Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 29th 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, October 29, 2019

killing Addicts

Today my daughter sent me a photograph of a poster tacked on the wall on a fast food restaurant. The sign read "174 Americans die each day from drug overdoses."

Now I don't get angry often. But when I see signs like this, or hear about them, it angers me at the inaction of our country when it comes to dealing with drug addiction. And I say this because if 63,000 Americans a year died in a foreign war – such as Afghanistan – the outcry would be so great that our government would take radical action in dealing with this problem. People would be rioting in the streets until we we withdrew our soldiers. There would be strikes. There would be demands for immediate action. And if you don't believe me think back to 9/11 when over 3000 Americans died in a terrorist attack. We're still reacting to that in more ways than one and we began reacting immediately.

But when 174 Americans die of substance abuse each day the reaction is almost lackadaisical. There is little enthusiasm for looking at drug abuse as a national emergency. Oh, there are the usual platitudes about praying for the families of the departed. But nothing much happens to effectively make a dent in drug use or abuse. Just earwash from the political types.

In fact, in the 29 years I've been involved in the recovery field, trying to help people get free of their addictions, our organization has spent thousands of dollars fighting off legal challenges to what we're doing to help people save their lives. Some "nice" people don't like the part ot town that we're in. They wish we would set up business elsewhere.

Others don't like the way we operate, yet they contribute nothing in the way of finances or resources to help battle one of our greatest national epidemics. It's like they don't care about how many of our citizens fall prey to this insidious chemical onslaught that is growing greater by the year. They haven't answered the door when the police show up to tell them that one of their loved one was found dead in an alley of an overdose. They believe that addiction is something that kills other people – not the people they love or care about.

Instead they are more concerned about the procedures organizations like TLC uses when they're trying to save lives. The legal establishment earns more money pandering to the the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) crowd, than backing self-supporting organizations like ours that work hard to help change lives.

TLC gets zero government funding or grants to fund its 900 bed program. Yet we accept any addict or alcoholic who asks for help - whether they have money or not. Most have no trade skills or education. Some come from prison with tattoos on their faces. Some have physical or mental disabilities such as bipolar or schizoeffective disorder. We provide peer and professional counselling. We find them dental and eye care. We encourage them to find outside employment and if they can't, we find them a job through our labor company. Or, if they don't like that option, we allow them to volunteer as clerks, cooks, drivers or house managers - for which they receive free housing, utilities, and a weekly stipend.

Our clients have many paths they can take while on the road to recovery: they can seek work outside the program, they can work inside the program for our labor group where they earn minimum wage or better, or they can volunteer to help operate the program and work on their long-term recovery while having their basic needs met – which includes a weekly stipend.

Or when they're ready to stay sober and clean on their own, they can leave the program because everything at TLC happens on a volunteer basis – including being here.

Those who object to any aspect of programs like ours – on any level – should examine their hearts and souls and decide if they want to continue to be part of the problem. If they do a serious self-examination they might find that as members of the human race it might be nice to be part of the solution.