Early Recovery Jobs: Lowered Expectations and Heightened Rewards

 
By: Marilyn L. Davis

“When we are no longer able to change a situation — we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~Viktor E. Frankl

 

Less Than/More Than/Just Right Jobs

I’ve worked with drug dealers and high-end prostitutes when they’ve decided to get into recovery, and both former occupations had two features:

1. Money
2. Power and Control over other people
 ___
Besides the money, the ego and control over others are hard to give up. So what, if anything, can make changing their occupations appealing to them?
It certainly would not be the minimum wage job that their other skills qualify them for in the workforce. Therefore, income or lack of it creates conflict.
If they were successful, money was not the issue, but the threat of incarceration for both, the paranoia of the activity for both, the physical dangers of the occupations would have been present for both. For each, the choice was money and danger versus less money and less danger.

Approaching it from that perspective helped them see that all of us had to take a step back in our early recovery and figure out our new priorities, and those priorities are often about a job.

Where Do We Get Our Self-Esteem? From a Job? 

Before I went to treatment, I was helping write the curriculum necessary to go from college to university status, managed three dorms, supervised 8 resident assistants and was a Dean’s List student.

Sounds impressive doesn’t it?

When I returned from treatment, to the same college, I was not capable of performing any of those functions. I couldn’t think my way out of a paper bag, couldn’t remember what I’d done at 8 AM if someone asked me in my noon meeting, nor get off the roller coaster of emotions. I was fortunate. The college let me continue with employment – I got to move 50 pound bags of mail from one place to another. Doesn’t sound so impressive does it?
And sometimes, that’s the conflict. We feel less than in our recovery, when in fact, we can  change our perception and feel positive that when we accept starting over; it  sometimes means different expectations and definitions of success.

Lowered Expectations and Heightened Rewards

Moving mail one day, the mail carrier took pity on me. He was about 25 years younger than me, and I think felt guilty when he saw me grab and start lugging a bag when he returned with two more. This is, after all, the south, and chivalry isn’t dead.

When he offered to take it wherever it needed to go, it gave me pause. I asked him if he had a job. He looked at me askance and said, “Yes, I am a mail carrier.”  I then responded, “And I’m a mail mover, and if you don’t let me do my job, I may not have one.”

At that moment, I truly valued and appreciate this job. It wasn’t prestigious, glamorous, or a job that anyone would covet, but it was my job. And it was a job that let me leave the campus at 10:30 every day, eat a quick mid-morning snack, and make a noon recovery support meeting.

Just as important as facilitating my recovery support meetings, this job helped me understand that we are not what we do, but what we can become in our recovery.  And I saw that I was becoming a more humble person, as well as someone who didn’t judge the job as a total reflection of the person. It was a discovery. 

Just Passing It On

It’s also a good story for my clients, who struggle with their sense of loss and have conflict when they have to readjust to life in recovery and get their foundation.

And the  high-end prostitute? Well, she’s an event planner with a well-paid job. And who does she hire for her wait staff and support?
People in early recovery.
And the drug dealer? He’s a successful owner of two restaurants who, you guessed it, hires people in early recovery for his wait staff and kitchen, and loves his recovery job.
And each of them reflects, remembers, and passes on their lessons while taking a coffee break. That’s how recovery works.

What lessons are you passing on today? 

 

Writing, and recovery heals the heart.

 
 
 
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