Earning a regular paycheck is a sure predictor of successful long-term recovery from substance abuse. Research shows that having something to lose, such as a job, is a compelling incentive to stay sober.
But staying sober also requires the successful maintenance of a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle, which takes daily commitment and can be hard to juggle with conflicting job responsibilities. These tips will help you prioritize your recovery without compromising your job security, based on firsthand experience with clients in early recovery.
- Practice smart time management.
Being smart with how you use your time can go a long way toward reducing the stress of managing competing priorities. Stress is a major relapse trigger in early recovery, so anything you do to reduce the amount of it in your life will help you maintain a healthy recovery lifestyle.
Smart time management consists of a number of factors:
- Setting goals in your work and personal life so that you know which things to prioritize in your schedule.
- Planning ahead for these commitments by getting them into your smartphone calendar and setting reminders.
- Simplifying your life by cutting out any commitments that aren’t directly helping you stay sober and/or may be competing with job responsibilities.
Many of the clients I work with have trouble with executive functioning and related organizational skills, whether as a consequence of their addiction or because of co-occurring mental disorders or learning disabilities that contributed to their drug or alcohol use.
Take “Brian,” for example (whose name has been changed). Because of his symptoms, Brian was struggling to come to group therapies and take part in our discussions. But with a little extra support about goal-setting, along with some mindfulness exercises, he was able to manage his time more effectively and prioritize his recovery. By practicing some smart time management at your job and in your personal life, you can do the same.
- Be mindfully attentive to what you’re doing in the present moment.
Like many of our clients, Brian benefited from some simple mindfulness work in the form of connecting with the breath and staying non-judgmentally attentive to the present moment. Similarly, just a few minutes of mindfulness, practiced daily, can go a long way towards helping you feel competent and balanced in relation to the day’s demands.
This can be so calming, enjoyable and energizing for my clients, rejuvenating their perspective on what’s before them, that they start doing it at multiple intervals during the day. You can do the same wherever you are, whether you’re at the office preparing for a presentation or at home tucking kids into bed.
- Set healthy boundaries between work and personal life.
This may entail saying “no” to work requests that violate your personal boundaries, making use of paid time off and honoring your self-care needs on a regular basis. It may also involve some redefining of your relationship with your smartphone, which for so many of us has become an additional body part that we carry around, can’t let go of and check incessantly—even during off hours. Two simple measures can help:
- Check your work email at the beginning and the end of the work day rather than constantly throughout the day.
- Silence your phone or turn on your “Do Not Disturb” settings when you’re not supposed to be working, such as at the dinner hour with family or on your off days.
- Advocate for a flexible work schedule or at least one day weekly for working remotely.
You can make a compelling case with your employer for how this arrangement will help you do your job better and improve your work performance. In the meantime, allocate this time to attending your weekly 12-step group, seeing your therapist or working on other self-care measures that help your recovery.
By following these four tips, you’ll be prioritizing your recovery. You’ll also be investing in your job by becoming the kind of employee your employer wants to keep around.