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.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Returning Again

A few weeks ago a former client called me, asking if he could return. As soon as I heard his voice I recognized him. He'd been at TLC three or four times in the past.

I remember him because he was an energetic volunteer. And he had computer and clerical skills that made it easy for us find a slot for him. After a few years, though, he'd find an outside job and leave. And it seemed that each time he left, he'd find a job with a company that could use his computer experience. Eventually though, he'd lose that job and ask to return. And we'd take him back because our mission is to help people rebuild their lives. And since he seemed to be willing to take another shot at it we'd always accept him.

We have many middle-aged residents who fall into the same category. They'll stay with us for a few years, working as volunteers, then graduate and leave. But for one reason or another the world isn't working for them and they either start using or ask to return before they relapse. And, practically without exception, we take them back and find a spot whethey can continue to work on improving and changing their lives.

We have several clients who have come back more than once and end up staying with us, some for 15 years and longer. Many are older than average, have no family or friends and sort of adopt us as a surrogate family. As far as I'm concerned there are no bad reasons to remain at TLC as long as one can stay sober and avoid being homeless. Many of these men and women are excellent residents who provide a core of stability to the program.

Over the years I've come to realize that all of us need to belong to some kind of social group. And many clients end up adopting us because –  not only because we help them stay clean and sober – we also take care of their basic needs for food and shelter and help them when they have medical issues. Our donation staff has developed relationships with dentists, doctors, and other medical professionals who are willing to donate their time and services at no cost.

We've also have had more than one client whose become terminally ill.  And because they have no outside resources they ask if they can stay with us until they pass. As long as they make arrangements with hospice to deal with their pain and other medical issues we never turn these requests down.

So, because we have this philosophy of helping where we can, I understand why some clients return when their lives aren't working elsewhere.