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Next Step: Finding a Job After Addiction Treatment

James Malervy

Authored by James Malervy

If you’re recently out of treatment or are looking to make a fresh start, taking that first step into finding a new job can be a big one. Where to start? How to address those gaps of employment? Do you have to disclose past substance use?

Outside of the obvious, there are plenty of benefits that come along with having a job. In fact, having a job can help you stay in recovery. According to a 2012 study, getting a job following addiction treatment is associated with lower rates of relapse and positive treatment outcomes.

And often, employers want to hire people who are in recovery – for good reason, too. People who are in recovery frequently give back to their community at a rate about double than the general population. Employers know you’ll be dedicated, thankful, grateful, and a hard worker. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone like that?

Of course, it’s up to you to decide if you want to disclose your substance use history to a potential employer. Just remember: Employers and potential employers cannot legally ask if you’re in recovery.

Here’s how you can overcome barriers and fears while maximizing your job opportunities.

Expand your network

Networking is a great tool … for those who haven’t been isolated by the disease of addiction. But now is your time to thrive in recovery! Take a look at your 12-step group or other community support group. You may have business owners within your support group who would consider hiring you, or people who would be glad to act as references. Support groups are also a great place to learn about job openings and leads.

Adjust your expectations

One of many, many things you likely learned in addiction treatment is the need to adjust your expectations. The same rules – adjusting or even letting go of your expectations – apply when it comes to searching for a new job.

What does this mean? Well, you might have to reframe your mindset and be open to something you wouldn’t have even considered before. That could entail:

  • An entry level, part-time, or even volunteer position, with the ability to move up.
  • Getting rid of assumptions and starting your search from scratch, with a completely open mind.
  • Learn from the letdowns. If you apply for a job and didn’t get it, don’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager what you can do to make yourself a stronger candidate.

Give yourself a leg up

There are tons of organizations and programs who can help people struggling to find employment due to a history of substance abuse. These job boards will match candidates with companies who believe in giving people a second chance:

  • America in Recovery
  • The National Hire Network
  • The Department of Labor One Stop Career Center
  • The National Skills Coalition
  • The Salvation Army
  • Unemployment offices
  • Temp agencies

There are also plenty of felony-friendly employers out there, too! Check out this helpful list from, which includes some big name companies like Ace Hardware, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, Buffalo Wild Wings, General Mills, and more.

Tailor your resume accordingly

According to a 2019 survey from Challenger, Gray, & Christmas Inc., 82% of employer respondents said they’re actively hiring for open positions …. Yet 80% are having a hard time finding qualified candidates. Good news: You’re a qualified candidate!

Here are a few top skills employers are looking for:

  • High emotional intelligence. You’ve probably never been more in touch with your emotions and feelings as you are right now. Your eyes have been opened to so much more, including how to communicate with others and have healthy relationships. This matters to an employer, says Forbes, because you’re able to successfully navigate daily social interactions that happen in the workplace.
  • Tech savviness. Feel out of touch with technology? Check your local community college – a lot of campuses offer free or inexpensive technology classes.
  • Clear decision-making. You made the decision to seek addiction treatment, live a life in recovery, and put your sobriety above all else – you know a thing or two when it comes to good decision-making! Employers know that every decision an employee makes influences the company. Employers want employees who make good – and sometimes tough – decisions.

Most importantly …

Don’t forget – be patient and kind to yourself. You’re finding new parts of yourself every single day and navigating what could be a whole new world for you. Take your time and count the wins, no matter how small they may be.

And if you’re looking for a way to expand your network while supporting your recovery, check out RCA’s Alumni Association. You’ll meet other like-minded individuals who will help you in your journey of finding a new job and strengthening your recovery.

Authored by

James Malervy

James Malervy

Jim Malervy is the Senior Director of Digital Marketing for Recovery Centers of America (RCA) and is passionate about helping RCA in achieving its mission of saving over 1 Million Lives.


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