My Job or My Recovery: Is It One or the Other?


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Whether you’re a factory worker or a waitress, a doctor or a lawyer, a chef or an executive, like most people finding their way in recovery you are probably asking yourself, “How in the world do I balance all this?”

Timing is also unfazed. At the point when you decide to get sober, you might actually like your job or career. Your work may be challenging or have a high level of authority and prestige. It may require a lot of technical skill and concentration. You may even be managing a large team of people.

Here are 3 key pointers to help progress in your recovery and profession.

So, what happens?

You show up for a support group meeting and you hear things like “there’s only one thing you have to change…and that’s everything.” Huh? Does that mean you have to quit your job or find a new career? You may be getting nervous. You go to another meeting and you hear, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” You ask yourself, “Are they talking about me changing jobs or are they talking about me changing me?” When talking to your sponsor, he throws out even more blanket statements like “your best thinking got you here” and “you better wait a year before making any major changes.” It’s all so confusing.

With so many questions in your head, it’s hard not to focus on the big ones. Can you maintain sobriety and keep the job or career you have? What if you’re unemployed at the time you get sober? Will you actually be able to find a job and stay sober?

Yes, you can. I did. People do every day. You just don’t hear about it in the mainstream. Curiously enough, not too many news stories cover how an alcoholic or an addict stays employed or successfully lands a job in early recovery. Perhaps it doesn’t make good copy.

As for me, I was virtually unemployed when I got sober. My coaching practice had shrunk nearly to the point of non-existence. I had one full-time client and no real prospects in sight. I had lost my focus in the months leading up to my last drink and 30 days prior, I left my marriage, my home and even my dog. I began the process of filing bankruptcy and was swirling in the shame of having failed in almost every part of life. I didn’t know what it was called then but I was soon able to define my life as “unmanageable.”

When I went to meetings, I heard all the things mentioned above but there was one message that seemed louder than all the others: “There is nothing more important than your sobriety. Focus on your sobriety (which meant spirituality) and the rest will come.” Being a fairly logical person and someone whose success was built on the notion that “if it’s got to be, it’s up to me,” I thought this was the most counterintuitive idea that I had ever heard. Focus on my spirituality and my career will get better? It sounded unlikely but a miracle happened. Somehow, I was granted enough humility to listen to that message. I began to work on my recovery and soon enough my career began to rebound.

Here are 3 key pointers that helped me progress in my recovery and profession—and hopefully it can help you too:

1. Know Where You Are

When you get into recovery, you don’t know what you don’t know. Until the alcohol-induced fog cleared, I had a very distorted view of reality. I either felt like things weren’t so bad or everything was wrong. Early on, things were black or white. They were horrible or incredible. As the fog clears with the help of a sponsor and a good home group, you will begin to see your current reality for what it is.

The first step requires that you admit powerlessness—that you are not in control of the outcomes. That’s tough stuff for an ego-driven alcoholic. Before finding a job or making a change, you first have to know where you are. You need to pause and consider what’s working and what’s not working for you. This exercise is revealing. But here’s the good news: after each step, the next step is always revealed. It can be a kind and gentle progression for you to go from awareness to acceptance and when you get to acceptance, you’ll see that where you are is right where you need to be.

2. Know Who You Are

Professional coaches use a host of different assessments to help their clients build self-awareness and know themselves better. In recovery, this is called an inventory process. Like a store that analyzes its stock at the end of each year—understanding what sold and what didn’t—a fearless and thorough moral inventory will reveal who you are. Your sponsor will act much like a coach, helping you see who you are within a safe, confidential space. You’ll explore your strengths and your weaknesses (aka character defects). Sharing this information with another person allows you to gain a different perspective that will help in either finding a job or succeeding sober in the one you already have. If you’re like me, you were pretty beaten when you reached recovery and your self-esteem was at an all-time low. However, with some help, you will begin to know who you are and likely be pleasantly surprised.

3. Trust the Process

Recovery, like job transition or career development, is not a singular event. No one gets sober by simply reading a book or attending a class. Transformation, development, recovery, coaching occurs on a just-in-time basis as life is happening. There will be times when the process feels slow and other times when it moves at an exhausting or overwhelming speed. Whatever the case, successfully integrating your recovery program with your chosen career or job is a process that occurs over time. Trust the process…even when you don’t want to.


Like what you read? This article is the first installment in Therese Marie's five-part career series regarding recovery in the workplace. Check out the next one here.

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