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Work Choices while in Early Recovery

Old 03-24-2010, 09:32 PM
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Work Choices while in Early Recovery

I'm in my 4th month of sobriety. I think I have to continue to adapt, as I become newly acquainted with my life. It's not so extreme as learning to walk or speak again, but I use that as an analogy. I am dealing with frustrations, making decisions - using my brain, period - without alcohol. And that is not the only big change in the picture for me.

I am also at a crossroads when it comes to work and the choices I can make. I am not in a situation where I can pick job A or job B, but a batch of choices in various stages of development are starting to appear for me. And I am finding myself looking at the choices with a different pair of eyes, and that means my priority about sobriety - what are my risks, triggers, what is good for me to keep going all aspects of my life.

One of the things we know about ourselves sooner or later is that we are all so similar when it comes to our alcoholism. We're all different in the shapes and sizes and walks of life, the whole bit; some of us are even different in how we used alcohol. But we see ourselves when we take in the story of the other person, almost like it's a shared soul scattered around and planted in different individuals. We feel similar things when we want someone's sobriety and we think in the same ways when we wonder how we are doing.

In light of that, does anyone have experiences concerning choices they made with regard to work? I think I am seeing roughly two different hallways for myself and I am finding it hard to apply the Today Rule in my thinking about these work choices. One path is pursuing a choice that has more aggression in it, because of more accountability or complexity; the other is a choice that is more like taking on what I know, more "steady as she goes," which does not minimize the brains and tolerance level it takes in the least. The aggressive one makes me concerned that I'd be taking on too much even though the progression is well deserved; the more familiar/less adventurous one seems like a good match for stability, but for some reason I am concerned I would be putting triggers in front of me. Part of me looks upon past choices as settling - and coupled with drinking to compensate for the boredom if not shame in not extending myself in my abilities.

Either way, the same alcoholic, the same person who has to confront each Day and not drink, and the same person who wants to assist others to have sobriety of their own will exist. It's just a question of which mindset to have in order to be happy with the outcome to my choices. Does this remind anyone of choices they had to make and the debate that came along with it? Did you choose "steady she goes" and see it as the right choice because if you had chosen more adventure and possibly growth it would also have meant putting your sobriety at risk? Were you able to pick "adventure" and that was part of your continued healing, while the more stable choice would have been taking a back seat? One of my ongoing mistakes has been putting work high on the list instead of balancing my life out. Now that sobriety is in the picture, I have a new understanding of why balance in life is important.

But: ????????? I'm not used to asking things like this.
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Old 03-24-2010, 10:55 PM
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Hey Toronto,

I'm so grateful that my sobriety was guided the way it was. I was in a position to not have to work for the first year and it was the best thing that could've happened.

My professional background was one where regular (and normal) 'let's meet for drinks' business was conducted - and expected! That, long with the stress and long hours made a perfect alibi for needing a drink just to relax and give myself a pat on the back for a job well done. It was a perfect fit because my work ethic at the time was to totally burn-out.

Alot changed in that first year of sobriety, particularly in terms of what was important to me about work.

For me, I've decided that no job is worth risking my health (emotionally or physically) and that my happiness is not based on how much money I make, what my title is, or having a 'smart' answer to the question, "So what do you do?"

It may sound cliche but when we're on our deathbeds I don't think any of us are going to look back and say, "Jeez, I wish I could've worked more hours."

It's more important for me to like what I do, rather than make alot of money and never have the time to enjoy cuz I'm too busy working.
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Old 03-24-2010, 10:57 PM
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By following AA's 12 Steps....I've found my choices
end up being beneficial to all aspects of life...

To protect my early fragile sobriety.....I did change jobs
as I was working with alcohol and drinkers.
I took an office job ...less stress and money.

3 years later....I relocated and switched again.
6 more years....another move ...another job path.

I've never regretted one of those decisions
Although these days I no longer can work....
I still find purpose and joy in recovery.

Wishing you all the best as you continue to move forward
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Old 03-24-2010, 11:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Toronto68 View Post
Part of me looks upon past choices as settling - and coupled with drinking to compensate for the boredom if not shame in not extending myself in my abilities.
P.S. Have you considered doing the "work" that you can do safely and supplementing it with volunteering or another activity that could extend your abilities and eliminate boredom?

