Guide to Employment After Addiction Recovery

Guide to Employment After Addiction Recovery

A stigma follows those who go to drug or alcohol treatment for addiction, which can make it extremely difficult for them to move on after rehab and gain employment to support themselves and their families legally. Many addicts feel like they have to lie in order to even have a chance at job opportunities – which causes a host of problems on its own.

Transition from Rehab. Once a person has completed drug or alcohol rehab, he or she will normally get back home and go through a readjustment phase. They are now back in their old environment but they are totally different as a person. Factually, the individual is much more “himself” or “herself” as they see the world through eyes unclouded by drugs. With the new sober view, there are specific obstacles to be aware of. One must understand that as they are now clean and clear-eyed, they may not entirely like what they see. The former addict is wise not to visit old drug-user friends or hang out on the corner and run into their old dealer. They are often jobless. So one must make new friends (sober ones), find new places, and get a new job. It can be more than a little overwhelming.

Importance of Aftercare. All these are good reasons for comprehensive aftercare and relapse prevention. The final steps of drug rehab SHOULD be preparation for this transitional period; going over the individual’s potential upsets and how to deal with them; setting a course of action and staying focused; vocational connections or training; and even relocation as the situation dictates. All this comes under the heading of aftercare and includes a support network that is essentially available round the clock.

Importance of Work. The importance of work and having stable employment is often downplayed and overlooked. One’s personal morale is primarily dependent upon one’s contribution to society. The fundamental way one goes about this is through work and producing a viable product or service and being reasonably compensated for it. It is how a society is built. The “value” of leisure time and idle hours is highly overrated. Some of your most miserable people are the ones who don’t work. The young person working his or her way through college is likely to get far more out of it than one whose parents pay for everything. It is thus an excellent – even vital – step for a graduate of rehab to get a good job.

A Good Job. Usually, a person doesn’t want “any old job.” True, they’ve got to pay the bills, but they would much rather do something they have a passion for and enjoy doing. They’d like a career. The job market today can be a bit rough. Many factors come into play: experience, education, training, skills, employment record, language, “who you know,” personal goals and aspirations, etc. The city or town you live in will have its own job climate. The economy has been rough on Detroit for example. For a former addict or alcoholic, the odds can be even more stacked against them, particularly if their employment record was affected by their drug or alcohol problem. If they have a criminal record of any kind (even possession is a black mark) it could look dismal indeed to get a decent job with room for advancement. Therefore, it is vital to have an exact plan. Here is a basic outline for such a plan:

 So what do you do to increase your chances of getting a job after you get out of drug rehab and adjusted to “normal”?

The Plan

  1. Either yourself or with your aftercare counselor, go over your resources for employment. List out your family, sober friends, contacts, and any other ideas you have for employment. Even a former employer who may be impressed with your newfound sobriety could be a resource.
  2. In conjunction with this list, write down your experience, education, training, and skills.
  3. Write down your personal goals and aspirations. What do you WANT to do? More specifically, what do you want to PRODUCE? Examples: An artist produces works of art that enhance people’s lives. A mechanic produces vehicles that run well. A store clerk produces happy customers who walk out with a purchase. What you want to do or produce is individual to you. There can be more than one thing.
  4. Keep all the above in mind and write a resume. If you are not familiar with resume writing you should get help. You can look online for advice and examples, and also visit a provincial employment office that will often have a course on how to put one together.

A resume should not be too wordy. Employers and HR (Human Resources) people look at a LOT of resumes and don’t have time read a long dissertation. One page is often enough. Resumes often use certain key phrases like “team player” or “detail-oriented” so you should get familiar with these. That said, you also want to be honest and not appear “rote” or insincere. You can make your resume stand out in various ways such as printing it on attractive letterhead.

Another note on resumes is that they should put emphasis on your skills and positive attributes. If you are applying for different types of jobs, you may have to produce different versions of your resume. For a construction job, it would accent your skills or experience in that trade. If it’s a sales job, focus would be on your customer relations and closing expertise. You also want to include references – people who can be contacted that will give a positive recommendation. You aftercare counselor should be able to help with that as well.

