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 31st 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.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Over 2900 Blogs

 More than 2900 times I've sat at my laptop and produced a blog,

The first one was completed at a condo in Mission Bay, California while on summer vacation.  At the time I really had no plans to be doing this ten or eleven years later.   Yet, here I am - still at it.

I was wondering the other day why I keep writing them.  And I think I've come up with somewhat of an answer. It fulfills some of my need to express myself in an intelligent manner.  When in high school I was a writer for the school paper.   When in prison in San Luis Obispo, California, I was the newspaper editor.  When I was paroled I became a staff writer for the Santa Ana, Register.  Later, when released from prison once more, I started a small advertising paper in a mining town that's still operating over 30 years later.

After I started a website for TLC I thought it would be a good idea to add a blog.  First I could share my thoughts about recovery.  I could still practice writing.  And I could help educate parents that wete being abused by their addict childred.  All of those things have happened.  And that's what I look at when there are days that I don't feel like writing,  I do it anyway.

Click here to email John

Friday, April 9, 2021

More Opiate Talk

A few posts ago I wrote about an experience with opiates prescribed by a physician.  And today I received a response from a former resident who had experiences similar to mine.  I think it's important for us addicts to understand that many of us share similar experiences.

 I'm 68 years old and I currently have 16 years clean.

I too spent seven years in Department of Corrections.  I got out in 1989, and stayed clean for a while when I was in prison.  When I got out I wasn't working a program.  

I didn't really have any interest in getting high at the time.  I went through some family issues.  My dad died. Went through divorce.  Still didn't get high.  But when a friend of mine said he had some heroin, I just went and got high cause I wanted to.  Took me awhile to get clean again and take the program seriously. 

 I did a lot of therapy.  I got married to the most fantastic woman who had never been an addict. In the beginning of our marriage I wasn't clean.  Eventually I got tired of lying and  feeling like a loser.  So here I am today with some clean time. 

And in the last 15 years I've had three major surgeries.  One of my back varicose veins removed and I just had shoulder surgery all of which required some use of pain pills and I'm not going to lie.  I still like the feeling they gave me but I would never do anything to jeopardize my clean time.   I thank God I had my wife to hold the pills for me.  I was honest with my doctors and I definitely realized if there was any doubt I'm still an addict was when I had my varicose veins done.  

It took six visits and each time I was given pills to sort of put me in a frame of mind where they could operate on my legs.  And the very last time they did the procedure on my legs there was a pill left in the bottle.  And I told the girl I'll just take that and she said no you won't.  That kind of sealed the deal in my mind then that I won't ever be cured of the disease of drug addiction.  But I can certainly control my behavior towards it. After those procedures I never felt like going and getting heroin or relapsing so I have a hard time when I hear people say I relapsed because I was operated on and had pain pills. 

I can't speak for them.  I just know that there isn't anything I would do to jeopardize my clean time and go back to that lifestyle.  I like my life today . I read your blog regularly and forward it sometimes to my 80 year old friend who's a lawyer in Phoenix who got clean about six years ago from alcohol.  Which I helped him do by making him go to a meeting.   When you help somebody get clean like you have with just the mere existence of your program that has to be the most rewarding thing ever. 

Thank you, your friend JL.

(Thanks for sharing your experiences - you helped somebody.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Getting Sober

A nice email I got the other day:

Dear John..

Thanks for all the talks about sobriety to my wife and me over the years... it was slow to take but you were right.

December 4, 2020 .... We both decided to try an experiment of no alcohol for 30 days....We weren’t partying or heavy drinkers but once in a while drinking... the results from stopping were definitely life changing and feel pretty good!  No more body aches, skin clears up, feel better and cognitive thought and dreams return.  The 30 days came and went and we continued sobriety...

It’s interesting watching life from sober eyes..... my brothers who wouldn’t give us the time of  a day years ago want to keep inviting us go to the lake or a hotel.

The idea of sitting at camping spot or hotel in the middle of a work week watching people get drunk isn’t our idea of fun. We may have entertained the idea years ago but not anymore...Even old friends of ours still live by this behavior. Constantly dressing up to get drunk or traveling to new locations to drink. Yet never remembering the experience...

From being social drinkers to not drinking at all my wife and I realized there’s nothing wrong with vacation....

 However in the alcoholic mind a vacation is another place to drink besides at home.. constantly attempting to escape the hell drugs and alcohol created for them...

Observing this from a sober point of view we actually enjoy our surroundings and don’t need to run from anything.

My brother said get busy livin’ or get busy dying’.. 

I said “get busy livin and stop drinkin’”

The bottom line is...

Thank you for all the advice over the have made a real difference in our lives...

Click here to email John

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Do we Heal?

I had an accident about six weeks ago while I was working out in my home gym.  Somehow I'd gotten tangled in a stretch band and found myself on the floor with three broken ribs and a few other scrapes and bruises.

