Making the Transition From Recovery to Career

By Jane St. Clair

You’ve completed your stay in drug rehab and now it’s time to go back to work. If you’re like most people in early recovery, you’re probably worried about how the transition will go. Will everyone at the office gossip about you? Will your boss constantly be looking over your shoulder? Will you get demoted – or worse yet, fired?

Addiction Treatment Saves Careers

Research shows that the majority of people who were employed before entering drug treatment remain employed afterward. In fact, having a job is a good predictor of success in substance abuse treatment. The majority actually perform better at their jobs and are less likely to be fired than before they entered drug treatment. The “stigma” of drug rehab is often bigger in the person’s mind than it is in reality.

Studies also show that former drug abusers and alcoholics actually miss fewer days of work, have fewer discipline problems and are happier with their jobs after completing treatment. As for employers who know about treatment, one study found that if employers referred an employee for addiction treatment, that person was more likely to complete the program and successfully remain abstinent one year later than those who had referred themselves or had been referred by police.

Other Important Changes After Rehab

While the majority of people who complete substance abuse treatment successfully return to work, it is not the same as saying nothing has changed. Addiction treatment is not just about changing one habit – it is more often about changing your entire life.

People in residential substance abuse treatment programs often begin to take care of their own health for the first time in years. They learn to relax and cope with life without chemicals. They have experienced intense psychotherapy, often undergoing both group and individual counseling sessions several times a week.

Their families also got involved in the process of change. Counselors help spouses and family members release their anger and frustration about the negative impact their loved one’s drug abuse or alcoholism has had on their lives. Meanwhile, the person in treatment allows their regrets and self-blame to surface. Many times the addict has to go through a period of mourning for the time lost to substance abuse. People look back on the wreckage of their lives and truly start over. Families become more loving toward one another and begin to trust each other again.

Some studies show that about three years after undergoing substance abuse treatment, many people end up rearranging their entire lifestyle. People often end up making less money and working at lower levels than they did before treatment, but they are happier with themselves and their families. For example, former alcoholics who were also “workaholics” stop putting in long hours of overtime at their jobs. After they give up drinking, they stop working so hard in order to spend more time with their families or doing things they enjoy.

Others change their entire career paths. A high-powered businesswoman, for example, decides to stay home with her children. A lawyer quits his firm to open up a bookstore. Someone else takes a vacation for the first time in decades.

Making a Smooth Transition

Recovering addicts and alcoholics often wonder how others will react to them once they get back to their places of employment. How will these transitions take place? The good news is that their counselors will work with them while they’re in residential treatment and during months of follow-up care. These professionals help people in drug rehab find the right way to handle any difficult situations as they arise.

As people become free of addictions, they feel less depressed and more self-confident. They are more likely to take a good look at how they are leading their lives, including what’s going on at work. They ask themselves questions like: Is my boss an extremely difficult person? Am I in dysfunctional relationships with my coworkers? Is this job what I really want?

Once the addictions are gone, everything is different. The job you worried about keeping before you entered treatment can become the job you wonder if you really want. Once you regain your full power as a self-confident individual, you may decide you that you deserve a new, more fulfilling career path in life. Freedom from addiction is likely to open up new options in your future that you do not even know exist today.