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Finding a Job While in Recovery

Being in recovery is a process. It’s not just about overcoming addiction—it’s about learning how to live in a new way, often with support from programs and changes to daily habits.

While finding a job may not be the primary focus of your recovery journey, it can be an essential part of rebuilding your life and establishing a sense of purpose and structure.

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How to Find Employment During Recovery

Individuals in recovery may struggle to find a job after being out of the workforce for a while. Prior substance abuse may also have negatively impacted your work performance.

The good news is there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting hired—even during early recovery.

By approaching your job search with a positive attitude, strong work ethic, and a willingness to be honest about your recovery, you can find a fulfilling job that helps you maintain your recovery.

Here are some steps to help you find employment opportunities during recovery:

Step 1: Be Mentally Prepared

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a job hunt, but take your time with things. If you’re still in recovery, make sure you’re emotionally ready to deal with the pressures of a job and workplace.

You may have to work with a therapist or other mental health professional to address any lingering issues or challenges that could impact your ability to succeed in your career.

Step 2: Update Your Resume and Cover Letter

Updating your resume allows you to highlight your strengths and skills and show potential employers why you are a good fit for the job.

Include any relevant education, work experience, or training—and focus on the positive aspects of your work history.

It’s also important to be honest about any gaps in employment that occurred due to your recovery. It can be a way to start a conversation with your potential employers about your recovery and how it has affected your career.

Step 3: Network with Others in Recovery

Networking with others in recovery can be invaluable as you search for employment. These connections can provide job leads, referrals, and support as you navigate the job search process.

It’s also helpful to have a network of people who understand the challenges and triumphs of recovery and can provide encouragement and support along the way.

Check Resources at Your Recovery Center

Some addiction treatment and recovery programs offer additional support to people who complete their program and want to find a new job after rehab.

Many facilities can connect you to job opportunities with businesses that want to work with recovering addicts. Additionally, some can help with resume writing, filling out job applications, or practicing interviews.

Seek Out Job Training or Education Programs

Enrolling in job training or education programs can be a helpful way to build new skills and increase your employability. These programs can provide valuable support and structure during your recovery and help you develop a sense of purpose and direction.

Look for programs that align with your interests and career goals—and consider asking your therapist or recovery support network for recommendations.

Consider Using a Temp Agency or Job Placement Service

Temp agencies and job placement services can be helpful resources for finding employment during recovery. These companies work with various employers to fill temporary or permanent job openings, and they can often match you with positions that fit your skillset and work experience.

They also provide an opportunity to gain experience and build your resume, which can be beneficial as you search for longer-term employment.

Look for Employers that Support Employee Wellness and Recovery

Consider applying for job openings at companies with a reputation for supporting employee wellness and recovery.

It can help you feel more comfortable as you navigate the challenges of recovery and help you find a company culture that aligns with your values and goals.

Consider Part-Time or Flexible Work

Working part-time or in a flexible position can be a helpful way to balance your recovery with your career. It can allow you to prioritize your recovery and attend meetings or therapy sessions as needed while still earning an income.

Part-time or flexible work is also a good option if you are looking to ease back into the workforce after some time in recovery.

Be Open and Honest with Potential Employers

Being open and honest about your recovery with potential employers can help you find a supportive and understanding work environment.

Talk to them about how your recovery has affected your career and how you plan to maintain your sobriety in the workplace. Many employers are open to hiring individuals in recovery. Therefore, opening up about your situation can help you find a job that is a good fit for you.

Understand Your Rights

It’s important to know what legal protections exist under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for those who have been in recovery for some time.

For example, if you disclose a past substance use disorder during an interview or on an application, the employer cannot use this information against you when hiring. It means they cannot discriminate against you and should treat all applicants equally when hiring.

Seek Support from Your Recovery Network

Your therapist, support group members, and friends and family who support your recovery can offer valuable guidance and encouragement as you navigate the job search process.

They can also encourage you if you face any challenges or setbacks along the way.

