sober lifestyle


Yeah, so, basically, I wrote a blog post to get into graduate school. Sat down one day, poured my whole heart and spilled a few guts into a Google Doc, then hit “download” and shipped off my application without even showing it to anyone first.

This has been my M.O., in relating to others, for most of my life: Overshare now, ask questions later. Tell ’em how you really feel, and let the chips fall where they may! If they don’t appreciate your authenticity, it wasn’t meant to be/you don’t want to associate with them, anyway! So there!

What really sucks is being like that but also needing a job and realizing, the hard way, that intense passion and professionalism sometimes don’t mix. Sometimes (*grits teeth*), you have to stop being so stubbornly set in your ways and consider what’s “socially acceptable.” You have to compromise for the sake of a paycheck.

Less than a month from my 44th birthday, the conflict between being fully genuine and pleasing to employers is, again, top of mind. I’m embarking on my second career transition in four years (journalism —> marketing —> counseling), this one even more major than the last. I’m right now, at this moment, planning to send out the initial wave of inquiries for my first counseling internship! 😳

I’m reminded of the “Personal Statement” shown above, because looking at it now, it seems too personal. The Career Development counselor who just reviewed my cover letter for these internship applications basically told me to play down my own recovery journey — I was all out there with my sobriety date in the second paragraph! — and while I think her edits rendered my draft a bit dull, I understood her point.

Of course, DelVal didn’t mind my unabashed honesty, because they let me in, warts and all. I accurately “read the room” in that case, taking a gamble that a university psych department would be more amenable to me outing myself as a recovering alcoholic than would, say, a corporate HR person or marketing chief.

Gods be good, my days of worrying what marketing types want to see/not see on a resume are numbered. Still, as I apply for internships at addiction treatment centers with zero experience in the behavioral health field, I find myself simultaneously wanting to emphasize my lived experience as an addict while fearing the impact of stigma and bias on my professional prospects.

I also fear ageism, having already experienced it both on the job and in the job hunt.

Truth be told, my professional self-esteem is pretty low after everything I’ve been through, and having to confront yet another employment search just months after getting laid off for the first time in my life…

I’m feeling a little triggered. I’m reliving past traumas. I’m, shall we say, “unpacking” some heavy baggage.

Years back, I remember getting salty when someone told me I should change my LinkedIn profile because I was wearing a baseball cap in the picture. I laughed and brushed it off, saying I never even used LinkedIn and didn’t intend to! This was when I was entrenched in a sports journalism job that I stupidly, complacently, assumed would be there as long as I wanted it, and I had no clue what kind of employment quagmire awaited me just a few miles down the road.

Up until that point, I’d been offered nearly every job I’d ever applied for, never having consulted a resume coach or consciously reined in my cover letters. I’d also never had to worry about online algorithms or keyword-crawling software, and I could leverage the quality of my newspaper clips and press awards to get my foot in the door.

Oh, the ignorance and arrogance of youth! I was woefully unprepared, mentally and practically, for the Wild West shitshow I encountered when I took a buyout and left Gatehouse Media back in 2018. Doing what I’d always done in my 20s to find work at 40, in the business world…well, after a four-month chorus of crickets, it landed me an entry level position in a content sweatshop with a toxic, fear-based culture and a boss who I still can’t recall without a full-body cringe — at a $12,000 pay cut, to boot.

Money certainly isn’t on my mind at the moment — these counseling internship programs are unpaid — but I can feel that same old, anxious desperation coursing through my veins. I want someone to want me. I don’t want to be rejected. Whatever it takes, in terms of playing down my personal story and dialing down my thousand-watt intensity toward working in the recovery space, I’m all in! ..I mean, yes. Very good then; that’ll do fine. 🧐

Still, I’ve never been one to fake it, and there’s only so much sugarcoating I can do before I start to feel like an empty shell. So I left my bachelors degree details, including my graduation year, in the education portion of my resume. I added a “Recovery Experience” section with info. about my blog and 12-step service work.

If someone cares enough to come here but doesn’t like what they see, what else is there to say except to repeat the old cliche: It wasn’t meant to be; they weren’t meant for me! I have to believe that after all the change and transition and hard work of the past three professional years — and 32 sober months — that the universe didn’t lead me to this point, with so much solid ground underneath my feet, only to rip out the rug.

The path stretched before me in 2022 is still as foggy and scary as it was in 2020. But once again, it’s time to take a deep breath, take these (very formal, buttoned-up) documents and outreach emails I’ve drafted, hit SEND, and have faith. 📧🙏🏻

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