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, 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.

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Monday, March 22, 2021

Home Again

Tomorrow back home again.  Once more to the office to deal with the unexpected issues that come up when you're housing 600 addicts.

After 30 years there aren't many surprises in a day's work, but still they happen and I'm blessed with a staff that has been with us so long that they know what to do and when to do it.  I very rarely get calls from home because someone has an issue they can't deal with.  It happens, but rarely.

I usually come here to the Mexican Riviera at least four times a year.  But this year Covid intervened and we couldn't get reservations until late February.  Once I got the tickets I was pretty pleased,  But then I broke three ribs while working out. I almost canceled, but went anyway - bad idea.  

It''s hard to have fun while in pain but we went anyway.  When I got back I made reseervations for this month to play catch up.  Good idea.

But now it's time to get back to work and in fact I'm looking forward to it.

Click here to email John

Sunday, March 21, 2021

No Blog?

The last couple of days readers have come to this page and guess what?  No blog.

I right  away  started getting messages from some of my followers about what was going on?  Had I quit writing it?  Had an angry reader tracked me down and gotten even for what I said about them?  No, it was something much simpler than that.  

Believe it or not my computer, because I'm in Mexico, didn't want to publish the blog in English - something that's never happened in the 30 years I've  been visiting here.  It's a little more complicated than that but I don't want to bore you more than I already do.

Part of it was my fault because a reader wanted to leave a comment, but couldn't, so asked me to put in a comment sectiom.  So I thought I would try to accomodate them.  And that's all I'll say about that.  However there's an option section on this page where one can leave a comment.  But I'm not sure it works.   And I'll leave it at that,

Also, I must thank my new assistant, my youngest daughter, Veronica, who solved the problem in a few hours.  So when I awoke this morning she let me know that it was now working.  What a relief after writing over 2800 blogs in over nine years to not lose them in cyberspace.

And thank my loyal readers,  Except for the one who suggested that I restore the comment section.

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Reporting from Mexico

A friend who reads my blog once in a while has asked me to put in a section for comments, something I did when I first started around ten years ago.  I resisted his suggestion for a while but I think I'll give it another try.

The reason I took that section out over five years ago is because most of the comments were written by angry former residents who found it a good place to vent their anger.

Clients who were expelled for not wanting to work or submit to a drug test found the comment section a convenient place to vent their anger. 

Even though 95% of them were homeless  and unemployed when they came to us they always had complaints about something:  the food, the housing, the bedbugs and cockroaches, the random drug testing, and on and on.  Even though we're inspected and licensed by the city and county, have contract pest control, and are inspected by the Arizona Health Department, they still complained.

So to  repond to my friend's request I'm restablishing the comment section.  We'll see if people have changed.

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Monday, March 15, 2021

Help Wanted

 Going into Circle K this morning a man approached me and asked me if I had a dollar for a cup of coffee.

I told him that I didn't have any change, but that when I came back out of the store I would give him a couple dollars. Which I did. And when I gave him the money I thought I would bring it to his attention that they had a sign inside the store that said "help wanted." Just in case he happened to be looking for employment.

Of course I know that what I told him was a fantasy. He wasn't looking for money. He was looking for exactly what he got: a handout which only took him a few moments to ask for.

Even though we're supposed to be in the worst of times during this pandemic, I still see signs in store windows placed there by business people who are looking for help.  Kind of like things were before the pandemic came raging through the country.

Of course I know that a lot of people are suffering economically, because they're not making the kind of money they used to earn before the economy went sideways. But still I see people who are are willing to work. And then I see bums like the guy who was standing outside Circle K who probably wouldn't work, no matter what kind of job he was offered.

I guess the point I'm making here is that we should always have gratitude for the opportunities that we do have – whether we take advantage of them or not.  Things could be worse.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Luck?

I'm not necessarily a person who believes in being lucky or unlucky;  but sometimes strange things do happen.

For example, I made reservations to Maui a few days ago and a rainstorm flooded the island and cancelled the trip.

Later in the morning I went to the garage to go to the office and my garage door had quit working.  And I couldn't get my repairman out until the next day.  So my car is stuck in the garage,

Then later in the day my refrigerator stopped working.  I wouldn't be able to get a replacement til the next day.

