Once you’ve gone through detoxification and rehabilitation, you’re starting a new life in the outside world. The sun is shining and everything seems brighter than before, the air smells fresher on the outside, and you’re riding the wave of optimism.
Then you remember you need a place to live. You also need a job. Like a needle scratching a record, your snap back into reality. This recovery thing might be a little harder than it seems. It’s time to push away the pink cloud and get down to the business of rebuilding your life, and that starts with a job.
How Should I Prepare for the Job Hunt?
Some things are universal to looking for employment whether you’re in recovery or not. Now is the time to update that resume. Some people who have gaps in employment utilize different formatting strategies for their resume. They may choose a resume that features their skills over a simple chronological listing of employment. This is one way to reframe any gaps in employment you might have.
One positive effect of COVID-19 is that gaps in employment aren’t that uncommon, so you may not be asked about any gaps as many employers may assume that a period of unemployment is due to the pandemic. However, you should be prepared to answer that question in any case. We’ll get more into that in a little bit.
You’ll also want to think through what references you want to have on hand as most employers will want them. If your past employment history includes working for big companies, they may have a policy of only verifying dates of your employment to potential employers. That can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your history with that particular company.
Are there more personal references you can use who aren’t family? If so, do they know about your history of substance abuse and that you are in recovery? Will they divulge that information in a reference? These are things you need to think about when selecting references. Having said that, there is one way to make this process a lot simpler if you choose.
To Tell or Not to Tell
Choosing to tell potential employers about your substance abuse history is a personal choice but you don’t have the added stress of having to keep your past secret. If asked, you should always be honest but your decision to tell or not to tell may be different for each job. If your past seems like a likely question because of gaps in employment or a possible criminal record, you may be better off being proactive and addressing the issue head-on. If you go that route, a lot of the above questions become a lot simpler when everything is on the table.
Counselors or social workers may be able to help find employers that also have a history of substance abuse and are sympathetic to your cause. One profession that seems to overlook past addiction problems and even criminal records is restaurant work and specifically, becoming a chef. Have you ever noticed how many chefs on TV have a background of drug use or incarceration? A lot. One of the most well-known examples of this is the late chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain. One of his most endearing qualities was his openness and honesty about his past with heroin addiction.
Don’t expect to get as lucky with the job hunt as he was, but that is just one example of a possible job if you aren’t sure where to turn. However, if you do have a career that you want to start or go back to, you might also find someone sympathetic to your cause who can refer you to an employer who is willing to overlook your past and give you a fresh start. Networking for jobs in your support groups may lead to an opportunity where you find an employer that won’t require you to hide your past.
You may prefer to take the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach, but be prepared by rehearsing how you will answer that question if it comes up.
Finding the Right Job
Employment pays the bills and is important in its own right, but as a person in recovery, it’s important to find the right job. If you take on a super high-stress job or work for someone who doesn’t treat you well, your chances of relapse increase. You may want to look at jobs that are less rigid and more creative than say, a Wall Street broker. Are you good with numbers? Consider accounting or bookkeeping. Do you have a flair for fashion? Consider personal shopping or becoming a buyer for a big store. Are you a writer? Many writing and editing jobs are done from home and have flexible hours that can work around your schedule with support meetings.
Many people who have gone through rehabilitation and recovery choose to become therapists and counselors themselves. There is no way to replace that personal experience of recovery from substance abuse and recovering addicts tend to be very good at this kind of work. Because they’ve been there, they also tend to find it very fulfilling and it’s one place that it is okay to divulge your history of substance abuse. You may get the job because of it!
Once you’ve gotten into recovery, one of the most important pieces to rebuilding your life is employment. It’s not only important to get a job but to get the right job. Stressful jobs with a regimented structure or jobs that are minimum-wage and treat you like a number instead of a person can make you more likely to relapse. When applying and interviewing for a position, you have to choose how much of your past to divulge, but the more open you can be, the happier you will be. And the happier you are, the better your chances in recovery. We understand this at Everlast Recovery Center. From the time you walk through our doors to the time you walk out in recovery, we provide care and aftercare to help you get back to a healthy, productive life. You’ll feel like a person, not a number in our homelike, Riverside California facility. Call us today and learn how we can help at 866-DETOX-25, (866-338-6925).