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11 Tips on Working While in Recovery

This entry was posted in Addiction Recovery and tagged jobs and recovery, staying sober while working, working while in recovery on November 08, 2021 by Justin Baksh, MS, LMHC, MCAP, Chief Clinical Officer.

Addiction can wipe you out financially. Yet, the bills still come. That’s why working while in recovery can be a necessity. The thing is, your newfound sobriety still needs support – in some cases, a lot of support. So how do you balance earning a paycheck (and all its stresses) with your recovery?

Here are 11 proven tips to help you maintain your clean and sober status while working during your recovery.

  1. Wake up earlier: There are several benefits to waking up earlier, especially if you are working while in recovery. First, for many, relapses are more likely to occur at night. That’s when those who work during the day are blowing off steam and/or head out to a social setting. Waking up earlier means you will eventually be going to bed earlier. (It may take a few days to adjust to this new schedule). Also, when we wake up earlier, we have more time to get ready for and get to work without having to rush. This extra time can be a big factor in eliminating stress and helping you start the day at a relaxed pace. Stress can cause you to rely on substances that are not healthy for you. Finally, you can also indulge in some healthier activities with the extra time, such as reading or exercising. This will also help boost your self-esteem and fight off a negative mentality.
  2. Avoid stimulants: Addiction is a disease that is also based on a chemical response. When you get a good feeling from a substance, you crave that feeling more often. When you do not have that sensation, your mind tells you it wants those chemicals back in the body. Coffee and chocolate are stimulants that do the same thing. They give us a good feeling when we have them, and then the brain generates cravings for them when we don’t. The key is to find other ways to get those same feelings – things that stimulate energy and make us feel better but are also healthy for us. Eating nutritious-yet-tasty food, working on a goal, spending time on a hobby, or even giving some affection to our favorite furry friend are all ways to activate those same chemicals in our brains.
  3. Physical therapy: Exercise is highly recommended for those trying to battle addiction. It relieves stress, boosts energy, raises self-esteem, and helps you get good quality sleep. Physical therapy – not the “recovering from an injury” type, but the type of therapeutic physical exercise that is good for your body – can make a world of difference. This includes yoga, cleaning the house, jogging, swimming, or a variety of other things. While working, try using your lunch break to workout in any capacity. It will help alleviate stress from the morning and keep you calm during the afternoon. However, that doesn’t mean you need to start running 10 miles a day. Start slowly and build on it over time.
  4. Stay busy: One thing that people who have suffered relapses will tell you is that their biggest challenges are usually when they are bored. Even when stressed, being busy minimizes the struggle with addiction. Stay busy and do not allow yourself to have a lot of free time where you have to improvise. Set a schedule and make sure that includes your structuring your off hours.  For example, you can use Saturdays to clean your home and, on Sundays, head to the park or the beach.
  5. Create healthy distractions: Again, going to the beach is a great way to distract yourself. But when you are working, you can’t exactly head to the beach if you are feeling stressed. Instead, come up with some simple things that distract you. Perhaps there are some games on your phone or a book you can read. Even a 15-minute break from stressful situations at work can allow you to stay in a positive state of mind and maintain your recovery.
  6. Don’t be ashamed of your struggle: Having an addiction is not something you should be embarrassed about. While you may not wish to broadcast it to everyone, you should not avoid the topic if it will benefit your recovery. Allowing your boss and coworkers to know will help them to offer you support as well. People cannot be sympathetic to your battle if they do not know you are going through one.
  7. Take a break from social media: The link between social media and depression has been well documented. Even indulging in social media during a short break at work can be detrimental. Scrolling through picture after picture of your friends enjoying themselves, sharing posts about what they are doing, what they are eating, their vacations, events they are enjoying, etc., can give you a negative mindset. You may wonder why you never get a chance to enjoy yourself that way. Why you do you have to work so much? Why their life is better than yours? Be cautious. Negative mindsets can lead to bad choices. Remember, too, that you are comparing your inner world to their outside projection of their best life. No one is perfect and no one has a perfect life. However, they aren’t sharing those pics!
  8. Positive reminders: There’s a great story about someone writing the number of the days they’ve been sober on the inside of their wrist every day at work. For example, if they were sober 58 days, they wrote the number 58 on the inside of their wrist. That way, throughout the day they would see that reminder and know they need to keep going because they’ve done it before. Pictures of family and other friendly reminders will also help you stay strong.
  9. Avoid avoidable stress: Stress is not something you can easily ditch… especially when working while in recovery. When you’re at work, you have things you need to do, and those responsibilities can be unpleasant or difficult. However, there are other forms of stress that we know are going to come with some of our decisions – and we still allow them to impact us. A great example of this is when you are heading home from work. You know that you have a thousand things to do and you are too stressed to cook. This is when you should either pick up or order something for dinner. If you don’t, you’ll get home and then stress out because you do not have time to cook. This situation could have easily been avoided, yet you decided to not to, causing yourself stress.
  10. Adopt a positive lifestyle: This ties into many of the other topics. The idea is that, if you are feeling good about yourself, you will not have the same temptations and struggles. For example, if you are trying to avoid relapsing, losing weight will have you feeling better about yourself and give you a positive mindset. If you are eating unhealthily, you will feel worn down and less positive about your appearance. Those feelings can sometimes lead to making bad decisions.
  11. Don’t stop working on your recovery: Aftercare options for those working while in recovery abound. Not only are there 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery, but treatment center alumni programs allow you to maintain those connections you established during early recovery. You may also benefit from a nighttime intensive outpatient program (IOP) (or daytime IOP if you work nights) or fully outpatient addiction treatment of one to three hours a week. The thing is that your recovery is the foundation on which you add on a job, a relationship, friends, financial stability, etc. Don’t allow it to topple from lack of attention. You should always work on your recovery, even while you are working a job.

Sometime things in life will be tough… whether you battle from addiction or not. This includes the world of work. The key is to learn how to make your situation better and limit the stress you must deal with when working while in recovery.

Change or control what you can.  Ask for serenity for what you cannot.

Peace of mind is key, and pursuing it  will help you avoid mistakes that lead to relapse and improve your life overall.

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