Great way to combine making money to live and giving back to others so that they might also live...

Just a thought. And btw, doing work safely "now" doesn't have to mean "forever." If it were me, I'd take the stable work now, get my bearings and flow going and consider more aggressive options later.

All the best to you.
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Old 03-25-2010, 04:49 AM
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Sorry Toronto. I don't know what to say because I have the same issues, except mine I'm deciding whether to leave a company I've been with for 14 years and try something new or stick it out and hope it gets better.

I blamed my job a lot for my drinking but so far I've found that "yes" the place drives me crazy, but I dont know if any other place wouldn;t do the same. I know its only been 10 days for me but I'm feeling really good inside and thus things don't seem as bad.

But having 4 months is a hard decision. I can understand not wanting to take of unneeded stress. Everyone always tells me to trust my instincts. I know sometimes thats hard. Do you lean to one over the other?

BTW, I'm in Toronto too!!
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Old 03-25-2010, 04:52 AM
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It may sound cliche but when we're on our deathbeds I don't think any of us are going to look back and say, "Jeez, I wish I could've worked more hours."
I too would say, go with what's more comfortable for you right now.

I wish you the best in work and recovery.
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Old 03-25-2010, 05:41 AM
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Toronto, I think you are very fortunate to be able to have a choice that so many others do not....unemployment is very high in my area. as for me the choice is much simpler.

I could always invent a reason to drink, my job, my free time, the weather, the phase of the moon......unless I was bartending & handling alcohol, it would just be an excuse. you can perhaps better decide by thinking about you LIKE to do while working...if you are enjoying the time spent working, you may be more content....also earning a good salary...."a meeting over drinks" doesn't mean you have to drink, it's just a choice of what you order.

i hope you find something that brings you a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment, then it won't even feel like work!
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Old 03-25-2010, 06:05 AM
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I can only speak from my early sobriety career choices. Right before I went into detox I found out that the company I was working for had lost the contract I was working........ Funny thing but I was far more concerned about going into detox at that popint & was so messed up over the next few months due to being still in the fog as I call it I did not worry about it.

Once the fog began to lift I was faced with making a decision, find another job with my old company or accept the offer from the folks who won the contract?

I spoke to my sponsor, other folks in the fellowship & my wife........... with thier input I decided to take the offer from the new company mainly because it was a nice pay raise & I would simply continue to do the same job I was already doing.

Either choice would have meant a good deal of change, one would have been the stress of a totally new job working with my old company, the other being taking the position with the new company & only having to adjust to the new company.

After a great deal of prayer, meditation, & talking with others I took the offer of the new company........... simply in my eyes less stress for my early sobriety.

I would suggest that you talk to others, pray & meditate, decide which path right now in early sobriety would put you in the best position to focus on your recovery, there is nothing that can stop you from pursuing the other path when you are ready. Let your heart/HP lead you in the end.

BTW I was not thinking of it when I made my decision, but due to me changing companies I will start drawing a retirement check April 1 from my old company.
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Old 03-25-2010, 01:37 PM
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Thanks everyone for their feedback on this topic. There were a couple of points that matched up with some pondering I had already been doing, both prior to sobriety and since then. I am coming to terms with some things that have been part of an ongoing debate for me and turn into a cyclical dissatisfaction. I am keeping my eye on this way of thinking like it is quicksand. (And where there is something you can compare to quicksand, there is also the engine parts to alcoholism, I think.) It has to do with the sense of balance and what really matters and owning a sense of responsibility toward that and not just the particulars of the job and the things that hound us about how far we have gone with life through a job only. I turned my back on the balance and missed out in the process. I will work on picking up the best pieces again from what I have "put in" as far as experience and try to find the right match that respects my needs better this time. I have recent experience in getting a handle on happiness being "my responsibility" through quitting alcohol. I will apply that learning some more, since it is tied to my new understanding about achieving Not Drinking Today.
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Old 03-25-2010, 01:46 PM
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Just my experience, i moved to a new country, new job and loadsa hassle at 5 months sober, yes i did ask my sponsor and he was ok with it, i had done all the AA steps and had a spiritual awakening, a couple of my friends haven't but came in at the same time as me and decided to take jobs round the corner with less stress, they have more time to themselves for meetings, yoga, whatever they need...depends on how you feel and what you are relying on to stay sober i guess?! I certainly wouldn't like to give any advice, but wish you well in your choice:-)
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Old 03-25-2010, 11:28 PM
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This is a thought provoking question. My work pattern has been to generally work to complete physical and emotional burn out, and then work more. Then drink. I've got 3 months sober now, and I find that I am less insanely driven than I was before...and I think it's linked to the drinking.

