guilt and shame over academic and career background

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Coffee4Me
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 7
   Posted 9/15/2009 4:47 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi All,

I know this forum is for everyone to share so I apologize for the long post, but I would appreciate some advice or feedback.

I am a recovering alcholic (3 months sobriety) and an ACOA (both parents were alcoholics). I have been fired from several jobs over my 25+ years in the workforce, have changed jobs and careers more times than I would like to admit, and during my 20's, I moved from apartment to apartment, city to city never putting down any real roots. I did finally manage to finish an undergrad degree and later in my late 30's a graduate degree. My convolued resume has caused justified concern with potential employers during job interviews. I would like to know if anyone else out there has been as confused and erratic as I have been in choosing and staying in one major in one univeristy, and choosing a career path and sticking with it, and living in one place for a reasonable amount of time before moving somewhere else. If so, do you attribute this crazy behavior to being an ACOA or an alcoholic?

In addition to my crazy employment history, I have just as sordid academic background, which causes me to continue to feel terrible and experience painful emotions of the past, which still resonate with me. Why now? Well I have spent the past 3-4 weeks really devoting myself entirely to Journaling my past successes, failures, good memories and bad, not holding back anything. It has been painful to say the least. I do agree with the comments you all made; thanks. In addition to the issue of musical careers and inconsistent work history is my pathetic education background.

To sum it all up, I did finish an undergraduate degree at a Canadian university, but it took me 9 years to do so. I attended 4 different universities, and changed programs, if I recall correctly, twice. I dropped out of the university I finally got my business degree from 3 times. I did not get any support from my parents. Actually they made it even more difficult me to get student loans since they were going through a divorce, and my father was reluctant to sign the financial details of the guardian section on the loan application for fear of my mother's lawyer getting a hold of it and sucking more $ out of him.

I attended another university for an academic year. I worked in the graduate student pub and enjoyed the year, but passed only 2 classes out of the five I enrolled in September. I then moved to Toronto and signed up for classes for the sole purpose to get student loans to live off of. I know this was terribly irresponsible and I paid dearly for this lack of good judgement years later with so many incomplete/failures on my academic transcripts.

In the last year of high school my parents split and my life became a mess. I ended up having to redo some courses the next year. I went away to a university and was the first person in my family to do so; my two older brother lived at home while attending the local universities. I did ok academically that first year and with a few guy on the same floor in the residence I stayed in, we agreed to share a house come next academic year. That was 1982, and that summer there was a bad recession in Ontario. I bounced around hitching car rides from town to town looking for work, and to get away from the crazy mother I was staying with for the summer. I ended up working about 3-4 weeks and had saved little money. A week before I was to move down to the town where school was I called one of the guys I was to live with. He asked me if I had actually made any money that summer and I said not a lot, but I would be eligible for student loans and bursaries. He basically said that he and the other guys did not want to be responsible for paying for my food, rent, clothing, and so I was no longer part of the living arrangement. I was devastated and had no idea what to do. A friend heard about some other guys who were looking for a roommate, and just a few days before classes were to commence went down to live with these guys I had never met before. They turned out to be great guys, but I never was able to pick myself up, brush myself off and move on. Just 8 weeks alter I dropped out. The feelings of confusion and going it on your own reminded me of the last year of high school when my parents split up, and they decided in their infinite dysfunctional wisdom that out of the 5 kids I should go live with my grandmother to "relive the stress at home." I never did actually go to live with her. In the car on the way to her house I wrestled the steering wheel away from my dad, pulled the car over, got out and ran away to a friend's family's house where I stayed for 2 weeks. My parents later decided for me to go live with my mom when she moved out, and I moved into her apartment on a memorable night-Christmas Eve!

That last year of high school, Grade 13 I was so confused, had no one to talk to in order to try and deal with the ****. What bothered me most was my mother and father never had the guts to sit down in a family meeting and tell everyone about what they were planning.

I was also so embarrassed when I would run into former classmates who looked at me as a total loser; they were moving on in their academic endeavors, graduating, and I was spinning my wheels...Many would make insensitive and cutting putdowns like "are you trying to attend every university in Ontario or something?" Years later when I finally did get my business degree in 1990 ( I began university in the fall of 1981), and graduate school in 1998, I would have my academic transcripts looked over my employers in job interviews who could not fathom what I was doing all those nomadic, directionless years of post-secondary life. Many potential employers in job interviews would comment how this inconsistent, disjointed work and academic history that was presented to them on paper indicated someone who is not loyal, who is unstable, and therefore not suitable for employment at their school-I'm a teacher.

