Getting Back to Work After Treatment

Substance abuse can be destructive in all aspects of life. We commonly see those painful outcomes through health complications, estranged family members, broken marriages/relationships, and financial distress. While each of those situations is unraveling, addicts often experience instability in their jobs. As someone starts their recovery journey and begins setting goals, finding employment may be the natural next step in getting back on their feet.

How did addiction impact your previous job? Will you take a different approach to your career after going through treatment? Here are some tips on rejoining the workforce after addiction treatment.

Reflecting on Past Employment

Think through your previous work experience. How did those jobs fit into your substance abuse? Perhaps you were surrounded by people who also drank heavily or used drugs, encouraging you to slip deeper into those habits. Maybe you lost a job because of substance abuse problems—like showing up to work intoxicated or missing work for substance-related reasons.

Whatever has happened in your past, take the time to reflect on what was good and bad about those jobs. Use that perspective to help you refocus what you need in a job and what kind of environment best suits your new, sober lifestyle. This season of life may be a great opportunity to pursue additional skills, education, or job training to meet evolving industry demands.

Finding Healthy Roles

For anyone in addiction recovery, finding a job in a healthy environment is critical to staying sober—which requires filtering your job search accordingly. For example, if you used to work somewhere that required you to sell or serve alcohol, going back to that environment means walking into a high-risk situation where you will likely be tempted to relapse. If your previous roles put you in compromising settings, it isn’t wise to step back into those situations and test your will.

As you research new opportunities, take the time to update your resume. If you don’t already have a profile, consider creating a LinkedIn profile to share education, work experience, and volunteer history. Check out this resource for tips on preparing resumes, cover letters, and references.

Applications and Interviews

As you go through the job application process, you might be faced with tough questions from employers. Are there gaps in your employment history? Perhaps your resume shows months or years at a time when you were out of work, related or unrelated to your addiction. Were you previously terminated from a job? Will any events show up on a criminal background check?

When going through interviews, the most important thing is to be honest. While you do not need to necessarily volunteer information if you aren’t asked, you will only create more problems downstream if you are caught lying about previous behavior or actions. However, knowing your rights can help you approach those conversations with more insight. An employer is not allowed to ask if you have ever been addicted to drugs or alcohol or if you have ever been through addiction treatment.

Consider using this type of language to answer to concerns about your background or employment history:

  • I acknowledge I’ve made mistakes in past jobs, but I am committed to getting a fresh start.
  • I’ve been going through a process of recognizing past mistakes, and now I’m in a much better place with more focus.
  • I have learned important lessons since my last job, and now I have high hopes for the future.
  • My past mistakes won’t prevent me from doing a great job.

Getting Additional Help

Numerous resources are available to help you find employment. Take advantage of advice from career counseling services. Making use of resume reviews and mock interviews can help you gather great feedback and experience to make you a better job candidate.

What goals are you setting for recovery? Here are our tips on setting goals that are both challenging and realistic.