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Getting your life back on track while trying to tame your addiction can be a difficult task. Most people have to work, but many who suffer from addiction quickly learn how much their job can be a trigger. Just re-entering the workforce can drive a person to have constant cravings and anxiety issues. When it comes to overcoming such problems you have to consider if your job is a trigger.
Workplace Stress and Substance Abuse
Workplace stress is considered to be one of the top addiction triggers. Stress affects both the mind and the body, making the temptation to use that much harder to resist. If you’re in a very demanding or high-stress job, you may need to consider a career switch. However, most people find that employing proper stress management techniques help. A few of this include:
• Eating healthily and regularly
• Regular exercise
• Drinking water
• Avoid caffeine and excess sugar
Bad Matches and Risk of Relapse
Sometimes you, your job, and your addiction are just not a great match.
“My Drug of Choice almost KILLED ME. Today being a person in recovery I have to put my recovery and my life ahead of anything especially a job. What my recovery mentors told me when I first got clean was to keep it simple. That applies for work as well…” – Jenny in Florida
“Don’t rush into a job that is high stress, until you have the tools and experience, it takes time to retrain your perception and reaction to life’s situations.” – Mark in Cleveland
Simple low-stress jobs for people early in their sobriety could be:
• Animal sitter
• Stocking grocery shelves
• Car wash attendee
• Manufacturing worker
• Cashier at a small store
For instance, nurses, cops, and bankers all suffer from high-stress environments and are more likely to develop addiction problems. The jobs themselves tend to lead to a lot of pressure. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to do everything, as well as the fact you are absorbing the problems of those around you. Take some time to consider whether your job is part of the problem in your addiction. Would doing something else make it easier for you to avoid drinking or using? Is there something you can see doing that would make you happy?
Many people feel isolated at work. Being stuck in cubicles that separate us from our fellow employees can make this feeling worse. For those who work remotely or from home, this feeling of isolation is increased. Add the additional separation of being in the process of recovery, and you have a recipe for potential relapse. Find ways to connect with your co-workers. Take breaks and say hello when you need to. Find ways to engage in the “water cooler talk” that’s happening in your office. All of this can help you feel more connected and less isolated while at work.
“I used to treasure working at home alone, but now that’s not really good for me in my recovery. I’m better in an office where I can work with other people and feed off of their energy. It keeps me positive and focused.” – Jeff in Indiana
Does your office regularly go out to the bar together? Is drinking alcohol encouraged at company picnics or other events? This type of workplace culture can be disastrous to someone in recovery. Unfortunately, most business events are forcibly encouraged (even required), so avoiding them can be difficult. Luckily, there are ways to stay sober while attending these events without damaging your recovery.
The best way to stay sober while facing a workplace culture of substance use is to be open about your sobriety. You may find that you’re not alone, both in your journey and in wanting change. If you’d rather keep your journey, a secret simply tell people that you’re on a “cleanse,” or acting as a designated driver for someone. Finally, if the culture of substance use is overly pervasive or stubborn, it may be time to change jobs.
If You Have to Start Over
Not everyone is in a place where they can just start over or pick a new career path. You might be surprised at how many options there are for changing careers. In the digital age there are a number of different ways to earn a living and with a little creativity you can alter your environment and remove some of the typical stressors of the workplace. Consider the things that make you happy. The things that make you feel like you grow as a person. While there might be some transition time, it is likely you can weave some of what you love into a job choice.
“Starting over sounds like a bad thing. But it’s a chance to reinvent yourself. Take that opportunity and run with it. Be whatever you want to be. I really believe that my unhappiness with my previous life and career drove me to drugs. I was in a terrible place. But I survived and I found a better life and a much better career.” – Zack in California
Changing Your Financial Needs
Money tends to be the driving force when it comes to keeping a job that is a problem to your sobriety. Take a good, hard look at your finances. You might be surprised where you can trim the fat and lower expenses. It is never going to be “easy” but if your sanity is at stake it makes sense to do what makes it easier for you to stay sober. Keeping a high-stress job likely to cause a relapse might lead to you having no income at all. At least by examining your expenses you can take control.
“Me? I worked the Steps. And some of the words in Step 12 summed it up for me: ‘Where the possession of money and material things was concerned, our outlook underwent the same revolutionary change.’” – Lora in Texas
It can be overwhelming to think of change. It can be difficult to imagine doing something different with our lives. But there is also much opportunity when you are making this kind of a life change.
When you free yourself from addiction, the time can be right to break other chains binding you to unhappiness. Altering your surroundings can make it easier to get in touch with the real you. Focus on building your new life in a way that makes you comfortable, happy, and healthy.