Many supportive friends remind me that I did, although it took so long, finish my degree, and I paid my own way (which is only partially true since I relied so heavily on student loans and incurred a huge debt after graduating). However, some of the most humiliating job interviews were when I tried to point this achievement out to the interviewer, who did not consider it an achievement (i.e. four universities over the course of nine years to obtain a four year Honors Bachelor of Business Administration).

I still am haunted by the chaos and turbulence of my twenties. I don't think either of my alcoholic parents were even cognizant of my academic plight.

Like my bouncing around from job to job and place of residence and city to city, the academic part of my past is very emotionally charged and I feel bad about it. Any input or advice or perspective about how to move on would be appreciated.





Coffee4Me

THE HAPPY TURTLE
Elite Member


Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 18742
   Posted 9/15/2009 7:14 AM (GMT -7)   
coffee. you alike me have been around. i have unfinished academic persuits myself, and am currently studying myself. my work/academic life was just as choatic, i had more moves of residence than one could fathom. i am 37, now lived in the same abode nearly 8 years. you to will settle. hey, focus on the acumen you have and the diversity of understanding to highlight to employers. a wealth of experience in different academic environments should be conveyed by you in a confident manner via intrepretation; regardless of how long it takes to finish!! furthermore it should be a conducive factor to present yourself this way, otherwise you will forever be known by employers as a professional student. ps. good to acknowledge your past, good to let the bad go too. thank you for posting your situation, i wish you well and well done on your academic acheivements.
 
jamie
 
mdd, severe borderline personality disorder.

Lynnwood
Forum Moderator


Date Joined May 2005
Total Posts : 7018
   Posted 9/15/2009 7:28 AM (GMT -7)   
Generally speaking, it is common to only put on a resume what is pertinent for the position being interviewed for. If I'd wandered for several years, then got a degree - then I'd only put the degree and things associated with it on my resume.

Another thought - you said you are a recovering alcoholic of 3 months. Use the tools of the AA program - talk to your sponsor and friends with long-term sobriety. Many times these are the folks who've been where you're at and can give you the tools to work thru your feelings, also they are often the employers who can give you a place to work that helps stabilize your work history.
Lynnwood, Lupus & Sjogren's Moderator
Life is far too important to be taken seriously. - Oscar Wilde, 1882


THE HAPPY TURTLE
Elite Member


Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 18742
   Posted 9/15/2009 7:56 AM (GMT -7)   
dear lynnwood, was thinking along the same lines, excellent points also. coffee as your c.v is mostly the first thing of you seen, it therefore needs to the device we call cut through. basically condensing, but highlighting in a manner that is direct and complimentary to yourself and effecient to grab the attention of those perusing your c.v. yes i mentored and lived as a volunteer youth worker and taught the above.......mentored actually.
 
sorry, you probably have a great c.v., just a topic i enjoy helping people with. jamie. advise if i can be of help. :-)

stkitt
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 9/15/2009 8:20 AM (GMT -7)   

Good Morning Coffee4Me

First of all congratulations on your sobriety.  That is such a great achievement for you.  Give yourself lots of credit for taking care of yourself.

Lynnwood gave you sound advice re your resume'  :-)

I see a lot of old baggage in your post as you are trying to figure out all the things that happened in your past.

I am going to try to keep it simple here for you as this is what helped me and I carried alot of baggage for 30 years>

I am a great believer in staying in the moment which I learned in therapy. Making ourself miserable is how we tend to spend a lot of time in the past or the future. We spend much time thinking about what was and what could have been. And we spend much time projecting into the future and wondering about what may happen.

This way of thinking is indeed a great way to make much of your life a lot more miserable and limited than necessary. The key to solving this problem is of course to live as much as you can in the only moment that you ever really live in and control. This moment right now. The moment that is all there ever was and - probably - will be.

Don't seek the future;
The past is gone,
The future hasn't come.
But see clearly on the spot
The object which is now,
While finding and living in
 A still, unmoving state of mind.


 

Kitt,
Moderator: Osteoarthritis, GERD/Heartburn
Anxiety/Panic, & Depression
*~*
http://www.healingwell.com/donate *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
DX: Anxiety, Depression, Osteoarthritis, GERD, Raynaud's syndrome, Skin Cancer and  IBS

Not a mental health professional of any kind

Post Edited (stkitt) : 9/15/2009 9:24:10 AM (GMT-6)


debaser
Veteran Member


Date Joined Nov 2006
Total Posts : 1745
   Posted 9/17/2009 1:49 PM (GMT -7)   
Definitely, congrats on being sober.

