Category Archives: Role Exit


We live in a fast-paced world that only seems to be moving faster on a daily basis, and this phenomenon can be attributed primarily to the constant improvements in our technology. Only 40 years ago, things like personal computers and cellular telephones were just ideas floating around in the heads of scientists, inventors and engineers, only waiting to be realized. But now here we are in 2013, where it seems nearly everybody is using one of those items on a daily basis. Advances in technology have propelled the United States out of the industrial form of society to a post-industrial society. In other words, where as in the past our economic system was dependent on the use of machinery to generate goods and services, we now rely on technology and information to provide our outputs for income and progress. When examining the economic benefits that have come from our use of technology, the examples can be seemingly endless. Through computer systems we can manage practically every aspect of our society. Areas such as medicine, farming, manufacturing, education and travel have all benefitted tenfold from advances in technology to increase our productivity and efficiency. As extraordinary as all of these technological advances are, it is important to look at some of the diverse effects post-industrialization can have on society.

With the improvement of technology, the laborer or minimally qualified worker can become less and less relevant. In a best case scenario this can lead to a positive form of role exit, where the individual separates from their current position in society in the hopes of creating a new identity for themselves. An example of this would be an auto factory worker being offered a lump sum of money from the company to quit their position, and in turn taking the capital and enrolling in college or some form of higher education. In his 13th year as an assembly line worker for Cadillac Motors, my cousin Andrew was offered close to 2 years of salary to leave his position and he accepted. With the money he received, Andrew was able to go to college and get his nursing degree, which was a dramatic change from life on the assembly line. He enjoys his new career and embraces his new identity within the community. And while this is not typical, it does show how technological advancements can constructively affect workers with a limited skill set.

On the other hand, as employers seek out more qualified workers to hold positions of higher responsibility and choose to either outsource or limit the amount of entry level workers they employ, those who would have typically been able to gain employment are unable to. In this case they can be alienated due to the inability to meet certain expectations. This alienation can come from peers, employers, or even society as a whole. To combat estrangement, the under qualified may resort to resources less than desirable to make ends meet. Fortunately there are social programs to help those in need of developing the skills needed to “make it” in our society, but it is up to the individual to seek out and utilize those programs.

One interesting theory in regard to explaining post-industrialization, while not having appeared in this period, comes from sociologist Emile Durkheim. During the transition from agrarian to industrial society, Durkheim observed what he felt was a consequence of the specialization of labor, comparing through what he called mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. The idea behind mechanical solidarity is that throughout the pre-industrial era, people generally followed a path in life that was most always pre-determined for them due to economic constraints. Occupations such as farming, carpentry and hunting were passed down from generation to generation, and within these families and communities they shared values, experiences and  lifestyles. But later, when industry and specialized labor were introduced, Durkheim hypothesized that the unity of communities would be split apart due to the interdependence on one another based on distribution of labor; he called this organic solidarity. Even in today’s advanced society, his theory is still relevant. Take for instance, restaurants. Having been a chef and general manager for the past 15 years, I have been able to witness firsthand the transition from mechanical to organic solidarity in this sense. When ordering products for the kitchens, a purveyor would come by the restaurant several times a week and we would sit down to discuss what was selling and what wasn’t and how I could benefit from what they had to offer; over time we would build a relationship based on a mutual understanding of each other’s commerce. We shared in each others’ knowledge and experience, both benefiting from our relationship. But once technology made competition so cut-throat, the personal relationships began to slip by the wayside and personal connections gave way to profit. Long-gone were the visits from representatives and online and phone orders became standard. The severe distribution of labor made it all but impossible to have a dedicated representative come out to an individual location, get to know the business they were selling to, and help them make the best decisions based on their knowledge and skill level. Technology has taken the inter-personal out of inter-personal relations due to efficiency and profitability.

With the forward progress in technology comes many shifts throughout society. Whether positive, negative or somewhere in between, they no doubt affect us all. As we move ahead from one era to the next it is vital to identify what happens when we as a working species change our means of production, so we can hopefully prevent advancements in efficiency and output from diminishing the best parts of human nature, as well hurting the less fortunate.



