After going through treatment for alcohol or opioid abuse, walking back into your normal life sometimes feels impossible. For the growing number of Americans coming out of residential opioid addiction treatment, going back to work after an addiction can feel intimidating. Social stigmas and hostile workplace relationships add more stress to the already difficult process of building new habits and beating the relapse odds. But success is possible if you stay focused on what really matters. Read on to learn our addiction experts’ tips.
Change Your Thinking
Many recovering employees worry that co-workers will judge or resent them for their struggle with addiction, that their boss will never be able to trust them again, or even that they are no longer qualified to perform their job duties. Strained relationships and painful memories that remain can further complicate the situation.
Addiction begets these fears and insecurities far more than any other type of medical leave. There is no negative stigma attached with other medical issues that might take someone away from the office. No one will judge a coworker for taking time off work to receive chemotherapy, deliver a baby, or recover from a broken arm. But because of the social stigma directed toward substance abuse, some coworkers might believe that you don’t deserve to come back to work after an addiction.
Working through an opioid dependency involves plenty of shame, humiliation, and even guilt. Don’t expect those feelings to go away just because you have completed treatment, but do actively work to correct those thought patterns. It’s time to leave behind the failures and mistakes caused by your addiction and recognize that they no longer define your potential.
Find A Support Network
As the opioid crisis in the United States worsens, many employers are facing a new challenge: reintegrating employees who have undergone residential addiction treatment. One of the biggest challenges that you’ll face in the workplace is dealing with the same stressors, deadlines, and conflicts. Many people turn to substance abuse to cope with stressful situations at home and work. Returning to those old routines often causes anxiety and frustration, which can sometimes trigger a relapse.
After you complete your treatment regimen, most residential treatment programs will put you in touch with a support counsellor whose job is to help you stabilize your lifestyle and maintain healthy post-therapy habits. If you have access to this resource, then be sure to take advantage of their expertise. An experienced support counsellor will have the tools and knowledge to build a healthy and fulfilling plan for on-the-job success.
Maintaining constant communication between yourself, your workplace manager, and your aftercare treatment counsellor can support your recovery. Your manager can provide information about drug policies, set performance expectations, and evaluate workloads. Your support counsellor can help you develop a comprehensive relapse prevention plan and create a realistic, practical roadmap for your first few months of work.
Stop Thinking About It
Sometimes the first step is the hardest. For individuals heading back to work after an addiction, simply walking through their office door and sitting down at their desk may be the most daunting part of the workday.
Peter Grinspoon, a medical doctor who left his workplace because of a struggle with severe opioid addiction, recently wrote about his reintegration experience on the Harvard Health Blog. Writing about keeping his cool among former colleagues, Grinspoon said: “Every day, it became easier as I did a good job, deepened my connections with my colleagues, and accumulated goodwill, which would eventually replace any negative images that may have accompanied my arrival.”
Grinspoon recommends going to work, completing everyday tasks, and checking items off your to-do list, even if it is difficult to do so. Over time, it will get easier.
If you or a loved one is going back to work after addiction, you understand how challenging this journey can be, in both the home and the office. The addiction recovery professionals at CARUS Recovery have many years of experience helping individuals conquer addiction and renew their purpose. Call us at 877-225-7774 to learn more about our state-of-the-art residential treatment program!