Returning to work after rehab is a challenging and essential step in recovery, but it’s a step you can take one day at a time. After completing a drug or alcohol rehab program, you will want to get your life back on track and forge a new path by adopting new social habits to rebuild your life, continuing with your support programs, and returning to work.
You want to live a purposeful life and gain financial independence after rehab. However, circumstances are different for everyone. Finding meaningful employment may be challenging if you were unemployed when you entered treatment. If you are returning to a job, you may be worried about what to expect.
On the other hand, getting a new job can also be an uphill task, mainly because your resume will have a gap. It becomes even more difficult if your potential employer discovers you are a recovering addict. But all is not lost. Rest assured that getting a job after recovering from addiction is possible. Read on to find out how.
Finding Work After Rehab
According to research, getting employed after rehab can help you avoid substance abuse because the job will instill purpose and meaning into your life.
Notwithstanding, Massachusetts General Hospital’s Recovery Research Institute study found that about 9.2% of recovering addicts with substance use disorder (SUD) choose not to look for jobs.
The main reason is that they fear being stigmatized. Nonetheless, it pays off if you overlook the stigma and start rebuilding your life. Here are some tried-and-true strategies for resuming your career after rehab.
Use Your Network
When looking for a job, nothing stops you from talking to friends, relatives, and even former work colleagues. Furthermore, you can also use the network you created while at the rehabilitation center. Just be open and tell everyone that you are job-hunting.
For example, you can talk to your sponsors, doctors, therapists, counselors, and support group members. Just identify individuals who can help shape your future positively. Apart from informing you about job opportunities, these people can also offer references to potential employers. It’s good they’ll already know you’ve recovered from your addiction.
Use Assistance Programs
The best way to restart your career after rehab is to look for local and government agencies that aid recovering addicts in getting jobs. You may receive help with everything from job placement to your job search. Some agencies can even pay for transportation to a job interview and back. Better still, local and government agencies run educational and training programs for people recovering from alcohol and substance abuse.
Good examples are the services and programs the Department of Mental Health and Addiction in Connecticut offers. The department provides soft and employable skills courses and other resources related to employment opportunities for recovering alcohol and drug addicts.
You can check for similar or even better programs in your state. The advantage of such programs is that they are specifically tailored to serve the needs of recovering addicts. Besides, you won’t be alone. So, there’s no need to worry about stigmatization or discrimination.
Put Your Well-Being First
There is a famous quote in Alcoholics Anonymous: “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” Addiction is a chronic brain disease. It can be treated and managed but not cured. In simple terms, recovery is a lifelong process. Therefore, you must keep working on your recovery for the rest of your life by attending counseling sessions, therapy group meetings, and joining support organizations like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Whatever type of job you are looking for, it should not take precedence over activities to maintain your sobriety. Prioritize the activities that contribute to your well-being. At best, you can look for a job that seamlessly fits your recovery program. If anything, there’s no need to look for a job, get it, start working, and then slip back to drug and alcohol use. Your job should also contribute to your recovery by keeping you busy and ensuring your financial freedom.
Knowing Your Legal Rights
As a recovering drug addict, most people may be reluctant to hire you. But according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.), no employer should discriminate against you because you are a recovering addict. Doing so is illegal. Furthermore, no one can discriminate against you simply because you’re enrolled in an addiction recovery program.
The internet has many resources to help you restart your career after rehab. These resources can also help you live a meaningful life. For example, Indeed also has a webpage where you can search for a job after rehab.
The advantage of using job boards for recovering addicts is that potential employers post those knowing fully well that they target people with drug-abuse histories. So, you’ll be the right candidate for the job — no stigmatization or discrimination. Other websites that can get help you include the National H.I.R.E. Network, The Salvation Army, The National Skills Coalition, and The Department of Labor’s One-Stop Career Center.
Choose Flexible Jobs
In early recovery, coping with a full-time job that requires a serious commitment may be tricky. Too many responsibilities can stress you out and lead to a relapse. Remember that too much pressure is a trigger to go back to your drug or alcohol use.
It’s better to start slowly and scale up as you continue with your recovery process. You can look for a job with light duties or a part-time job to allow you time to attend recovery group meetings and get used to working again. You could also work online for the time being to avoid interacting with your old drinking buddies.
