I have to go back to work! Do I have to go back to work?
Each time I entered treatment, I didn’t have to worry about leaving a job behind. I always lost my jobs. I couldn’t hold on and carry out my daily responsibilities while in my active addiction. My addiction became my job.
The “shoulds” and “have-tos” ruled my brain while I was in treatment. One day I’d worry about how I would ever get back to work again and start to earn a living; the next day I’d bask in the relief that I didn’t have any job responsibilities on “the outside.” I loved being in residential treatment. It was the first time in my adult life that I felt like I had no cares in the world. I dove deep into my surroundings and let myself forget about all the life stressors that were awaiting me upon leaving rehab. I thought, “Doesn’t everybody on this planet deserve the chance to take at least a month off from their daily lives and worry about nothing but focusing on themselves?” But eventually, they made me leave.
I remember suddenly worrying about how I was going to support myself and what I would do for money. The fear was real and caused me uncertainty. Of course, my team in treatment worked hard to help me see that the next right action for me was not to go back to my own apartment and get right back into a full-time career.
With a lot of initial kicking and screaming, I relented and moved into sober living. There were strict rules about curfew, cleanliness, and behavior. There was also a strict rule that anyone who lived there had to get a part-time job within their first two weeks. That stressed me out. Not only had I agreed to move 1200 miles away from home, all by myself, but now I needed to find a job in a new state that I wasn’t familiar with at all. I created false obstacles in my mind about how it was going to be impossible to find a job. I didn’t have a car; I had a large gap in my resume, and I didn’t know what I want to do.
As the deadline approached for me to land a job, I brushed up my resume and went job hunting. I applied for jobs that I had no interest in doing. I didn’t realize then, but part of what was making this search hard was that I kept trying to find a job that needed to be a career – a job that would match the prestige of what I used to do before going into treatment. What I couldn’t see then was that I wasn’t the same person I had been before my addiction got out of control and I eventually needed to find treatment. I was newly sober, fragile, and raw, and for the first time in a long time, working with a new outlook on life. I was still the same talented individual who was very employable, but I hadn’t been part of the workforce in a long time. I practiced the principle of taking action and letting go of the results.
I came to realize what I needed was a sober job. A job that would teach me lessons about things like humility, responsibility, and still making time for my recovery. One of the main reasons for a simple, easy job in early sobriety is that it keeps you focused on what’s most important.
One day, taking a break from filling out applications, I went shopping with a friend. I stumbled across a store that I immediately fell in love with. They were hiring, so I filled out an application. Now, I had my sober job!
I looked forward to going to that job each day. Going back to work even with a part-time job gave me a new sense of stability and normalcy in my life. My self-esteem began to be restored. Most importantly, I had a sense of community again. I love to work with people, and this job was a perfect fit. I learned how to interact with people again.
I showed up to work every day and did the best I could. I began to feel that I was doing something good and something that was right for me at that time. Feeling good about myself made it easier to accept new challenges and take on tougher assignments. Before I knew it, I was being rewarded and promoted at work. Today, I look back at those early days while working part time and realize what a gift it was. I learned that there was plenty of time to make a career for myself. I listened to my sponsor, my friends in recovery, and the professionals in my life to be mindful of my first year. No big changes, no crazy hours at work. Keep recovery first.