Finding gainful employment is a red letter moment in recovery.
It signifies a shift from dependence to independence in a very tangible sense. The right job can give you a sense of accomplishment, empowerment, and positive identity that translates into your everyday life, and helps you to build a positive new life for yourself in recovery. The wrong job, on the other hand, can dig into the foundation that you built during addiction treatment and make it difficult to stay sober.
So what are the “right” jobs? How do you make sure that the employment you choose will help to support you in recovery rather than tearing you down?
No one is served well when they take on a job that is too easy for them. It is too easy to get bored, feel that the job is “beneath” them, or start to cut corners. This does not mean that all “simple” tasks are poor choices for employment, but if you find that your mind easily wanders to other things, or that you have long chunks of time with nothing to do and it is causes you to feel restless and uneasy, then you may be putting yourself at risk.
Why? Boredom is an oft-cited reason for relapse, and there is nothing more boring than heading to a job that is mind-numbingly slow, repetitive, or uninteresting. Eight hours can pass excruciatingly slowly if you are spending most of your time staring at the clock. Try to hold out for a job that engages your mind on some level and/or keeps you busy so you do not find yourself craving drugs or alcohol.
Jobs That Provide a Positive Environment
It is important that when you walk into your place of employment you are happy to be there. The people you work with should for the most part be positive people or fun to be around. The general atmosphere should be welcoming rather than judgmental and negative. Even if the work is not the most interesting in the world, if you are working with good people and have fun with them while at work, then it may be a good choice for early recovery until you find something that speaks to your passions.
Community Service Jobs
Giving back to others and feeling that you are having a positive impact on the people around you are important to staying sober. Too often, people feel like they were a drag on those they loved most in addiction or began using due to low self-esteem. Thus, in recovery, it is an excellent idea to demonstrate to oneself and others that these preconceived notions are far from the truth through being of service to other people regularly.
Though many opt to incorporate volunteering into their weekly schedule in order to give back to their community, some people in recovery are lucky enough to find a job that allows them to serve the public and get paid for the opportunity. Whether you work at a nonprofit, take care of children, or work at a homeless shelter, hospice, or clinic, giving back can give you a sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are helping not only to heal yourself but also the world around you.
Jobs that speak to your passion do not feel like work. No matter how many hours you put in, if you are doing things that are interesting to you and even fun, then you will enjoy your time at work, improve your mood, have higher energy when you are on the clock and at home, and connect better with people you work with.
Any way that you can incorporate your passions and hobbies into your work can help you to feel more stable at work and in your recovery. For example, if you like to paint, though you may not immediately find work teaching an art class or painting murals, you may enjoy teaching kids to paint, refurbishing old furniture, or even house painting.
Jobs That Are Supportive of Your Recovery
No matter what type of job that you choose, finding employment that allows you to focus on your recovery is essential. If there is any aspect of the job – the boss’s expectations, the comments or behaviors of your coworkers, the availability of drugs or alcohol – that is a trigger for relapse for you, it is not going to be a good fit. Make sure you take time to vet the job in advance, finding out all that will be expected of you and the type of training you will receive, and determine whether or not it feels like it will work for you. If anything seems like it might be stressful or negative, let it go and move on to the next opportunity.
Trial and Error
There is no rule that says you must take the first job that comes along or that you have to stay in a job that is not working for you. Take your time to look around and see what is available. Go on a number of interviews before choosing the position for you, or take on a couple of part-time jobs to keep things interesting. Give yourself the option to change things up if necessary while maintaining a steady income during the transition.
Put your recovery first and make sure that the job supports your ability to stay focused, strong, and positive on the job and off.