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Potential Obstacles to Getting Hired After Rehab

Entering the job market after rehab can present several challenges. Knowing these potential roadblocks and having a plan can increase your chances of finding the right job for yourself and your recovery goals.

Here are some obstacles to getting hired after rehab and what you can do about them:

Stigma Surrounding Addiction and Recovery

Even though the stigma of addiction and recovery is decreasing, it still exists. Many employers still view an applicant’s past drug use as a sign of unreliability or poor judgment.

To combat this, you should be honest about your past without glossing over the details or making excuses. Show them what you’ve learned from that experience so they can see that it has not affected your ability to work hard and be reliable.

Limited Job Skills

If you’re coming out of rehab with a new career goal, then your previous job experience is likely not directly related to what you’re seeking now.

You will therefore have to find a way to make up for any skill gaps that may exist—either by taking courses, volunteering, or interning to gain relevant experience and build up your resume.

Legal Issues

If you have a criminal record related to your addiction, this could be a barrier to finding employment. To address this obstacle, be honest with potential employers about your criminal record.

You can also be proactive in seeking out job openings that are more understanding of your situation. Additionally, consider seeking legal assistance to see if there are options for sealing or expunging your criminal record.

Limited Social or Professional Connections

Building a professional network can be challenging when you are in recovery—making it harder to find job openings or get referrals from others in your field.

Therefore, consider networking with others in recovery, joining professional organizations, or attending industry events to build connections. You can also ask your therapist or recovery support network for recommendations or introductions to others in your field.

Lack of Recent Work Experience

Gaps in work history can be a concern for employers, but you can address this obstacle by highlighting your skills and experience. Include relevant education, training, volunteering, internships, hobbies, or side projects.

Temporary or part-time work can also help build up your recent work experience and demonstrate your reliability and commitment to sobriety.

Low Self-Confidence

The long break from work and shame regarding your past struggle with addiction can trigger low self-confidence after treatment.

To address this, seek support from your addiction recovery network, therapist, or coach to boost your confidence and find strategies to overcome self-doubt. Focus on your strengths and accomplishments, and remember that you have the skills and abilities to succeed in your career.

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Benefits of Working During Recovery

There are many benefits to working during recovery. Here are a few key points to consider:

Improved Social Connections:

Working during recovery can help you connect with others and form new social connections. By interacting with coworkers and participating in team activities, you can build relationships and find support from others.

If you lost social connections due to your addiction, having a supportive network of people can be essential in maintaining sobriety and finding success in recovery.

Increased Self-Control and Discipline

By adhering to a schedule and meeting deadlines, you can learn to manage your time and prioritize your responsibilities.

This practice can help you develop self-control and discipline—valuable skills for maintaining sobriety and achieving success in all areas of your life.

New Skills and Career Development

Working provides opportunities to learn new skills and advance your career. By taking on new challenges and responsibilities, you can develop your skills and knowledge and increase your marketability in the job market.

Financial Stability

Working can provide financial stability and support for yourself and your loved ones.

A steady income can help you afford recovery expenses, like therapy or medication. It can also provide a sense of independence and the ability to live a fulfilling, self-sufficient life.

Improved Mental Health

Working is an excellent way to improve your mental health because it gives you something to focus on besides your addiction or recovery.

It will also allow you to meet new people, which can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Increased Confidence

Working helps build self-confidence because it gives you a sense of control over your life again.

Returning to the workforce can be empowering if you’ve struggled with addiction for a long time or had trouble keeping jobs before.

Positive Role Model

As someone in recovery, you can be a positive role model and inspiration to others struggling with addiction.

By showing that it is possible to overcome addiction and succeed in your career, you can help break the stigma and provide hope to others.

Structured Routine

A structured routine can help maintain sobriety and manage the demands of addiction treatment and recovery.

A job provides a sense of purpose and can help you establish a healthy routine that includes work, self-care, and support activities. You will want to find a job that fits your needs and allows flexibility to prioritize your recovery.

Sense of Pride and Purpose

Working can help you feel a sense of accomplishment and improve your self-esteem and confidence. It can be especially rewarding to succeed in your career while also managing the challenges of addiction recovery.

