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The Keyword
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Recovery, community and healing on the job at Google

Just shy of a year ago, I can still vividly remember scanning The Keyword and coming across the headline, “How my recovery community helps keep me sober.”

Fresh out of grad school, I had been working at Google for just three months and I had been in recovery for almost three years. It was the first time in my life I wasn’t using drugs and alcohol to cope with the stresses and insecurities of work. Before I found recovery, I thought I owed my academic and professional successes to substance abuse. I drank and used drugs “to relax,” make friends and numb the chronic depression that immobilized me otherwise. Frankly, I didn’t know if I was cut out for Google on my own.

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How my recovery community helps keep me sober

Google software engineer Nick shares his struggles with alcohol and drugs and how his recovery community helps him maintain sobriety.

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Finding hope through community

When I opened that link and read about Google’s Recover Together website — which includes a searchable map to find nearby recovery groups and support resources for people and their families — let alone featuring an actual Googler in recovery, I knew I was in the right place. Addiction is still too often shamed and silenced, so it’s all the more commendable for a company like Google to use its technology, finances and branding capital to bring resources to the millions of people impacted.

The compassion and dignity of that story made me feel hopeful that I could make it at Google clean and sober – but I realized I may not have to do it “on my own.” After some searching, I found that Google's Disability Alliance Employee Resource Group had a dedicated group for those in recovery from any form of addiction. I had already been taking advantage of individual counseling through Google’s Employee Assistance Program, but for me there is nothing like building community to support healing. Over the past year, the recovery group has supported me through onboarding, battling imposter syndrome and other work-related experiences that would have previously sent me searching for solace at the bottom of a bottle.

We do recover – together

It’s difficult to express gratitude for the vulnerability, courage and wisdom the recovery community has brought into my life. Part of that is why I’m so excited to amplify my personal impact and be a part of the group working this year to host a slew of events for National Recovery Month.

On September 7, Google’s internal recovery group hosted an event embodying what recovery awareness and advocacy is all about: showing up, speaking up and standing up over and over and over again. This featured a stop from Mobilize Recovery Across America’s cross country tour and representatives from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Attendees shared personal stories of addiction and recovery, tips to ensure events are inclusive (like providing non-alcoholic options), information of where to dispose of prescription drugs properly, and tangible resources of how to help someone find recovery treatment or access immediate assistance (like the 988 crisis lifeline). To conclude the evening, the Google campus was lit up purple, the official color for Recovery Month.

Mobilize Recovery bus parked next to Google campus, lit purple in celebration of recovery month

Hilary Swift for Mobilize Recovery

This month, Google added new personal recovery stories, including mine, to its Recover Together site to inspire hope and combat stigma. U.S. trends and data tell us this is needed more now than ever. Comparing January-September of 2021 to the same date range in 2022, Google’s U.S. based searches for "AA meeting locator" and “addiction treatment near me” increased by 350% and 85% respectively. Further, a national study by the Pew Research Center reports that nearly half of Americans have a family member or friend impacted by addiction, with a fairly even distribution by political party, gender and other markers of identity. My hope is that videos and stories like mine will help others feel less alone. I hope it helps people find a way to join me and the other 25 million Americans thriving in long-term recovery.

Whether you’re just beginning your journey, or well along the path, know that recovery is possible. We do not have to self-medicate in the shadows. My experience has taught me that the more we open up and reach out, the easier it all becomes.

Visit g.co/recovertogether to find recovery support groups in your area, and check out mobilizerecovery.org/ for more information.

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