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February 5, 2016

7 Ways to Navigate Work and Career as a Recovering Addict

Successfully completing a treatment program for a drug or alcohol addiction is a huge milestone. With a fresh lease on life, you may feel confident and ready to take on a new job.

The fact of the matter is that personally and professionally, sobriety will make you a better, more productive person than you were before. However, finding a job after rehab can be challenging for a number of reasons. Maybe you left your previous job on bad terms, at the height of your addiction. Maybe, because of your addiction, you have never successfully held a job. Or perhaps you were unhappy in your former job and want to switch professions altogether.

Another thing to consider is that recovery programs advise against making any major life changes for the first year following treatment. Adjusting to sobriety can be stressful, so it may not be the best time to start a new career.

Regardless of your individual situation, here are some tips for finding a job when you do decide it’s time to go back to work.

  1. Look to organizations. A number of organizations help former addicts re-enter the workforce, including the following:
  • America in Recovery: A non-profit organization, America in Recovery helps recovering addicts by connecting them with employers directly.
  • The Department of Labor’s One Stop Career Center: The United States Department of Labor recommends recovering addicts contact their nationwide network of career centers. Visit the Department of Labor’s service locator to find the center closest to you.
  • Community Voice Mail: CVM provides free voice mail access to empower former addicts and other people in crisis by offering direct links to jobs. CVM centers are located throughout the country. Check out the CVM website to find the closest office to you.
  • National H.I.R.E. Network: The National HIRE network helps people with criminal records find jobs; their services also extend to people in recovery.

Local support groups, your sponsor, 12-step meetings, and staff from local rehab centers can also be good resources for job leads.

  1. Boost your education. As you transition to sober life, it may be a good time to advance your degree. After all, upgrading your education or training may help keep you focused on staying clean and make you a more desirable employee. If money is a factor and you need to start working right away, consider a job training program at your local employment center.
  2. Volunteer. If you aren’t quite ready to jump back into the workforce with two feet, volunteering can help you do something you enjoy and give you experience at the same time. Look for a volunteer job that is likely to lead to full-time work.
  3. Think about freelancing. Most prospective employers don’t look into a freelancer’s past as much as they would a potential full-time hire. Plus, freelancing allows you to make your own schedule, so you can set aside time for 12-step meetings and other efforts to maintain your sobriety. Some of the most common freelance jobs include writing, editing, designing, computer programming, photography and video production.
  4. Consider an internship. If you can afford to work for a few months with little or no pay, call some of the companies you would like to work for and see if they accept interns. Internships can offer a great track to full-time employment and give you hands-on experience along the way.
  5. Try an apprentice program. An apprenticeship can be a good transition into a lucrative full-time career. People who have completed an apprentice program for positions such as electrician, carpenter, dental assistant, child development specialist and others tend to make more than the average wage once they obtain a full-time job. Most apprenticeship programs last between one and six years, with an average of four.
  6. Go through a temp agency. Sign up with your local temp agency and try some new positions on a short-term basis. Not only will trying a range of different jobs round out your resume, it will also give you a clearer picture of the type of permanent work you ultimately want to pursue.

Another big consideration as you re-enter the job market is whether or not to tell a prospective employer about your former addiction. They say honesty is the best policy, but the reality is that some employers may show prejudice. Keep in mind addiction is now classified as a disease, so you are not legally obligated to tell a prospective employer about your treatment for substance abuse. Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to tell an employer about your addiction is yours.

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