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, June 10, 2020

Want Equality?

I mostly talk about recovery on these pages. But today I'm going to wander off into the weeds a little bit and make some comments that sort of relate to the current political situation.

Many years ago – around 50 – I was doing 10 years in prison for possession of heroin. I knew that if I behaved while I was there I could cut a lot of years off of that sentence. So I ended up going to school.

Even though I already had a GED that I'd acquired while I was in a juvenile prison, I believed that more education would give me some opportunities once I was released. So I took typing classes, correspondence courses in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, became a staff writer for the prison newspaper (eventually becoming editor), and taught myself Spanish grammar and got enough practice with my fellow inmates who spoke Spanish that I eventually became an interpreter several years later. Stick around because I'm going somewhere with this. We select we get

A lot of what we hear in today's current political climate is that minorities lack opportunities for education and advancement in society. But I disagree with that. I believe that if one is on fire – no matter what their circumstances or where they come from – they can become successful. But there's a little problem between going from where you are and achieving success: and it's a little word called work. Most people are not willing to put in the work to succeed in life.

And many of the protesters that we see right now breaking out department store windows and hauling out bags of stolen luxury items such as $250 pairs of tennis shoes, luggage, and other goods that many people work very hard to pay for are not looking for equal opportunities. The opportunities are there if one is looking for them. What the so-called "disadvantaged and oppressed" want out of life is equal outcomes. But that's not the way the world works.

In the almost 30 years that I've been operating TLC as CEO I've seen many men walk into our program with nothing. They came from the streets. Maybe they were released from prison. Many had zero education, yet today some of them are millionaires with their own businesses.  Others have obtained doctors degrees in various disciplines.

And the only difference between them and those who end up with nothing, is that they were on fire to succeed and did so. They did not revert to drugs and alcohol. They kept their eyes focused on their goal of seeking a successful life – and they did so.

So ask yourself what you looking for: equal opportunity? Or equal outcomes?

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