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.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Spending Time

A week or two ago Elon Musk was informed that the stock in his company had risen so high that he was now the richest man in the world.

He responded by saying "Isn't that something." Then the next thing he said was "Well I guess I better get back to work."

Now many people might wonder at his reaction when he got the news. I think a lot of people would jump up and down and express a great deal of excitement. But I think that people who react that way look at money as the most important thing there is. Whereas, someone like Musk probably views time as most valuable thing in the world.

I've read many stories about how he uses his time. When he first started Tesla he used to work at his office something like 24 hours a day. He even had a mattress beside his desk in case he got really tired he could take a quick nap and get back to work. When he did go spend time home he often worked until late in the night until he resolved whatever challenges he was facing producing his automobile. I don't know if he works that many hours today but I believe that time is one thing that he doesn't waste under any circumstances.

So what's the point of talking about this in this blog? Well, in my mind we addicts waste a lot of years and hours and days of our time trying to feel better than we do at the moment. But the problem is that no matter how much time we spend we can never feel quite as good as we did the first time we used our favorite drug.

At TLC the people who eventually become successful at staying sober dedicate a lot of their spare time going to meetings and focusing on living a different life. Those who stay with us a few years usually find employment in the private sector and a new way to spend their time.

The one thing that we cannot replace is time. And if we waste our time playing video games or watching television, are we making a good use of our time? I doubt if any of us are so dedicated to a mission that we are going to work at it most of our waking hours. 

But if we have a simple mission of changing our lives and staying away from alcohol and drugs we will learn that just a few hours a week dedicated to recovery is adequate.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Pandemic

 For most of the last year of this pandemic I was feeling pretty good about the fact that very few of our key staff members had contracted the disease. In fact maybe I was feeling a little bit too good.

Because all of a sudden, it seemed like 80% of the staff members in the office were quarantined at home and a couple of them were in the hospital for a few days. Because it's so hard to track where this disease comes from. It's just that we were taking extra measures to distance ourselves from one another, to wear masks, and to wash our hands on a regular basis.

But we had been doing those things all of the past year and probably had less than a dozen people who we had to quarantine. But when it hit the office it took out most of the key people in short order. It's just been this week that we've had a few people come back and be able to work for a few hours. And the ones who are able to work from home have been doing so. 

So I guess the lesson for me is to never get too cocky about anything. I guess I figured because we were adhering to a strict Department of Health protocol that was getting us by. But now I am getting to realize that once this thing takes hold in a certain area there is no telling who's going to be infected.

I think life will be better once everyone gets vaccinated or at least the majority of them. I've had one vaccination myself. And I get the next one on February 8. For which I am grateful.  I think that once life gets back to normal people are going to be expressing a lot more gratitude for what they have.

Click here to email John

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Anger

I don't get angry very often and when I do it's very rarely at someone else – it's usually myself that has me angry and irritated.

t happened while I was driving home from running an errand. I was turning the corner and someone cut me off and I had to turn my left front tire into a curb to avoid hitting him. And of course you know what happened. I have low-profile tires and blew the tire and bent the left front rim. And because my car doesn't carry a spare I pulled into an empty lot and called for a tow truck. 

My plan was to have the car delivered to my house where I would deal with the issue tomorrow. And sure enough, an hour later my car was backed into my garage waiting to be repaired.

The next part of my plan didn't work so well. I had planned to go grocery shopping but was unable to find a car rental agency that was open so I finally gave up and decided to deal with it tomorrow.

One of the things that exacerbated my anger was when I called and told a friend of mine my dilemma they immediately had a myriad of solutions of how to resolve the issue. And probably nothing irritates me more when I'm caught in a dilemma and someone tries to give me unsolicited advice about how to resolve the problem. I guess this person forgot that our company has 47 vehicles and that we deal with things like this all the time.  One thing I learned a long time ago it was that it never works out very well when people try to give me unsolicited advice. I know that they're only trying to be helpful and make me feel better but the reality is all I was trying to do is let the person know that I would be unable to keep an appointment with them later on this evening. But, it turned into something else because each of us very different agendas.

So tomorrow is another day. I will go to a rental agency and get a car for three or four days. I'll call the company I leased the car from and have them order me a new rim and tire and that'll be the end of it.

