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Preparing for Your First Job in Recovery

How can you know when you're ready to go back to work?

Knowing when to get your first job in recovery can be a difficult decision:

  • On the positive side, getting a job will keep you busy and therefore keep your mind off alcohol or drugs.
  • However, the first 3 to 6 months of recovery is a stressful time for a recovering person. The stress of balancing a job with recovery meetings, cravings, the demands of family, etc. can be too much for someone struggling every day to not use a substance.

For some addicts and alcoholics, there is no choice. Financial problems caused by the addiction may require some people in recovery to have a job. Others may not have lost their job during their addiction so they may have to return to work as soon as possible in order to keep their job.

Keeping this all in mind, it’s clear that the answer of when to go to work will be different for every recovering person.

If You Can, Take Your Time

Should you have the opportunity to live in a halfway house for a period of 3 to 6 months without working and concentrate on your recovery, you may want to take advantage of this. However, don’t think of this time as free time. Think of it as an opportunity to work on yourself. Prepare yourself for the demands of returning to the working world by developing as many coping skills as you can. Explore your psychological health through counseling so that when you do return to work, you will be prepared.

Make a Plan for Success

Before returning to work, consider having a relapse prevention plan and/or a recovery plan which includes the following:

  • A list of triggers
  • A list of coping skill
  • A gratitude list
  • A daily inventory plan
  • A list of consequences
  • A support group of at least 5 people
  • Someone to be accountable to
  • A plan for healthy eating
  • Maintaining healthy sleeping patterns
  • A plan for managing stress
  • A plan for managing emotions

Use Your Support System

For those who don’t have a choice, it is essential that you have a lot of support to help you through the stressful times:

  1. Make it clear to family, friends and your recovery support group that you will need them whenever you feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of your job.
  2. Be willing to talk about your problems as they arise instead of holding them in and hoping they will go away on their own. If you have a difficult situation arise at work, ask people how they think you should handle it. If your boss or co-workers understand your situation, lean on them for support when problems come up at work.

The most important thing to remember is to be prepared each day to meet the challenges of having a job. Draw on your strengths and seek the support of those who care about you.

MSED, NCC, LPC
I am a recovering addict and a Licensed Professional Counselor. I have over 7 years clean from all substances and more than 10 years from illicit drugs. I work as an addiction counselor and have more than 5 years experience counseling addicts.

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