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Making the Most of Get Well Job

Issue 2

Get Well Jobs can play an important role when you begin the recovery process and are in “starting life over” mode.

A Get Well Job is any job that does not cause undue pressure and bring too many intellectual or emotional demands, compared to the profession you were in prior to starting recovery.

While the term is often used in sober living houses when someone is ready to re-enter the work world, it is just as applicable if you lost a job when you hit bottom and are starting the recovery process or have been incarcerated and are about to re-enter the work world.

Without making too many demands, a Get Well Job won’t take your focus off of staying clean and sober.

The right Get Well Job provides important structure, renewed confidence in your ability to be in the work world, and a chance to “get in the groove” of going to work every day. It can also give you a current job to put on your resume and—if you leave on good terms—a references for future jobs.

Choosing—and knowing when to move on from—a Get Well Job is an important part of recovery.

Meet Mike Elovitz.

Before moving to Portland to live in a sober living house, Elovitz had a demanding and successful consulting business in New York City. He had two Get Well Jobs, one he liked and the other he didn’t.

His first Get Well Job was at Brown Trading Company in Portland, where his primary responsibility was smoking fi sh for high-end restaurant customers. After that seasonal job ended, he worked as a cashier at a convenience store.

Elovitz now works as a direct service provider for Goodwill, where he helps people with disabilities navigate the demands of daily life, a job he finds both demanding and deeply satisfying. Here are some of the important lessons and takeaways he shared in a recent interview.

Get Well Job Lessons & Takeaways

Embrace Humility —“It was humbling. I went from owning my own business to punching a time clock and doing manual labor. I had shame around it. I kept asking myself, ‘How did I get here?’ He remembers being at a family Thanksgiving gathering and not wanting to tell anybody what he was doing for work. He eventually stopped hiding it and the shame dissipated, as it does when we share our secrets with others we can trust.

Take Care of the Mind/Body Connection and It Will Take Care of You —When asked for his No 1 advice to someone about successfully navigating the Get Well Job chapter of recovery, Elovitz responded without hesitation: “Diet and exercise-make sure you’re doing both of those right. Doing all the sobriety stuff is obviously critical, but if you are not taking care of yourself physically, your chances of staying sober will be cut in half… let alone your ability to handle responsibilities on the job.” Exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym, he noted. It can mean walking more and driving less or simply parking farther away from stores.

Use The Time for Soul Searching and Career Exploration —While working at his Get Well Job, Elovitz engaged in career coaching, both to identify potential next-step jobs and explore what is called Right Livelihood: work that fits our personality and strengths, and satisfies our soul. This soul searching enabled him to connect with his career vision of getting involved in disaster relief work. He also recommends making the most of this time by keeping some kind of journal and writing down your experiences and observations on the job, which can become important clues to your “next right action” in growing your career.

Remind Yourself: “This is a chapter. It’s not the whole story.” —This is a mantra I’ve found useful over the years both for myself and when coaching others going through tough spells or finding themselves in less-than-ideal situations. On days you find yourself feeling under-employed and asking “How did I get here?”, remember that “This too shall pass” and that you’re experiencing just a chapter in your Life Story. Elovitz recognizes that his current job, his first post-Get Well Job, is also a chapter. His goal is to work in the disaster relief field for an organization like FEMA or the Red Cross.

Make Lemonade Out of the Lemons —While Elovitz found his first Get Well Job satisfying, he couldn’t stand his second one. While he liked the owner and manager, he found having to deal with difficult customers day in and day out to be emotionally draining. Yet, he doesn’t regret having that job.

“I’m actually glad I did it because it taught me a lot of what I DON’T want in a job, and it was great motivation to stay sober.”

Be Impeccably Responsible — Acting responsibly on the job— coming in on time, calling when you’re going to be late, etc.—not only makes good work habits part of who you are and helps you rebuild your career, it also makes acting responsibly and holding yourself accountable in all aspects of your life just what you do,” which obviously strengthens your sobriety.

Don’t Leave Until You Have Another Job Lined Up—This is another way of making being responsible and accountable a habit. If you’re finding that you dread going to work, fight the urge to be impulsive and walk out the door. By refusing to slip back into old habits of impulsivity and irresponsibility, you weaken their hold over you, while making responsible actions more habitual. That being said, if you feel your sobriety is being compromised because of how the job is affecting you, talk to your sponsor about the pros and cons of leaving without a new job lined up.

Getting the right Get Well Job, and knowing how to make the most of it, can make a huge difference in your ability to remain clean and sober—and in the quality of your recovery. The above guiding principles can help you make the most of this important part of the recovery process.

David Lee
David Lee
David Lee is a career coach with Heart at Work Associates and a workplace relationship consultant. He is the author of the “Dealing with a Difficult Co-Worker: The Courageous Conversations at Work Series.”

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