Twelve years ago I overcame meth addiction. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. I reached three months sober and the world around me seemed to change over night. I started to see things with more color, food tasted better, and things felt brand new. I had woken up from what seemed to be nothing more than a nightmare and right back into my 15 year-old mindset with a desire to explore what the world had to offer because I wanted more. I had no more time to waste once I realized the power of opportunity with a sober mind.
Today, I have a staffing agency for second chances, which helps felons and people in recovery land background friendly jobs. We interview hundreds of people a month who have a history of addiction and have learned a lot about the work ethic that comes with recovery.
1. We have something to prove.
I can confidently tell you that most of my accomplishments in early recovery came from the will to not only prove others I could do it, but to prove it to myself. Often times, people in recovery feel they've been labeled as the "black sheep" of the family or put in a certain category that they no longer want to be known for. We will strive to work harder than our coworkers because we have it in our minds that we have a lot of loss time to make up for. We have also given up the highs we receive from drug addiction so reaching goals and winning releases the dopamine our brain craves.
2. We like to stay busy.
Giving up an addictive lifestyle means a lot of free time and not knowing what to do with it. It is a full time job being a drug addict. You spend your days looking for drugs, buying drugs, selling drugs and doing drugs. Getting sober can cause an extreme amount of anxiety, depression and loneliness. When I first got sober, I did not know what to do with my free time because I didn't have the friends I had when I was using and I hadn't made new friends yet. I was not ready to be alone with my own thoughts and boredom was a serious threat to my sobriety. I poured into my work and asked my employer to give me extra projects so I could stay busy during the nights and weekends. I literally asked for overtime work without pay, and that's what we witness with our employees in recovery every single day.
3. We are grateful.
The depth of depression is deep with addiction. Everyone's "rock bottom" looks different, but it usually looks a lot like having nothing left, including shelter, transportation, or even freedom. Life will always have it's lemons, but the lemonade is always sweeter living in recovery. People who have overcome drug addiction are usually grateful of all life's experiences, including the bad. We actually don't mind dealing with the tough stuff because we are happy we are alive and able to. For us, no day can be worse than the day we last used.
One thing to remember when practicing second chance hiring is to keep the struggle of recovery in mind. If you have a workplace with a strong drinking or party culture, it's probably not a good fit. While we make great employees, that's only true so long as we are sober. Remember that for us, recovery is a daily battle we fight. One day at a time.
This post is part of a series for Second Chance Month, which highlights the need to improve re-entry for citizens returning to society and reduce recidivism. One of the primary ways to do this is by providing an opportunity for gainful employment. To sign the pledge and access the toolkit with information on how to create second chances at your company, visit GettingTalentBacktoWork.org.