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.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Gratitude

Today I'm counting my blessings and want to wish a Merry Christmas to all those who have helped make TLC the success that it is.

At this time 28 years ago I was addicted to heroin and alcohol, stealing to make a living, and during the last week of my using, I was living in a stolen car. At that time, my outlook was very bleak. I figured it wouldn't be too long before I died. Or be back in prison.

But January 13 of 1990, I had a moment of clarity and decided to enter a detox in Mesa, Arizona. I'm not sure what happened, but I know that I was miserable. And completely demoralized. I knew that if I didn't change something my life was going to get considerably worse – if I even survived.

When I entered the detox I was totally willing to do whatever they asked. I was going to finally admit that I was an alcoholic. I had known for a long time that I was a drug addict, but for some reason, I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that I was also an alcoholic. I must've thought that if I admitted I was an alcoholic that I would have to stop drinking. Yet when I drank, it wasn't very long before I was back into the spoon, using heroin and quickly spiraling downward into homelessness.

I stayed in that detox for 11 days before they released me to a halfway house that was willing to take me without money. I planned to stay there for 30 days, then get a job and move on with my life. But at the 30-day point, I realized that I knew very little about living sober and that if I left at 30 days it wouldn't be long before I would be back drinking and doing the same old thing. So I made a commitment to stay for three months. But even at that point, I realized that I wasn't ready and I decided that I was going to stay a year and get my life on a solid footing.

And that was what made the difference. At one year my head was clear. I was working at my old job and making plans to start my own recovery program as a sideline. Before long the recovery program I planned to operate as a sideline became so demanding that I quit my corporate job and devoted my efforts full time to run the recovery program.

Within two years we had nearly 300 clients and were becoming known in the recovery community as a place to go if you were serious about recovery.

When I look back on that time in the early 90s, I never realized that TLC would turn into one of the biggest programs in the Southwest. All I know is that we got up every morning and put one foot in front of the other and tried to do the right thing. Sometimes we made mistakes, but we just kept moving ahead.

Today we have some 850 beds and a lot of dedicated staff members who make things work. And I count my blessings because without them none of this would be possible.

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