For many former addicts, finding a new career path is a crucial aspect of recovery. The vast majority of addicts abusing illegal drugs work just so that they can afford to purchase the next fix of their drug of choice. The kind of work that addicts do to make a living varies widely.
While there are countless examples of addicts who successfully hold down prestigious jobs, there are plenty who struggle to hold one down at all or find themselves unemployed due to their drug abuse and addiction and fails while forging a new career path after getting sober.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, the fact remains that the early days of recovery are a time of self-reflection. Sometimes recovering addicts who have high-paying prestigious jobs awaiting them find that their experience recovering from addiction has given them a new perspective.
In these cases, a recovering addict might choose to pursue an entirely new career, even accepting lower pay and status, in an effort to find more meaning in what they do for a living. In other cases, a recovering addict who has never had financial security might pursue a career for the first time and find meaning in simply being a productive member of society.
Recovery programs such as sober living homes offer unique opportunities to recovering addicts who are looking to enter or re-enter the workforce. One study on sober living homes in the Journal of Psychiatric Drugs found that residents of sober living homes tend to have improved employment outcomes.
The resources provided by such recovery programs combined with the social support network they provide give recovering addicts better chances of finding meaningful employment than if they were to simply seek and struggle on their own.
Treatment centers offer these services for a reason: the National Institute on Drug Abuse recognizes that the efficacy of addiction treatment is dependent on the treatment of all of the individual’s needs, not just the signs and symptoms of drug dependence.
Addicts who have never held down a job or are looking to switch careers probably want to spend the first few weeks and months of recovery focusing on building new job skills. For some, this might mean applying for degrees and professional certificates. For others, it might mean working with a job coach to develop their resumes, cover letter, and practice for job interviews.
Sometimes it is important to update ones skill set to prepare for a new career, in which case online classes are necessary. The best approach to figuring out what skills are necessary is to talk to someone who is currently working in the career you’re seeking. They can advise you about what path they took to get there and what skills the ideal job candidate would possess in the current employment market.
In addition to directly applicable job skills, recovering addicts often have to work on their interpersonal skills. Behavior that might have worked during active addiction likely isn’t very effective in a workplace environment. The abilities to compromise, manage time, and work with a team take effort and time to develop.
Working with a psychotherapist can assist recovering addicts in developing these crucial interpersonal skills. Additionally, due to the effects of addiction on brain and behavior, recovering addicts often suffer from impaired decision-making skills and may be prone to impulsivity. While certain fields may relish employing a risk-taker, there are many circumstances during which being cautious and planning out decisions in advance are more advantageous courses of action.
It is important to remember that the side effects and neurological damage from drug addiction take time to heal and that successful employment actually requires prioritizing recovery over employment.
At the onset of a job search, recovering addicts are often at a loss as to where to begin. It can be helpful to make a list of ones personal network. Include anyone who might have contacts in the field in which you are searching for a job. It is worthwhile to include anyone of relevance, from friends and family to other residents of your sober living house.
Reaching out to these people and asking if they can put you in touch with people in your job field can be of great assistance during a job hunt. These contacts can also provide valuable recommendations down the road.
Changing careers is difficult for anyone, and it can be especially difficult for addicts in recovery from substance abuse. Job seekers with substance use disorder face other risk factors while applying for jobs, for example discrimination due to the social stigma surrounding addiction.
Changing jobs in recovery also further intensifies the major life changes you are likely already experiencing. However, the benefits of working in a new career that has personal meaning far outweigh the associated challenges.
Working a full-time job in which one is invested reduces the chances of relapse down the road because such a job can provide both financial and emotional incentives to stay sober. Having a meaningful career can in fact be one of the most rewarding aspects of recovery from addiction.