Having a routine is a key component to a stable recovery. However, anyone who lives a fulfilling life will encounter changes that can interrupt their routine. One change people in recovery may encounter early on in their sobriety is returning to work after spending time in treatment.  

If a person has taken time off from work to participate in treatment for a substance use disorder, it is usually at a higher level of care such as detox, inpatient rehabilitation, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient program. In these higher levels of care, people spend multiple hours a day in group and individual therapy in order to learn coping skills that promote recovery. The amount of time spent in therapy each day makes it virtually impossible to work while in treatment at these levels of care, but eventually treatment is complete, and it is time to go back to work.

Work is an integral part of many people’s lives. It is a source of income, and for those who like their jobs, a source of fulfillment and purpose. For these reasons, a job can be a helpful motivation for remaining sober. Even so, returning to work can contribute to backsliding or feeling triggered if not properly planned for.

When anticipating returning to work, a person should consider the stressors associated with their job and identify healthy coping skills they plan to use to address these triggers. They should also look at their schedule and plan out what hours they will work, when they will go to self-help meetings, and when they will participate in outpatient therapy. They may want to speak with their human resources department about easing back into their job duties instead of taking them all on at once, if possible. They should also think about how they want to answer questions from their bosses and co-workers about their absence, if they arise.

At first glance, returning to work after completing treatment may seem overwhelming. However, people in your support system can help you develop a plan to make this transition more manageable. Talking with your therapist, sponsor, or loved ones can help prepare you to return to work while maintaining your recovery, allowing you to live a sober, fulfilling, and purposeful life.