Transitioning back to work after addiction treatment is a challenging and daunting process. You may feel like a completely different person. You may wonder how your co-workers will respond to you. You may feel isolated and alone.
However, returning to work is one of the most important steps you can take in your recovery. A job will focus your energy and attention on productive uses, lessening your risk of relapse. Work will also introduce you to more people, who may become instrumental in providing you with the support and friendship you need.
Follow these tips as you transition back to the workplace to ensure the greatest level of success.
1) Go to your meetings
Your recovery meetings will provide you with guidance and support. This is the place where you can discuss the challenges and successes you have as you transition back to a work environment.
2) Build a strong recovery support network
Having a network of people who supported you throughout your recovery efforts was probably a strong factor in your success. Maintaining such a network will be equally important as you re-enter the workforce. Without a strong support network, you are less likely to be able to handle the stress of re-entering the workforce or job-hunting, and you are more likely to suffer a relapse. Your network may include: friends, family, co-workers and addiction support groups. This network can help bolster your confidence when it falters.
3) Live in a halfway house when circumstances necessitate
Living in a halfway house during challenging times will help keep you away from temptation. You’ll be surrounded by people who understand your struggles, and you will be reminded of the work you’ve already put into your recovery.
4) Strictly follow the aftercare plan
Think of your aftercare plan as a road map to keep you on the road to recovery. If you start to slip, go back to your aftercare plan and use it to get back on track. An aftercare plan will consist of a series of actions for you to take that will help keep you sober. Your aftercare plan will be tailored to you during the end of your treatment. It may include:
- Attending your recovery group meetings
- Speaking with your sponsor a set number of times per week
- Attending aftercare programs at your treatment facility
- Reaching out to recovery peers to offer moral support
- Taking good care of yourself and making sure you are eating and sleeping properly and making time for exercise and meditation
- Reading your aftercare plan regularly
5) Take Advantage of Employee Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) typically provide services that help employees deal with personal problems that might affect their job performance. If you have an EAP available to you, research it and see if there are services that you could use. It’s very likely that counseling services are available, which can help you work through your addiction challenges.
6) Develop a balance between meetings and work
A recovering addict who has returned to the workforce has to divide his or her time between work and support meetings. It is important that you don’t overextend yourself at work, especially if it results in skipping your support meetings. Although you may be eager to get back into the full swing of things at work, overdoing it will make you stretch yourself too thin, resulting in increased stress levels and increased chances of a relapse.
7) Avoid job related drinking events
This is a simple and effective way to maintain your sobriety. At “happy hour” after work, work-related holiday parties and business dinner meetings, you may feel pressure to consume alcohol. Establish an open and honest dialogue with your supervisor about your addiction recovery.
8) Make sobriety the priority
Staying sober is a lifelong commitment. It takes hard work and resolve, but the payoff is enormous. Just as we prioritize things like family and hobbies, prioritizing sobriety will help reinforce its importance to you.
9) Maintain a strong relapse prevention plan
A relapse does not happen overnight. It slowly builds over time until you find yourself seeking the physical outlet of your addiction. You can prevent a relapse by having a strong relapse prevention plan. Components of a strong relapse prevention program include:
- Remaining stable: Stay sober so you can think clearly and remain in control of yourself. It is recommended that you not create the plan until you have been sober for several days to allow for appropriate introspection.
- Identifying your triggers: What causes you to use? Identify these triggers and then make changes in your life to stop exposing yourself to them or to avoid them.
- Checking in with yourself: Take some time every day to touch base with yourself. How are you feeling? What are you thinking about? If using crops up in your mind, the best thing you can do is talk to someone about it.
- Learning to recognize warning signs of relapse: Watch out for mood changes, changes in sleeping and eating, and thoughts of using.
- Treating yourself well: Develop a list of things you enjoy doing, so you can do those when the thought of using creeps into your mind.
- Creating a meditation plan: This will serve as a daily reminder of why you are quitting and committed to a sober lifestyle.
- Identification of your support network: If you do notice warning signs, get in contact with your support network immediately.
10) Avoid people, places and things associated with using and drinking
Removing yourself from temptation is the single best way to ensure long-term sobriety success. If it’s not there, you can’t have it. Don’t fall back into your old habits. You are a new person, and you deserve a new life. Try new things. Develop new hobbies. Identify rewarding activities that you can do instead of using. Establish trustworthy and supportive friendships.
Going back to work after addiction treatment will take more of the same hard work you have already put toward your recovery. When times get tough, try to remember you are not the only person going through this. Millions of people around the world are in the same situation as you, and millions have succeeded.
Learn more about utilizing the Family Medical Leave Act for addiction recovery.
About the Author:
Alan Goodstat, LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, received his Masters in Social Work at Columbia University in New York City. He’s now a Director of Performance Improvement for a Behavioral Hospital System and contributes to the addiction recovery site RecoveryConnection.org. He wrote a chapter on substance abuse in the book Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding Teenagers With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.