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How To Get A Job/Employment In Early Recovery

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 12, 2019

Returning to your job or finding a new one after you have completed the initial stages of recovery can be difficult, but is an important step to take.

Once you feel ready to take on the additional responsibility of work, finding the right job and securing a position, represent another step toward reclaiming your life in recovery. This can be a process of reinvention if you previously found yourself in work that was unfulfilling. Or it can mean an opportunity to improve a new perception of your former work, without the use of drugs. Either way, it marks an important stage in your early recovery, and fortunately, you needn’t go through the search alone.

There are several local and national resources dedicated to helping people connect with the kind of work they’re seeking. Additionally, thinking creatively about exposure to the kinds of careers through volunteering or internships. Just by introducing yourself and expressing a desire to work for the organizations or businesses you’re applying to, can really show off your motivation to work and begin a fulfilling, meaningful career.

Things To First Keep In Mind

Major changes can be hard on recovery. Even if you feel you’re ready for a major shift in career, it may be best to take small steps toward making that change happen. Early recovery can be tipped off balance by stress caused by change. Regardless if a significant life event is perceived as good or bad, it can still generate stress.

Consider what you want to get out of a job. Most people think about income, but there are many other important considerations that can contribute to your overall health and well-being. Perhaps you enjoy books and a job at a bookstore would offer you some reward in addition to pay. Or maybe you deal with chronic pain and have needs that make certain jobs requiring standing for long hours more challenging. Perhaps you find yourself longing for a career with more personal meaning to you, including helping others suffering from addiction. It may help to make a list of both the things you want as well as the things you don’t want in a job. When seeking employment, refer to this list often.

Try a few things first. If you’re considering a new career, there may be internships or opportunities to volunteer in that field. This might be a good transition into a regular work schedule. It can also help expose you to a few different career options without burning any bridges.

School may also work as a transition into work and career. Though school can also lead to a good deal of stress. Whichever route you choose, be prepared for the changes and stress that accompany those changes. You might work part-time while attending evening classes to start, for example, to find balance and still work toward your larger goals.

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When Seeking Employment In Early Recovery, Keep In Mind:

  • Do not overwhelm yourself, slow and steady steps toward your employment goals
  • Consider what you want (and don’t want) in a job or career
  • Gain exposure to new careers with internships or through volunteer opportunities
  • Consider transitions including school, part-time employment, etc.

Finding Work Following Recovery

There are several online tools that can help you in your search for employment. In some cases, these services may act as temp services. These types of services can help you connect with the type of employment you seek. The United States Department of Labor provides an online tool to connect people seeking employment with local employment centers.

Other websites, like and, allow you to post your resume and qualifications while searching a multitude of job postings. You can also check your local newspaper for job postings.

Another way to get the kind of employment you’re looking for is to go directly to those businesses or organizations, even in cases where they are not seeking new employees and express your interest in working for them at some point in the future. In some cases, there may be openings upcoming and your enthusiasm may make you a good contender.

Disclosing Past Addiction to Employers

In most cases, you are not required to disclose your addiction history. Some do choose to inform their employer, and in those cases in which the employer is non-discriminatory, it can work to the benefit of both parties in understanding the importance of meetings or counseling sessions that can sometimes interfere with a work schedule.

In other cases, unfortunately, disclosing your past addiction history while looking for work can result in someone else getting the job. Even if you intend to share this information with your employer, it may be best to wait until you’ve proven yourself on the job.

If you have committed a crime related to drug use, the crime will likely need to be disclosed. In those cases, be prepared to help a potential employer understand the lengths you’ve gone to in seeking out and completing a rehabilitation program, illustrating your commitment to change. Not every employer will be open to this, but those who are may offer additional support and guidance. In many ways honesty weeds out the less understanding employers.

Don’t Give Up

The process of seeking employment following addiction can be both rewarding, and often frustrating, especially if you were using for a long time. Try not to feel defeated with rejection. It’s a normal part of the process, even for those without an addiction history. Sometimes, though, it can feel like the odds are stacked. If you find yourself feeling down during your quest for employment, be honest about these feelings. Take a step back and re-evaluate your strategies. If you are simply not getting calls for interviews, there are services to help you assess the quality of your resume, which may be at the root of the problem. If you are feeling very nervous during interviews, ask others to help you practice. This can renew your enthusiasm and that alone can make a huge difference. Most importantly, remember that you are not the addiction in your past. While it can feel like a huge shadow, it does not own you. You are equally as worthy a person and in time, you’ll connect with the right job or career.

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