Staying Employed After Getting Hired

Getting hired is a significant milestone in the recovery process, but staying employed can be even more difficult. Here are some strategies that can help you hold down your new job when you’re in recovery:

Build a Strong Support Network

Building a network of supportive people can help you stay motivated and focused on your recovery. It can also provide valuable guidance and encouragement as you navigate work challenges.

Support networks can include trusted friends, family members, mentors, or other recovering addicts who support your recovery journey.

Keep Up With Your Professional Development

Employers need to see that you are growing as an employee and person over time. Take advantage of opportunities for professional development, like conferences or training sessions.

Stay Organized

Maintaining organization can be essential in staying on track with your recovery and career goals.

It can include keeping a schedule or calendar to stay on top of meetings, appointments, and deadlines and creating systems for managing tasks and responsibilities.

Communicate With Your Employer

It’s important to communicate with your employer about your recovery and any support you may need. It can help to establish trust and build a supportive work environment.

Consider letting your employer know about any meetings or appointments you have related to your recovery, so they can accommodate your schedule if needed.

Practice Self-Care

Make sure to prioritize self-care practices such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and finding time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

By taking care of yourself, you can better handle the challenges and stresses of work and maintain your recovery.

Seek Out Supportive Work Environments

Finding a job that aligns with your values and goals can be helpful when looking for employment during recovery.

It can keep you motivated and engaged in your work and allow you to use your skills and talents in a meaningful way.

Try Therapy Online

Fill out a brief questionnaire and get matched with a licensed therapist.

We may earn commissions when you follow links to BetterHelp.

Take Assessment

Take Control of Your Recovery and Your Career

Finding a job while in recovery can be a challenging process, but it is possible to successfully transition back into the workforce while maintaining your sobriety.

With the right mindset, preparation, and a supportive network of people, you can find a job that fits your needs and helps you stay on track with your recovery goals.

Remember that recovery is a journey and that progress, not perfection, is the goal.

Frequently Asked Question about Employment in Recovery

Why is employment important during recovery?

Employment can be an essential part of the recovery process for several reasons, including:

  • Financial stability
  • Career development
  • Provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment
  • Provides structure and routine
  • Allows you to interact with other people and build relationships
  • Improves mental health

Should I tell my new employer I'm in recovery?

It can be a good idea to tell your employer that you’re in recovery because it allows them to be supportive and help you succeed. However, it’s important to do it the right way. You need to be mindful of your rights and approach the topic positively, as it’s crucial to maintaining your sobriety.

Ultimately, whether or not to disclose your recovery status to an employer is a personal decision and depends on your circumstances and needs. It may be helpful to discuss your options with a therapist or other trusted individual in your recovery network to determine what is best for you.

What should I do to prepare for interviews if I'm in recovery?

There are several things you can do to prepare for an interview if you are in recovery:

  • Do thorough research on the company
  • Make sure your resume is updated
  • Research and practice answering general and role-specific questions
  • Focus on your strengths
  • Practice answering questions about your recovery
  • Understand your rights
  • Seek support from your recovery network
  • If you feel comfortable, consider being open and honest about your recovery with potential employers
Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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  2. Chapter 4. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.usccr.gov/files/pubs/ada/ch4.htm#:~:text=An%20employer%20may%20not%20discriminate,of%20alcohol%20at%20the%20workplace.

  3. National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Drug Use in the Workplace; Normand J, Lempert RO, O’Brien CP, editors. Under the Influence? Drugs and the American Work Force. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1994. 8, Employee Assistance Programs. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236249/

  4. Search SAMHSA Publications and digital products | Samhsa Publications … (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/SAMHSA_Digital_Download/pep21-pl-guide-6.pdf

  5. Provide support. SAMHSA. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/employer-resources/provide-support

  6. Laudet, A. B. (2011, July). The case for considering quality of life in addiction research and clinical practice. Addiction science & clinical practice. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3188817/

  7. Family and medical leave act. United States Department of Labor. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla

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