During substance abuse recovery, it can be demoralizing to feel like you lack self-sufficiency. So, it’s a common goal to establish financial independence as you re-enter sober living. That’s why one of the first tasks on the list for someone undergoing this transition is to start searching for employment. This is the situation that many recovering from drug or alcohol dependency find themselves in, for a number of reasons. For instance, the individual may have quit their job before enrolling in rehab. Or, alternatively, they may have lost their job prior to entering rehab.
Remember That Your Employment Rights Are Legally Protected
Don’t forget that there are laws in place to protect your employment rights. If potential employers become aware of your history with substance dependency, then they are legally obligated to adhere to certain anti-discrimination laws. For example, there’s the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These acts were put in place to protect the employment rights of individuals with disabilities, whether they’re physical or mental.
These acts establish that someone’s addiction history can’t lead to them being denied employment, for that reason, alone. It is important to note, however, that these acts don’t offer protections to individuals currently dependent upon drugs or alcohol. So long as you remain sober and in recovery, then your employment rights will continue to be protected by United States law.
Employment in Recovery: Common Challenges
Nonetheless, it isn’t at all uncommon for those in recovery to encounter certain challenges when it comes to finding stable employment and returning to self-sufficiency. So, what are some of the most common challenges an individual could face after exiting rehab and embarking on their job search?
Here are just a few examples.
1. A Shortage of Positive References
Of course, it isn’t uncommon for drug or alcohol dependency to take a negative toll on an individual’s employment history. Those in active addiction are far more likely to display workplace behaviors such as absences, frequent tardiness, decreased job performance, or even substance use while on the job. During recovery, this can lead to individuals lacking a sufficient number of credible references who are able to provide them with a positive recommendation. A lack of positive, credible references can certainly impact someone’s likelihood of receiving a job.
2. Stigma Against Those Currently in Recovery
Although your employment rights are protected by law, this doesn’t mean that stigma against those in recovery for substance dependency won’t impact hiring decisions—even if it’s only a subconscious influence on the part of the employer. Much of the time, the social stigma surrounding recovery can discourage employers from giving recovering addicts a fair chance at performing any particular job. Sometimes, individuals in recovery could even be less likely to receive an interview if their potential employer discovers their past substance abuse difficulties.
3. Treating Finances Just as You Did During Substance Dependency
Even as an individual transitions into recovery, it can be easy for their financial outlook to revert to exactly the way it was prior to recovery. What exactly does this entail? Typically, many individuals experiencing a drug or alcohol dependency will begin defining themselves by their material possessions. They could value their own character based simply on the size of their paycheck. Retaining this sort of outlook could have a negative impact on employment, even as the individual enters sober living.
Never forget that a recovery program is an all-around life-changing process. That is to say, in order for financial recovery to be achieved, the individual must first undergo some personal recovery. Think of it this way: personal recovery is someone’s foundational block, necessary to begin rebuilding the rest of their life. So, if the person in recovery experiences financial recovery but then loses their employment, the entire tower could come crumbling to the ground. Never neglect personal recovery, since factors such as skewed employment perspectives can risk destabilizing someone’s entire path to the other side of addiction.
4. Not Prioritizing Personal Recovery
In a similar vein, failing to prioritize personal recovery can have a number of negative impacts on someone’s chances of stable employment. If an individual is currently in a sober living program, there’s a fair chance that they’ve wondered how to address their recovery when communicating with employers. Whether or not you prioritize personal recovery over financial recovery can play a significant role, here.
Much of the time, individuals in recovery for drug or alcohol dependency will attempt to work their recovery program around their job, rather than vice versa. This is a bad idea, as the individual in recovery should consider personal recovery to be their top priority. Whether or not an individual embraces their recovery plan is far more likely to impact their long-term sobriety than whether or not they have a job. It’s always useful to consult with other individuals in recovery in order to learn of their own experiences. This could give you a clearer perspective before acting in a potentially damaging manner.
5. Having Developed a Criminal Record
It’s certainly not uncommon for those in recovery from drug or alcohol dependency to have acquired a criminal record, prior to entering recovery. During the course of an addiction, many individuals face a number of run-ins with law enforcement, for a variety of reasons. In the cases of some of these run-ins with the law, charges may have been dismissed. However, some recovering individuals may have developed a felony record. Having a felony charge on your record can make finding employment significantly more taxing, no matter the nature of that particular charge.
A Guide to Finding Employment While in Recovery
If you’ve faced any of the aforementioned difficulties finding employment, you may start to feel demotivated. This is understandable, but it’s important to know that there are actions you can take in order to succeed at finding employment. If all you’re doing is updating your resume and submitting a few applications, you’re not optimizing your chances of finding a job while in recovery.
So, here are some important tips for making your job search a little bit easier.
1. Begin with the People You Already Know, and Begin Networking
Whenever you’re searching for a job while in addiction recovery, it’s worth remembering the old adage: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Cliché or not, the sentiment is certainly true. When you’re dependent on drugs or alcohol, it’s likely that your substance of choice is going to be your only close relationship. After all, during the throes of addiction, it’s nearly impossible to maintain stable, positive connections, even if those relationships are with your friends or family.
