Going Back to Work: Tips for Maintaining Recovery

Overcoming Your Fear of Returning to Work

It’s natural to feel fear or anxiety when returning to work after coming out of addiction. You may be concerned about whether you can get your previous job back. You might also feel fear or stress about keeping your job if you relapse.

While these worries are understandable and should be addressed, fear is often the biggest enemy to growth. And fear about returning to work is no exception. But remember that you’ve worked hard at your recovery and have the tools you need to reenter the workforce.

During the time you were at your treatment program, circumstances will have likely changed at your workplace. You may feel like a stranger in a new land, but with the right support and choices, there are ways to make the transition easier than you think.

How Good Employers Handle Recovery

As opposed to decades in the past, there’s more understanding about how to handle addiction in the workplace today. Many companies have a well-developed policy on how to support employees in addiction recovery. Moreover, such policies provide helpful resources and refer to addiction as the chronic, disabling condition that it is.

Government legislation has also mandated that addiction be regarded as a disability that needs treatment. Therefore, all parties (including employers) should do their best to deal with the root causes of the problem, rather than only the symptoms.

Some workplaces may even offer “abstinence reinforcement interventions.” Studies show these programs to be effective and demonstrate how other types of incentive programs at work can help those in addiction recovery.

Making the Transition Easier at Work

A employee in addiction recovery who’s returning to work will be more successful if they have a clear strategy for being in the workplace. The three tips below will make that transition smoother within the work environment itself:

  1. Have a Plan of What to Tell Your Coworkers

Conversations with co-workers often cause the most anxiety for those recovering from addiction. The initial question, “Where have you been?” is inevitable. To avoid unnecessary stress, then, it’s best to prepare for these questions in advance. How you choose to answer is entirely up to you. With some coworkers, you might feel comfortable sharing your story. With others, you may not. Whatever you decide, the transition will be easier when you can confidently respond to your peers, bosses, and those you manage with a prepped answer.

  1. Maintain Clear Communication With Your Employer

Hopefully you established a good line of communication when you initially left your workplace due to addiction. If you didn’t, this is the best way to start off a new chapter. To start, make sure you and your bosses have clear and realistic expectations of your responsibilities and schedule. These details should be outlined in writing and put on file with your HR department. For example, provisions for time off to attend post-treatment appointments, therapy sessions, and/or group meetings should be explicitly stated. Open communication with your employer is essential to keeping a healthy relationship with your work environment.

  1. Connect With a Support Group at Work

Many large companies provide workplace support groups that they host in-house. The members may include employees who want to help their coworkers transition into work after addiction. Others may be peers who have experienced similar struggles. You may also find supportive superiors in such groups who want to learn how to facilitate best re-integration possible for their employees.

Making the Transition Easier Outside of Work

There are a number of things you can do outside of your work environment that can help make the reentry to work easier. In fact, studies show that a broader rehabilitative framework for helping those in recovery enter the workplace is more beneficial. These “domains” include biological, psychological, social, environmental, and spiritual spheres.

The four tips below should follow in line with your aftercare treatment plan that you and your therapists have agreed on.

  1. Stay Consistent With Therapy Sessions

Therapy and counseling are central to the recovery journey. You should have a one-on-one therapist who knows you and your history, including how you’re doing at work. You may also have other supportive individuals, like a sponsor or accountability peers from a support group. These individuals are necessary for every step of the recovery process.

  1. Watch Out for Burnout

You may find yourself channeling addiction-like behavior into your work once you’ve fully acclimated. Overworking is a common phenomenon and often provides a similar relief as the substance did when you were using. So while it’s important to work hard, resist the need to “prove yourself” to your superiors or peers. Stick to what’s best and healthiest for you.

  1. Keep Your Loved Ones in the Loop

It’s important to be intentional about including your spouse, partner, or dependents in the process of returning to your workplace. Share with them your worries, your wins, and let them encourage you in the ways that only loved ones can. Family members should be in the loop about your aftercare plan and the commitments you have to your recovery. Without their knowing these details, it’s hard for them to support you in your journey and help where they can.

  1. Restoring Self-Esteem

Healthy self-esteem is a key part of your recovery and your return to work after treatment. Feeling confident in yourself will flow into every aspect of your life—work included. It may seem like building your self-esteem can take forever, but it’s worth it. Honest reassurance is the best way to restore your self-esteem, and these reassurances will express in healthy ways at work and at home.

Conclusion: Creating an Atmosphere of Accountability

Finally, it’s important to remember that everyone returning to the workforce after addiction treatment needs healthy accountability in every sphere of their life. Just as the treatment process required your honesty, excuses or denial will only hinder your recovery journey from here on out. Accountability goes hand-in-hand with responsibility—and responsibility means long-term success.

If you or someone you love is looking for more resources or an addiction treatment program, reach out to a professional at Impact Recovery Center today.