November 18, 2022 – The path to wellness for individuals with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is unique for each person, and Lee Gibson hopes that she can help others discover the best path as they go through their journey.
The Sylva resident is a Certified Peer Support Specialist through the Recover to Career Initiative. The initiative is led under the umbrella of the Southwestern Commission’s Workforce Development Program. Gibson works in Macon, Jackson, and Swain counties.
Created to provide peer support services for those with a history of substance use, the initiative is designed to encourage and assist with going to work. Assistance can be help with finding shoes or uniforms, resume-building, or as an advocate to act as a liaison between the employee and employer.
Employment is reported as a top life priority by people in all stages of their path to wellness, says Gibson, who has been in this position for about three months. “Work is one of the best predictors of positive outcomes for individuals with SUD,” she explains. “Regardless of whether work is paid or on a volunteer basis, individuals who work are more likely to reduce their substance use and be better able to maintain sobriety.” According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, recent research indicates that sustained recovery is significantly tied to meaningful and purposeful work-life balance. Employment is an important element for sustaining recovery and maintaining financial independence.
“We are so thankful to have peer support specialists in our NCWorks Career Centers,” said David Garrett, Southwestern Workforce Development Director. “The peer-to-peer support allows us to expand our service to help those who are overcoming the barrier of addiction and are ready to find gainful employment.”
Gibson says the job is giving her exactly what she seeks – a way to give back. “This helps me maintain a lifestyle of health and wellness, where I’m able to share my lived experiences with those who need to hear them,” she states. “To see the small, sometimes minute, baby steps that people in recovery are taking is so rewarding. They may see them as insignificant, but they are huge, monumental leaps forward.”