For people in high-accountability roles–executives, managers and professionals–integrating a program of recovery into an already full career presents a few challenges. These challenges, whether real or perceived, fall into the following 3 categories: time, trust and tactics.
Newly recovering working professionals can experience panic as they approach their first sober day back at the office. Many thoughts may whirl through their mind, some of them being: “Will I have enough time to devote to my recovery?” “How am I going to balance it all?” “How long will it be until I feel normal again?” “What if my recovery activities interrupt my productivity” or, conversely, “What if the demands of my job keep me from recovery activities?”
The good news is if you were productive and capable before getting sober, it’s likely you’ll be productive and capable afterwards. Sobriety doesn’t make you forget how to do your job. You won’t forget how to perform. Executives don’t forget how to manage business operations and doctors don’t forget how to treat patients. You will naturally know how to do what you did only now that you’re sober, you’ll actually be awake for the job.
What will take time though is focusing your efforts on the business of staying sober. There will be books to read, meetings to attend, phone calls to make and service to be performed. All of which takes time. How much time? That really depends on you and your commitment to being sober. Think of it this way: if you really want a fit, strong and toned body, you would probably show up at the gym more than once a month. In the same way, if you want to transform your life—that is, build a life that is different from the one you had in active addiction—you will need to devote a good amount of time and attention to your recovery. (Believe me, it’s worth it.)
Professionals in recovery, especially early recovery, question everything and everyone. They say things like, “Can I trust myself to act correctly in all the stressful situations that are bound to come up at the office?” “Will I respond appropriately to all the everyday challenges that arise?” Answers to these questions naturally emerge as the newly recovering professional performs a searching and fearless inventory. Self-confidence grows by examining who you really are in all the positive and negative areas.
Another matter of trust involves others. The recovering professional will often ask, “Who can I trust?” or “What or how much can I share with others?” The old adage “to thine own self be true” does not give you permission to spill your guts to anyone within earshot. Information about your recovery is reserved for those who have a stake in your recovery success; that includes your sponsor, your therapist and your coach. Trust your sponsor with matters related to your recovery and trust your boss (or business advisor) with information strictly related to strategic or tactical business matters. Knowing who to rely on for what is really a challenge and if, like most people, you are not sure who to talk to just ask your recovery coach. It’s his or her job to help you apply recovery principles in your professional life and sort things out in a safe space.
Everyone looks for the silver bullet, right? We all want to know the 1, 2, 3s or the ABCs of doing everything from making the perfect pie crust to having the perfect body. It’s no different for recovery and career success. We want to know the “best” way to successfully blend recovery with our profession.
So how do you “surrender to win” and still be an effective professional? In business, the tactics or steps necessary to perform your work in line with your company’s mission are typically spelled out in performance plans. Reviewing this information upon your return will be a reminder of what is (and was) expected, but having a frank discussion with your boss (or business advisor) around performance expectations is critical. The people greeting you upon your return to the office understandably have lots of questions. They will wonder, “What is his/her commitment level?” and “What can we expect out of him/her?” Talk about those expectations. Share your assimilation plan. Ask for feedback. Schedule frequent meetings with those who hold you accountable in order to check-in on your own progress and invite their input. Not sure how to do this? Ask your coach for insight on these crucial conversations.
Alcoholism and addiction respects no socio-economic boundaries, nor does it bow to any authority. Staying sober requires effort and commitment. It’s a simple process but far from easy. Blending your recovery with your chosen profession requires a conscious effort but the reward for those willing to learn is an overwhelming sense of career fulfillment and a peace that comes from being the very best version of yourself.