Steps to Entering the Workforce After IOP
Most of the coaching, medical support, and life skills you obtain in your intensive outpatient program are preparing you for stepping confidently into a new life. Part of that life is finding or returning to rewarding and fulfilling work.
You might be eager to return to work as a familiar environment, or you might have some concerns about the reception you will receive from your former colleagues. Perhaps you don’t have a job waiting and need to find the right opportunity, or you may not feel ready for the stresses involved.
Taking this important step into the workforce is one of the things you have been working toward in your intensive outpatient treatment program. You can overcome the obstacles and bring your new way of living into the outside world. There are so many benefits to your recovery to be found in the workplace and taking advantage of these opportunities is your next step to a satisfying life.
How Working Supports Your Recovery
Working engages your brain in constructive thoughts. Solving problems and finding creative solutions builds your confidence and establishes new patterns of thinking and behavior.
Working will enable you to:
Become more self-sufficient.
Taking care of yourself and providing for loved ones is good work. Standing on your own feet builds confidence and orients your purpose. As difficult as this may be at first, attaining self-sufficiency is the rightful goal of all healthy adults.
Belong to a community.
Wanting to be part of a team engaged in fruitful work is one of the best natural instincts of humanity. Collaborating, taking direction, learning, earning respect – all of these skills can be enhanced by getting back to work. This is an opportunity to expand this sense of belonging outside of your recovery group.
Create new social opportunities.
As part of team-building and natural social interaction, new friendships and social events become available. Socializing sober is a learned skill. While being cautious of after-work events that involve drinking, you can take advantage of outings and socializing to expand your circle of friends in a controlled environment.
Restore your reputation.
Rebuilding trust is an essential step in intensive outpatient treament. A job gives you the opportunity to prove your abilities and relieve any lingering doubts about your dedication. Seizing that chance to shine and earning trust from your coworkers and family involves showing up reliably and doing the best you can. You don’t need to be a rock star right away.
Find your confidence.
As part of recovery you have come face to face with your own weaknesses. While this is grounding and necessary, it shakes our self-confidence. Low self-esteem robs us of our energy and motivation. From this fragile place it can be intimidating to take on a job, but it is an ideal way to see visible progress in ourselves on a daily basis. As your confidence grows, you can give more back, creating an upward spiral.
Returning to work or finding a job is a signal to the world that you are back. Using your time constructively and building a new routine without drugs or alcohol will become your new normal. It takes time for this new life to feel normal, but there is no other way to achieve that than to just do it and persevere until you find your balance.
Returning to Your Existing Job
There are some considerations which relate to returning to your workplace after intensive outpatient treatment. Returning to people who know you has some advantages but might also bring with it some uneasiness based on your past performance.
Keep in mind:
Your confidentiality is protected.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protection for employees who have chosen to enter treatment for substance abuse.1 When questions come up from coworkers it will be your choice how much to share. Your supervisor or manager will outline any specific requirements of your organization for returning to work after treatment and should respect your privacy during the transition.
You know how to manage your stress.
There will be some stress involved in returning to work. Try not to focus on what other people might be saying about your absence. Many coworkers will be supportive but might be clumsy in how they approach you. Prepare some calm phrases to deflect inappropriate questions and use the techniques you’ve learned in your intensive outpatient program or other therapy to manage your stress. Your first job is to protect your sobriety.
You will need to deal with your feelings.
Returning to a group that knew you when you were using can bring up feelings of guilt or shame. If left unexamined these feelings can lead to the desire to escape, which might put your progress at risk. Remind yourself of how much you have learned in treatment and of your power to change yourself. Reach out to your sponsor, friend, or counselor and talk through these feelings. Overcoming this obstacle is a brave and necessary step forward.
Your success will speak for itself.
You have time on your side. Achieving positive results and success at moving back into your work group will quiet anyone’s doubts over time, including your own. People around you will begin to see the change you have created. They will begin to count on you, and as you take on more responsibility with success, you will surpass their expectations.
Finding a New Job
Perhaps you don’t have a job waiting for your return, and you need to enter the job market after completing an intensive outpatient program or inpatient residence. This gives you the opportunity to seek a good fit for your needs as you transition back into the workforce.
Consider these factors as you search for a new job:
Just get started.
If you can’t find a paid job, or while you are waiting, consider a volunteer or transitional position to get your feet under you and some recent work experience for your resume. Small steps and eliminating a large employment gap with something fresh will help you gain momentum.
Easy is good.
A well-structured and clearly defined job may be a great starting place. Consider taking a position you might have considered too entry-level before. Maintaining your sobriety is your primary job right now. An easy job might be more than enough, so set yourself up for success.
Find a schedule you can keep.
Make sure that you will be able to keep up with your post-treatment support groups and activities that are helping you grow your sobriety skills and network. Avoid jobs asking for extensive overtime or schedules that will disturb your sleep.
Determine your transparency level.
It is your decision how much you choose to share with a new or prospective employer. You might want to share in an application, during an interview, after employment, or not at all. Just be sure that your online presence is not being more open than you intend to be, as a search of your social media is a common step in the hiring process.
Be confident in your rights.
You are protected by the ADA against hiring discrimination based on past drug use or addiction treatment, as long as you are not using now.1 Some individuals in recovery choose to share more about their situation because finding the right supportive employer will be the ideal situation for their long-term success, and they have no desire to try to keep their challenges and history a secret.
Beware of “Workaholism”
Being aware of a tendency toward addictive behaviors, outpatient treatment programs warn against substituting one addiction for another. Working can grow into a replacement addiction when it is used as an escape from dealing with family or home life.
Working excessively long hours, obsessing or thinking constantly about work, or allowing work to prevent growth and healing in all parts of life are signs of work addiction. While you might be highly motivated to prove yourself in the work arena, any activity that is destructive and obsessive should be treated accordingly.
This addiction might be more socially acceptable and even encouraged in some circles, but it will pose a risk to your long-term recovery. Burn out is inevitable, and the heightened stress chemicals are serving as a replacement for other substances. If your work begins to take on this role, speak to your sponsor, mentor, or your professional recovery team and address it right away.
Work is important, but balance is more important. Rather than throw yourself into work, develop a pace and separation between home and family that will support your sobriety and ideal work-life balance for years to come.
Ready, Willing, and Able
As you step out confidently from our intensive outpatient treatment program at RECO Intensive in New Jersey, we are behind your success 100 percent. Our winning team will help prepare you to meet this challenge and create or re-establish your connection with a new winning team in the workplace.
By guiding you in creating a strong balance between work and home with evidence-based therapies and experienced treatment, as well as fostering essential life and career skills, our team is your ally in this transitional step out of treatment and into a fully productive life.
If drugs or alcohol are preventing you from finding or keeping employment, we are here to help you overcome addiction and experience your full potential. Reach out to us now!