I found my bottom and surrendered to my addiction in 2018, the beginning of the end.
I had tried multiple rehabilitation centers, detoxes, 12-step recovery groups, counseling, medicine, and other clinical services to no avail. I had left a 23-year career behind because my addiction brought me physically and psychologically to my knees. I realized I had lost my purpose; it was a very dark time. My bottom, desperation, and fear of future consequences launched me into 100% action in my recovery.
One of the things I desperately wanted in my recovery was to work again. I hadn’t written a resume in years, nor did I think I had any necessary skills to apply for a job. My faulty early recovery sick thinking told me that I had to have an education or a degree to be hired, I later found out this wasn’t the case, but I learned the hard way.
I found myself applying for a scholarship at the local technical college and received funding due to technically being homeless while residing in a recovery home. I chose a business admin certification course I thought would teach me office skills, data entry, basic computer literacy, typing, management, and leadership skills. I was 6 months into my recovery, into DUI court, with no license, and getting frustrated with all the court and transitional living mandates. I was trying to be in all places all the time. With the help of my sponsor, I bowed out of the course gracefully and didn’t drink over it.
I learned that I could re-evaluate things, as necessary. I later was asked did I really want to work in an office, and I replied not really, which opened me up to what I might really want to do, maybe something I had a passion for. It was suggested I research such interests which I did. I researched photography, travel, working with animals, and tour guiding and realized how much effort was involved in these careers and whether was I willing to do the work. I realized it was early in my recovery and I was trying to solve my whole new life and new career immediately.
This brings me to my research on wanting to work in the recovery field. I found out I really didn’t want to go back to school and get a degree to be hired nor was it required. I found out that plenty of employers would hire me with lived experience. In my first year of recovery meetings that I was attending, I met a person who was a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist in the community and asked what a recovery Peer Specialist was. She told me to go to the FCB website and read about what CRPS was and what the requirements were. Two years of sobriety, 500 volunteer hrs.’ in the field, a 40-hour training course, documented supervision hours and to sit for a state test. I knew I could do that! Sounded great! She said when it gets closer to your 2 years let me know. I kept her updated and after a year and a half, she started to invite me to community Zoom Peer support meetings during COVID-19 where I got to introduce myself as someone in recovery with lived experience who wanted to become a peer.
I had already started the process on my own through the website but wanted to find a place that had a peer supervisor and could acquire my hrs. On my first Zoom call, I met a peer supervisor who not only supervised peers but supported them with a monthly peer support meeting. This led to a volunteer position at a local community center where I was taken through the process. During my time at the community center, I learned to use my gift of listening and communicating with intent. I was grateful to be working alongside other peers shoulder to shoulder and had the experience of becoming Certified along with another peer in our community. I was really in the middle of a herd of Certified peers who had much experience and knowledge. Working side by side with a peer through my certification process afforded me new job skills such as computer literacy, programming, identifying and navigating community resources, outreach, forming relationships with community partners, documenting member notes, filing, data entry, working in the field, forming study groups to take the required training and most importantly building relationships with members of the community and other peers like me.
Never thought I’d be working again let alone building community! Peer support has not only led to a new path of employment but has led to a new purpose, values, and passion for working with others that was hidden under my addiction. This experience has led me to be able to work shoulder to shoulder with other peers and be part of an exciting new adventure in creating our own peer-led organization in our community. I couldn’t have planned this outcome.