Early on in your recovery, it may be difficult finding reliable individuals to turn to, whenever you need help getting back on your feet. In addition, it’s relatively common for those in recovery to try starting over in a new location, possibly to cut ties with negative relationships. So, without these reliable connections, who’s left to turn to? This situation can feel disheartening to those in the depths of it, but fortunately, there are solutions.
One of the many added benefits of the recovery process is the connections you’re able to build. You’ll be introduced to an entirely new network of sponsors, counselors, and sober friends, all of whom are able to help you find your footing in the sober world. Perhaps you’re spending a portion of your recovery in a recovery house or a sober living arrangement. If that’s the case, then your house manager is available to help get you in touch with job opportunities. Further, certain staff members can be used as credible references, able to verify your trustworthiness and dedication to recovery and sobriety.
Also, it is worth noting that a number of rehab programs choose to partner with local companies dedicated to bettering their communities. These businesses provide stable employment opportunities to individuals currently in recovery for substance dependency.
Try growing your network further, whenever possible. This could mean getting involved in a local civic organization or church, for instance. Through getting involved, you’ll find it easier to meet and form connections with community members — and build valuable relationships, in the process. Maybe even find local volunteer opportunities that will allow you to demonstrate your expertise, work ethic, and passion for a charitable cause.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Utilize Resources and Job-Related Assistance
Branching outside your personal network, it’s also useful to take advantage of the many resources and job-related assistance programs for recovering addicts. Job resources for recovering addicts come in a variety of forms, and are specifically designed to aid those in recovery with the job seeking process. After all, a history of substance dependency or a criminal history shouldn’t make an individual unhirable, especially if they are dedicated to recovery.
Some job-assistance tools or programs exist at the local or state level, although other resources exist nation-wide.
If you’re ever struggling to find a job while in recovery for substance dependency, it could be worth it to look into the following resources:
- The Department of Labor’s One Stop Career Center. This resource has a number of locations across the United States dedicated to helping individuals find work.
- America in Recovery. This organization offers a job board to former addicts and ex-convicts, benefiting employers and employees alike.
- The National HIRE Network. Has your substance abuse resulted in a criminal record? Then this may be the resource for you — this organization can help individuals with a criminal record transition back to life in the workforce. They provide information, resources, and other job-related assistance to those in need.
3. Stay Patient
This can be difficult, no doubt. However, it’s vital to keep in mind that recovery isn’t an easy, linear process, nor is rebuilding a life during recovery. Not only are you searching for employment under difficult circumstances, but you’re also treating whatever physical or psychological problems led to your substance use, to begin with. You’re likely also dealing with additional pressures, such as providing for your own needs, as well as the needs of your family. This is a lot to manage, and it can quickly become overwhelming for many people at this stage of recovery.
Make sure you’re working to minimize stress and frustration, since allowing these feelings to build can lead to a potential relapse. In order to accomplish this, it’s important to be patient with yourself, as well as with the recovery process. Remember that addiction is not cured, only treated and managed. This means there are always going to be ups and downs, times when abstaining from relapse is more difficult than others, but everything does get easier with time.
Continue to prioritize your sobriety, even if this seems to complicate your job search. If the only way for you to attend treatment or meetings is to take a job with part-time or even alternative hours, then this is a sacrifice you should make. If your ultimate goal is to work your way back up to your former position in the workplace, then you’ll have to understand that a lower-paying job may be necessary in the meantime.
Choosing a Rehab Center with Job Placement Services
If you’re in the process of choosing a rehabilitation or recovery center, then it’s worth accounting for the job placement services being offered. Gaps in employment are often difficult to explain to potential employers, and it’s incredibly valuable to have resources to help. Try to find a rehab program that aids you with employment opportunities and skills in order to maximize your time in recovery.
Illuminate Recovery Helps with Job Skill Development and Employment Opportunities
Are you currently searching for a substance abuse rehabilitation program near Scottsdale or the greater Phoenix area? Consider Illuminate Recovery for your treatment, sober living accommodations and supporting services.
At Illuminate, we offer a variety of services to help our clients find employment opportunities and develop relevant, job-specific skills while in treatment with us. We provide assistance with resume writing as well as skill assessments. In addition, we have close relationships with local employers who function as second chance employment opportunities, helping our clients get back on their feet so they can leave treatment with the confidence they need to move forward in “the real world”.
Here at Illuminate Recovery, we have a deep understanding of addiction as a disease. We strive to provide those in substance abuse recovery with a strong support system, as well as education and resources that help enable a healthier lifestyle and a brighter future. We approach addiction treatment from a holistic perspective, meeting the needs of our clients not just physically but also mentally, educationally, and even spiritually.
Call us if we can help you on your recovery journey. We’re here for you 24/7/365.
Having been on both sides of active addition, both the person using, and the person affected by a loved one using drugs and alcohol, Lucas has been involved in recovery since 2009. He has been working in the treatment industry since 2013. Using his personal experience and wealth of knowledge learned from professional development and immersion in the recovery field, he has spoken with thousands of families and helped hundreds of people attain long-term sobriety. In 2020, the opportunity presented to join in and start Illuminate Recovery. Understanding the importance of personalized treatment plans and the complex nature between substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, has helped Illuminate Recovery build a strong curriculum and a phenomenal staff. Illuminate Recovery now has a medical doctor who is board certified in addiction medicine and a psychiatric medical doctor who works side by side with independently licensed therapists to provide compassionate and effective treatment.