I had mixed emotions when I moved into New Life House. I had my own idea of what being in a structured sober living would be like. I pictured a residence where I could use the internet, talk on my cell phone, date girls, go outside, get a new job… Basically I imagined my life the same as before treatment, but without drugs and alcohol. When I found out that all of the things I held dear were going to be taken away, I was angry to say the least. What I didn’t know is that those things were holding me back from the growth I would need to achieve true happiness. To learn how to stay sober, I would need a break from the life of distractions I once had.
Before I arrived at sober living, I almost always had a job. It was usually a low-paying, terrible job, but a job nonetheless. I was a bad alcoholic, but I always had a good work ethic. My parents always worked hard, and made me want to be self-sufficient. Right before I went into New Life, I had a job at a Non-profit organization as a street canvasser. My job was to approach hundreds of random people on the streets daily to attempt to promote the organization and push for people to sign up for their services. Every day I would go into work absolutely wasted on alcohol to avoid a painful detox that would hinder me from doing my job correctly. I would push extremely hard for the first two hours of work until I started to feel the effects of the alcohol wearing off, and at that point I would head to a bathroom to drink more. If anyone else could have witnessed my life for a day they would have been shocked to see a person as young as I was affected so deeply by alcohol, but to me it just seemed like a normal life. Obviously I was a wreck at work, and my boss started to notice my decline in performance. It came to a point when I was just hanging by a thread to even work there, and in a room full of hippie workers I was the one who stood out as the dysfunctional one.
I left that job to go to sober living with the hopes that I could one day return. I was told that New Life was a 90 day commitment so I called my boss and asked to take a break from work, and stay in the system. I promised that I would come back in 90 days, and that I would be fully functional when I returned. He agreed solely because he was a good boss and knew I was struggling with addiction, as well as the fact that I was of no use to him in the state I was in. I then promised New Life House that I would stay the 90 days, and put my best effort into my recovery in the sober living. What I didn’t know is that 90 days was the committed time, but more cases that not, people wound up staying up until graduation. Once I did find out there were people in the house that had been there for 15 months I was caught off guard, but I wasn’t worried, because I was not the kind of guy to stay that long. Not ME! I was the kind of guy to figure things out on my own………..
91 days later I was completely settled into the house… I had begun to feel slight improvement in myself, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was surprised by how much I started to appreciate the house I was in, and I wanted to stay to see the future benefits the program had in store for me. I still had a hard time understanding why we couldn’t use our phones, or have jobs until 6 months of sobriety, but I was grudgingly willing to stay and work on myself until then. Eventually I wound up getting 6 months of in-house sobriety and I went out to go search for a job.
When I started to do walk in interviews and meet new people I was astounded by how awkward it was to speak in a business setting. It was never a problem for me before that, but without alcohol or drugs in my system I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. When I eventually realized is that who I was before was built up from confidence granted by alcohol. I never was able to see why I kept getting dead end jobs like subway and various non-profit organizations… Now it is quite clear. Im not even close to as smart as I thought I was. I was not the profound wordsmith I always saw myself as when talking to bosses, and I certainly didn’t act professionally. It started to make more sense why people were supposed to wait to get a job in the house until more time was spent sober.
I wound up landing a job at Home Depot. It was a great environment for me because I was a hard worker by nature, and I had some experience with construction and other hands-on crafts. However, I wasn’t prepared at all for constant human interaction in a work environment. My boss and coworkers would annoy me on the daily, and I wasn’t fully equipped enough to be able to handle the work stress yet. Luckily I had a sponsor in AA, and managers at the sober living who were there for me to be able to vent to. They would give me simple spiritual solutions to my problems, and I would approach the next day with more hope. Slowly but surely I was learning about how to work on my defects of character enough to build up a spiritual shield to the stress at work. These are things I never would have learned if I was still loaded. I needed a community, and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous to be able to work through the things I never learned before.
Eventually I left that company to try out new opportunities because nothing really seemed to fit. Some jobs were better than others, but I more or less wanted to land on something that fit my personality and ambitions. I have had so many experiences from trying out different jobs that I have a well rounded idea of how to survive in a work environment, and I learned how to deal with the common stresses that most people worry about. To survive before I had to drink constantly and force myself to make it through the day. But, today I can say that I can handle most of the work responsibilities that make people my age bend and buckle… I can fully understand why in sobriety I had to give work up for a while. Everyone needs a time without distractions to take a deeper look inside. I needed the time to learn about sobriety with my community around me, and a sponsor to confide in. I was not ready to work without learning the tools to handling life sober. Now that I have spent time rigorously working the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous I am ready to handle the obstacles life will surely throw at me down the line. I have extremely high hopes for the future, and I am extremely grateful for the position I am currently in. Its become blatantly clear to me that I can achieve much more than a job at a non-profit organization. All I have to do is accept life in the moment, and work hard toward the future.