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Stories > All Unshame CA > Jessica Brings Her Whole Self to Work

Jessica Brings Her Whole Self to Work

Not only is Jessica in recovery, she provides support to people with disabilities (including SUD) to gain employment and she is an advocate for support for people with SUD in the workplace.
Jessica
Jessica

Jessica knows what it takes to build a safe space for our co-workers to talk about their experiences with substance use disorder (SUD). But she also knows there’s a lot of work to do. She remembers her colleague’s story.

“She said, ‘I lost my spouse to overdose, to substance use, opioid use. I don't talk about it because it's okay to say that I'm a widow. It's not okay to say that my spouse died because of an overdose.’ Her fear that the support that she received would change because people would see it as a failing of her, of her spouse, of whatever their life circumstances were, kept her from feeling like she could bring her whole self to work.”

As a person in recovery, Jessica was afraid to share her experience, too—even as she was advocating for others. “I really had to ask myself: ‘Why am I not talking about it?’ And eventually it's kind of like, yeah, not going to be able to help end the stigma until I start to talk about it.”

Now she knows that small actions help make big change. “I can help educate people by just saying: ‘I'm not available during lunch today because I'm going to be going I attend a support group on Thursdays at noon.’ I don't have to pretend that I've got a dentist appointment. I can say, this is how I take care of myself and make sure I'm healthy.”

When people talk about their experience with substance use disorder, it can increase other people’s empathy and understanding, which can help reduce stigma. “To be able to be open, it makes coming to work that much better.”

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