working while in recovery

Working While in Recovery

Working While in Recovery: Can it be done?

The short answer is – it depends. Since there are different stages of recovery, let’s focus on which stage of recovery is most conducive to working while in recovery.

First, let’s quickly cover the stages of recovery:

Rehab/Detox – The first step on the recovery journey is purging the toxins from one’s body. This means in-patient rehab (aka “detox”) During this stage, you’re eseentially in a facility, under 24 hour supervision. Obviously, this means that you can’t leave (or shouldn’t leave).

PHP or “Partial Hospitalization Program” – This program is for people who will spend part of their time under close supervision in a hospital setting, but will have some freedom to travel to and from counseling sessions. If your treatment facility allows it, you should consider working while in recovery.

IOP or “Intensive Outpatient Program” – This program is for someone who’s an outpatient, meaning that they sleep somewhere else, but that their days are largely made up of counseling sessions. Again, if your treatment facility allows it, you should consider working while in recovery. Know the differences.

Sober Living – This used to be called a “halfway house” but that term has long since been abandoned for anything other than ex-convicts looking to rebuild their lives. Sober living homes are like dormitories. People rent a room or, to save money, share a room, with other patients in the advanced stages of recovery. As outpatient homes, residents have more freedom to come and go and will generally structure ther day around counseling sessions, work and/or school. This is the phase during which it’s most appropriate to start thinking about getting back to work.

For starters, the safe haven of a sober living home (or any outpatient treatment program) provides the perfect backdrop against which residents can start slowly seguing back into functioning normally. Going back to school or taking a job is almost always encouraged.

Second, at this later stage of recovery, most health insurance plans will have run out meaning that you’re paying for continuing care out of your own pocket. Working while in recovery will help cover the costs of treatment programs such as sober living homes.

Besides the advantage of earning a wage at a much-needed time, there are many other advantages to working while in recovery including;

Income: You almost certainly have lingering financial responsibilities or debts from your bout with addiction. Earning a wage now can help not only to pay for treatment, but in digging yourself out of debt. If nothing else, the cash you earn can help you prepare for the next step.
Stability: The cycles of addiction are, for most addicts, highly disruptive to your life. It may have caused you leave school or put your career on hold. Getting back in the workplace as soon as possible will help instill in you a renewed sense of purpose. The steady employment obligations that include having to show up to work on time and perform to standards is a great test of your readiness to re-enter society. There’s no better time to do than while you’re in recovery because of the safety net back at the treatment facility. Learning new coping mechanisms that can help you do with the stresses of a regular job is something you should do beforeyou go back into the world alone.
Normalcy: Society expects individuals to make responsible choices and to be able to manage their financial affairs. Having and keeping a job is an indication of normalcy, of becoming a part of a community and making a contribution. It’s also a way to demonstrate to a partner or loved ones that you’re getting very close to being ready for a life on the outside.
Constructive use of time: Bored people are easily tempted.  Simply put, with too much time and too little that’s productive to fill the hours, it’s easy to lapse into daydreams or fantasies about your previous behavior – perhaps even spurring you to use again. When you have nothing to do, there’s time to grow nostalgic and in some cases, recovering addicts talk themselves into believing being addicted included some good times. Nothing could be further from the truth – or more dangerous.
Restore one’s self-esteem: One of the earliest casualties of substance abuse, addiction and addictive behavior is the loss of self-esteem. When you’re in early recovery, your emotional state is still fragile. You feel vulnerable and, in a very real sense, you are. Some in early recovery report feeling worthless, unable to make a contribution; their months and years of addiction have left them feeling helpless. But there’s an antidote to those feelings: work. When you go to your job and do the best you can, you begin to feel that you’re doing something good, something that’s right for you. This helps restore your self-esteem. Feeling good about yourself makes it easier, too, to accept new challenges and look forward to them with eagerness instead of dread.

Remember to approach this in a healthy manner

While you’re making your daily to-do lists, securing help and assistance from others as needed, spending quality time with your family doing fun things, it’s also important that you pay attention to the basics. The human body doesn’t run on good intentions alone. So before you go off and start a new job, remember to pay attention to your nutrition.

  • You need to prepare for work and refuel at regular intervals by eating well-balanced, healthy meals.
  • You need to get an adequate amount of sleep each night – the average adult requires between 8 and 9 hours of sleep nightly – allowing your body to restore and revitalize.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day. Rehydration is an excellent way to maintain sufficient bodily fluids and keep stress in check.
  • Take appropriate vitamins and supplements.
  • If you are on medication, take it as prescribed – especially if the medication is for a chronic condition or is part of your recovery program.

If you’re consider working while in recovery, talk to your addiction treatment case manager and anyone else whom you might feel is qualified to give you advice. Doing so will allow you to understand what you’re facing and to reconfirm that your support network has your back.


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Having a structure in place to focus on sobriety is one thing, but rebuilding your life with a band of brothers at your back is what sets our community apart from others. We’ve proven it repeatedly; leaning on people like yourself in a structured sober living program leads to a more exciting and fulfilling life.

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