The drinking made me feel a special type of self-loathing that just about made my skin crawl. I felt unworthy, basically all the time. I have always used work to prove my worth. And not so much just with money, but with being in positions of visibility and getting recognition, etc. So, a vicious cycle was set...feel worthless, work harder, faster, more to exhaustion...drink to alleviate the pressure. Drink for a reward, because didn't I earn it after all? Hate myself more. Then work more more more.

Now - I'm finding I'm a bit more laid back. For the first time in my life it's not quite as important to me to be seen as a rock star at work. Of course, I need the money to pay the bills, but the personal strokes and recognition, I care less about. I think maybe it's because I feel more stable and worthy as a person. My self-esteem has definitely increased.

As to your specific question, while you may see the one choice as less stressful, but also less challenging...I think that the lack of challenge may present its own stress. Especially if you have kicked yourself in the past for not stretching yourself. You may wind up feeling that you settled, which may be a trigger in and of itself.

I would look at it this way...life is stressful, period. You can't control everything. You must know in your heart which position you want...forget about your head for a moment. What's your gut telling you? Pick that one...and trust yourself enough to know that you are a strong person who is so much better equipped to make it now than ever before.
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Old 03-28-2010, 12:13 PM
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Congratulations on being into 4 months sober!
I keep pondering your post. And I am not sure of the answer or even appropriate suggestions as I only have 10 weeks under my belt. But I have been pondering a similar question myself. I am bumping this up, because I think a lot of us can gain insite from what has been posted so far, and perhaps what others might have to say. I can see your dilemma though. Do you have any more thoughts on it yourself since you have heard from others on here?
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Old 03-28-2010, 01:01 PM
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Humblestudent, I have some similarities when it comes to the burn-out issue and the alcoholism cycles. I also have an issue with recognition. Something I have noticed about myself for a long time is that I have a hard time accepting positive comments (negative ones too, but they are a different story). I have "abstained" from enjoying the positive a lot of times and even resented them as a focus on "trite" things instead of better things (whatever better may have been in my mind).

Houndheart, I have had some more thoughts, yes, some circularity, but nothing too painful. There were some triggers along the way, and I mentioned those recently, but I am still OK.

As I read through these two responses, some memories cropped up and it seems like a love-hate relationship with work is there, and that it comes from my relationship with my parents, in particular my father. That relationship wasn't a very good one, and I blame myself for not giving him a chance more. I used to resent that he would brag about me when I was not there and not communicate things like that directly to me. Or if I was not doing something right, he didn't work it out with me. It kind of pushed me "further out." Both parents died early on in my work life. So it's like there has been something incomplete there, and that was another grade of fuel for drinking.

To recap a reality I mentioned a few days ago...it's not like there are jobs sitting there luxuriously waiting to be picked, but there are some opportunities cropping up and some things to shoot for, and I was questioning where my head should be when it comes to "accomplishment" and whether one area would have more triggers than another. It's the mixture of things that will be important, regardless of how the chips fall. In other words, if I don't have the fulfillment outside of the job (such as no volunteering, for example), then that could include triggers as much as working too much could do. It's not so much either/or that counts as it is the balance between the different parts of life.

