Most people’s lines of work are more intricate and multi-layered than those who don’t do that work would guess. So most of us can think of a time someone reductively assumed that our jobs are very simple.
It has taken months to build the easy relationship we enjoy, one that has provided an environment conducive to recovery and trust; no judgement, no expectation. It didn’t start this way. We stuck at it and we’re still here: the ‘recoverer’ and the listener. We’re in a good place now and looking at where to from here.
When it is time to talk about where to from here we remember that sobriety is the first step in the process of recovery. For the recovering addict, life is about so much more than sobriety. When days are consumed with the frantic chase for our drug or tipple of choice, where we’re going to crash for the night, or how we’ll manage the come down, there is no place to consider life beyond now. Mindfulness? We live it every hour every day. It’s the only way we know how to do life, minute by minute, hour by hour.
When each day dawns it draws back the curtain to reveal hope, an energy to go again. Can I, just for today avoid addictive substances. So when I get through today, can I do six more days to make a week? A week of sobriety, a week to bring fresh wonder and confidence.
Before we realise it the days have stacked up and there’s a whole month during which all the relapse prevention strategies we’ve been learning have been tried this way and that, turned around and worked backwards and forwards until we found the perfect way to manage those high risk people, places and circumstances.
The cravings, once so strong they had a life all their own, barely raised an urge to use. In this past month life has been busy and it has been exciting.
When the dolly steps of recovery have been mastered it’s time to address what can be painful aspects of our lives, the parts hidden underneath the bravado and sassy tongue. It’s time to talk about where to from here. Now that abstinence is no longer a hurdle but a reality the where to from here can be a scary place from which to peek into the future. Dare we rediscover the dream that drifted away in the haze of addiction? Can we hope for a job? Will anyone employ me? Why would anyone employ me? Is it possible to live beyond welfare? Dare I hope?
If we think about our own work ethic and where that began for most of us we remember watching either mum or dad, maybe both leave for work each morning and return each night. In that routine we understood it was the path we would follow, inevitably. However, there is a small percentage of people, in the some communities, for whom unemployment is a way of life. Grandparents, parents and now this generation – sustained by welfare. Of course some choose to be welfare-dependent others have no choice but to be supported by social security but there is a third group who have a desire to break the cycle and move beyond welfare.
To reach a point in recovery where the next step is to seek employment is an extreme achievement yet the consequences can be heartbreaking.
Sadly the stigma of unemployment is rife. So too is discrimination towards those who use drugs in illicit ways, or drink without control. Shouldering the remarks and scorn directed towards your active addiction is easy because the alcohol or drugs help suppress the disgust and rejection of others. In sobriety it becomes difficult to carry the attitudes of those who have no lived experience of addiction or unemployment.
Sometimes the where to from here is learning to cope with the stigmatising and discriminatory behaviours of others. Being able to respond in compassionate ways towards those who harbour prejudice, thereby perpetuating stigma and discrimination, becomes the where to from here. Helping recovering addicts to respond in appropriate ways towards others means working towards increasing their self-esteem, self-efficacy and nurturing newfound personal values. Just another step in the process of recovery – responding well to other people’s behaviours.
It disturbs me that it is not enough for ‘these people clean up their act’ but when they do they then have to learn ways to cope with the disparaging remarks and arrogance of others. Recovery takes courage and time and everyone deserves a second chance. Some a third. Others a fourth chance. Borrowing from Winston Churchill we ought never, never, never give up on someone.