Like you, I don't have a great academic history. Yours is better than mine, though...it's better to have a post graduate degree than not, no matter how long it took you to get it. That's a credential not many people have at all and you should be proud to have it. Anyway I sort of did the same thing. Several cities, several schools, many years. Lots of student loan debt. I'm 33 now and I don't look back on all of that in a negative way, however, and I wonder why you're putting yourself through this pain?

My work history wouldn't be a good one for trying to get a job at a corporation or even in the public sector, though I have had some luck with that from time to time. Maybe it's different in Canada but here it doesn't seem that the degrees matter as much, depending on the field you work in of course. The main thing you have to have is good communication skills, a strong work ethic, the ability to write well (I guess this is a communication skill), and perseverance. I've gotten jobs I wasn't "qualified" for on paper but went onto excel at them.

Anyway, on resumes people are expected to fudge a little. This is normal. Avoid outright lies, obviously, but if you were interested in music say that you were pursuing a music career. And highlight your strengths like crazy. Omit weaknesses if possible. And to me it sounds like you need to re-evaluate what your strengths and weaknesses are. If I were hiring, the perseverance you showed in getting your education would be extremely impressive to me. Extremely impressive. Most people give up by then. It wouldn't bother me if you were unable to settle on a major fifteen years ago or whatever. Who cares about that? Long time ago. What would concern me is what I perceive to be low self confidence. I think you have good reason to be confident -- you have overcome so much -- and you need to work on that.

The way the economy is right now and the layoffs in the public and private sectors I wouldn't beat yourself up over not being able to find a job right now. It's hard for everyone. My business is struggling to survive and there are probably a hundred thousand small businesses all over North America in the same position. Municipalities, States, School Districts...all under heavy budget pressure right now because of lost tax revenue. But it will get better. In the meantime it's hard for a lot of people but you know the saying "this, too, shall pass".

Kitt's advice to live in the present is very good. Use this time -- this moment -- to realize that not everyone takes the same path through life. You and your experiences are valuable for sure. Of all the faults I have, one thing I'm proud of myself for is that I don't dwell on the past nearly as much as I used to. It's crippling and frankly a very hard habit to break but you can do it. You should have seen me a few years ago. Kitt knows. I was paralyzed by fear and sadness beyond my comprehension but if I beat it, so can you.

Best Wishes.
www.613photo.com/


hep93
Elite Member


Date Joined Jul 2005
Total Posts : 12014
   Posted 9/17/2009 3:53 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi, Coffee!  I really like all the responses you've received and agree with so much of what has been said.  You are newly sober.  Congratulations!  I have been sober for 23 yrs., one day at a time.  My background was much like yours--unstable.  However, once I committed to sobriety, got a sponsor, worked the steps, and started to feel better about myself...things started to improve.  I actually built a new past, one day at a time.  The first year of sobriety, I had moved to a new city and decided to just work as a temp.  I was actually kept pretty busy with this...making enough money to rent a room and get by.  I was able to turn down jobs on days when I was on the sobriety roller coaster.  I wanted to build a good foundation in AA and I went to meetings daily.  After a year, I was fortunate to be hired for on-the-job training.  I worked at this non-profit for 8 yrs., finding my niche.  I left only because of health problems which made it impossible for me to work full time. 
 
Get a sponsor, if you haven't already, and discuss your concerns with her.  You will find that there is a step or a slogan for almost every worry.  "Do the next right thing."  "First things first."  "One day at a time."  In time, the anguish of the past will barely be a memory.  You will have new memories, new accomplishments, a new life and a new you.  Meanwhile, as others have suggested, be concise (best to highlight the positive, edit a lot, turn your perceived negatives into positives.)  You have shown determination and tenacity, and now a willingness to change.  You are on your way!
 
As an aside to your query about the wandering, etc.:  Fear of commitment to a job or person or place seems to be quite common in both alcoholics and adult children of alcoholics.  I assure you that this will change the longer you are sober.  I recently moved to a more desirable area (same city) after 10+ years in the same place.  That was a record for me! 
 
Note my signature.  :-)
 
Wishing you continued success.
 
Hugs,
Connie
hep93
Forum moderator - Hepatitis
 
"But that was yesterday, and I was a different person then."
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


stkitt
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 9/17/2009 4:07 PM (GMT -7)   

debaser is being upfront with you on this one as he was in a pretty bad place a few years back and yet he pulled from strength deep within making a wonderful recovery.

So one step in front of the other and you will make it through this tough time if you believe.

