Once you finish your addiction treatment or rehab, you are in a position to look back on your time as an addict with fresh eyes. Now that you’re in a more positive place and feel better physically and mentally, it becomes extraordinarily clear how chaotic your life was when you were actively drinking alcohol or using drugs.
Your relationships were a mess. You made mistake after mistake at your job. You truly cared about nothing more than your next high.
Now that you are back in control of your life, it’s time to make reparations. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover in order to repair your reputation or career, but remember to take it one step and one day at a time. Here are some tips, collected from recovering addicts, to help you prepare for the journey ahead.
Try to Diversify Your Career
When she was an active alcoholic, Maia H. worked in advertisement and marketing. “I got passed up for promotions, which at the time made me angry. I’d blame everyone but myself,” she explained. “Eventually I went on a huge binge and didn’t show up to work three days. When I finally showed my face again, I was called straight to the big boss’s office and told to pack up my things.”
For Maia, being fired was her rock-bottom moment. She entered a rehab program just a few days later.
“They offered a lot of different resources to patients, including career help.” That’s when Maia had an epiphany: “I’d worked in advertising for 10 years but hadn’t paid much attention to how it had really exploded out in different directions. We just worked on billboards, mostly. But this lady at the rehab center was telling me all about digital advertising and digital marketing.”
To stay competitive in the job market and find jobs for recovering addicts, Maia decided to take online courses in these new fields. “My resume looked amazing, but more importantly I actually felt confident when applying for jobs or going to interviews. I knew my stuff! I had a brand new focus and really felt like I was turning a new page.”
Be Brave About Asking for a Letter of Recommendation
Charles E. had been struggling with a painkiller addiction when he made a significant mistake at his factory job. An entire batch of merchandise had to be trashed.
“It’s the kind of thing that could happen to anyone. So you’re not necessarily fired the first time. But I made those kinds of stupid mistakes three times within six months. They let me go.”
Charles had been working for this company for eight years and was an experienced and knowledgeable employee. “But I’d become a liability,” he explained, “and it was all down to the drugs. I couldn’t get off them. It was bad.”
Charles eventually did enter a recovery program and break his addiction. He was then faced with having to find a new job. “I realized that this job, the one I’d been fired from, was the one where I had most of my experience. And potential employers were probably going to contact them to ask about me. And they’d learn about my mistakes and never hire me,” he said. “I thought I was going to have to start from the bottom.”
But Charles received some great advice from a mentor. “He told me that I should go talk to my former managers and be real with them, and ask them to write a letter of recommendation that highlighted my good points … everything they liked about me for the majority of the time I worked there.”
Charles admitted that “it was a risk, but the worst they could do was say no.”
“I learned that you can’t legally be asked about past drug use in an interview. But there was nothing to stop the interviewer from contacting this other company and for them to say, ‘Charles messed up big time and cost us a lot of money.’ It’s not pleasant, but that’s how it works.”
Charles’ gumption worked in his favor: “They were actually pleased to see me and to hear that I’d gone through rehab. They knew I had been a good worker and had all the training. They said they’d work on a letter of recommendation for me … but a couple weeks later, they actually sent me a job offer for another section of the factory!”
Don’t Define Your Future by Your Past
After rehab, you stand at a crossroads. You can pick up the fragments of your career where you left them, or you can try something completely new. Neither path will be easy, so take the time to decide which route you want to travel. The most important thing you can do is to keep looking ahead. You’ll make much more progress if you stay focused on the future and don’t stop to lament the past.