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How the Skills You Developed in Recovery Can Help You in Your Career

When you’re in recovery, you must ensure you stay focused and hopeful about your future. But even though you must stay focused on the future, you must be mindful of your present and acknowledging of your past. Not everything about your past should be forgotten, as it is your past self and the journey you experienced along the way that made you the person you are in the present.

It can be difficult to reconcile a past struggle with addiction in many areas, but especially with your career. But what if there were elements of your journey – even your addiction – that could still benefit you today in your career?

Analyzing the Skills From Your Past

I recently gave a TEDx talk entitled Why The Workforce Needs Recovering Addicts. The premise was simple: for those who have recovered from addiction, critical skills have been developed that are highly beneficial to the workforce. These skills include grit, tenacity, drive and determination, among others. The talk focuses on a variety of stories and principles, but here are three things to remember when you’re analyzing the skills from your past and the value they have in the present and future of your life and career in recovery:

  • You survived.
    Stated by the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. Addiction wants it all, and it wants it 100% of the time. By surviving an often deadly disease, you have become a survivor. And with surviving addiction comes unique skills, most importantly, battling your brain’s biology. Addiction hijacks and changes the brain, which must be battled when you’re recovering.  Today, you are a survivor of the disease of addiction, which took hard work – even battling and reclaiming your brain’s biology – to accomplish. How does this impact your future career? By surviving addiction, you prove to yourself that anything is possible. You are strong, determined, and motivated – so motivated that you survived a deadly disease. Don’t let stigma or shame deter you from that fact. You can pursue a career that you care about, no matter what your past looks like.
  • You recovered.
    Not only have you survived addiction, a remarkable feat, but you have taken up the daily, constant, lifetime journey of recovery. In recovery, regimented practices, tools and resources must be leveraged on an ongoing basis. You likely have a sponsor, recovery coach or strong support network that you’re working with to keep you where you want to be on a healthy journey toward recovery. These practices have given you discipline, which will transcend into all areas of your life, your career included. You have the personal experience of recovery to help you cultivate your leadership – by understanding the benefit of routine, determination and working with a team of individuals toward a common goal, your experience will give you a unique perspective in and out of work.
  • You learned to solve problems.
    Perhaps one of the most relevant skills that links addiction to recovery – and now your career – is the innate problem solving skills you’ve acquired. When you were living in active addiction, you had to use creative problem solving skills to survive. When you first got sober, you needed to enlist those same problem solving skills to recover. And today, you can continue to solve problems to stay active in recovery, while bringing that constant, innate ability to be creative and solve problems into every aspect of your life. While your problem solving may have gotten you in trouble or perpetuated your addiction in the past, today, you are able to change that skill of the brain and of your character to solve problems for good, whether that means advancing a company’s goal or building a company of your own.


Experiences Build Character

Today, there are 23 million people living in recovery. Of this broad community of individuals, there are millions who are entrepreneurs, students and professionals actively using the skills and tools they’ve leveraged in their recovery to benefit their careers. While your past in addiction may have been filled with struggles, you’ve overcome these struggles and can benefit the experience of overcoming throughout your lifetime.

While addiction often leads to a difficult life journey, remember, this difficulty has given your life color. It has given you the memories and experiences that have built your character and work ethic. What you have gained throughout your journey will benefit every area of your life, if you let it. While this is often exercised in terms of family life or physical health, the very same principles of recovery can help you every day, at work and off work, whether you’re starting a company of your own or going back to school.



Images Courtesy of iStock

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