5 Ways To Maintain Sobriety After Job Loss
This article was originally published in The Fix.
It’s been a few weeks since I had a theoretical bomb dropped on me. I recently got laid off from my full-time job and my financial stability, my career, and overall sense of security were taken from me. It was unexpected, devastating, and made me question everything. Job loss is just that – a loss. I felt grief, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and defeat. I questioned if I did enough, if it was the job I really wanted, if I deserved that job, and if I’ll ever find another job as good as this one again. Being laid off had me questioning my life, my worth, my value as an employee, and even my sobriety.
Like so many situations in sobriety, job loss can present a unique danger. As a person in recovery who used drinking as a coping mechanism for the majority of my life, being laid off led to me wishing that I could drink. I wished I had the luxury of numbing my emotions for a moment. I wished I could take myself out of living in the moment for a second. Logical, sober me, knows that alcohol wouldn’t make the situation better, only worse. Sober me knew that alcohol might make me forget for a little while, but it wouldn’t make my pain go away.
How can we make it through these ups and downs of life and still stay sober? Here’s what has worked for me over these last few weeks:
Honor your feelings
I’ve had a lot of surprising feelings over these past few weeks while I grieve the loss of my job. Some days it’s been hard to get out of bed, other days I feel okay, and other days I feel like I can barely feed myself or exercise. I started getting impatient with myself, thinking I should be over this already and not so upset. But then I remembered, healing is not linear. Healing takes time and grief demands to be felt. It’s important to honor your feelings about any situation in sobriety, but especially job loss. You’re allowed to be mad and sad and feel lost. As soon as I accepted this, the grieving process began.
Use your support system
If you’re anything like me, you might feel awkward or guilty reaching out to people in your support system when you’re feeling down. I had people tell me that everyone gets laid off at least once in their lifetime, and although I know these people were trying to help me, it made me feel like I shouldn’t be upset. I have a few friends who have been through similar situations and who I knew wouldn’t judge me and I reached out to them. It was comforting to hear their words, their advice, and to know that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts and feelings. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, especially if you’re thinking about drinking.
Put one foot in front of the other and do the basics
When we feel grief and anger it can sideline us. There were some days I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I knew that putting one foot in front of the other and doing the basics of life would help me get through the hard moments. Just getting up, getting dressed, taking a shower, forcing myself to exercise, make food, and feed myself were achievements, and that’s okay. Sometimes acknowledging what needs to be done first to survive, doing those things, and taking it day-by-day can be fulfilling. Over time those tasks became easier for me and I was able to begin to search for new jobs and become motivated again.
Use your sobriety toolbox
As you move through these difficult times, it’s crucial to use your sobriety toolbox – whatever that looks like for you. For me, I made sure I went to CrossFit, moved my body, ate nourishing food, meditated, made my daily gratitude list, and made time to write. Using our learned, healthy coping mechanisms during a time of defeat gets us through, and simultaneously sets us up for success in the future. It can be tempting to go back to our old ways when we are feeling down, but it’s the perfect time to try your sobriety tools.
Use the situation to strengthen your sobriety
What I’ve learned throughout my sobriety is that the hard times strengthen us. Even though when we’re in the middle of it, it feels impossible and painful. After we go through these times, we grow and become better versions of ourselves. I am always grateful for my sobriety afterwards, even when my first reaction makes me think I want to drink. I know that being laid off from my job is not ideal and it has caused me a lot of hurt and anxiety. But it also allows me to expand my mind, think about the career path I want to take, hone in on my skills, and move me towards my goals.
Job loss was another painful reminder of why my sobriety must be the number one thing in my life. It was a reminder of why I’m so grateful for my sobriety because without it I would have fallen apart, went on a weeks-long drinking binge, and not had the tools to pick myself up and move on to bigger and better things.