Addiction derails your life. There’s no way around it. And we’re not talking about an unexpected flat tire or running out of gas. Addiction is the high speed train heading straight for the exploded tracks that should’ve been bridging a thousand-foot drop-off. You know it well from old cartoons and now it exists in your own with alcohol, opiates, or cocaine as the conductor. All that to say: your responsibilities, relationships, and career take last place to addiction. So, whether you’re finding a job or returning to a previous one, completing an addiction treatment program also means figuring out how to go back to work in recovery.
When it comes to rejoining the workforce after treatment, you’ll most likely fall into one of two categories: returning to a previous job or starting a new job.
Going Back to Work After Treatment
While having the opportunity to return to your previous job after treatment is great, it’s not void of struggles. Recovery is a huge lifestyle change. You’re presented with a new mindset, goals, and priorities. So, when returning to a previous job, you’re essentially a stranger in an environment that was once routine and familiar. This can be incredibly triggering and the only way to face it is to try to be prepared.
I’ll get straight to it: your coworkers are going to ask where you’ve been. Or, if you’ve told your coworkers why you were taking a leave, they’ll likely ask how it went. Almost immediately upon return, you have to face a big decision about whether or not to be honest about your recovery. You might choose to avoid being honest and that’s okay. It’s completely your right to remain anonymous in your recovery. It might help you avoid judgment, stress, and additional awkward questions.
However, being honest and owning your recovery does have its benefits as well. At an umbrella level, owning your recovery makes you better able to keep it. You’re able to be honest about your new way of life, which also means you’re able to celebrate it. It also sets you up to place your recovery as a barrier to other triggers in the future. For example, you won’t have to lie when turning down a drink offer at the company holiday party. In fact, if you’ve been honest about your sobriety, then you might not even be presented with that type of trigger, as your coworkers will likely remember not to offer a drink.
Give Yourself Time
Yes, you’ve done this job before. But recovery will shift your mindset and give you different tools to navigate life without the crutch of a substance. So, while it’s not a new job, you’ll still want to give yourself time to get reacquainted with your job. Remember to be patient if you feel like you aren’t reintegrating as quickly as you expected. Keep track of your daily successes — no matter how small — in a journal so you’re better able to see the progress you’re making.
Finding a Job After Treatment
Many people aren’t able to return to a previous job after treatment. Some people lost jobs in their addiction. Some never entered the workforce before addiction took hold of their goals. And others were homeless, let alone jobless. Whatever the case may be, job searching is a part of rejoining society after addiction treatment.
Tips for Finding a Job:
Be Honest and Realistic
The first step towards finding a job after treatment is to understand what you can offer and where you see yourself. Take time to think about your qualifications, goals, and desires. What skills do you bring to the table? Which qualities do you possess that will benefit you in a given workplace? Where would you like to see yourself in a year, two years, or ten years?
If you don’t take the time to evaluate these things, you’ll find yourself unnecessarily stressed in your job search or even despondent in a job you don’t like and aren’t a good fit for.
Look for Jobs that Will Complement Your Sobriety
A good way to stay strong in early recovery is to immerse yourself in the tools and structure that were set up in treatment. Many recovering addicts find that they do well in jobs that have a set routine rather than those that are chaotic or too fast-paced. You might even consider going to work for a treatment center.
Ask for Help
As cliche as it sounds, it’s okay to ask for help. Many people seek help from outside resources and connections when looking for a job. In recovery, you have an additional set of resources derived from the program that you’re now working. Whether that’s simply the connections you made in residential treatment or it branches out to include a sponsor, speakers, and meeting-goers. Networking is a huge part of finding a job whether you’re in recovery or not, so go ahead and reach out.
Don’t Be Discouraged to Start Small
While it’s great to have big goals and dreams for your career, it’s also perfectly fine to start smaller — most people do. Applying for entry-level jobs or even internships can be a great way start to reintegrate into the working world. It’ll give you a better chance to get your bearings and adopt a new routine with a (hopefully) lower amount of stress. These types of jobs also typically present a lot of room for growth with a clearer reward path for hard work.
New Start Offers Job Placement Assistance
In our residential and outpatient programs, clients don’t simply “complete” treatment and then get pushed out to reintegrate on their own. Our staff will help patients with life skills and career planning (if needed). Coaching includes things like: assistance with job applications, career goals, and job placement.
Your train might have been derailed by addiction, but it doesn’t have to sit at the bottom of that drop-off in a charred pile of irreparable pieces. Resources are out there for cleaning up, finding a job, and getting back on track.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, our addiction specialists are standing by 24/7 to help: 855-737-7363