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.

Friday, February 26, 2021

The beauty around us

Sometimes we don't appreciate the beauty around us. It came to me as I was riding in the back of a taxicab, having just returned from southern Mexico from a two-week vacation.

Many years ago when I came to Arizona the 202 freeway was just an idea gathering dust on somebody's drawing board. Probably some Senate Budget Committee was trying to figure out how to raise the money to construct such a grand project. And these days it is completed. A thing of beauty. Bordered by an artificial lake.

And as we were driving by in the taxicab I looked across the lake and for the first time fully appreciated all of the work and all of the projects that have been completed on the shoreline. And in a way I felt kind of stupid. Because, I had just come from a 2500 mile trip to the Pacific side of Mexico to spend a couple of weeks in a similar environment. Yet here, within 10 miles of my home was almost the same place. The shoreline of Tempe town Lake has very few spots anymore where skyscrapers can be placed or where condos can be built. Yet, a few years ago it was just a rocky shoreline, a man-made lake that would become a centerpiece of this part of Maricopa County and the.State.

So now many of you probably know where this blog is going. It all started last night when I woke up and for some reason had a vision of moving out of the house I lived in for 20 years and resettling myself on the banks of this nearby beautiful Lake that once got only a fraction of the attention it does today.

Will my fantasy take place? Who knows? I came here in 1982 to get sober and to rebuild my life. And guess what: all those dreams I had when I was on my way to this dry desert area have come true and then some.

Tomorrow is another day.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Rewards of Recovery

Operating a treatment program can be one of the most frustrating thing a person can attempt to do. However, on the flipside it can be one of the most rewarding things a person can do. I know that this sounds kind of ambiguous, but on the other hand there's nothing like the feeling one gets when he client comes in, becomes sober,and startst helping other people become the same way.

There are special cases of addicts who come in and you wouldn't bet $0.50 on their staying sober for 10 minutes. They have bad attitudes, they might have just gotten released from prison. Their family might have deserted them and done so for all the good reasons that makes our family finally cut us loose. Yet the rewarding part comes later. And that usually happens when you see someone in public that you think you know. The person may be well dressed. They may be driving a new car. And then it finally comes to you: the person that you thought you recognize is the same person who came into your program a couple of years ago and seemed to be a hopeless case is now a successful citizen who is raising a family and children. And perhaps even owns his or her own business.

It is true that more than half of the people who come into our program only last about 30 days at the most. But I take no responsibility for addicts who don't make it 2 to 4 weeks. All it tells me is that the person was not sufficiently motivated or else had not had enough pain to want to change his or her life. Many of those who don't make it were raised in homes where they had a sense of entitlement. They were allowed to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. And everyone got to see the payoff. 

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Missing Blogs

Last month I realized that it had been at least a year since I'd been on vacation - something I normally do about 4 times a year.  And of course the pandemic was to blame, something over which I had no control.

So I booked a hotel, bought tickets and started -packing.  Ah yes, a week in paradise with nothing to do but loaf, read and sight see.

And then it happened:  an accident that would have kept most people at home recuperating,  I slipped on a wet tile floor and fractured three ribs and did other minor damage. But somehow I was able to convince the doctor to let me go anyway.  Then the next day I slipped on a storeage  trunk and injured my lower back: no problem; some Ibubrofen 800 and the pain was gone.

But the thing that bothered me the most was that I had missed nearly a week in a row of blogs after nearly ten years in a row of only a few missed days.

The human ego is a tender thing.



Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentines

Probably one of my least favorite holidays is Valentine's Day.  And I'm not sure even why.  Of the top ten it's surely at the bottom bottom of the list.

Maybe it's because it' a kid's holiday, maybe be like a birthday party or close to one. And I don't like those either.  Or maybe it's just a celebration that I was never a part of as a child.  Whatever it it is is's stuck to me this day.

