Ten percent of American adults report being in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, and a significant proportion of them are in the workforce. In fact, addiction treatment professionals estimate 50-60 percent of people who leave rehab go back to work as early as the first month following treatment. This means that returning to the same place of work following treatment may be a relatively common scenario, however stressful the prospect.

If you are one of these employees in early recovery returning to work, you may naturally be concerned about what people know or think and how you’ll be treated. You may wonder whether you can hold your own and resist temptations to return to your old ways. Here are some tips to help you rebuild your career and relationships with bosses and coworkers, as well as create good work habits after rehab:

Rebuilding Your Career and Work Relationships

If I could give only one piece of advice, it would be this: Prioritize your recovery. When you put your recovery first on a daily basis, you’ll be doing the most you can to rebuild your career and repair work relationships. These things will begin to fall into place over time as you make your recovery a daily priority.

In fact, the same principles of recovery that are making you a better and healthier person are also developing you into a stellar colleague and employee. Your boss and coworkers will begin to see this change over time as you work your recovery program.

When you go back to work, I encourage you to prioritize your recovery by:

  1. Where possible, and in the spirit of the 12 Steps, making amends to anyone at work who may have suffered the negative consequences of a past addiction
  2. Practicing the 12 Steps on a daily basis
  3. Practicing a healthy recovery lifestyle that includes three nutritious meals a day, good sleep, hygiene, regular exercise, staying in touch with a sponsor or therapist, and weekly quality time with family and friends
  4. Focusing on the present and taking your recovery a day at a time
  5. Staying humble, honest with yourself, and accountable to at least one other person
  6. Regularly attending (at least once weekly) a 12-step or other peer support group like SMART Recovery. You may be able to find a specialized group that allows you to connect with others on the recovery journey who are in the same career facing recovery challenges specific to that profession

Creating and Maintaining Good Work Habits

As you prioritize your recovery, you’ll find that the lessons you’re learning in recovery will be a positive influence on how you approach your work. This may be one reason many employers want to hire people in recovery. In fact, organizations often go out of their way to post employment openings on recruitment sites like America in Recovery. Here are some tips to give you a head start in creating and maintaining good work habits that your recovery will reinforce:

  1. Strive to be present – by being punctual to meetings and showing up when it’s expected of you)
  2. Honor your commitments, which is the “taking responsibility” part of recovery
  3. Exercise good time management strategies
  4. Pat yourself on the back, or give yourself a big hug for your successes, and be quick to affirm others’ good work; choose positive affirmation, wherever possible
  5. Take responsibility for mistakes, recognizing we all make them – but also don’t beat yourself up when you’ve dropped the ball
  6. Invite constructive feedback
  7. Take a solution-focused, team-player approach to resolving problems or conflicts

Finally, remember the words of the Serenity Prayer, so often used in recovery circles: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Rebuilding a career after sobriety may take time, but with the right focus and some hard work, you can do it.

Anna Ciulla is the vice president of clinical and medical services at Beach House Center for Recovery.

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