I have also given some constructive thought to some tolerance requirements. We'll see if I stick to them or have the luxury of sticking to them, ha ha. Things like the length of time it takes to travel for work and that sort of thing. It all looked so basic and logical when I went through what I thought was an ingenious exercise. Just like Not Drinking looks to people who are not alcoholics, ha ha.
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Old 03-28-2010, 05:35 PM
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Work was an important topic in my early sobriety: I had lived off of family for as long as they would allow, and I had to do something. Here I was, armed with a degree and my untapped brilliance (along with a less-than stellar work history) out to make up for lost time. I was able to find an entry level but more than minimum wage position to tide me over for a while, but I was certain that I would soon demonstrate that I was "special" enough to climb the corporate ladder. But there were lessons to be learned: Yes, I was sober, but I was an emotional mess at times. There were occasional meltdowns, and just because I was better educated that the rest I wasn't necessarily better at the jobs. When I humiliated myself enough I began to learn the value of humility. (They are not synonymous, BTW.) I discovered how much of my self-esteem I derived from work, that as work went so did I. Not a good thing. I used to say that my tombstone would read, "She worked hard."
Had I gotten the job I believed I deserved at the time I would have made a mess of it--and I would have missed out on some very important lessons. I didn't need the distraction of a prefession just yet. I needed to be stripped of extraneous labels and just be human for a little while.
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Old 03-29-2010, 02:52 PM
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Again, I feel I can kinda relate to a lot of what you've written. Not all...but a lot. I just keep hoping for you that your career choices and life choices are not all about proving anything to anyone else, whether they are still on the planet or are looking down from above. One thing you said in the beginning post was drinking not out of only boredom, but also shame. It's the shame thing that keeps ringing in my ears. I guess I hope that whatever direction you choose to steer the ship, that it's for yourself Toronto.


I am sober for 10 weeks today...and I am starting to be able to see my inner compass...and am starting to follow its reading. And that feels good. Very good. I got way off track..I think it was lost in the fog of alcohol. Do you know that feeling I am talking about....the inner compass? And how good it feels when you follow it?
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Old 03-31-2010, 09:22 AM
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Houndheart, I found this this morning, thanks. I wouldn't be making a choice to eliminate shame in the sense of "my father would have liked this", if that is what you mean. I don't think he would've found fault with what I doing for work. When I mentioned the shame idea, it is like what Humble said: the answer to the question "So what do you do?" I had a problem with that, even though I was rather passionate about my job. I'm also capable of pointing at the things I am "proud" of doing, but it's not enough. Or it hasn't been. I may not have a choice though, since jobs aren't as available as a box of ice cream.

I think I've been trying to use the inner compass by dissecting this. So far the inner compass tells me that I won't be happy just because of a job. I have been told I'm the type that will never be happy, and I can see some truth in that. The inner compass also tells me the balance is important and that I have to make choices that work for me. I took a few steps in that direction by letting myself poke around at specific companies where I thought I was on to something. There also aspects to the steady-as-she-goes path that I have told myself I need in the last week or two. Sorry if I am a tough case!
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Old 03-31-2010, 10:40 PM
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Toronto - This is a great insighful post.

My story is something like... super high achiever for 10 years (probably abusing alcohol, but maybe not yet alcoholically), then 10 years of stagnation (drinking alcoholically).

Now, in sobriety, I am re-awakening the high achiever. But, I am doing so with a new set of tools that I learned through my recovery. I now recognize when I am letting work stress me out too much or when I am way out of balance.

As a person with an addictive personality, I know that I can transfer my addictive behaviors to other things (like work or exercise) and I have to be on the look-out for it.

But in the end, since I have fully accepted that I am an alcoholic and my sobriety is #1, I must ensure that whatever I do allows me to stay sober.

So, as to your question, perhaps 4 months is a little early in sobriery to take on the "high achiever" job as you may not have built up the toolbox adequately yet. Only you can decide. Just watch out for the type-A personality that starts telling you that "well, I probably just overreacted, I probably wasn't an alcoholic -- and besides, I deserve to drink". This is a warning sign that a person has strayed from their recovery path and is getting close to relapse.

But, you may still be able to do it. Just know that sobriety and recovery are not something that you can just think/muscle/analyze your way through. You build the skills over time .. and in this case, there is no substitute for wisdom.
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