Taking Back Your Career and Sobriety: Addiction Survivors Discuss the Road to Recovery
By: Constance Ray of recoverywell.org
Photo credit: Pixabay
Whether you’re in the career of your dreams or stuck in a job that is simply a way to pay the bills, you’ve probably had more than one day where the stress felt overwhelming. For many, grabbing a drink at the bar after a long day at work is a common way to cope. But what happens when your outlet for stress relief becomes a crutch — and eventually an addiction?
We spoke to a few recovering addicts who told us about the vicious cycle their substance abuse had with their professional lives. Finding their way back to sobriety was a tumultuous road — but ultimately, they said, it was the best decision for their careers, families, and their own well-being.
Ryan had his dream job, but his lifestyle took its toll.
Ryan said his introduction to substances started in high school, mostly as a casual interaction with friends. He was able to nip a cocaine habit in the bud, but by the time he graduated college and started an internship in Knoxville, it was alcohol that became the problem.
“I was living downtown and able to walk to all of the bars. That’s when drinking really started affecting my life,” he explained.
Then things took a major turn in his career and his addiction — one for the better, the other for the worst.
“I started my own company as an artist manager in the music industry. I had my dream job at 22, was engaged to the love of my life, and traveling around the country. But, with that lifestyle, there was a lot of drinking — for free,” he said.
From there, things only spiraled out of control, and soon his drinking habits cost him everything he held dear. Unfortunately, it only fueled his habits.
“After a series of events, and spending large amounts of money on alcohol, I lost my biggest clients. My fiance found out I’d been shady with some business deals and broke off our engagement. That’s when I really got crazy with alcohol. I was drinking and smoking pot all the time,” he admitted.
“I went from having everything to nothing — just a lot of addict friends.”
Needing a change of scenery, Ryan ventured to Los Angeles. He took a job working in a nightclub, where his cocaine habit soon resurfaced and supplemented with ecstasy. Even switching to a telemarketing gig didn’t curb his struggle to overcome substance addiction, but instead only led him back to alcohol.
“I hated my job, I had no money, and I was living with friends in the Valley,” he recalled. “That’s when I started drinking by myself during the day, watching Netflix, walking to Taco Bell, and walking to the liquor store for more booze.”
The next few years saw more relocation, various jobs, the birth of his daughter, and several failed attempts at rehabilitation. The girlfriend he had been living with kicked him out, imploring him to seek help for his own good.
He indulged in a night of heavy drinking and had every intention of continuing his ways. But then something clicked.
“The next morning, I was a quarter of the way through another bottle when I finally realized it,” Ryan said. “I thought, ‘Look at me right now. I’m an addict.’”
He was finally able to find lasting sobriety, and noted that his time in treatment helped him get back to being the man he wanted to be:
“Treatment for me was about self-discovery and learning to be my best self. It’s always been there, but it was covered up for a long time.”
John struggled with addiction for years — until his boss called him out.
A bad car accident left John with a serious painkiller addiction, and the lasting emotional trauma led to more and more substance abuse. He had a great job, but struggled to find healthy ways to cope with the PTSD from the accident and life’s everyday stresses.
Eventually, his problem was too big to hide.
“I was working for a well-known company. I was drinking and taking various prescription pills to cope with my fear, anxiety and chronic pain,” he described. “One day, the CEO brought me into his office and told me, ‘You obviously need help. I can’t help you in the way that you need it. But I can let you go so you can find that help.’ I was fired.
“For the first time in my life, I had to be honest. I called my wife and told her, ‘I need help. I just got fired, and I need help.’”
He tried several different rehabilitation centers, but couldn’t find a program that addressed both his addiction and his mental health issues. It wasn’t until he ventured cross-country to Texas’ Treehouse that the pieces of sobriety fell into place.
“The counselors at [treatment] helped me walk through that difficult time, and encouraged me to take care of what I could take care of,” he explained. “I felt so supported and accepted, even when I was emotionally broken and scared, and I learned that it’s OK to have those emotions and fears.”
For Ryan, it was work that led to his addiction. For John, it was what ultimately saved him. Both men agreed that it was difficult to ask for help, especially when it seemed they’d have to sacrifice their careers in the process. But the road to recovery starts with overcoming the fear and taking that first step.
“As addicts, we have a false sense of pride,” Ryan confessed. “Ask for help, take suggestions. People truly want to help. Anything is possible.”