Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 900-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 30th 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, May 16, 2018

Hurting Others

I don't get angry very often. But one thing that does anger me is when I hear addicts or alcoholics say they never hurt anyone while they were using. Just themselves.

One of the realities of the recovery business is that we don't just deal with our addict clients. We also deal with their parents. Their children. Their wives. Along with other loved ones.

And if an addict wants to see real pain, talking to the parents – or other loved ones – will give him all the evidence he needs.

I was reminded of this today while talking to a woman who called several months ago to see about getting her son into our program, once he was released from jail. The first time we talked she was looking for a place for him if the courts released him before sentencing.

During each of our conversations, I could sense her anxiety. Even though all of the information she needed is on our website, she wanted to talk to a real person about how TLC operates. So I took the time needed, patiently explaining to her about the application process, about how the program works, the housing, the food, the job situation and so forth. It was obvious that she was concerned about her son, his addiction, and what would become of him. In other words, she was going through a lot of pain and anxiety because of her son's addiction. An addiction that had landed him in jail and could potentially put him in prison if he doesn't succeed in our program.

I've seen this scenario play out over the years many times. And sometimes it doesn't end well. Often the parents or family members I talk to call me later to tell me that the child or husband died of an overdose.

So the idea that our addiction only hurts us is an example of how self-centered we addicts can really be. Not only do we hurt those who care about us, we also hurt society at large. After all, how many of us contributed anything to the world during our addiction? We took and took until we burned everyone out or ended up in jail or a mental hospital. And at the same time, we were breaking other people's hearts.

Only as we mature in our recovery do we realize just how much impact our disease had on the world and those we love.

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