Moving out of rehab and back into the “real” world is a big deal for most of us. But, starting a new job, complete with the stresses and expectations of a job can make this worse. The closer the new job starts to the end of rehab, the harder it will be. Of course, getting a job and moving back into your life are important aspects of recovery. That’s important no matter what phase of your life you’re in. Navigating that phase will never get easier, so jumping in and “learning to swim” is often the best call.
At the same time, it’s normal that you’d be nervous or scared. Starting a new job is intimidating even if you’re completely mentally healthy. And, if you’re in early recovery, you’ll have plenty of pitfalls to navigate that have nothing to do with your job. These 6 tips should help you to navigate your new job after rehab.
1. Attend Group Therapy or Counseling
Spending a few hours a week attending group therapy or counseling can give you ongoing social motivation and accountability. Whether that works out to a local AA group, an alternative like Smart Recovery, or a therapist and group counseling is up to you. The important thing is that you regularly touch base about your mental health, your sobriety, and your progress. If your rehab center has an aftercare program, you’ll likely touch base with them as well. However, if they’re not in the same city, you really want to go and attend something in person. Weekly meetings give you social accountability, give you a point to hold off till if you experience cravings, and mean you’ll always have someone waiting for you to tell them how you’re doing that week. That can be incredibly powerful in helping you to make it through stressful new situations.
2. Consider a Sober Living Home
Sober living homes are a safe space you can return to every night after work. Normally you’ll live with a group, you might be checked for drugs or alcohol, and you’ll cook and eat with a group. You’ll have extra accountability because you’ll have to share what you did with your time between when you left and when you got home. This can be an important step for individuals who work in stressful situations. For example, if you have a high-pressure job or if you haven’t worked in a while. Sober living homes can give you a halfway step between rehab and living on your own, which gives you more time to adapt and less pressure to suddenly excel when you leave rehab.
3. Build a Schedule that Works for You
Burnout and overwork are extremely common problems for individuals leaving rehab. That’s because we often try to do too much, too fast. But, if you’re spending 8 hours a day at work, go to counseling twice a week, and still have to clean your house, maintain your schedule, and see friends, you’re already doing a lot. Building a schedule, learning to pace yourself, and learning to say no and prioritize is an important part of navigating life as a clean and sober person. As you move further into recovery, you can reduce the amount of time you spend on rehab but your habits will always be important.
For most of us, taking steps to reduce total time spent on tasks is important. This can mean choosing to move closer to work, especially if you can bike or run to work and reduce commute time or combine it with exercise. Or, work from home if possible. Planning downtime to relax and do nothing is also important. Most people need about 20% of total time to relax in order to feel rested. If your schedule doesn’t include sleep and downtime, you will get overwhelmed.
While that can mean less time to spend with friends and family, it also means maintaining your sanity in the early days after rehab.
Be Brave. Get Help.
4. Maintain Exercise and Eating Habits
Work is busy, stressful, and it can wear you down. If you notice that happening to the point where you can’t maintain your habits, you should consider reducing the number of hours you work, asking to work from home, or looking for a different job. It’s incredibly important for recovering addicts to maintain exercise and healthy eating habits. You also want to make sure you spend at least some time every day taking care of and cleaning up your space. These habits help you to maintain discipline, help you to stay healthy, and help you to have the energy and mental space to fight cravings.
Work can get in the way of that. You can compromise by biking to work. You can choose to do meal prep on the weekends, so food is ready for you when you get home. This habit can save you a lot of time. And, you can build a schedule that allows you to clean up for a few minutes every morning when you wake up and a few minutes before you go to bed. The idea is that you eat, on average, about 80% healthy food (this includes bringing food to work unless work provides lunch) and getting 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise a day. If you can’t, your job is probably getting in the way of recovery.
5. Utilize Workplace Employee Assistance Programs
Many employers have employee assistance programs or EAP. These programs are designed to help you navigate mental health issues, to prevent a burnout, and to work in ways that allow you to thrive. Going to yours and disclosing your history of substance abuse can allow you to work out options that help. This might mean more time to work from home. It might mean getting off work early on days you have to go to group therapy. Or, it might mean participation in a work-sponsored counseling or group therapy session. What you get largely depends on what your workplace offers. But, you should check if they do offer something and if it will help you.
6. Invest in Stress Management
Work is stressful. Many of us have high pressure and demanding jobs that cause stress. Even if work is casual and fun, getting there is often not so much. You’ll always have stress. Deadlines, bad bosses, incompetent coworkers, etc., can all greatly increase stress. Investing in stress management is an important part of navigating a new job. Stress management can be meditation, it might be stress management classes, it might be mindfulness, it might be sports. Whatever it is, you should figure out what works for you, invest time into it on a daily or weekly basis, and make sure you’re aware of how stressed you are so you can manage it.
Starting a new job is always a big deal. Hopefully these tips will help you start your new job seamlessly. The important thing is to build a support network in the form of good habits, social accountability, and outlets, and then to stick to them as you move into work. Good luck with your new job.