Returning to Work After Addiction

Returning to Work After Addiction

Addiction affects many parts of our lives. It affects our relationships, our health, and our working lives. Often our addiction will cause our working lives to suffer. We may miss deadlines, or our performance can be lacking. When we decide to deal with our addiction and enter treatment, we may need to take time off from work. This may be viewed positively, and we may feel supported or fear that others view it negatively.

Regardless of how it’s viewed, sometimes a break from work is exactly what we need. Eventually, though, as treatment ends, we must reenter the workplace. This is an essential step if we want to be able to continue to support ourselves and our families. Having a job or profession can also give us purpose and meaning.

Nevertheless, certain challenges can accompany this transition back to work, and we must be prepared to deal with them. Returning to work after getting treatment for addiction can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking. Getting the proper treatment for addiction improves our ability to navigate that transition successfully.

What to Expect When Returning to Work After Addiction Treatment

Going from a rehabilitation program back into the working world is not always easy. Some of us can transition to work with few or no problems. Others leave treatment and reenter the workforce only to experience fear, worry, and personal and social integration issues. We might be worried that we will be judged for going to treatment. What’s more, facing the people in our lives can be difficult after we have made poor choices. It can take considerable strength to remain confident in these circumstances.

It is natural to feel stress when returning to work when we have been out of the working world for several months. The good news is that we will overcome all of these feelings with time. One way to cope successfully with returning to work is to stay involved in treatment.

Continuing to receive support through therapy sessions and participating in groups can help us find ways to deal with uncomfortable feelings. As we continue our journey, we must become comfortable with who we are in our healing process. If we carry guilt or shame, that’s all we will focus on. We need to focus instead on the new path we are on and the joys and successes it will bring.

How to Adjust to Being Back in the Workplace

Most of our co-workers knew us and our behavior during active addiction. What happens when we return from treatment and want them to know that we have changed? We can work with our support system to brainstorm ways to communicate our newly formed desires, routines, and boundaries. To help with this, it is important to reaffirm the reasons we sought treatment and recovery. It also may help to associate with those who can understand our situation instead of those who can’t. No matter what, we should give ourselves time to adjust.

The coping skills and tools that we learned in treatment will help us on our recovery journey. We can work on managing our stress. When faced with a stressful situation at work, we may need to breathe and reach into our tool bag and find what helps us manage our stress. The same applies to any stressful, frustrating, or difficult situation. Using the tools we learned in treatment can make us better communicators and help us work with our co-workers more positively.

Creating a Safety Plan to Implement at Work

A safety plan is a written list of coping strategies we can use when feeling discouraged. Safety plans are essential because relapse can happen at any point in our recovery. Therefore, an effective safety plan’s elements should include all the things that can affect us during recovery.

Our safety plan should include warning signs. It is important to list our triggers and cravings. A safety plan can guide us while we are at work and begin feeling anxious. It can encourage us to stick with our plan to maintain our sobriety. Making a safety plan and looking to it for guidance while we work can reduce our risk of relapse.

A Successful Return to Work After Addiction Treatment

To live a sober, free, and productive life, we must work to provide for ourselves. Maintaining our jobs and transitioning back to the workplace after treatment is difficult, but finding support can make it easier. Staying away from old habits and people who do not support our new goals can be a good strategy. Our old drinking buddies might frown upon this, but if they do not support our recovery, there is a high risk of relapse if we continue to hang out with them.

We must remember why we choose to recover and follow our safety plan. When we follow a plan, reach out for support, and communicate in healthy ways with our coworkers and supervisors, we can ensure we will be successful in making this transition.

Returning to work after addiction treatment can be challenging. Entering treatment can cause you to change and grow. Your coworkers may wonder why you are doing things differently. Some people may only know you as the “old you” or try to pull you back into old behaviors. Eventually, your coworkers will see that you are making a decision that has positively changed your life. Reintegrating into the workplace can be challenging, but soon you will adjust to this new normal. We at Brazos Recovery Center can help you as you navigate this situation. Call us to begin your addiction recovery or to continue your journey. Call us today at (254) 232-1550.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.