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get-well job
February 1, 2022

Finding a Get-Well Job: Employment for Recovering Addicts

People with “functional” substance use disorders often fear losing their jobs if they admit to needing help—an unnecessary concern, since federal law recognizes addiction as a serious health condition for which a person cannot be terminated while seeking treatment. However, people who enter detox and rehab without existing employment have a different worry: will anyone hire them now, with their addiction disorder and history? A get-well job may be just what you need.

Why You Need a Get-Well Job

It should be noted first that productive activity is an essential element of recovering from addiction. Feeling useless and depressed is a potential relapse trigger; so is idle time where old habits come to mind as potential boredom remedies.

While some people find productive outlets in hobbies or volunteer work, gainful employment is the best channel for many. A few advantages of what will here be referred to as “get-well jobs”:

  • Paid work carries greater accountability, and accountability (not to mention routine) is an important aspect of staying on the recovery track.
  • Paid work provides income that can be put toward making amends for addiction-influenced missteps, or toward education for the next step forward in life.
  • Paid work may offer health insurance to help with additional medical needs in long-term recovery.

All that said, the question of how to get the job remains.

Finding the Right Get-Well Job

Stigma in hiring isn’t the only concern; the wrong job can be as much a relapse trigger as no job at all. It’s potential trouble if, especially in the vulnerable early months after detox, you expose yourself to the stress of a work atmosphere that:

  • Has limited understanding of your special needs
  • Is overly demanding, highly competitive, or even abusive
  • Requires frequent late hours or otherwise limits your free time
  • Just plain is the wrong job for you, with requirements that don’t match your natural temperament, interests, or working style

Ideally, job-search coaching and accountability should be incorporated into post-detox rehab. Many recovery programs have direct connections to employers who are actively interested in providing get-well jobs—and are confident that any people in recovery hired through the program will prove reliable employees. Some employers even sponsor 12-Step and other support groups for staff members.

Specific tips on job hunting and interviewing are beyond the scope of this article, but easy to find through podcasts, books, or blogs. As a start, remember to:

  • Be prepared to provide potential employers with details on what you have done and are still doing to overcome your substance abuse, prevent relapse, and prove yourself an effective and honest worker.
  • Know what you want and what you can do. Focus your search on opportunities and organizations that align with your personal passions.
  • Don’t, however, demand that job requirements be rewritten to suit you. Be ready to reconsider your preferred details and make reasonable compromises.
  • Keep a positive attitude. Expect progress and it will find you.

Get-Well Jobs and the Long Term

It may well be that your get-well job is, or leads to direct promotion into, the dream job you can happily stay in for the rest of your working life. On the other hand, you may have something different in mind for the long term—something more challenging or closer to a 100 percent match with your ideal.

Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on existing job “security” at the expense of bigger dreams: that just puts you on the path to future frustration and possible relapse. Actively seek ways to use your present work experience and spare time in progressing toward long-term vocational goals. Then, when you’re ready to move forward, be sure to thank your “get-well” employer and to part on friendly terms. Jobs may change, but strong professional and personal relationships will prove invaluable throughout your lifelong recovery journey.

Help and Hope for the Future

Besides professional medical care during detox, most people with substance use disorder need counseling and peer support to transition back into everyday life. If you have no preexisting job to return to, the counseling/rehab period should include help planning for future employment. Beach House offers life skills training, relapse-prevention programs, and comprehensive aftercare to help with finding and thriving at a get-well job. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

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