By: John Schwartz
For a guy who had serious trouble putting ten continuous hours of sobriety together, the prospect of celebrating 10 years is almost surreal. Looking back at my fear-based resistance to any and all things recovery at the time, I can only attribute my getting any traction in the process to the hand of a loving God, working in and through people. My experience in working with others makes it abundantly clear that each of us recovers differently, gravitates towards different things, and learns in different ways. When my head finally started to clear, all of the instances where unseen hands either kept me alive or presented me an opportunity to make fundamental changes in the way I was living became more than apparent. The universe had more for me to do.
I think the watershed moment for me was when I learned how to trust again. There have always been certain things in my life that I knew I could trust; the love of my wife, the intricate majesty of nature, the curious and conniving nature of my addiction. But trust in my fellows, the universe, or the innate goodness of people and the world? Not so much. It began with one man (thanks Steve!). Had it not been for the almost infinite patience and kindness of complete strangers who would go on to become some of the closest and truest friends I have ever had, I have no idea where or in what condition I would find myself.
I came to CCAR as a volunteer in 2014 completely unaware of the transformative impact that my relationship with the organization would have on my recovery or my life. Through my engagement with the extraordinary folks I met at the Hartford Recovery Community center, my biases were exposed and my capacity for empathy was magnified. I have never felt so valued or appreciated. Today I live for the purpose of transmitting those feelings to others with whom I walk the broad recovery highway. It is the greatest joy of my life.
Recovery has blessed me in so many ways. I have the love and respect of my children, I can walk the streets of any town anywhere with my head held high. I am no longer ashamed of who I am or of the things that I do or say. I have the opportunity to support countless others in or seeking recovery from addiction based primarily on the empathy and compassion which were shown to me through my engagement in the recovery process.
I have been given the gift of perspective and have learned to treat others as resources, to honor and value their hopes, dreams and ideas instead of forcing them into my preconceived idea of what’s “right” for them. I have been given the opportunity to share what I have learned about myself, recovery, and the universe through the generosity of my employer.
The greatest gift that recovery has given me is now. There was a time, not so long ago, that I was spending all of my “now” obsessing over my shameful past or my uncertain future. My childhood rejection and abandonment issues often left me paralyzed with fear and guilt, depriving me of the opportunity to live in the moment. Through the program of action outlined in the 12 Steps, along with intensive work with a spiritual adviser, I have learned to go forward despite the ancient chimera of irrational fears that would prefer me curled up in a corner somewhere.
Only in recovery could a man like me, who was written off by virtually everyone including myself, get to live the remarkable life that I am living today. I live today to share the message that recovery is not only possible, but also AMAZING.
John Schwartz became involved with CCAR in 2011 as a volunteer at RECOVERY WALKS! and later at the Hartford Recovery Community Center. He was immediately taken with CCAR’s vision and mission statements and attended Recovery Coach Academy in September of 2015. He joined CCAR as Volunteer Coordinator at the Windham Recovery Community Center in July of 2016 out of his desire to pay forward the generosity and kindness shown to him during his own recovery journey. He currently serves as Manager of the Windham Recovery Community Center. His wife, Eileen, and twin daughters, Madeleine and Julia, along with reading, writing, cooking and music are his great loves. His current focus is to take the initiative in an effort to end the stigma surrounding people in recovery by putting a face on it, and advocating for those who feel that they have no voice.