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Employment for Recovering Addicts: Tips & Advice

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

June 22, 2023

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One of the many questions people have about sober living and addiction recovery is how to address employment for recovering addicts.

As clients begin the process of recovery, sooner or later their attention will shift to the necessities of daily life. Although learning how to embrace a sober lifestyle and building a new and healthy life that revolves around recovery becomes an addict’s number one goal, establishing one’s independence is critical to long term success. This independence helps build a strong sense of confidence as an addict learns to adapt to the challenges of day-to-day living and is often done in vocational development programs.

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One great way for addicts to gain a sense of confidence and self-esteem in their sobriety is through finding and maintaining employment.

Finding employment does many things besides pumping some much needed cash into one’s wallet. Building self-esteem and establishing independence are important to be sure, but so too is the ability to be able to handle the stresses of employment. No job is without stress and sober living is a great place to start to ease into a routine.

Plus, on the job stresses are more easily handled while an addict has the support of his sober living community.

Finding Employment While In Recovery

Finding employment while in recovery can be intimidating. Many addicts think that employers won’t even have jobs for recovering addicts. Quite the opposite — there are many companies that go out of their way to offer employment for recovering addicts. This is because recovering addicts are often eager to go the extra mile to ensure success in their work.

Still, it’s best to bear in mind that that there are roadblocks that you might encounter during your job search. You may be frustrated by the prospect of having to start over again. You may have to accept a more remedial job that pays less than what you were making before your recovery.

You may also feel some anxiousness while trying   to explain to prospective employers the gaps in your resume. Regardless, patience and honesty not only with your prospective employer, but with yourself will be key.

You have to remember that you’re starting fresh and while that may mean taking a step backwards, know that you’re now better equipped than ever before to catapult your career to new heights.

Where to Begin?

While your first tendency might be to check online resources, it might be a better idea to start first with the resources available to you through your sober living community or rehab facility.

Most treatment centers have existing relationships with local companies, and yours might, too.

In addition, you treatment center can usually provide employment coaching assistance, resume assistance and interview preparation assistance as part of their recovery support.

With the help of a professional, you will learn what resources you can use to find jobs for recovering addicts and you will master the basic skills that will increase your chances of becoming more attractive to prospective employers. These skills can be further refined as you leave formal drug treatment and enroll in some form of aftercare or sober living program.

Employment for Recovering Addicts: The Interview

When looking for employment for recovering addicts, first impressions are everything. Finding that first job in recovery is another important step to long-term sobriety.

Of course the obvious question is whether or not you should mention that you are a recovering addict. This can present unique challenges in the fact that disclosing such information may be highly commendable, but employers may automatically prejudiced against you because of your honesty.

You’ll want to start by understanding the laws of disclosure in your state. Different states are allowed to ask different questions. Obviously, you should never lie about criminal history or to questions that are legal to ask.

No matter what job you are applying for, the job market is tough and highly competitive. The reality is that admitting that you a recovering addict may make the job search more difficult. Of course, if you omit the fact that you are an addict and are offered a job, your employer may hold that information against you if it were to be found out.

Telling prospective employers about your past history with drug use and addiction is a highly personal decision and the choice of disclosure is yours to make.

Whether or not you choose to disclose that information, you need to know that most recovering addicts are protected under federal civil rights laws against any form of discrimination including employment discrimination. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) and the Workforce Investment Act protect the right of individuals with disabilities, which can include those with past substance abuse issues. However, these laws do not protect those who are currently abusing drugs and alcohol.

Best Jobs for Recovering Addicts?

For many people that are newly recovered, finding the “right” job is a difficult process. Given the fact that the current job market is competitive and re-entering your profession before drug treatment may not be an option due to your past addictive behavior, finding a simple and basic job is a great way get back in the workforce. While it may seem demeaning or “beneath you”, finding employment in areas where you wouldn’t have considered is important in the fact that you will learn the important lessons of humility and responsibility while putting into practice the life and coping skills that were learned during drug treatment.

The “ideal” job can be most anything. Whether it is bussing tables at a local restaurant, stocking shelves at Walmart, working in a factory or working in a fast food restaurant, working a job that is simple puts the focus on how you are living your life. Working these types of jobs while in recovery also has the benefit of allowing you the time to clearly think about your next steps until you accumulate more clean time. The main thing to remember is these types of jobs aren’t meant to be permanent careers; they are meant as a form of recovery support for those new to recovery. The goal should be to become financially independent, responsible and to get re-acclimated to a normal daily routine.

Get a Job and Keep It

When you finally land employment, you will live with the keen awareness that keeping your job is only one of your top priorities. The first and most important priority is working on your recovery.

The same rules apply at work as those you practice off the job: avoid people who are still drinking or who are using drugs. Avoid them at all costs.

If you are able to find employment, it is wise to avoid taverns or restaurants that serve alcohol. If possible, you should also avoid looking for employment where it is located near those places that you used to use drugs and alcohol.

In order to keep your new job, following common sense rules is often the best way to stay employed. Good attendance should be the bare minimum. If you can’t show up  as scheduled, you won’t last long. Arrive on time each day or shift. Staying late to make up for absences is not seen as acceptable. If available, you should offer to work overtime so you can show your employer that you are willing to work hard. Additionally, you should show enthusiasm and take pride in your job. These are the minimums you should be doing.

Problems Finding Work?

If you experience difficulties in finding work in recovery, there are national organizations that help find employment for recovering addicts. For example, The U.S. Department of Labor offers a One Stop Career Center where those who are in recovery can contact them for available career centers in their area.

If you can’t find work, you can also look into performing volunteer work in order to gain valuable job experience and skills. You can also sign up for work with a temp agency or possibly work for a company on an internship basis if they allow interns. Additionally, you can receive extra education and job training by enrolling in a local job training program.

As a part of our recovery support, Renaissance Recovery can help find employment for those in recovery. We know recovery can be tough, and we’ll be here every step of the way.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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