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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Thoughts of Christmas

For over 25 years Christmas hasn't been one of my favorite holidays. And it's not because I'm some kind of a grinch or don't like to see people celebrating the holiday. The reason it's not one of my favorites is because my mother died 26 years ago on Christmas Eve.

She had been in the hospital since November 1, 1994, to have a piece of metal removed from her leg that was starting to cause her pain. She had broken her leg several years earlier and the doctors had placed a metal splint on the bone in her leg, along with a few screws, so as to give more support to the spot where the break had occurred. But it had begun to cause her pain and she asked me if I thought it was a good idea to have it removed.

Of course I don't like surgery or hospitals – I know they are necessary for our survival – but I left the decision entirely up to her because she was the one who was suffering from the pain, not me. Of course, in retrospect I would have told her to not go into the hospital. But the way she explained it to me is that it was a very simple surgery that would be done on an outpatient basis. The metal splint would have been removed and she was to return home the same day. But things didn't go quite the way she explained it.

The doctors decided to keep her in the hospital under observation for a few days because of her reaction to the surgery. They wanted to make sure that she was entirely functional after she left. Anyway, to make a long story short one complication led to another and her condition started to deteriorate. At one point she even developed pneumonia. But after some therapy so she could get used to the new splint that they had put in her leg they made plans to release her on Christmas morning of 1994.

I had gotten off work that day and went home to shower and was planning to visit her as I did every day she was in the hospital when a call came from a nurse. She told me that my mother had passed away 15 minutes earlier. Of course, I was devastated and went to the hospital full of grief and with tears running down my face.

It seemed so surreal to me, so unbelievable, because I was planning on picking her up the next morning and taking her home. But it didn't happen that way.

Many people have advised me to get over my grieving and I believe that I did a long time ago. But still, because it happened on Christmas Eve I am always reminded at this time of year that I lost one of my best friends, someone who supported me through the many years when I was living the life of a drug addict. She didn't support my habit or anything like that. But she did encourage me to get help both when I was in jail and out of jail and it took me a long time to follow her advice.

One of the things that makes me happy is that she was able to see me sober for three years and working in the recovery field. I think that gave her more joy than anything. And even though I recognize that today,  the Christmas holidays are not the best time of year for me.

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