I usally don't go to hospitals or doctors but my ribs were hurting so bad that I found myself in the waiting room of a nearby urgent care around 15 minutes later.  After x-rays of different parts of my body  the doctor came from his office with  a smile.

"I've got good news and bad news," he said.

"Give it to me," I replied,

"The bad news is that you have three broken ribs and there's nothing I can do to heal them but let nature take its course."

"And the good news?"

"The good news is that I can give you somedthing for the pain.  And you'll be better in about six months/"

So he handed me a couple of prescritions and I went to Walgreens to have them filled.

I hadn't asked him what he gave me.  And it was only when I picked up from the drug store that I noticed what they were:  a dozen oxycodone (percocet) and a dozen 800 miligram Ibuprofens.  

Since I've been sober 30 years I wasn't worrying about relapsing on the opiods.  In 2004 I had stomach surgery and wouldn't take the fentynl they were giving me for pain until I spoke to my sponsor.  He explained to me the obvious: that pain medication had legitimate uses other than for partying in our addictions.  And I came through that okay.

So I took the prescribed amount of the Percocet and went to bed, expecting the pain to subside.  Instead I awoke at 3:00 am in pain and a little nauseous.  I took another tablet and went back to sleep but woke up still nauseous and still in pain.  I switched over to the Ibuprofen 800s and the pain went away.  Today I still have 10 of the percocets in my medicine cabinet and half of the Ibuprons,

I write this because I'm wondering if any other opiate addicts have been prescribed opiates but had bad experiences with them?  It  makes wonder if we become immune to the pleasureable effects they once had on us?  Please comment if you have,

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Living Free

When I entered one of my favorite cafes today for lunch I noted that I was one of the few wearing a mask.  And there was no distancing requirement as there had been last week.  Most of the customers seemed cheerful.  It was almost as if life was back to normal.

Since rhe governor lifted the mask mandate last week it seems that life has become a bit more relaxed in some areas of the city.  For example, I went to a meeting at a law firm today and the use of masks was optional.

But then I read of the varients of Covid in other countries and I know that we're probably somewhat more optimistic than we should be. Maybe optimistic is the wrong term; engaging in wishful thinking might work better.

For me there's too much of the unknown when it comes to things like pandemics.  I mean one day we hear that this or that drug is more effective than another - but does one really know?  Even so-called experts change their minds from day to day. And one wonders whether it's a political statedment or is something meaningful really happening in the scientific world?

I bellieve we must each make our own decisisons about what will be.  Then we won't be really shocked when life takes one course or another.

For me this is a time to practice acceptance of whatever comes our way then we having a better chance of living in freedom.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Thinking of the Pandemic

I recall last year when the pandemic first came to our shores that many of my friends and associates said they weren't wearing masks or doing social distancing.  That the government wasn't "telling them what to do or how to run their lives."

But when they began attending their friends' funerals and going into quarantine themselves, things changed.  All of a sudden they began following the guidelines.

The interesting thing the last few days is many people are still wearing masks and keeping their distances from others.  Including me.  Although government control is something I disdain I figure the precautions are a small thing compared to the potential tradeoff.  Besides I was locked up for so long that the government telling me what to do is part of my DNA.

While right now we have a slowdown in new cases I'm prepared for another tidal wave of infections.  None of us saw this last one coming and there are still countries in Central and South America that are raging with new cases.  Who knows when some of that will come our way.

The people I've seen who come through this the best is those who have healthy living habits.  They don't smoke, they're not fat, they exercise and stay positive.  The successful are those who are responsible for their own health.

And some use this pandemic as a lesson that they should enjoy life and have gratitude for what they have now.  They know that things could get worse so they should enjoy the present.

Click here to email John

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Message from the Past

 While I was on vacation in Mexico last week I received an email from a client who was here 15 years ago, maybe longer.

I was surprised to hear from him and happy to find that he was doing well.

He wrote to tell me that he had retired from his job with the state of Arizona, probably the one that he went to when he left TLC many years ago.

Actually I was sorry to see him go. He was one of those guys who maintained himself. Kind of like someone who worked for a large corporation. Always well-dressed, neat and clean. Serious about his recovery,

In any event, he wrote to say how he was was grateful for the time he spent with TLC. He said the experience changed his life. He'd been sober for many years. Had a nice home in Scottsdale, good relationships, and was thoroughly enjoying a sober life.

While his email gave us a lot of credit for his recovery, reality is that he did all the work himself. We get letters all the time from people who give us credit for their recovery. But the reality is that all TLC provides is a framework for people to work on sobriety, healthy living habits, and a different outlook on life. If they are motivated we 100% guarantee them that they will stay sober for life. While that may seem to be a brash statement, those who stay sober and follow our guidelines always succeed because we give good them continual good information about recovery.

In any event, it's nice when you return home and hear that the good you did 15 years ago is still bearing fruit today. His message shows that the program works if we're willing to put in the effort.

Click here to email John