On our first day working as Vinfen’s new Directors of Recovery Services, Jodi Johnson and I found ourselves sitting quietly through a meeting with other members of the leadership team, trying to soak up as much information as we could about the extensive plans for the upcoming roll-out of the new ACCS service model. The date was June 4th, 2018, and we very quickly learned both just how much work had gone into preparing for that July 1st start date, as well as how much more needed to be done in that short amount of time. We walked out of that meeting and back to our temporary office space. We sat down, silent for several moments, before simultaneously bursting out into fits of laughter. Not casual chuckles, but the kind of full–on belly laughing that makes your stomach hurt. It was the only reaction that felt appropriate for a moment in which we both felt so profoundly overwhelmed that we had no idea of where to even begin. Jodi repeated an old joke I had heard her reference in the past: “I left a perfectly good job for this!”
Right then in that moment of feeling so small, so unprepared, wide-eyed and terrified of what we had signed up for, the spontaneous fit of laughter seemed to put things in perspective. That was the first of what would prove to be many times that the challenges of taking on new, unfamiliar projects, sitting with deep uncertainty, overwhelming stress, and feeling so far from being up to the task at hand, would strike at one or both of us. Looking back over one year later it is so clear to me that we were only able to overcome that wildly unfamiliar territory because we were able to rely on each other every single step of the way. That kind of mutual support in stressful work is essential – our commitment to being that support for one another is invaluable.
Having a colleague to hold space for us during challenging times and being able to then turn around and hold that space for others is a vital part of what makes our work here at Vinfen possible. It is something that enabled my success in previous job roles, including my time working in our residential programs, as well as the years I spent being a part of an outreach team. The work that we do is as challenging as it is rewarding, and avoiding burnout is a constant struggle. In this field we talk a lot about the importance of self-care, but all too often we fail to practice what we preach. In the end, if we do not pause to take care of ourselves, we cannot expect to be able to provide care to others. Take the time to take space, support your colleagues, take a break, ask for help, or share a good belly laugh. Do whatever it is you need to do to keep doing this work well and enjoying what you do. It is the only way we can continue to provide the best services possible.
So please, care for yourself and support each other.
Because we’re all in this together.