6 Steps to Returning to Your Career After Recovery

6 Steps to Returning to Your Career After Recovery

The biggest challenge involved in going back to your career is the stress you will experience

Going back to work is an intimidating step in the addiction recovery process, but breaking it all down into separate, smaller tasks or considerations may make it easier for you to stay on track in your new life without drugs. Resuming a career can be scary – regardless of whether you are looking for a new job or returning to an old position. No matter what your situation, you can successfully move forward and chase those dreams you once thought were lost…if you have the right mindset and a solid support system.

  1. Consider a Fresh Start at a New Workplace

While it may be uncomfortable at first, a new workplace with new people gives you the chance to reset your life, focus on new duties, and make new friends. Getting back to a routine of hard work gives you something to stay busy with and be passionate about – a welcome new focus apart from substances.

Refreshing or strengthening your skill set builds self-esteem and confidence, which helps to support all areas of your life. Befriending new coworkers will help you in building a positive social network – that is, if those individuals are supportive and live a drug-free lifestyle themselves.

If you are set on going back to where you worked prior to rehab, just be aware that this likely translates to additional stress. In this situation, you must decide if you should tell your coworkers about going through addiction treatment. Chances are, they already have a hunch that something strange has been going on with you, so it’s up to you how truthful or detailed you want to be about what’s been happening in your life since you left.

Avoiding the truth can make relationships awkward, but telling the truth can cause others to judge you – perhaps even discriminate against you for your past choices and behavior. Decide what to do based on your particular office environment. If it is going to be obvious anyway, then it’s probably best just to lay it all out there and state your dedication to starting life anew. Being straight forward about where you are at can indicate that you are holding yourself accountable; this may also give you an opportunity to apologize for how you may have offended coworkers pre-treatment while in addiction’s firm grip.1

  1. Work at a Place that Aligns with Your Recovery Goals

Getting back to work after going through addiction treatment is not about getting a job as much as it isabout getting the right job. For instance, you should avoid jobs that would put you in direct contact with alcohol or other drugs since that could tempt you to relapse back into use.

For instance, if you are at risk for abusing alcohol, then you should avoid work situations such as bartending, working as a waitress where alcohol is served, or working in a liquor store. In other words, find a job that fits your recovery goals so that it supports your recovery rather than interfering with it.2

  1. Evaluate How Much to Share with a Prospective Employer

One of the first questions many people face after going through rehab concerns what they have been doing with their time most recently. While you are allowed to take medical leave without giving specific details due to the Family and Medical Leave Act, there is no such legal protection during a job interview.

Being honest about your addiction in an interview may affect your chances of getting a job, but lying and backtracking can be damaging as well. Disclosure of going through detox and rehab is a personal choice and may affect your relationships; 12-Step programs and other approaches advocate being honest about your experience. Consider the pros and cons of each side – weighing the temperament of the employer – and then decide what you think is best to share and how to share it.1

  1. Limit the Amount ofJob Pressure You Put on Yourself

Perhaps the biggest challenge involved in going back to work is the stress it adds to your life – much of it likely placed upon yourself. Many recovering addicts who return to the workplace overcompensate for past mistakes and missed opportunities by working extra-long hours and taking on more responsibilities as they attempt to “catch up”for lost time in building their career.

If you don’t find a way to cope with the stress of returning to work, then it will be harder not to revert to old, unhealthy coping mechanisms, like abusing drugs again. Learning to cope with stress will make your recovery easier and make you feel better about life overall. There are many ways to deal with stress other than turning to drugs, so do some exploring and find one that works well for you. A few possibilities include regularly getting involved in a sport, stretching or breathing exercises, expressivewriting, creative art, or playing a musical instrument.2

  1. Beware the Snares that Await You at Social Events

Just because you are sober does not mean everyone at your work is, and social gatherings will still be a part of your work life. This is when some people are most vulnerable to relapse, so you must be extra cautious at business events. Business trips, in particular, can be easy opportunities for relapse because recovering addicts are far from home.

Don’t let relapses detour you from moving forward on the road to recovery. Be aware. Be vigilant. Avoid temptation traps. Find ways to avoid temptation either by changing venue, avoiding alcohol or politely declining. It may get easier to attend some functions later, but you should be extra careful early on in your recovery.2

  1. Stay Involved with Drug Addiction Aftercare Services

Continuing participation in a 12-Step fellowship or similar program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, is an excellent way to help you stay strong during the recovery process – building on what you learned and practiced during your formal drug rehab.

According to Barry R. McCaffrey, Director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the President, since drug users often face many related issues in life – like a high-risk home environment, unemployment, lack of education, and physical and sexual abuse – effective overall treatment often works best when several key elements are included during and after drug rehab, including: a continuum of treatment interventions; case management and monitoring to engage clients in an appropriate intensity of services; and provision and integration of continuing social supports.3

Aftercare Support Will Help as You Build a New Life for Yourself

Okay, you made it through detox and rehab. Now comes the challenge of returning to the “real world” – not just work/career duties, but also family responsibilities and a myriad of other stressful demands. We can help you as you work, step by step, to establish your new lifestyle – one that doesn’t need alcohol or other drugs. There are numerous ways to cope with the pressures of life and strengthen your resolve to stay clean. We would love to share various options and opportunities that are available to you right now.

When you call our 24/7 toll-free line, one of our team members will attentively listen to your concerns, address your questions, and share with you how we can help you handle all of those challenges you face. We can even help you determine how much your health insurance will cover the cost of your needed services. We are here for you because we care…one person at a time.


1“Returning to Work after Addiction Treatment”, World of Psychology, PsychCentral, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/07/08/returning-to-work-after-addiction-treatment/ , (July 8, 2014).

2 “Relapse Prevention for Addictive Behaviors”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3163190/ , (July 19, 2011).

3 McCaffrey, Barry R., Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, “Treatment Protocol Effectiveness Study”, Publications, Executive Office of the President, https://www.ncjrs.gov/ondcppubs/publications/treat/trmtprot.html .