How to Rebuild Your Career After Struggling With Addiction
We don’t like to talk about addiction, but it’s a widespread problem in the United States. In 2016, there
were more deaths from drug overdoses than there were deaths during the entire Vietnam War—around
62,000 people. And the problem doesn’t have to be that severe to affect you; the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 16 million people in the United States have some kind of
alcohol abuse disorder—which is 5 percent of the adult population.
Trying to rebuild a career after addiction, or start one from scratch, after facing your demons can be intimidating, but it’s certainly possible—and you might come out stronger at the end of it because of your efforts.
Rebuilding a Career After Addiction
Making a new career for yourself will be easier if you follow these important steps:
Focus on staying clean.
Staying clean after recovering from addiction—even if you’re months or
years past your habit—is the hardest challenge you’re going to face, so it deserves to be your
top priority. If you feel your career is making it harder for you to engage in the habits and
practices that are keeping you clean, it’s okay to put your career on the backburner. Only shift
your focus to a career when you feel ready.
Stay involved in a support group.
You shouldn’t have to do this alone. You probably won’t have
the opportunity to discuss your struggles with your coworkers, nor would they understand as
intimately as your support group, so make sure to keep your support group meetings as a top
priority in your life. Attend regularly and connect with some of the people there; they’ll be able
to help you when no one else can.
Be honest about your past.
You don’t have to disclose your past to your employer—nor should
you, in most cases. However, if asked directly, or if the company has a drug testing policy, it may
be in your best interest to be honest about your use in the past. Framing it as a positive, by
describing addiction as a challenge you’ve been able to overcome, can help increase your
chances of getting hired and finding success.
Take baby steps.
Don’t try to become a CEO in your first month of professional work; instead,
take things one step at a time. This phased approach will help you get acclimated to your new
work environment gradually and will prevent you from scaling your stress level too quickly. The
more time you have to think through your decisions, and the more gradual your working
changes are, the more stable your foundation will be.
Treat failure and rejection as opportunities.
It’s hard for anyone to accept failure and/or
rejection, but you may feel extra vulnerable since you’re building a new career and recovering
from a major personal struggle. Instead of dwelling on the sting of each rejection, turn it into a
new opportunity; learn from the mistakes you made in the original process, and use it as a
springboard to your next big chance.
Lean on your support network.
Don’t try to internalize all your stress, and don’t keep your
successes or stresses to yourself. Your family and friends are there to support you, so take
advantage of that network. Spend as much time as you can with your loved ones, and be honest
with them about how you’re doing. They’ll be there for you if you need the extra support to get
through the day.
Find new coping strategies.
Starting a new career is going to be immensely stressful, so you’ll
need to find a new outlet for all that stress—and one that isn’t self-destructive. Consider
starting a new physical exercise regimen, or finding a new hobby you can get immersed in. You
could even pick up a side gig to supplement your primary income, or volunteer on the side to
meet new, interesting people.
One Day at a Time
Depending on what stage of your recovery you’re in, you may be faced with a daily struggle as you
attempt to rebuild your life. Accepting that, and understanding that this process won’t be easy, will
make it easier for you to manage the stresses associated with it. Take things one day at a time, and
don’t let your past interfere with the possibilities of your future.