At least I didn't get so angry that I ended up breaking something or picking up a bottle of booze or a handful of pills. That used to be my common response to anything that frustrated me. Today I realize that patience is truly a virtue and one that gets us through many problems.

Click here to email John

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

We get Emails

 One of the most rewarding things in my life today is the emails I get from former clients. I publish some of them because I believe they will give hope to others:

"28 years ago today I walked into a halfway house after being homeless.... and was forever changed. 

For 365 days Transitional Living Communities was my new home and residence. I really went there looking for something to eat so I could head back out to the streets. But several of the 25 other men who lived there had such a kindness and giving hearts that my thinking, goals and desires changed.

Before that I basically lived off of the streets from the time I left home until I was 29. I's made many friends during that time but nothing as deep and rewarding as a friendship that I made in 1993 after walking into TLC ( a halfway house) started and created by a man named John S that I'm grateful to until this day. By the way he just recently celebrated 30 years of sobriety. And also I was inspired and helped by his associate and assistant who I quote  to this day on his words of wisdom.

After 10 years of sobriety, I relapsed.  And it took me 6 years to get sober again. On September 16 of last year I celebrated 11 years of sobriety for the second time in my life.

Every year on this date I just reflect on how grateful I am to God and all that He used that helped guide me to this life that I have today. I never said when I was little boy I wanted to grow up and be an addict and an alcoholic but it seems as if I took all the right steps to make that happened.

Today I'm blessed with a relationship with God, an awesome family, a network of friends and a Remodeling Company that I started in 2007 that provides very well for me and my family. I am forever grateful and humble through the lessons, trials and tribulations of my life that brought me to this point. 

If anyone is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or an unhealthy habits or even un healthy thoughts and needs someone to talk to... I am always here... We really don't have to go through this alone."

Click here to email John

Monday, January 18, 2021

Raising Children

Perhaps one of the greatest ways to express our love to another person is to share a child with them. Our love for one another is really a test of what kind of people we are. Bringing a child into the world, ensuring regular feeding, bathing, caring, and responsibility with the other parent is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our society.
 
I'm sure you've all heard people say that babies don't come with instruction manuals. And in the strictest sense of the word they don't. But if we ourselves were brought up in halfway decent homes our parents taught us how to live and treat others by their own examples.  Our instruction  manual  is the things we observe in our parents,

Childhood abuse and trauma teaches that many children grew up not knowing right from wrong.  And many of them not caring about the difference.  And that is why we have so many addicts and alcoholics living homeless on our streets.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Happy Thirty

January 13 of 1991 I entered a detoxification unit in Mesa, Arizona.

But I still get confused about when my sobriety date is. And I'm probably trying to figure it out. Today is the 13th, the same day I entered the detox. But I didn't have 24 hours sober until the next day, the 14th. So which is it? Is it the 13th? Or is is the 14th, when I had my first 24 hours? Or does it make a lot of difference and am I making a big deal out of nothing at all? It's probably the latter.

I know that I have received some really sweet greetings today, congratulating me on my 30 years. I love all of you who sent me messages because they warmed my heart. And after 30 years, what difference does a day make?

One of the things that I've really missed during this last year's pandemic is attending live meetings. Now a lot of the meetings in our town make sure that people are wearing masks and that they are are 6 feet apart. And my next question is always "and where did they get their medical degree?"

I have only gone three places in the last year. My home. My office. And the supermarket. And so far I haven't caught the disease. I believe what epidemiologists say about staying out of large groups. Up until this pandemic started I never went a week without attending one or two meetings. And I always spoke on the anniversary of my recovery.

But I learned early in my recovery that the only thing I can really count on is change.  The kinds of changes that have happened during this past year.

Click here to email John

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Who Me?

I know a fellow who's the picture of health who wss hit with Covid 19 a few days ago.  And he actuallly seemed surprised that the virus had knocked him on his butt.  And I was kind of surprised also because this guy is pretty athletic and works seven days a week.  Plus he's never sick.

But looking back it doesn't surprise me  Because he sort of poopooed the mask idea and only wore it when at work.  In other words when it was really forced on him.

So far I haven't got it and I don't want to,  'Even though I hate wearing a mask I do it anyway.  I don't go anywhere other than to my office.  I don't go to parties or social events. Too msny healthy people have fallen to this disease,  If there's something that dangerous that can't be seen with the naked eye who am I to think I can outsmart it?

