man returns to work after rehab

How to Navigate a Difficult Job During Early Recovery

By Tori Utley is an entrepreneur working jointly in technology innovation and addiction recovery, holding her license as an alcohol and drug counselor (LADC) in Minnesota.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

man returns to work after rehab

Whether you're just leaving treatment or have been sober for a while, early recovery can be refreshing. You're energized and excited about the changes in your life and are learning new ways to live without drugs and alcohol. So when it comes time to go back to work, it can be difficult to balance an old job with new recovery.

And if you're in a bad work environment, don't like your coworkers, have a micromanaging boss, or are working in an environment where alcohol is always available (bartending or serving), it can be even more challenging.

Before you go back to work, take a minute to think about your job. If your job is toxic, triggering, or you suspect there could be a chance it causes you to relapse or fall into triggering patterns, try to look for a new job. There are jobs that aren't worth your time and energy, especially if they would rob you of your recovery.

But on the flip side, there are other jobs that might not cause a relapse right away, but could harm your recovery in the long-run. These might be the jobs with difficult coworkers or hostile work environments. Over time, you might notice it's not a good fit, especially for your newfound perspective in recovery. These jobs often require a "stick it out" attitude. They might not be your forever job, but your job for right now, and it's best to learn how to cope and strengthen your character and recovery in the process.

Here are a few things you can do to make sure you're keeping your recovery in check.

1. Get a mentor.

A sponsor is helpful, but consider working with a professional mentor, too. A professional mentor can help coach you through a difficult job, using it as an opportunity to become a better employee and strengthen your recovery.

Here's a survival guide to get you through your earliest days back at work to make sure your recovery remains a top priority.

2. Make a recovery plan.

Whether you decide to stick it out for one month or one year, create a plan for moving into a job or career that you can stick with long-term. It can be easy to get lost in the demands of your daily work and lose sight of your potential or long-term aspirations. Taking time to create a plan will keep you focused and can help you develop small steps to reach your goals.

3. Find support.

If your work-life is sub-par, make sure your social life and sober support system are giving you what you need: a listening ear, accountability and unconditional love. Whether you find this at a meeting or over coffee with a good friend, it can help provide the support you need to get through a hard season at work.

4. Practice mindfulness.

There are days on the job that will be downright difficult. For this reason, incorporating mindfulness – even if it's just for 30 seconds – can help you stay grounded, focused and unaffected by the triggers of work.

5. Keep it in perspective.

Find a mantra – like "this too shall pass," or something that brings you comfort. Bad jobs are temporary, and are often a part of life and the recovery experience. A bad job will help you develop character. If you have a long-term plan, you'll also be better equipped to remember that your current job isn't your forever job, but you still need to give it your best today.

Navigating a difficult job in early recovery takes patience and diligence. Go to work and remember recovery and good work ethic are formed one day at a time – this job may not last forever, but the lessons you learn will.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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