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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Life in Paradise

It's been 14 months since I've had a vacation, just before Covid-19 jumped into our consciousness and turned our world upside down

And being a creature of habit I've returned to the place I'm vacationing at for the past 25 years:  Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Also known as the Mexican Riviera.

I've been coming here so long that I have many first name acquaintancess here and restaurants I've been patronizing for the past 25 yeears. I've been using the same car rental agency for so long that we're on a first name basis.  They don't even try to sell me extra insurance or GPS.  And I get my choice of cars.  Just one of the benefits of getting to know people.

One thing that's different though is the reponse to Covid-19.  Everywhere I go in the states there's a place to get a free test within a few days.  And there are signs everywhere about the precautions one should take.  And as far as vaccines one sees no publicity at all about where to get it or when it's arriving.  And that's probably the big difference betwen Mexico and the U.S; the level of poverty here affects everyone in a negative way.

Yet people seem positive and upbeat as if everything is normal and ordinary.  The only obvious difference is - just like the states - everyone's wearing a mask or face covering.

A few people have asked if I'm afraid to visit here - but since I've already had the vaccine - of course I'm not concerned at all.

Click here to email John

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Learning Gratitude

Our society has faced a lot of challenges since this worldwide pandemic. The challenges include unemployment, increased drug and alcohol use, businesses closing down because the government has put regulations in place to protect society at large.

In spite of the changes that have taken place I think that the world is going to be better once science has slowed or stopped this disease.

And I know this might sound strange in the face of the suffering we see around us, but I have seen a lot of people volunteer to help those who are sick from this disease. I have seen people at TLC who sometimes act like they don't give a crap about anything, step up and sanitize living areas, keep their distance from others, and wear irritating masks even though that's the last thing they want to do.

I know that if someone came up with a magical cure tomorrow that a tsunami of gratitude would sweep around the world and many would remember the good old days when they could do whatever they want, go wherever they want, and not have to worry about social distancing, sanitizing their hands, or wearing masks.

But I think gratitude is something we learn. I don't believe we come out of our mother's womb full of gratitude. Otherwise, why would we be be screaming and crying? Gratitude is a learned skill. And I think that some of us only learned it once we lose something we once took for granted as being a part of everyday life. And once we lose the freedom to socialize with whomever we want whenever we want, that's a huge loss.

And the entrepreneurs among us are not only suffering personal losses from the disease, but many have had to close their doors and shut down their businesses because customers were no longer able to utilize their services because of government mandates.

Even though this is a worldwide disease, we Americans love our freedom. And last year when this thing first broke loose we saw a lot of people who felt like they had a freedom to do anything, even if it endangered the lives of others. Only when those they loved, such as members of their family - were infected by other family members - did people begin to start taking things seriously. I remember during the first months of this thing that college students were throwing "Covid 19" parties and the guests who contracted Covid 19 got the honor of hosting the next Covid19 party. It was only when those who thought they were invulnerable to the disease started catching it and dying did things begin to change.

Once we have the freedom to live our lives as we choose we will look back on these days and have gratitude because they are behind us.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Vacation

Until the Covid pandemic struck the first of last year I'd gotten into a routine of taking vacations at least four times a year.

One of them was in June or July each year when I took the entire family to the beach for a week and we had a family reunion.  We would have at least 30 of us in six or seven condominiums.  We would usually eat together at one of the local cafes, shop at the International Mall next to the Mexican border, or just hang out on the beach or surf.

Then in December we would spend the days between Christmas and New Years in Las Vegas, which we didn't do last year because of the Pandemic.

So I'm excited as I write this because this time next week I'll be in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, one of my favorite places on the planet enjoying the first break I've had in over a year.  We'll be staying at the Garza Blanca Reserve, living in a penthouse 12 stories above the ocean.

The resort features a fitness center, exotic restaurants, in room Jacuzzi, hammocks, and much more.  We'll be surrounded by beautiful jungle and a helpful staff that can provide every need. 

And while there are still concerns about the pandemic, the same rules apply there as they do here.

I'll be reporting more about this venture.

Click here to email John