How to Get a Job After Addiction Recovery: 6 Tips to Help You Succeed
A major part of addiction recovery is achieving stability, independence, and a sense of self-sufficiency. These things are usually much easier to achieve with a decent job and a steady income, neither of which tends to come easily to recovering addicts.
The costs of substance abuse and addiction are far-reaching and profound, impacting a recovering addict’s life long after they’ve given up drugs and alcohol. You may have lost your job during your active addiction and were unable to get hired at a new job, or you may have been unmotivated to even search for openings and apply. Now, after treatment, even if you are much more motivated to return to work, you could still face difficulties when it comes to finding employment.
This article will address the connections between drug use and unemployment, then offer advice on how recovering addicts can increase their chances of both getting hired and successfully hanging onto their new job.
Addiction and Unemployment in the U.S.
The sad truth is that addiction makes you less likely to be employed, and more likely to face difficulty when it comes to finding and keeping a job. Excessive drinking is more common among the unemployed, as is illicit and prescription drug abuse, either of which can result in a less than stellar job history. Alcohol is the most common addiction in the United States, primarily because it is legal and because many people see drinking as a minor vice, like fried foods or binge watching. This widespread acceptance leads to widespread use; 18% of respondents to the anonymous U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Survey on Drug Use and Health stated that they drank alcohol over 100 times in the past 12 months. Alcohol use disorder causes 500 million lost work days each year, and approximately 88,000 Americans lose their lives to alcohol-related causes every year.
Because it is very important for a recovering addict to establish independence, stability, and financial security in addiction recovery, anyone wanting to maintain their sobriety needs to carefully address any issues they may have related to employment. Not only does being unemployed make you more vulnerable to relapse, being employed may make you more likely to stay sober. Studies have shown that rates of drug use often decrease as levels of employment increase. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 18% of illicit drug users are unemployed, 10% work part-time, and 8% work full time.
At the same time, it’s important not to take on more than you can handle in addiction recovery. Here are six tips on work and addiction recovery that will help you learn how to get a job, and achieve a healthy work-life that complements your recovery efforts.
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6 Tips to Help You Land a Job After Addiction Recovery
1. If your treatment center offers job skills training—take it.
Many addiction treatment centers offer vocational training or classes/educational sessions on job skills such as resume writing and interviewing. Take full advantage of these kinds of opportunities if they come up. There are a number of fairly simple, small changes you can make to your usual style of job searching that can have a huge impact on your success, such as making sure to show up five to ten minutes early for an interview or practicing your answers to common interview questions at home in advance.
2. Try part-time work first to see how it goes.
Taking on too much too soon is a common cause of relapse in addiction recovery. So, while it is crucial for recovering addicts to seek financial and professional stability, it is also crucial that they not sacrifice their mental health or sobriety in the name of professional success. If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re ready to handle the stressors that come with a full-time job, try working part-time at first. Not only is it a safe way to test how you’ll react to being back at work, it will allow you to slowly adjust to working without becoming overwhelmed. It will also give you income and a more structured schedule, which can be beneficial to addiction recovery.
3. Don’t apply for a high-stress job that increases your chance of resuming your substance abuse.
Choose wisely when it comes to the kinds of jobs you apply for. High-stress jobs that bring chaos and tension into your life will put undue pressure on your addiction recovery and make you vulnerable to relapse. You also want to avoid any job that puts you directly in the path of drugs or alcohol. A recovering addict should not work in a bar or casino, for example, or in a workplace where drugs are available and/or drug use is prevalent. If your coworkers have a casual attitude about substance use, it may not only trigger your urge to use, it will be far too easy for you to give into that urge when it hits.
4. Consider what you really want to do for a living.
Addiction recovery isn’t just about not drinking or not doing drugs, it is also about creating a new life for yourself that makes you less likely to want to turn to drugs or alcohol for entertainment or as a coping mechanism. A fulfilling job goes a long way towards establishing that kind of life for yourself. Think about the kind of work that you would find satisfying and enjoyable, and make a plan to go for it. Sometimes this means going after a big dream you never pursued or even acknowledged during your active addiction, but sometimes it means admitting to yourself that what you truly want to do may not match up to what your family or society thinks you should do. Maybe you used to work in finance because it impressed your family and friends, and because you thought it was the kind of job you were supposed to want, while deep down you’ve always hated it. Getting a less “impressive” but more emotionally rewarding job may be exactly what you need to be happy.
