Battling substance abuse and working toward recovery is difficult.
Whether you are planning your transition or have already left the safety of Iowa’s St. Gregory Recovery Center, it is important to remember the perseverance it has taken to get this far in the recovery process. You have already accomplished a monumental feat, so remind yourself that difficult doesn’t equal impossible.
Whether you have your previous job waiting for you or are needing to start over, there are things you need to be mindful of when stepping back into the workforce. Having a job is important in recovery because it alleviates financial stress and keeps you busy—two ways of reducing the chance for relapse.
One of the hardest things for most people to develop is patience. When you’re just getting back to work after an extended absence, it can be overwhelming. Consider easing into a full schedule, if possible, to give your body and mind a chance to adjust.
If you’re job hunting, you may need to adjust your expectations. Don’t underestimate yourself or your ability to learn a new skill. Consider starting with a temporary, part-time, or entry-level position and working your way up.
While there is still a stigma in society surrounding substance abuse treatment and those in recovery, don’t write yourself off. It is true that some employers consider past substance use a hard line they refuse to cross when hiring, but many employers actually prefer people who have been through recovery. The tenacity and perseverance it takes to successfully complete substance abuse treatment makes them more productive than the general population.
Use All of Your Resources
If bridges were burned at a previous employer due to your substance use or if you removed a number of friends from your circle due to your recovery, you may worry about having positive references for a job search. Reaching out to your new support system, counselors, or anyone else that assisted you in recovery is a great place to start.
Some of these people may not only be a source of positive references, but may also know of job leads or places that are more willing to hire post-treatment individuals. There are also chances to find jobs at career fairs, training seminars, live workshops, educational podcasts, and informational events either online or in-person that can expand your credentials.
Don’t assume your loved ones and friends from your pre-treatment life consider you a lost cause. They may just need some time while you work on rebuilding trust with them. Asking for their forgiveness and help is a humbling experience and can go far in reestablishing communication.
Volunteer Your Time
Even though volunteering doesn’t earn you money, it is still important. Many employers hold people who volunteer in high regard and experience of this nature can set you apart from other job candidates. Volunteering also broadens your networking ability. You encounter a different group of people, any of whom could hold the key to your next career path! These people are another great source of references.
It is also possible for a volunteering position to become an opportunity for paid employment. Many nonprofit organizations fill their staff with those people who are already committed to the causes they represent and are familiar with how the organization is run: their faithful volunteers.
How Much Do You Disclose?
There is a fine ethical line to walk when tackling the red flags on your resume or job application. Whether you had terminations due to substance use, legal trouble, or an extended employment gap, there will likely be questions during your interview.
It is best to be prepared—even scripted—with your explanation. Your time in treatment can be handled like any other type of medical treatment or you can explain that you took a “professional sabbatical” to deal with some personal issues. If you want to explain in greater depth that you had struggled with substance use but are now in recovery, keep a positive spin on the conversation.
Though censorship of certain aspects for reasons of personal privacy is understood, remember that you always need to fully disclose any felonies or DUIs that you acquired prior to treatment. However, these will not always result in losing a chance at employment if your skills, volunteerism, and professionalism prove you a worthy candidate who is obviously on the right path.