Sunday, May 29, 2016

Work restoration and early addictions recovery: Setting a course


Having a course to follow is important for anyone, let alone those in recovery from drugs and alcohol. However, knowing what someone wants vocationally and coming up with a reasonable plan to get to one's goal is especially important for those in early recovery, in my experience. 

First, let's say it like it is: Without sobriety there is absolutely nothing for someone in recovery. Sobriety is as important as the air we breathe and water. In a perfect world, people in early recovery would do nothing but work on their recovery and stick to that. But, it is not a perfect world and the bills have to get paid for most of us. Meanwhile, being in poverty and without work can be yet another trigger for many who are in recovery. 

AT THE CROSSROAD: Early recovery and work restoration.
Why am I talking about 'early recovery' and not just 'recovery'? Well, people who have gotten sober and stayed sober have already put a lot together for themselves; otherwise, they would have faced frustration and roadblocks and gone back out drinking and drugging. It's sad, because many people do that, but if someone is in long recovery they deserve support and admiration for a lot of hard work. 

Back to goals: If someone is a bar tender, for example, in early recovery, then there are a lot of people (myself included) who would say job retraining might be a good idea. Because if the recovering alcoholic or drug addict does not consciously put sobriety at the very center of all of their plans then, like all-time college basketball coaching great John Wooden said, "Failure to prepare is preparing to fail." 

Someone in recovery probably should not be around a mind- or mood-altering substance throughout their work experience. So, a change of careers might be the right thing to do for them. In another case, maybe someone has a skill or trade that does not involve direct exposure to alcohol, still maybe the environment has an element to it that contains alcohol in it. For example, workers in the building trades are often known to have beers on the job or after the job.

"Failure to plan is planning 
to fail." -- Coach John Wooden

Well, in the case of the worker from the building trades in recovery, maybe he or she needs to be very particular about where they work, who they work around. It sounds like splitting hairs to some, but there is an old saying in Alcoholics Anonymous about PEOPLE, PLACES and THINGS

Without belaboring it, the environment of the addict, prior to their sobriety, contributed to their disease. So, when in early sobriety, to protect that sobriety, maybe the right thing to do is change the people, places and things in one's life. Let me qualify that: No one wants to kick people out of their lives, or change professions they enjoy or where they work. I think, though, that an honest self-evaluation of these factors are in order. 

I am in recovery myself, and I let go of so many people and things in my life that it made a deep impact. But, I did it because I wanted to be sober, and tough choices had to be made in my life. Of course, then the questions comes...what next? OK, I'm I am broke and what do I do?

I needed to make a plan about what was next, in many areas of my life -- my career included. In my life, I worked in a few different professions, a few of them were 'burn-out' trades that virtually ensured I would be working long hours under high stress. For me, re-entering the workforce in a job that would put me under a great deal of stress regularly would probably threaten my sobriety. Since my sobriety was and is more important than anything else in my life then a change was in order. 

When I was contemplating what I would do next I asked myself some basic questions: What do I like doing? How many hours per week do I want to work/can I work? What kind of setting do I want to work in? What is the product I want to make/the service I want to perform? 

In my current position, I see so many people who just kind of float and go from job to job. They take the job they can get and hold onto it as long as they can. These people may or may not like their job. Heck, they may outright hate their job. But, I ask myself: Is hating the job that you get up for every morning really supporting recovery?

If someone is serious about their sobriety they will move forward in a 'whole person' view of their life by moving toward work that will sustain not only them but their most important life-long project: Staying sober. Mostly, easier said than done. 

I happen to live in New Jersey, which is a great state to be from if you are looking to change career fields. In the Garden State, there are so many options for professional re-training. So many of those answers can be found at any of the county One Stop Career Centers throughout the state. If someone is a qualified veteran, they have access to Post 9/11 VA educational benefits or Chapter 31 educational benefits, among others. If someone is from another state, check locally for organizations and agencies that are in place to support your re-employment and work restoration. 

Work is so much more than money, in some ways. Work is dignity; respect. Unlike some people, I believe that everyone wants to work. They just want to work in career fields that they sometimes do not believe they have access into. So often, though, not including other, qualified people in your plan toward work restoration is the biggest problem in the picture. If someone is going to be expected to work in a career field for a long time, then it is not unreasonable to expect they actually like what they are doing? How do you find out about what career field you actually like? Find a vocational rehabilitation professional from a credible organization to assist your journey. 

I am employed in the work restoration field and am a part of a team each one of my clients have to change their situation for the better, based on their individual goals. Of course, in the case of my clients, every single one of them have sobriety at the heart of their planning for what is next for them in the workplace. 

In my industry, it is often said that finding a job for someone isn't enough: People need to find careers they enjoy.

(Jim Purcell, MPS, is a graduate of the New York Theological Seminary. He is a veteran of the United States Army, a former journalist, clergyman and hospital chaplain.)