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.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A Day at a Time

At a twelve-step meeting a young man is talking about how many times he's failed at staying sober. He described some of the scenarios that preceded his previous relapses. His voice was heavy with depression, his shoulders were slumped, and his head hung down as he spoke. His sadness and pain permeated the room. Many of those there, who spoke later, were able to relate with him because some of them had to make many tries before they succeeded in putting together a few years.

A phrase we often hear at twelve-step meetings is "keep coming back." And the phrase has been in the program for many years because it's one of the secrets of staying sober. Just because a person goes to a twelve-step meeting, that doesn't mean they're going to stay clean and sober. But if one is going to meetings on a daily or weekly basis, sooner or later some 12-step wisdom has to sink into our subconscious. When one keeps showing up in meetings, yet relapses on a periodic basis, that doesn't mean they should quit coming because the program doesn't work. All it means when a person keeps relapsing is that they don't apply the techniques and principles that one learns by attending meetings.

For example, one thing that's never heard at a meeting is that a person relapsed and that their life got better. Instead, what we hear is that we picked up a drink or a drug and all of a sudden everything disappeared. Things crashed very quickly. Maybe we picked up a DUI. Maybe we sold everything we owned so we could buy more cocaine. Maybe our wife or girlfriend left us for someone who is living a sober life. Perhaps we showed up for work and found that we no longer had a job. When we keep hearing bad stories like this over and over we soon come to realize that no good ever comes from a relapse. But the reason people tell us to keep coming back is so that we continue to hear the sad stories about what happens when we get off track.

Sooner or later the lessons we hear at meetings begin to sink in. And the more we hear them the deeper they go into our subconscious mind. Until sooner or later we no longer entertain the idea that using anything is going to result in a good outcome.

I've often heard that until we get enough pain it's hard to give up our bad habits. And I don't know how it works for other people, but for me it's been true in every area of my life.