Returning to work after seeking addiction treatment is a huge step in your recovery journey, so it’s understandable if you’re feeling a bit nervous about this transition. However, you’ve already accomplished a great deal by reaching this point. Your time in residential treatment has helped you build the foundation for a lasting recovery—and many of the skills you’ve learned while getting sober are the same ones you need to be successful in the workplace. Now is your time to shine!
Helpful Tips for Returning to Work After Residential Treatment
If you’re returning to work after an extended absence, the following tips can help you settle back into your role:
- Know your rights. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), being in treatment for a substance use disorder is considered a disability entitled to legal protection. You are within your rights to ask for accommodations such as a modified work schedule or time off to attend recovery-related appointments. Your company’s employee assistance program (EAP) can help you determine what changes are necessary to help you be successful.
- Decide what you’re comfortable sharing. You don’t owe anyone your recovery story, but people are bound to have questions if you’ve been away from work for an extended period of time. In a workplace environment, it’s fine if you want to simply say that you realized you had a substance abuse problem and took steps to get the care you need. Or, if you’re worried that you’ll be unfairly judged for seeking addiction treatment, “I took a break to work on a few things, and I’m happy to be back” is a professional response that makes it clear you’re not comfortable providing additional details about the nature of your absence.
- Create a clear schedule. Schedules help you stay on track with tasks and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. While it might be impossible to plan out every moment of your day, try to create some sort of framework that lets you know what to expect and keeps you working towards meeting your employer’s performance goals. If there is a supportive co-worker you trust, ask to meet regularly for check-ins that will help you stay on track. Setting periodic reminder alarms on your phone is another easy way to ensure you don’t get distracted.
- Have a plan to handle stress. Workplace stress can be a relapse trigger, so it’s important to think about how you plan to keep stress levels in check as you return to work. This might include taking time for meditation or deep breathing exercises during the day, listening to soothing music, or planning a relaxing evening routine that will help you calm down at the end of the day.
- Beware of burnout. It’s admirable to want to work long hours and take on extra projects to try to prove your value as an employee, but this can lead to burnout. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. If you work yourself to the point of exhaustion, you could be inadvertently setting the stage for a relapse.
- Be patient with yourself. It’s unrealistic to expect that your first days or weeks back at work will go perfectly as planned. If you make a mistake or encounter an unexpected challenge, remind yourself that you’re only human. Strive for progress, not perfection.
Is It Time for a Career Change?
If the prospect of returning to work leaves you filled with dread, it may be time to think about finding a job that better fits your current lifestyle. Forging a new career path after addiction treatment is more common than you might think. Many people decide to go back to school, pursue a previously forgotten passion, open their own business, or find work helping others in recovery get the care they need.
Visit the Careershifters website to learn more about what it’s like to make a major career change, register for online workshops, or get advice from professionals who’ve successfully made the leap to a new field. You may also find useful resources on the Pennsylvania Workforce Development website.
We’re Here to Help
In recovery, it’s important to be proactive when it comes to asking for help. If you’re having trouble making the transition back to paid employment, Mountain Laurel Recovery Center is here to provide the support you need. The caring and experienced staff at our Pennsylvania addiction treatment program can connect you with community-based resources that can help you move forward with confidence. We are invested in the success of our graduates and are committed to helping you make the most of each day in recovery.