Take care,

Kitt


 

Kitt,
Moderator: Osteoarthritis, GERD/Heartburn
Anxiety/Panic, & Depression
*~*
http://www.healingwell.com/donate *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
DX: Anxiety, Depression, Osteoarthritis, GERD, Raynaud's syndrome, Skin Cancer and  IBS

Not a mental health professional of any kind


THE HAPPY TURTLE
Elite Member


Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 18742
   Posted 9/17/2009 9:07 PM (GMT -7)   
yes debaser, keep beleiving, kitt is right, one foot in front of the other!! stay positive and good luck. jamie.
 
ps the sun always shines...... smilewinkgrin

Daisysmom
Regular Member


Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 168
   Posted 9/17/2009 11:42 PM (GMT -7)   
just wondering...

over the past few years, I have filled out a few job applications online. No such thing anymore as using snail-mail to send in a printed resume... some sort of software either kicks you to a real person or not once you fill out these very lengthy apps online...

i would think if you can make it through the impersonal software part, you are doing well.

i have never heard that there is a time limit or whatever for getting a graduate degree.

good luck,

-- daisy's mom

THE HAPPY TURTLE
Elite Member


Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 18742
   Posted 9/18/2009 4:40 AM (GMT -7)   
only in terms of funding/grants and or bersaries/scholarships. cheers. jamie. also dependant on the institution/ some criteras are very strict. also dependant on the state and country you are in. some better than others. more emphasis is on full fee paying students-at least here in australia.

Mazfire
Veteran Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 1683
   Posted 9/18/2009 9:25 PM (GMT -7)   

Congrats on your sobriety and congrats on getting your degree. So it took awhile- you still did it! I was 15yrs old when a pyschiatrist told me I would

  1. never be a functioning member of society
  2. that i would be housebound due to irrational fear
  3. that i would be an emotional cripple
  4. that i would never achieve anything worthwhile.

My point is that I went on to university and got myself 2 degrees. It took me longer than most as well as i had to defer several times for surgery and medical problems, but you know what, i did it- and so did you!

Sadly we define our personal happiness on what society expects from us- you dont have to have a tertiary education to be a wonderful, successful, well rounded person. You were up against alot of external factors, so dont be too hard on yourself and seriously, take pride in what you have achieved as opposed to  feeling shame in what you have not achieved. I believe success is defined by the obstacles you overcame to achieve your goals. There is no time limit on this.

All the best,

Maz XX



 Co-Moderator Anxiety & Panic- Depression
 
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Post Edited (Mazfire) : 9/18/2009 10:28:02 PM (GMT-6)


getting by
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Sep 2007
Total Posts : 40565
   Posted 9/19/2009 10:55 AM (GMT -7)   
That was so well put Maz and so true. We have to look at our achievements no matter how big or small and focus on what we have accomplished. Even just trying is a huge thing, no matter the outcome.

I don't think we ever really do fail, because there is always more to come in life.

Best wishes for a wonderful day.

Hugs, Karen
  Moderator-Depression and fibromyalgia
 
fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue, depression,allergies


Precious Gem
Veteran Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 1139
   Posted 9/19/2009 11:37 AM (GMT -7)   
Coffee - good for you on staying sober.  I am most happy with myself when I resist an urge and the next morning I wake up feeling good, not hung over. 
 
A few months ago I decided to confront, air out, everything negative that ever happened to me.  I took each situation thought it through, tried to find some good in it and vowed to never think of it again to the point it interfered with my life.  I was hard and painful, I cried, I did not sleep but at the end of this exercise I felt free.
 
You did finish school, no one can take that away from you.  Personally, having no more parental support than you had, I think you did a great job.  You finished when alot of people would have given up.
 
I am not saying to lie on your resumes or at interviews, but sometimes somethings just need to be omitted.  How long it took you to finish school seems irrelavant.  I hope that you soon get an interview with someone open minded and smart enough to look past these things and see where you are now, right this moment.
 
Best of luck to you.
Gem

stkitt
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 9/19/2009 1:34 PM (GMT -7)   

Dear Coffee4Me

You have received great response to your thread and I see you have been reading.............hope that what you have read here has helped you.  :-)

Take care and I wish you  good luck and peace,

Kitt


 

Kitt,
Moderator: Osteoarthritis, GERD/Heartburn
Anxiety/Panic, & Depression
*~*
http://www.healingwell.com/donate *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
DX: Anxiety, Depression, Osteoarthritis, GERD, Raynaud's syndrome, Skin Cancer and  IBS

Not a mental health professional of any kind

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