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. However, the threat of incarceration, paranoia, and the physical dangers of the occupations would have been present for both. 

For each, the choice was money and danger versus less cash and less risk.

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 eight resident assistants, and was a Dean’s List student. 

Sounds impressive on the surface.

When I returned to the same college after treatment, 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.

That job doesn’t sound impressive at all. 

And sometimes, that’s the conflict. We feel less than in our early 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


When I was moving the mail bags one day, the mail carrier took pity on me. He was about 25 years younger than me, and I think he felt guilty when he saw me grab and start lugging a bag when he returned with two more. 

After all, I live in 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 appreciated this job. It wasn't prestigious, glamorous, or a job that anyone would covet, but it was my legitimate early recovery job. Click To Tweet

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.


When you’re ready to share your recovery lessons with new readers, consider a guest post. 

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