft-hearted and wanted to cheer up the prisoners.

In those days prisoners were still allowed to smoke and use tobacco products. And one thing allowed was fluid for their lighters. Anyway, someone passed the word around to soak the Christmas tree with lighter fluid as the prisoners filed by. In about 20 minutes it was dripping lighter fluid. The last man in line threw a book of matches on it. And that is how we celebrated Christmas 1959 in the South Block. Locked in our cells with no dinner, inhaling smoke.

Today I love the joy on a child's face as he opens a gift. And especially I appreciate the thoughtfulness behind the gift.

I also know that Christmas is a giving time. But in those days I didn't feel like giving much of anything to anyone, except maybe a hard time.

Today I understand what giving is about. And I've learned that it's a feeling and compassionate thing. Maybe someday I'll totally erase the anger and resentment that I associated with holidays in my early years.