5. Ask for help while you transition back into work life.
When you’re ready to get back into working full-time, make sure you don’t overburden yourself with so much to do that you get worn down and stressed out. You need to continue to make time to care for your physical and mental health, and to maintain social connections. While you are adjusting to your new work life, ask for extra help around the house, or with errands or childcare. Eventually, you may be able to keep more balls in the air at once, but keep the juggling to a minimum at first. Maybe you have a friend who can come over and help you cook a couple of times a week, or a family member who can take your car to get serviced while you’re working. You don’t have to do every single thing yourself, and you may be surprised at how many people are glad to offer help when asked.
6. Don’t forget the importance of aftercare.
Aftercare is an essential part of anyone’s addiction recovery. Recovery isn’t over when you’re discharged from addiction treatment. You still need to look after your mental health, remind yourself of the lessons you learned in treatment, and learn new lessons as your life evolves and changes. Your rehab facility should help you construct an aftercare plan, and/or connect you to support groups and other community resources that can keep you on track through the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Are You Ready to Work Again?
If you have just barely gotten sober, you may not be ready to work again. For example, it’s usually a bad idea to jump right back into full-time work after detox. You need intensive counseling and behavioral therapy to help you discover and work through mental and emotional issues, to learn new ways of thinking about substance use, and to develop new habits and responses to trigger situations. Even after completing a comprehensive inpatient program, you may not be ready to get back to work immediately after being discharged. It can be disorienting to return to ordinary life after being immersed in a treatment environment, and you need time to adjust to the “real world” before taking on new professional challenges.
Sober living facilities can be a very useful way to transition from the treatment environment to independent living. These facilities provide safe, stable, low-cost housing where you’ll be living with other people who are committed to their recovery. You may participate in group therapy or attend 12-step meetings together. Many sober living facilities require that you be in school or working after a certain period of time, such as 30 days, but they also often offer job search and job placement assistance, or employment/vocational counseling to help you achieve this.
Setting goals is very important for a recovering addict transitioning back into everyday life. You can set big, long-term goals, such as going back to school or getting into a job training program, but you can also set smaller, short-term goals, like setting aside Saturday mornings for cleaning your apartment, or making sure that you get eight hours of sleep every night. As you plan for, then meet these small goals, you will increase your confidence and prepare yourself to take on bigger challenges and additional responsibility.
How to Return to Work and Avoid Relapse
Environment has an enormous impact on addiction recovery, and can make the difference between continued sobriety and relapse. Make sure that you have a safe, supportive home environment in place before you return to full-time work. This can be challenging if you are also facing money problems, which is another reason sober living facilities are a great option after addiction treatment. Temporarily living with a friend or family member can be a big help (just make sure that they are supportive of your recovery, and are willing to keep their home substance-free). You can also incorporate these living arrangements into your goal setting process by deciding how long you expect to stay and then creating a timeline of steps you need to take to build towards getting a place of your own.
No matter how busy your life and work keep you, continue to pay close attention to how you are feeling, keeping your eyes open for any signs of impending relapse, such as:
- feeling negative or hopeless
- feeling exhausted
- losing interest in activities or socializing
- skipping counseling sessions or support group meetings
- becoming easily irritated or irrationally angry
- reminiscing at length about past drug or alcohol use
If you notice any of these signs, call a counselor, your sponsor, or a trusted friend and family member who you feel comfortable talking to. Sometimes just admitting out loud that you are tempted can be enough to allow a craving to pass; if it isn’t enough, talking things through can help you identify what’s happening in your life to impede your progress. Honestly analyze what’s going on with you to discover what the problem is and what you can do to fix it.
But don’t wait until signs of relapse appear before taking action. Safeguard your sobriety from the start by taking preventative measures. Don’t let work responsibilities get in the way of good self-care, and protect yourself against common addiction triggers by remembering the AA acronym HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. Recovering addicts are always more vulnerable to relapse when they are in any of these states of being, and taking steps to make sure you don’t stay in these states for long will go a long way towards keeping you on track with your recovery goals.