Does Being in Recovery Affect Employment?

A concern that is all too common among people who have voluntarily submitted themselves to a recovery program is: “Will I be able to return to my work environment?”

This concern is one of the major reasons people with substance abuse problems tend to hesitate in seeking professional help in the first place. A number of studies have indicated that finding suitable employment becomes increasingly difficult the longer a person stays away from work. Perhaps you are also worried and have wondered how your employer and co-workers will react to you upon your resumption. These are all valid concerns.

recovery and employment

It’s not easy starting a job after drug treatment

When it comes to issues regarding the workplace and addiction recovery, it is good to distill the reality from your imagination. People with an addiction problem often afflict themselves with self-imposed shame or self-stigmatization. While it is true that public stigmatization is a reality, it is important that the addict recognizes that not everyone has a stereotypical view of an addict as one who is homeless, scruffy, or violent. Some recovering addicts have even gone as far as distancing themselves from people’s properties so as not to be a prime suspect in case something goes missing. This is self-stigmatization.

From experience, people have learned to group others into certain categories based on some perceived common characteristics. Your actions or inactions may ultimately influence to what extent you will be trusted by your employer or colleagues.

It is also true that many companies are likewise faced with the crisis of finding competent workers who can pass a drug test. Opioids and other commonly abused substances have taken a toll on the workforce. Faced with this dilemma, many are now determined to give former opioid addicts a second chance. In this respect, Tracy Plouck, of Ohio’s Mental Health and Addiction Services, said:

“People in recovery are drug-free, productive, motivated and deserve a chance to work and provide for their families.”

How Will I Find Employment After Recovery?

Finding a decent job is not always easy, even in the industrialized area of the country. This is especially difficult when you have a history of drug or alcohol addiction problems, employment gaps or a criminal record. Only a handful of employers would want to risk their reputation or that of their organization by employing someone just out of drug rehabilitation.

But you desperately need a job to pay the bills after you clean up your life. Sometimes, you are only left with a few options which may not be an “ideal” fit for you. However, your “stigma” as a recovering addict may actually open up a host of employment opportunities for you. A number of not-for-profit organizations have actually taken it upon themselves to help addicts in recovery to find suitable employment. Here are a few examples:

  • Creative Matters: This is a branding and design agency based in Los Angeles. Interestingly, about 90% of the company’s employees are in recovery.
  • Envirosafe Stripping Inc: Based in Pennsylvania, this company has undertaken major civil engineering projects, through its workforce, the majority of whom are people in recovery!
  • Venturetech Drilling Technologies: Established in 1980, this company has grown to over 100 employees. According to the founder, Larry Keast, hiring people in recovery has actually paid off.

There are many more organizations that actually give consideration to employing former addicts. You can consult with your local recruitment agency to find one near you. However, it may be a wise course to avoid accepting employment at certain places which could act as triggers, resulting in a relapse. Some have turned down offers to work as bartenders, waiters, or coffee servers in order to avoid the accompanying temptations. It is totally up to you to decide what you are capable of handling. Rest assured that you have lots of better options.

Handling Your First Day of Work After Drug Rehab

No doubt, the thought of resuming work after a long period of absence could lead to heightened anxiety. Despite being proud of your recovery, you may still wonder how your return will be welcomed by co-workers. Perhaps, you only told them you were taking a leave. You may likely be anxious if anyone has actually found out the real reason for your absence.

You walk into the office and you are warmly welcomed by colleagues. They have missed your presence. However, you noticed that one or two persons seemed to greet you casually. You become nervous as you walk to your workspace. Is your reputation still in place? Or are they going to treat you differently having found out about your stay in rehab? Many recovering addicts face this kind of internal crisis on a daily basis.

Rest assured, your situation is not typical. Often times, people are too absorbed in their own problems than worry about your situation. Even if you perceive some form of discrimination, you can still make it through the day. The first day of resumption is usually the most challenging. So what can you do? It may not be necessary to cover up for your absence when questioned by your colleagues. When approached by a trusted and empathetic colleague, it may be best to open up. You may be surprised that they have also passed through recovery while on the job! You will most likely gain their trust and respect for having the courage to seek much-needed help.

What Role Can the Workplace Play?

Many employers have been known to sponsor Employee Assistance Programs. These provide a range of programs which includes providing short-term counseling, treatment resources, and peer support groups. Additionally, they provide a healthy environment for recovering addicts which helps maintain a drug-free lifestyle, improve their skills on the job.

Addicts in recovery will no doubt face some form of stigmatization. However, your chances of finding a good job are not as bleak as you may imagine. In fact, some employers may actually value your honesty and openness in admitting you had a less-than-ideal past and took the bold step to set things right.

Granted, you may not be able to control how people treat you, but you don’t have to be overly concerned about people’s perceived appraisal of your circumstances. You can prove to them that you are now a changed person by performing above expectations, adhering to acceptable workplace standards and complying with required drug-free workplace policies. Additionally, you are covered by government guidelines and policies such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the end, your success depends on how you handle your workplace responsibilities, coming out of drug rehab.