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As you transition into your new life in recovery, one of the first orders of business will be to find employment. It may be a requirement of a sober living home or an expectation of your family, but no matter who you are, eventually you will need to pay for your own home, food, utilities, car, gas, and possibly the debts related to active addiction. For many people in recovery, it is an exciting endeavor – the first real sign that a normal life is possible and that it is time to be independent in recovery. With a range of choices on the table, it may be difficult to know where to start first. It can be tempting to take the first thing that comes along. But consider the following five jobs that are best avoided in recovery before you get yourself into a situation that could sink your ship and end your recovery in relapse.
Or bouncer. Or club party organizer. Pretty much any job that is directly related to the procurement of drugs or alcohol, assisting others in engaging in heavy drinking or drug use, or in any way coming into contact with addictive substances is verboten in recovery.
A number of studies have shown that repeated exposure to a thing that is tempting or that someone is trying to avoid will eventually wear down the person’s best defenses and ultimately result in relapse. Whether you pass by a plate of cookies on the counter multiple times a day when you are on a diet or must stare at a wall full of liquor bottles all day at work, you are at increased chance of relapse when you have constant and easy access to the substance you want to avoid.
There are a number of reasons why engaging in work that is illegal or that puts you in a position where you must do things that are illegal is dangerous for your recovery. First, illegal activities are often related to drug use, especially the creation, transport, or sales of illicit substances.
Second, doing things that are illegal keeps you tethered to the “active addiction mindset.” That is, trying to cut corners and take the easy way out is a symptom of addiction behavior. It can feel scary and even impossible to do the work to clean up your appearance, put together a resume, and hit the streets looking for a straight job. But you can do it. You will not stay sober unless you learn to live a life defined by boundaries, and the first boundaries that must be respected are laws.
Stress is a trigger for relapse, no matter what form it comes in. While there are some positive forms of stress – for example, the stress that keeps you awake and aware in physically dangerous settings so you stay safe – in general, it is not desirable in recovery, especially when it comes to your livelihood.
If you were a lawyer, for example, prior to entering treatment, you might consider how drug and alcohol use played a role in your ability to manage stress related to your job. It may not be the best thing for your recovery to immediately return to a fast-paced, high-stress job while you are trying to stabilize in recovery.
Similarly, you may not want to take on a job that would require you to do tasks you do not feel confident in your ability to complete, be around people who make you feel uncomfortable, or be in situations that in any way make you feel nervous or unsure of yourself.
It may sound as if this is contrary to #3, but the fact is that if you take on a job that is mindless and too lenient then you may become bored going to that job day in and day out. And boredom is just as much a killer in recovery as stress.
The trick is to look for a job that keeps you busy, changes it up once in a while (or more often, if you prefer) is as physically demanding as you would like it to be, and leaves you tired in a good way at the end of the day. If you can find a job that also allows you to be of service to others or speaks to your passions in one way or another, even better. But early in recovery, the goal is simply to find a job that works for you and does not threaten your sobriety.
This can mean a number of different things depending on the nature of the work. It could mean avoiding jobs in which your coworkers tend to exclude newcomers or otherwise make them feel threatened or uncomfortable. It could mean avoiding a job in which the boss is a tyrant, completely irresponsible, or in any way negative towards you. It could also mean working with clientele that is routinely unreasonable, rude, or abusive in any way. Your workplace should be a balanced environment and be conducive to living a positive life in recovery.
What jobs have you found to be unconducive to maintaining sobriety? What lessons have you learned about applying for or otherwise finding a job right out of rehab that would help others as they undertake the same process?