Some employers are unwilling to hire people in rehab programs and those in recovery. To get around this, you can offer to volunteer to prove your worth. By volunteering, you’ll find something to occupy your time while, at the same time showing your boss that you can deliver, no matter if you are in the drug recovery process. You never know. When you can convince your boss that you can work, they can decide to absorb you into the company.
Volunteering is also a way of injecting new life into your resume. Most potential employers prefer those who work not for money but for passion. Volunteering will show them you are passionate about what you can do and are not in it for the money.
Additionally, if you are occupying your time doing positive and productive things, you are less likely to slide back into destructive behaviors. You’ll also learn new skills and enjoy many health benefits, such as increased fitness, decreased levels of stress and depression, and improved cognitive capacity.
Don’t Tell a Potential Employer About Your Past
You may be asked questions about your past when you are called for an interview. One mistake to avoid is mentioning your struggle with addiction, how you went to rehab, and how you are now recovered and ready to work. You might think doing this will show your honesty, but it may work against you. Mentioning your struggle with addiction will give the interviewers a negative impression of you.
Note that the law protects your privacy even during a job interview. As a result, even the interviewers should refrain from forcing you to reveal something you do not want to. Specifically, the E.E.O.C. (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) regulates the questions you can be asked in an interview.
Under the E.E.O.C. guidelines, your potential employer can’t ask whether you use legal drugs, like prescription medications or alcohol. They are also not allowed to ask questions that may reveal that you are struggling with SUD.
This doesn’t mean the E.E.O.C. protects people who use illegal drugs; it only means that potential employers should not ask people about their legal drug use. But the E.E.O.C. guidelines allow potential employers to ask whether you’ve used illegal drugs or have any criminal records or convictions.
Do Not Let Setbacks Demoralize You
As you start rebuilding your life after rehab, you’ll encounter many setbacks when looking for a job. Some employers will discriminate against you without your knowledge.
Some of your friends and family members may discourage you from searching for a job by telling you you are unemployable. However, you must keep your eyes on the goal. Don’t waste time or argue with negative people. If you fail an interview, pick yourself up and head for the next one.
Keep focusing on your ability, efforts, and energy. And remember to surround yourself with people who understand and encourage you. If you want to improve your skills, go ahead, and take some short courses to boost your resume.
Can You Get Your Original Job Back After Rehab?
The possibility of getting your job back after completing your rehabilitation program depends on your agreement with your boss before leaving for your treatment, job policies, and the laws protecting employees.
If you go for treatment without informing your employer — maybe if you’ve been taken to the rehab by your family member — then you must have evidence to present to your employer after leaving the rehab. Remember that all addiction treatment plans are evidence-based, long-lasting, comprehensive, and must be documented. So, you’re expected to have something to show your boss when you want to return to work.
Before Leaving for Treatment:
- Explain to your boss that you are going to rehab and how long you will be away.
- Be honest about how severe your condition is.
- Provide your employer with the latest updates on any projects you are working on.
- This will help with assigning someone to take them over temporarily.
- Explain how you intend to compensate for the lost time when you return.
- Ensure your employer knows you intend to return to work after the treatment.
- Once you start the program, update your employer about your progress.
You can use the Employee Assistance Program provided by the company you work for to find out if there are any rehab facilities and counseling services nearby. The company’s human resource manager should determine how the rehab program will affect your work and how to help you recover lost time. If you do everything professionally and with honesty, your employer will likely support your treatment and readily accept you back after rehab.
Tips for Returning to Work After
Treat your rehab program as a life lesson. Work hard on your recovery by involving yourself in productive activities to distract you from drugs and alcohol. Dedicate yourself to work knowing that, although your employer can’t fire you because you are recovering from addiction, they are free to fire you if your performance declines.
When you return to work after rehab:
- Utilize the coping skills you learned in treatment when stressful situations arise.
- When possible, reduce interruptions that may impact your concentration.
- Manage your time effectively with tools like calendars and to-do lists.
- Establish short-term goals and work toward achieving them.
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy and maintain a balanced diet.
- Keep your mind and body healthy by getting enough sleep.
- Avoid places and situations where you know there will be drugs or alcohol.
- Recovery is an ongoing process, so keep working on your program.
Most employers do allow their employees to return after rehab. Some employers sponsor their employees to enroll in rehabilitation programs like Granite Recovery Centers. In most cases, this happens when the employees are extremely good at what they do. Your job security after rehab depends so much on your employer. It would be best to discuss your treatment with your employer before leaving.