Going to Work During & After Addiction Treatment

There are so many factors involved in going to work during or after addiction recovery treatment. What do you tell coworkers? What do they know about your addiction? What will they say if they find out? How do you explain any absences from the workday? Those are often the primary concerns, followed by questions such as can you really do this? How can you maintain your recovery and deal with the stressors of work? Or, if you no longer have a job, how can you find a new job? How do you explain the time between your last job and now? These and many other concerns are important to address when going back to work during and after addiction treatment.

Facing Discrimination and Stigma

The stigma surrounding addiction is real. Historically, people did not understand what addiction was actually like. Harmful words have been used to describe those who have lived with substance abuse, and ignorant stereotypes have been pervasive within many cultures. That said, you may be surprised at how many people have increased awareness surrounding addiction. Even more surprising may be how many of your coworkers are in recovery themselves. 

There are laws in place that help protect your job as long as you are in recovery. Additionally, it is not necessary to disclose your treatment to everyone. Depending on your employer and workplace, only human resources and perhaps your supervisor should have that information. Planning ahead as to what you will say will help prepare you for conversations in the workplace. Confidentiality in the workplace is important. While it can be very difficult to go back to work if you had to take time off, or have suddenly needed to leave earlier than usual, it may also surprise you how professionally your workplace can manage your personal information. Addiction is a medical condition and falls under privacy laws.

Finding a New Job

If your job was terminated before entering treatment, there is the additional task of finding a new one. Some treatment centers may offer not only help in how to beat addiction, but also information about education or training for new jobs. Those centers that are involved within the community may be also able to access leads for jobs. Some have workforce programs that offer to help you find a new job. 

While the necessity of finding a job can feel very overwhelming, it can also be a positive opportunity. For example, you may decide that you want to work in a different area entirely. Many people who are in recovery choose to help others learn how to beat addictions like they have. This may be the perfect opportunity to learn new skills, finish that education or try a new type of work altogether. With a new outlook while in recovery, you likely will have more confidence to find a job your truly enjoy.

Dealing with Stress

Recovery is difficult enough, but challenges in the workplace can intensify stress levels significantly. If you used to cope with stress by drinking or using drugs, you now must learn how to deal with these stressors while staying sober. The following are some ideas for coping with stress at work while in recovery:

  • Make a plan on how to manage your stress.
  • Use your tools from treatment such as mindfulness, meditation and others.
  • Communicate with your supervisor if something is overwhelming.
  • Remember to exercise and implement self-care daily.

By using your new skills and tools from treatment, you can manage the stress of the workplace while still maintaining your recovery. Be gentle with yourself as you stretch and try new things. Your treatment skills and ongoing support system can help you manage the stress of the workplace.

Asking for Support from Others

Asking for help can be difficult, but recovery necessitates reaching out for support from others. Build and maintain your personal support network of friends, family, clinicians, neighbors and, yes, even coworkers. When there is stress at work, reach out for advice, support and compassion from those around you.

Maximizing Resources

Take full advantage of the resources available to you. Job training, work experience, connections to the community and possible leads for jobs may be found within your addiction recovery center. Network within your support system to find potential employers. By taking advantage of the resources available to you, going back to work after overcoming addiction can be less stressful.

Going back to work during and after treatment for addiction is full of challenges. Whether you are worried about stigma and discrimination or dealing with the stressors of the workplace, your tools from treatment can help you. Even when it comes to finding a new job, maximizing your resources and asking for support can help make this difficult time a little easier. At DiscoveryMD, we offer support for those who are looking to return to work. Our outpatient treatment program is active within our community and we can provide leads, information, and opportunities for job training as well as possible job leads. We also encourage participation in our county workforce program to gain valuable work experience while in treatment. Our goal is to support your recovery, and part of your alcohol or drug recovery is to be productive. If you need help, contact us today.

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