I decided to work from my home office but the remote program that connects me quit working.

After those series of events I began to examine my conscience to see if I was deserving of some karmic payoff that had been piling up.

Or was it coincidence? Bad luck?  I don't know.  I do know that I didn't get drunk. Or high.

So something worked out right,

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Monday, March 8, 2021

Acceptance

The last few days I've noticed that the temperature is a little higher than normal.  Especially in the later part of the day.  Now I've never been one to pay much attention to the weather.  The only time I notice it at all is when it's consistently over 110 degrees.

But when it gets there I do what most of us desert people do:  I find some cool air and stay there til later in the day.  And fortunately I work in an office and am forced to spend most of my time there resolving minor isssues that come with running a recovery program.

But when the heat returned this time last year I think most of us were looking at it a different way.  At least some of us.  I think some of us thought that the heat would slow down - or maybe even kill - the pandemic.  

Of course I think that most of our thinking about the pandemic was wishful thinking.  And while I think that science has helped slow the spread, as far as any of us know it might have been the masks and distancing that has slowed things down.  Who knows for sure.

As for me, I think the biggest lesson I learned was to continue to accept the world as it is.  And I say that because right now there could be some new bug procreating is a distant land - maybe something even more terrifying than this current pandemic.

I learned a long time ago in the rooms of recovery that acceptance is the best antidote to most challenges and that's how I live life today.

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Friday, March 5, 2021

Birthday

Had he lived, my brother would have been celebrating his 79th birthday today.

Instead he passed away from the complications of alcoholism at Sunset Hospital in Las Vegas,  Nevada.

His death occurred a few months after he angrily stormed out of one of TLC's Las Vegas, facilities after telling the manager to "go fuck himself."  After he left TLC he went to work in the maintenance department at a casino near Stateline, Nevada until he went to the hospital.

While I'm not sure ;of the exact cause of his death I do believe it had to do with his lifestyle which for most of his life  was similar to mine:  alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes.  A body can only take so much before it breaks down.

Even though we had a poor relationship, when I heard he was passing I flew from Mesa to visit him one last time, even though he'd told one of my grandchildren that he didn't want to see me.  And he got his wish because he passed away before I was able to pay him a final visit.

Today, I wish we'd had a better relationship at the end but it just wasn't meant to be.  Alcohol ruins many relationships and ours was no exception.  Still I loved my brother and as children we were best of friends.  Only when substances intervened did things change - as it does so many relationships...

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Meditation

 Not infrequently a client will ask me to teach them how to meditate. And, depending on the time of day I'm certainly willing to spend 30 to 60 minutes with them showing the rudiments of the practice.

A number of years ago I became interested in learning how to meditate and went to class for two years to learn how to become a meditation instructor. I thought it would change my life a lot more than it did. Not that I didn't benefit from it. But somehow I thought that learning this exotic practice would help free me from something that I didn't know was there, some secret part of myself that I had never known before.

And I think a lot of clients have unrealistic expectations about what a meditation session will do for them. Because the reality is, there is no secret to meditation. There is no right way or wrong way to do meditation – there's just meditation. Once people learn that, it becomes an entirely different thing to set up on a cushion and spend time delving into your own mind. Because I'll tell you right here the secret: the secret is to observe what passes through your mind. You don't judge what passes through. You don't evaluate it. You don't look for solutions to your problems within it. You just observe it and let it pass it on its way. And as I mentioned in an earlier paragraph there is no right or wrong way to do meditation – there's just meditation. At times you will find yourself meditating and coming out of it with the most wonderful sensations in the world. And other times you'll  view your meditation journey as a waste of your time and effort. But in both of those occasions there was an element of expectation that let down.

The one thing I will say is that over a period of years I have become much calmer and more peaceful – over 25 years ago since I started the practice. If you are interested in learning about meditation you can  speak to me in my office. Or you can look around the city because there are several small temples and meditation rooms that are available to any of us at absolutely no cost.

Even though I say that you should have no expectations about what you're going to get out of it I do want to tell you that it is well worth it to spend your time with yourself for a few moments at least once a day.

Click here to email John