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, March 18, 2020

Success Story

One of the most rewarding parts of operating a recovery program is when I get emails like the one below:  (Anything that would reveal the writer's identity has been left out to protect his anonymity.)

"Hey John, how are you?  

On May 17, 1993, I came to TLC helpless, homeless and hopeless. You and Rocky gave me a place to stay, food and a chance to make something of my life. Fast forward 27 years and I'm happily married, have kids in college, am an executive at a well-known global corporation and in May of this year I am graduating cum laude with my doctorate in business. Thank you for giving me a shot.

John, I learned something very important at TLC. I still use it today. 

Hitting a bottom that required me to show up homeless, full of ego, at one of your Mesa facilities with two plastic bags of dirty, urine-socked clothes, was not a death sentence. It was a second chance to start life over.  Only this time I could write the script. My biggest question at the time was what I wanted to be when I grew up (and got sober). 

I remember sitting out by that pool area and Janis Joplin came on the radio and sang a line I'd heard a  hundred times before: It was “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” 

With all my legal, IRS, financial and family issues still pending, that was my moment of clarity. I could do anything and go anywhere as long as I didn't drink. However, I also had to “build my brand”. I had to better myself in other ways to ensure I saw progress in other areas of my life along with my sobriety. 

Rocky used to tell me “You've got a thinking disease - you better find something to do with those f-d up thoughts of yours or your're going to drink again”. Well he was right. It was not good enough just to tell the world I don’t drink anymore, I had to become more valuable as a person, son, brother, employee and member of society. 

I chose the sobriety+school route. I started my masters right there at Pepper street, riding my bike and bus to UOP every weekend. For others it may be a different track. But the biggest take-away I learned was that starting over is a privilege not a consequence.