There are many challenges facing addicts in recovery. From admitting the problem to pursuing treatment to mending relationships, each stage of addiction recovery and rehabilitation comes with its own set of hurdles to overcome. It takes a strong desire to get clean and stay clean in order to achieve sobriety while handling the variety of other issues that come along with the decision to live a life free of drugs and alcohol.
In addition to the more obvious challenges facing a former addict in the recovery process, you must also continue to fulfill obligations in your daily life. The least of these is securing gainful employment that pays the bills, puts food on the table, and provides purpose, allowing you to move ahead in sobriety as a contributing member of society.
Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as updating a resume and putting in an application or two. Those who have struggled with substance abuse or addiction face barriers to employment that extend beyond the state of the job market, which level of education they’ve achieved, or how qualified they are relative to the rest of the applicants.
Struggles with substance abuse are rarely confined to one’s personal life, for example. Oftentimes, the trials of addiction carry over into an addict’s professional life as well, which leaves former users with spotty work histories and a lack of credible, positive references.
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Furthermore, there is a stigma associated with a history of substance abuse, especially in the event there are accompanying criminal charges. Applicants with a history of drug-related offenses are less likely to be offered interviews and, as a result, less likely to be hired. Especially in small towns or rural areas where everyone knows each other, this stigma can be a big hindrance to gaining employment altogether. Even when this is not the case, those in addiction recovery are often only considered for jobs where background checks are not standard practice, many of which happen to be in environments that are less than ideal for maintaining their sobriety.
In other words, the task of finding a job during recovery can be a daunting one. Luckily, there are several tips and tools available to help addicts in recovery find not just any job, but the right one.
Start With Who You Know And Start Networking
You may have heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In the case of finding a job while in addiction recovery, this cliché is definitely true. While in the throes of addiction, many addicts’ sole relationship is with their drug of choice. In those times, it is undeniably difficult to maintain positive connections, even with family members and close friends.
For this reason, many recovering addicts initially find themselves with few people to turn to for help to get back on their feet. Furthermore, many former addicts are starting over in an entirely new location in an attempt to cut ties with bad connections. This can be disheartening, but there is good news.
For most, the addiction recovery process puts them in touch with a new network of counselors, sponsors, and sober friends willing and able to help them get back on their feet. If you are living in a recovery house, your house manager can not only connect you with job opportunities, but he or she may also serve as a credible reference, verifying your trustworthiness and commitment to sobriety.
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If you are participating in a support group or 12-step program, your sponsor and/or fellow program participants can often do the same. Additionally, many rehab programs have partnered with local companies committed to bettering their communities by providing employment opportunities specifically to those in rehabilitation.
It’s also always a good idea to grow your network. Getting involved in a local church or civic organization can help you meet well-connected community members and build valuable relationships. If there is an opportunity, showcase your work ethic and expertise by volunteering your professional services. From manual labor to personnel management, community organizations are always in need of assistance.
Resources And Job-Related Assistance
You don’t have to rely solely on your own network, though. There are also a variety of programs designed specifically to help job seekers with histories of substance abuse and criminal activity, starting with those offered by state and local governments. In many cases, potential employees can receive guidance, education, and even placement services from the Department of Labor or Social Services directly, with no appointment necessary.
In addition to these local resources, there are myriads of online tools dedicated to helping people in recovery who are looking for work. America in Recovery, for example, maintains a free job board for former addicts, ex-convicts, and at-risk youth looking for employment. The National HIRE Network, on the other hand, provides potential employees with resources, information, and job-related assistance based on their location. And the best part is it doesn’t matter whether you reside in a small town or a booming metropolis. As long as you can access the internet from your home, cell phone, or local library, you have access to these tools.
Rebuilding a life after addiction isn’t easy. Addressing the physical and psychological issues that caused your substance abuse in the first place is an around-the-clock battle in many cases. Combined with the pressure of providing for your needs and those of your family, it can feel like too much to bear. To minimize stress and frustration that could threaten your sobriety, you must be patient, both with the process and with yourself.
Finding a job post-rehab or during recovery may also mean making some sacrifices. In order to prioritize your sobriety, you may be required to take a job that offers part-time or alternative hours in order to continue with treatment and meetings. Or, depending on how big of an impact your addiction had on your professional life, you may need to work your way back up to your previous level of expertise. This may mean taking a lower-paying job in the interim. If your work in any way contributed to your addiction, you may need to learn a new skill or find a new industry altogether.
Continue On The Recovery Path
Above all, it is imperative you stick to your treatment plan during your search for employment. The continuation of both behavioral therapy, in the form of counseling or meetings, and treatment medications will help reduce your chances of relapse. During the time you are unemployed, don’t hesitate to take advantage of assistance programs available to help ease the burden of providing food, healthcare, and other basic needs for yourself and your family.
Lastly, remember you are not alone on your journey to a productive, fulfilled life of sobriety and all the benefits that go with it. Millions of Americans embark on that same path each and every year, and many are successful. In addition to being necessary for survival, gainful employment is an important tenet of addiction recovery. It provides a sense of purpose, meaning, and accomplishment.
For that reason, you’ll find that all the resume writing, networking, online searching, interviewing, and positive thinking will be well worth it when you land your first job, your next job and, ultimately, your dream job.
- Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration — Recovery and Recovery Support
- The New York Times — Mixing Drinks With Work and Staying Sober, Too
- The Baltimore Sun — Recovery houses offer path to a new life; if you can find a bed