  1. It is not necessary to mention your past addiction in your resume. However, do not lie or be dishonest. Employers do background checks, and they may discount your application once they know your background. Because of this fact, you may want to state up front that you did rehab and are clean. If they are considerate, they will appreciate your honesty and forthright attitude. You will also not then worry that they’ll “find out” about your past. You can mention that you are more than willing to do periodic drug tests.
  2. If you have a criminal record, you’d handle it similarly to the above. If you lie, they’ll find out and won’t hire you. You can state that your offense was connected to your drug problem which you have beaten – or whatever the facts are.
  3. Network with friends and acquaintances. Call people up. Even if they don’t have anything, they may know someone who does and can put in a good word for you. You can show up at church, baby showers, weddings, etc. and talk to people. Even if you’ve never met them, people are usually in a good frame of mind at such functions and will be receptive. Many people get jobs just by knowing someone. You can also attend a job fair.
  4. Go online. You can use Craigslist, other websites, and social media. A word of warning: A LOT of people use Craigslist and certain types of jobs get HUNDREDS of applications and resumes. It’s not that you can’t get a job through that site, but the traffic is VERY HIGH. Be aware of scams – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. You can look up other sites that specialize in certain fields, or just Google “jobs” in your city and start sending your resume. One advantage to going online is that you can send as many copies of your resume as you want. You are not likely to find large corporations advertising on a site like Craigslist. If you’d like to work at a specific company, go to their website, click on the jobs section and follow the instructions.
  5. You can go directly to businesses and ask if they’re hiring, or just ask for an application, fill it out and attach your resume. Normally they’ll take it and say they’ll call you if they want to interview you. You want to be well-groomed, clean, and of good appearance. When you do get an interview, show up on time or early. This is called “pounding the pavement” – applying and going for interviews. It can be a bit exhausting and nerve-wracking. Just keep working at it. It is said that you must workto get work. This is a true statement.
  6. Consider vocational training and furthering your education. If you don’t have a high-school diploma, you can do some study and pass your GED. Your aftercare team should help you with that. For training in specific skills, you can focus on what you want to do, or find out what trades are needed in your area and get trained in one of them.
  7. STAY POSITIVE. Many employers don’t even know exactly what they’re looking for. A positive and sincere attitude could make you stand out. For your own sake, don’t get discouraged. The job search can be a trying experience. Consider it another part of life training.

You may have to get a day job to pay the bills, and it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t strive to do a good job no matter what you did – but it does mean simply that you’d end up doing what you want to do. You can extrapolate a lot from the answer. You may have to go back to school; practice hard; put in the requisite blood, sweat, and tears – but when you are doing what you’re passionate about, things tend to get easier. If you manage to become expert at it, then with some ingenuity you should be able to get paid well for doing it.

  1. Don’t give up! Good luck!

Here’s a look at some of the specific ways working can help you stay on the sober path:

Income: Nearly everyone needs a job if they’re to take care of financial responsibilities. Maybe you weren’t able to do that while you were using and during treatment. Now, simply knowing that you’ll be paid regularly will be a big boost to your ongoing recovery.

Stability: The up-and-down, back-and-forth cycle of addiction is, for most addicts, the antithesis of a stable, predictable life. Steady employment, where you’re expected to perform well on a regular basis and show up every weekday ready to work, is the linchpin of creating long-term stability.

Normalcy: Society expects individuals to make responsible choices and to be able to manage their financial affairs. Having and keeping a job is an indication of normalcy, of fitting in, of being part of community. It’s also a way to get back on track to resume your ability to tend to household responsibilities.

Constructive use of time: No doubt you’ve heard the saying “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Simply put, with too much time and too little that’s productive to fill the hours, it’s easy to lapse into daydreams or fantasies about your previous behavior – perhaps even spurring you to use again.

Restore self-esteem: One of the earliest casualties of substance abuse, addiction and addictive behavior is a loss of self-esteem. When you’re in early recovery, your emotional state is still fragile. You feel vulnerable and, in a very real sense, you are. Some in early recovery report feeling worthless, unable to make a contribution; their months and years of addiction have left them feeling helpless. But there’s an antidote to those feelings: work. When you go to your job and do the best you can, you begin to feel that you’re doing something good, something that’s right for you. This helps restore your self-esteem. Feeling good about yourself makes it easier, too, to accept new challenges and take on tougher assignments.

Self-sufficiency: Everyone wants to be able to stand on his or her own two feet. When you’re in recovery, this may seem at first to be an elusive goal. But when you have a job that you look forward to going to each day, you are asserting your intentions to re-establish your self-sufficiency. You will, day by day, improve your ability to take care of yourself.

Responsibility: If you want people to trust you, you have to show that you’re worth of that trust. Your word has to mean something, and others need to feel that they can rely on you to fulfill your responsibilities. Going to work and doing what is expected of you shows that you are capable of this. It also helps you by reasserting your belief in your own sense of responsibility.

Sense of community: For those in recovery, work brings with it a sense of being part of a community. You work with a boss and colleagues, and perhaps you liaise with other departments, vendors, suppliers or the public. Every person with whom you come in contact during the course of your job is part of the community that you’re building as part of your professional life — and each, in their way, can help you in your efforts to maintain sobriety.

Sense of wholeness: Everyone in recovery wants to feel whole again, to feel healed and complete. Work is one part of this sense of wholeness, not on its own, but as part of your overall recovery plan, along with seeing your doctor or counselor, going to 12-step meetings and taking care of yourself and your family.

While there’s no denying that having a job can be a powerful tool in helping you to live a happy, healthy and sober life, it’s important to note that a few job-related behaviors can pose risks to your long-term recovery. Perhaps the most dangerous is burn-out. When you collapse from physical or mental exhaustion, or feel frustrated and unable to keep up, your coping mechanisms are likely to be so depleted that you’ll begin to think again about using. You never want to be hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (the H.A.L.T. acronym of Alcoholics Anonymous). That’s one of the situations in which you’re most likely to slip into relapse. Avoid burning out by pacing yourself. Do one thing to the best of your ability at a time. Schedule projects. And ask for help if you need it.



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