Addiction Recovery and Returning to the Workforce
By Taylor Davis
Returning to the workforce after addiction recovery can be tricky. Often dismissed as too risky to hire because of their history, those who have dealt with an addiction issue may struggle with negative beliefs about their abilities. However, they shouldn’t be counted out so quickly. Those in recovery possess positive attributes that are often overlooked, but would be beneficial to a company.
There are many factors that prospective employers and employees in recovery need to consider during the hiring and onboarding process.
Employees: Preparing for Your Work Environment
Realize Your Value
Skills gained during addiction recovery can also be applied to the workforce. If you have struggled with addiction and gone through recovery, you have had to think quickly and be resourceful. These two qualities are valuable to companies and organizations; they want to hire people who can find solutions to critical problems and can work independently.1
Additionally, individuals recovering from addiction are often unafraid of taking risks.1 You took risks during addiction and had to take risks to reach a healthy point of recovery. Sometimes risk-taking can have negative results in business, but often it leads to successful innovation with long-lasting impact. Therefore, companies need some risk-takers on board for their businesses to grow and thrive.
Find the Right Fit
Those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction may not realize the opportunities available to them in the workforce because of the stigma they carry. For example, many addiction treatment centers offer employment to those in recovery, which allows these employees to fulfill the 12th step in their recovery process: carrying the message of hope to others still suffering from addiction.2
Additionally, some for-profit companies have dedicated recruitment efforts for individuals in recovery. Creative Matters, a branding and design agency in Los Angeles, was founded as a way to bring in revenue for a nonprofit Jewish treatment center. The company intentionally hires interns who are alumni of the treatment center, and 90 percent of the full-time staff is also in recovery. It operates with the belief that creative pursuits are vital to the recovery process, and wants to facilitate these creative opportunities for those who need it most.3 If you are looking for opportunities in the business world, research companies with a focus on this type of employment philosophy to find one that fits your career goals.
Know What to Expect
When you’re back in the workforce, you’ll be expected to remain sober and dedicated to your job. There will be a set structure and company procedures you will need to follow. Because there are some risks involved for your employer, the company may require you to comply with certain policies aimed at ensuring your sobriety. These may include: return-to-work or contingency agreements, random drug testing and regular performance reviews.2
Don’t let these policies discourage or intimidate you. Your strength in recovery can be applied to your career as well — take that determination with you into your new role.
Employers: Hiring Individuals in Recovery
When interviewing a person who is in the middle of drug or alcohol addiction recovery, the stigma of addiction can easily creep in to your hiring decision. You want to be able to trust that your employees are safe, sober and capable of performing their jobs well, so your concerns are valid.
However, the benefits to hiring someone going through recovery are often overlooked. For example, these individuals are likely to be highly motivated to work and stay employed as they’re trying to build a new life for themselves. They may also be less likely to take sick or vacation days because time in the office can provide the necessary structure they need to stay away from drugs and alcohol.2
It’s also important for employers to be aware that relapse may be part of the equation when considering to hire people in addiction recovery, but precautions can be taken to support the employee and set them up to win.
You may want to require employees to be in recovery for a certain length of time before hiring them. Additionally, there are several procedures you can implement to support employees and your business:
- Policies to encourage early intervention
- Employee assistance programs
- Return-to-work or contingency agreements
- Regular performance reviews and random drug testing
- Drug and alcohol education for employees, and training to identify signs of addiction and relapse2
These programs will help you find a balance between recognizing if someone is truly qualified to go through the selection process, while also not shunning or stigmatizing candidates for their addiction past.
A Worthwhile Investment
If you’re in recovery and looking for work, your past doesn’t disqualify you, it may actually give you a competitive advantage. If you’re an employer hiring someone in recovery, there are risks to consider, but there are also amazing qualities to take note of. In either position, do your best to prepare for this process, and have confidence in your decision-making.
1 Utley, Tori. “Why the Workforce Needs Recovering Addicts.” TEDxZumbroRiver. May 2016.
2 Sack, David, M.D. “Hiring Employees in Recovery: A Business Advantage?” PsychCentral. Accessed January 22, 2018.
3 Vanderlee, Heidi. “These Three Companies Make a Point of Hiring Recovering Addicts.” Substance.com. April 29, 2014.