As we return to our lives having completed residential treatment, some of us will be picking up where we left off in our careers. With a return to work comes a reintroduction of workplace stresses as we are exposed to deadlines, dissatisfied customers, and high expectations from management. It is important for our continued success in recovery to manage these stressors in our lives, as left unchecked they can accumulate and lead us to relapse. What are some ways we can mitigate and manage the stresses that come with our careers so we may succeed both professionally and in our recovery?
One anxiety trap we would fall into in our active addiction stems from our desire to control everyone and everything in our lives. Our attempts to force our will onto the world around us led us to feel frustrated, angry, and misunderstood by our coworkers. Eventually we take on far too many responsibilities, believing we are the only ones capable of completing tasks the “right way”. Having overextended ourselves we inevitably crash and burn, spiraling deeper into the depths of our substance abuse. Now that we are living in recovery, it is important to interrupt this process early on before it invades our speech and actions. As you go about your day in the office, maintain awareness of your thought patterns. If they seem to be trending towards dissatisfaction and a desire for control, pause in your day and take time for a moment of prayer and meditation so you can recenter yourself in the day and focus on what is within your control rather than what is beyond your control.
Another aspect of office life with which we often struggle to contend in active addiction is our ability to receive constructive criticism positively. When we were in our addiction, we would take any criticism far too seriously, believing it to be a reflection of who we are as a person rather than a simple suggestion as to an area in which we could improve. Living in sobriety, it is important to keep our ego in check as we go about our day, accepting any constructive criticism we receive in the workplace and framing it in the appropriate context - it is meant to help us, not to hurt us! As you settle back into your routine at your place of business, be mindful of how you are receiving any feedback from your peers and managers. If you find you are getting hurt feelings from any critiques you receive, use positive affirmations to bring yourself back to a positive mindset so you can use the suggestions of others to improve your performance rather than allowing it to sink you into anxiety and depression.
Stress management is a critical part of our success in both our professional lives and in our recovery. The thought and behavior patterns exhibited in the workplace during our active addiction only served to fuel our disease, and must be replaced by new, healthy ones which help us grow in our careers and in our sobriety. We must first practice and maintain awareness of our thoughts and feelings if we are to change them, so upon returning to work you should seek to build this awareness of your thoughts and feelings. Once you identify the unhealthy patterns formed in your mind, you can start transforming them into positive ones which contribute to your advancement in your career and in your recovery!