Get the Job, Keep the Job: Staying Employed in Recovery
One of the first orders of business for most people in recovery is to find a job that will allow them to support themselves independently, pay back debts incurred during addiction and treatment, and take the first step on a path to a brighter future defined by something other than drug and alcohol use. Depending on where you are in your career and what your work life looked like before and during addiction, there may be different actions you can take that are more or less appropriate. Here are some of your options.
Starting from Scratch
For many, finding a job means starting from scratch. This means gathering together identification paperwork, creating a resume, and hitting the pavement – not once, but every day – until you find a job. If you don’t have a long track record or a positive work history, then it may be that your first job in recovery is not necessarily the job you ultimately envision for yourself, but every new job will move you closer to the career you are working toward, and there is something positive to be gained by each experience.
To get started, you will need:
- A complete and up-to-date resume
- A copy of your Social Security card
- A bank account to deposit paychecks or cash from odd jobs to avoid having large amounts of cash on hand
- A presentable outfit for interviewing
Rebuilding Your Career
If you were employed during active addiction and you have a long career behind you, you may be interested in returning to your previous path of employment. Depending on how much damage was done to your career prior to entering treatment, you may have some serious rebuilding to do before you are able to pick up where you left off. You can start by:
- Reaching out to colleagues with whom you still have a strong and positive relationship for advice and referrals
- Attending local and national networking events, especially conferences and industry conventions
- Spending time on social media, especially sites like LinkedIn, and connecting with people who are working in or adjacent to your industry
- Revamping your resume, doing volunteer work, and attaining credentials or certifications that will help you to be more employable
Nailing the Interview
Whether you are diving into the workforce for the first time as a sober person or trying to get back into the swing of things, the interview process can be nerve-wracking. Many people have questions about how best to handle certain interview questions, what to wear, and what employers are looking for. Though the answer will vary depending on the industry and position applied for, the individual, and the employer, here are the answers to some of the most common questions.
Should I disclose that I am in recovery?
This is by far one of the most pressing concerns for people who are applying for employment. With recovery at the forefront of their minds, it may seem like an important topic of discussion. In some cases, disclosing a past struggle with addiction is imperative. In jobs where you may come into contact with or have to handle addictive substances (e.g., medications as a first responder or working in a clinic), it may be a requirement that you share your past with addiction in order to be in compliance with industry standards. In other situations, such as handling alcohol when serving customers at a bar or restaurant or where contact with substances is infrequent, it is not necessarily something that you need to “confess” at an interview unless you will require special accommodations in order to minimize your contact.
What should I wear?
No matter what position you are applying for, it is a good idea to look your best. Choose clothes that are comfortable but that also look nice and present you as a positive candidate for this or any position.
What should I talk about if they ask personal questions?
Addiction is tough, and it can take time to repair the damage done to relationships, health, and mental wellness in recovery. None of these issues are appropriate conversation for a job interview, however. Keep it simple and light. Mention positive things that you are excited about in your personal life – if asked. For the most part, however, stay focused on the job and any skills or experience you have that pertain to your ability to be a positive addition to their team.
How can I prepare?
No need to show up to an interview feeling like a deer in headlights. Get to know the company before you arrive. The Internet makes it easy to look up some of the details of the organization, find out the projects they have been involved in, read press releases, etc. If it’s a store or restaurant, head in ahead of time and take note of their services and products. If you have questions, ask. The more knowledgeable you are, the better able you will be to keep the interview headed in a positive direction.
Keeping the Job
- Show up early.
- Stay late.
- Look your best.
- Offer to help out.
- Do tasks assigned to you to the best of your ability.
- Be respectful to your boss, clients/customers, your coworkers, and yourself.
- Avoid the rumor mill.
- Follow through on your commitments.
- Recognize your value.
Finding a good job is a key piece to solidifying your recovery, but remaining clean and sober should always be your top concern. If you find that a job is too stressful, difficult, or otherwise in conflict with your ability to avoid relapse, then give notice and begin the process of connecting with a job that is better suited to your needs. In the meantime, rather than burning bridges, use your experience in any position to build your resume and improve your skillset so you are even stronger in the next position.