I'll take any advice I can that make sense when it comes to staying healthy - and keep my fingers crossed,

Click here to email John

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Sober vs Using Relationships

 I very seldom write about former clients. First of all, I don't stay in touch with many of them. And then there's the thing about confidentiality. But I do have a few former clients I am still friends with.

And tonight, I was talking with one of them that I had just recently gotten in touch with after several years.

And for some reason, even though I come up with a topic every three days for a new blog, tonight I was sort of uninspired. So I asked him to come up with a creative idea for me. And he suggested I write about the difference between relationships when we're sober versus relationships when we were using drugs or alcohol. At first I didn't like the idea but then this is a guy who has been in literally hundreds of relationships.

When he was with us over 20 years ago everyone in the halfway house was amazed at his ability to attract women. It seemed like every morning and every night he had a different date. One woman would pick him up and take him to work, then another one would bring him home. After that another one would pick him up and take him to dinner. Women used to bring him so many gifts that the house manager banned  him from accepting gifts from women.  

Aside from being attractive, he also had a natural sense of humor, plus he was a high-level martial artist who was at that time a skilled kickboxer. He had the verbal skills to become a manager at a local telemarketing company, which are ordinarily staffed with plenty of twentysomethings – the perfect environment for someone like him.

So now to the part of being in relationships when we're sober versus relationships when were using. And the key part of this last sentence is using. Because all of us addicts know that we use everyone in the world for our own gratification, regardless of how they feel about us. He did it. I did it. And I'm sure you all did it too when you had the opportunity.

We addicts are a very self-centered species, a species that must feel good all the time. And if we need to misuse those around us – including our women friends – we do it because our addiction comes first.

I remember a woman who took care of my heroin habit for some 13 years, until she went broke and lost her house and everything else. After I got clean and sober I began to make amends to her. She was about seven years older than I was and she became sick and had little means of support. But after I got sober and became a sort of decent human being I began to support her and pay her bills anonymously. I never did tell her the money came from me but she figured out eventually that I was her benefactor and was surprised and grateful. Because the only side of me she had ever seen was the side that misused everyone around me.

So to answer my friend's question about the difference between sober and using relationships it's really quite simple: sober relationships are about giving to your partner. Giving to your partner does not necessarily mean material things. We give her our compassion. We rub her neck when she is stressed out. We take the time to listen to her. We do whatever we can to make her life better.

Using relationships are about taking everything you can get your hands on.  We don't care about how they feel. We don't care what they want – as long as we get what we want. Every thing about a using relationship is me, me, me. If I'm drunk or high enough I may give her a few minutes of my time though she can't count on it.

And that's the difference between using relationships and sober relationships.

Click here to email John

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Last Year

 I saw on the news today that some 350,000 Americans have died after becoming infected with the coronavirus. And thousands more are being infected each day.

This time last year none of us could imagine that a tsunami-like disease would race around the globe and infect a large swath of the population. But the good news is that the most vulnerable among us are being inoculated against the disease. One prominent immunologist said by the end of August our country should achieve what is known as "herd immunity" where the bulk of the population will be protected against the disease. Although this is a well-known and publicized scientific reality I'm skeptical enough to say let's just wait and see. As if we had any choice.

I often mention in these blogs the importance of living in the moment. Of living in this day. Of enjoying the moment because the reality is that all any of us have is this moment that our Creator has given us. And I believe that we should savor it, enjoy it, and do something constructive with it.

Because I work in the world of recovery world I often consult with clients who have what they consider to be serious issues. But once they sit down across the desk from me they get a different perspective on what's bothering them. Probably 90% of the time, if not more, the only issue the client is having is that he or she is not living in the present moment.

The client is either looking off in the future, catastrophizing about what disasters might befall them. Or else they're sorting through the wreckage of their past, wondering where they went wrong and feeling bad about what they did to make them feel so depressed.

My answer to them is always the same: live in and enjoy the moment because that's all we can count on. We never know when a pandemic or plague or some other unheard of disaster might befall us. But it is better to live in the moment and not dwell on the unknown. That way we're not wasting our precious time, the one thing that we can never recover.

Click here to email John