For most people, having a rewarding job that pays a livable wage is actually a critical part of recovery. Going to work each day keeps boredom at bay. It provides a sense of accomplishment and personal fulfillment. Gainful employment gives people something positive to focus on and creates opportunities for meaningful socialization.
More importantly, it pays the bills. With things like homelessness, general financial stress, and joblessness serving as the top barriers to long-term addiction recovery, it’s important to know how to find and work a job without placing your recovery at risk. Whether you’re just starting your journey or have been in recovery for some time, there are several important things to know about working and staying sober.
To start, both drug and alcohol addiction are recognized as chronic mental health issues. Also known as substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder, these are both protected conditions under the United States Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. As such, if you ever need to take time away from your job to receive inpatient addiction treatment or intensive outpatient addiction treatment, your employer cannot legally penalize you for doing so. You simply need to pursue approved time away from your duties by using the proper channels.
Speaking with your employer’s human resources team is likely the best place to begin. It’s also important to note that most businesses are entirely supportive of their employees’ efforts to get well. Some employers may even be willing to cover some or all of the necessary addiction treatment costs.
Limiting the Risk of Relapse When Returning to Work After Treatment
After receiving addiction treatment, returning to the workforce is guaranteed to expose you to triggers like stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Choosing the right workplace is one of the most important things to do when recovery is your top priority. Eliminating certain options in employment is easy. For instance, if you just finished treatment for alcohol use disorder, you certainly don’t want to return to your job as a bartender, nightclub manager, or waitstaff in any establishment where alcohol is served.
Working at a marijuana dispensary or becoming a pharmacy technician are also employment choices that will put you at unnecessary risk of relapse. Even if these were the very jobs that you held before, you have to find other ways to leverage your skills and prior training to support yourself. Rehab counselors, case managers, and other support persons can help. It’s also important to avoid high-stress, high-stakes jobs that are known to cause extreme anxiety. Working commission-only jobs won’t provide the emotional or financial stability you need for avoiding relapse. The best workplaces for recovering addicts offer stable, consistent environments, reasonable pay, and reasonable expectations. You should even look for employers for whom stress management and good health are priorities.
Maintaining Good Work-Life Balance
Recovery always has to be your top priority. To maintain it as such, you have to have ample time to:
- Get sufficient sleep
- Maintain a balanced and healthy social life
- Eat well
- Practice proactive stress management
Even when you’re giving your job all that is expected of you, you must have enough time to practice good general self-care. If your job and its demands force important relapse prevention strategies like meditation, jogging, sober meeting attendance, or personal relationships to the side, you should consider limiting your hours, changing positions, or looking for another place to work.
Establishing a Long-Term Support Plan
A good job and strong self-resolve are hardly all that you’ll need to maintain your sobriety over the long term. It is also important to have a strong, stable support team and plenty of ways to actively work on your recovery post-treatment. You can build your long-term relapse prevention plan with support services like:
- Sober meetings
- Support groups
- Individual counseling
- Family counseling
- Ongoing outpatient treatment
- Sober living
If you’re currently working a job that’s making it hard to stay in recovery, seek help right away. You can join a relapse prevention program or find career-building resources in your area. When you want help keeping your recovery on track, we’re here to provide it. You can call us at 614-705-0611 anytime to speak with one of our counselors.