I always had to have a substance for getting high or drunk. This led me to selling drugs. I started to become unreliable and untrustworthy to everyone in my life. Not knowing or caring what abusing drugs and alcohol truly does to the lives around me, my life became a loss of hope, total despair, a hatred of self, always looking toward the next feeling of bliss, the ability to become completely numb. The thought came to me quite often that I needed to change. Who really likes change? Change tends to be uncomfortable. When people in my life started to become worried and employers were concerned, I realized that my life was unmanageable.  The change is not easy however; the outcome is well worth the ups and downs from my unfamiliar feelings. Learning how to handle life on life’s terms is a life-long process.


Role exit became familiar to my life in many ways; it is the process of disengagement from a role, for instance, a role that is central to one’s self identity in order to establish a new role and identity. There are four stages to the role exiting process (Ebaugh, 1988). The experience of role exit in my life is a reminder of what my life was like, what happened, and what it is like today.


The first stage of “Role Exit” is experiencing a feeling of doubt, unhappiness, and loss of hope. I rearranged my priorities; I stopped attending college, got into trouble with jobs and was not faithful in relationships. The next stage of role exit is searching for alternatives to get out of the feeling of unhappiness. I moved to different cities, attended three different high schools; my mom sent me to rehab in the tenth grade, and six years later I finally stopped digging. I needed help. The next part of the process the action stage: making a plan to start packing for a rehabilitation center.  When I arrived at the facility, I experienced hope that I had not felt in years. The fourth stage of role exit is creation, or the creation of a new identity. I moved to a new city, left behind material and non-material possessions, and lived in a sober living facility for fourteen months. I continue to learn about who I am sober, one day at a time.


 I firmly believe that we are who we choose to hang out with. When I went to high school, I was involved with many different athletic teams. I never thought I socially fit in with the jock group. But we did all have one thing in common – being a part of the sports team.  Then, outside of the sports I felt socially lost. My status in high school was a jock that hung out with the druggies. I enjoyed taking risks and having a fun time, so I chose to find people that took risks and were rebels. I stopped finding time to hang out with the jocks. My social interaction began to consist of skipping school and getting “messed up.” In the end, the group members all went their separate ways; some went to jail, others dropped out of high school, and we all mainly just lost touch. Our primary group had a common norm it consisted of getting high or drunk.


One problem that is involved with of role exiting is when a person gets involved with old behaviors, and in my experience, turns to drugs and alcohol for a “quick fix”. I have not seen or talked to the old group I belonged to since I left for the rehabilitation facility. If I were to get together with that group now, they might think I am still in that crazy role I used to be in. I could easily fall back into that role because I knew it so well. I have changed today because I am involved with a different group, but I always will remember.  I feel that as long I remember who I was like, God willing, it will help me to not fall back into that old way of living.



Recovery found me when I needed it the most. The active social interaction of the recovery fellowship helps me to know that I am not alone and it is helpful to share experience with others who have the same theme in common.  We can relate to one another. Finding a group to share similar values, beliefs, and norms to belong to on a regular basis, for me, is the recovery community.  I need to keep establishing a fellowship. Getting together face to face with a smaller group of people has given me an opportunity to make true friends. This primary group has helped me stay on the right path with sharing their experience, strength, and hope. I believed for a long time that people with more sobriety time should have more knowledge about staying sober and living happy. The expectations I had based on a given social status occupied by people had not been accurate.  I have realized that it is not the length of time one is sober that matters; what matters is the quality of the time sober.


Today I am willing to take suggestions. I have learned how honesty has helped save my life and those around me by seeing the amazing changes in their lives. I am open to continue learning new and healthy ways of living with the group I have been a part of on a daily basis. Asking for help and admitting when I am wrong is a struggle at times, but life is a learning process. When I think I have learned all life has to offer me, it might be time for me to find a new project to enlighten my mind. I am sure I will experience many different role exits throughout my life. What role exits have you experienced in your life thus far?


Work Cited

“Getting Clean and Sober.” Getting Clean and Sober. CumberlandMountain Community Service Board, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

“Google.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.

Merlo-Booth, Lisa. “Law of Attraction: You Are Who You Hang Out.” SonsiLiving. Sonsi, Inc., 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. (We are who we hang out with)  (Move a muscle, change a thought)