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Employment During Treatment and Recovery

construction worker with a hard hat on holding a large pipe

One essential step towards self-improvement during treatment and recovery is the prospect of being gainfully employed. For some, the idea may be intimidating, but having a job allows for a lot of positivity and progress to enter your life. This is a step that you should take only when you’re ready, but it’s also not something to fear or put off exploring. Working a job that suits your needs and your healing path can add a lot of much-needed structure to your days, while also providing a means to be in control of your own life like paying off debts, bills, and even treating yourself every so often. A job can also help stimulate pathways in the brain that may need some redevelopment after the effects of addiction. Deciding on a job will take some planning, whether you are seeking something part-time and temporary, or looking to explore a new career, or even re-enter an old one.  With a bit of foresight and guidance, deciding on the right job will become something new and exciting to add to your sober lifestyle.

A job can bring many benefits into your life emotionally, mentally, and financially. Even the most basic rewards that employment can bring will help you with recovery in the following ways:


Those who aren’t in treatment or recovery may take their workday routines for granted, or even dread the “daily grind,” but it may be exactly what you are striving to attain. A comfortable, safe, and stable routine of waking up and going to work is just the thing you need to help you ease into life after addiction. This especially works if you are happy with your job or employer and have a positive workspace and colleagues.


Building up your self-worth is a major part of treatment and recovery. Leaving behind all of the negativity and self-doubt is essential for growth. The consistency of having a job and being a productive member of society can do wonders for your self-esteem and progress. You are deserving of a role where you are using your skills in a way to contribute to the world, and the validation that comes with that can be incredibly rewarding.


There’s a certain sense of community that you can gain from participating in a workplace that is inspiring and healthy. Feeling like you are part of a team can be transformative for your mental health, even if you aren’t outgoing and social. The sense of belonging that you feel among coworkers can be highly constructive for rebuilding relationship skills while in treatment and recovery.


Of course, when you work, you will make money! Having a way to earn cash and be self-reliant is a key step towards independence and sustainability. Though paychecks may not be your only motive in seeking a job, they certainly will help you pay your bills for necessities but also help you work towards your financial goals for the future. This is particularly important for people who have families and children, as providing for your loved ones can feel especially encouraging.   

Old Job vs. New Job

Many people who have dealt with addiction previously led full lives and had prosperous careers before they went into treatment. While some were able to hold onto their previous jobs throughout the healing process, other people were unable to keep up with their work due to the effects of their substance use disorders. When you enter treatment and recovery and begin to contemplate working again, it’s natural to consider going back to your previous line of work, but sometimes it’s worth a second thought. On the one hand, it would be nice to go back to a familiar place, especially if colleagues and your employer are empathetic and understanding of your work in recovery. On the other hand, it can also cause you to backslide in your progress due to unknown lurking triggers that could quickly veer you off course.

Settling back into familiar territory can unsuspectingly bring back many old feelings and emotions that can lead to relapse triggers. Though your attitude and approach start as energetic and inspired, they can unsuspectingly be stifled by old ghosts of your life before treatment. Sometimes all it takes is a stressful day with a difficult client or after work social settings with old colleagues who don’t adhere to your sober lifestyle. Putting yourself in those positions can potentially threaten your recovery or expose you to people and situations that you don’t want in your life. It’s important to consider whether returning to an old career is worth compromising your goal towards long-lasting and stable recovery.

There’s nothing wrong with considering a fresh start with a new job in a new place. Of course, the unknowns can be a little frightening, but with proper research and planning, it could be exactly what you need. The best way to contemplate these decisions is with your closest support group of peers, family, and supporters. You may even benefit from speaking with a career counselor who is familiar with people who are in treatment and recovery as they will be able to help you think critically about your next career steps.

Working Towards the Future

Remember, taking on a new skill set for a job is going to be a challenging yet very gratifying experience. Immersing yourself into something that interests you as a new job prospect will push you to use your brain and exercise some of those areas that have been negatively impacted by your substance use disorder. Firing up those neurons will help your brain restore itself as you continue to heal. Spending time every day exploring your role in the world around you will help different aspects of your mind and body.

Long-lasting recovery means treating the body as a whole, which includes essential mental and emotional functions. Working and maintaining a job is entirely attainable if you feel you are ready to take a step towards self-sufficiency, financial independence, and all-around progress towards a brighter future.    

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