Work Challenges and Recovery

Michelle Rosenker

August 22, 2019

Addiction recovery is rewarding in many different ways. From reconnecting with friends and family to learning how to have fun while sober, it can be a fulfilling experience.

That does not mean that you will not face challenges or have to put in the work. One place you may need to stay focused on is in the workplace, as some of the things that can occur there may be threatening to your sobriety and well-being.

Types of Work Challenges that can Threaten Recovery  

Work-related stress

It does not matter what job you have or how high up you are in a company, work-related stress is simply something no one can escape.

Each person handles work-related stress differently. While some might be able to turn their stress into extra motivation, others might find themselves at the bar with co-workers after hours. If you’re in recovery, the option to “grab a few drinks” is not on the table. This can be extremely difficult, since, if you are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, chances you have a tendency to deal with stress by using.

Now that using is no longer an option, you have to rely on life skills developed in recovery. This is not as easy as it might seem, especially if you are stressed out from work. You might crave the easy way out, but know that you have to put in that little bit of extra effort.

If you manage your work-related stress with the tools you’ve acquired, that is a success in itself.

Peer pressure

From when we are “tweens” to when we are full-grown adults, peer pressure can play a major role in our lives, and this includes work. Work-related events, outings, and celebrations often involve alcohol, which is problematic for those in recovery.

A major part of this problem is the peer pressure from co-workers and higher-ups to have a drink or two (or three or four). You might struggle with finding graceful ways to decline without being interrogated as to why, or you simply might feel uncomfortable saying “no” out of fear of not being accepted by others. Once in this situation, it can be challenging to remove yourself from it if you are not steady in your recovery. Plus, the added desire to make your boss like you can make turning down drinks even more difficult. And if your co-workers do not know that you are in recovery, you might fear being judged if you choose not to share that information.

Especially in work settings, where others rely on you to get the job done—and where you likely want to move up in ranks—the last thing you need is others judging you by your past substance abuse.

Performance pressure

Say your employer is aware of your substance use disorder and knows that you are now in recovery. While having this out in the open can be beneficial, it can also be nerve wracking.

You might have the nicest, most accepting boss in the world but still worry that if you do not perform up to par, for whatever reason, your recovery might be called into question. On the other hand, if you employer has no idea about your history of addiction, you may fear he or she will find out at some point, causing you to always feel the pressure to go “above and beyond” at work.

Because of the stigma of addiction, it can be difficult for those in recovery to feel like they will be treated the same as everyone else. Unfortunately, this is a reality you may face while employed and in recovery. This pressure can mount, becoming so heavy that you wind up using again.

Managing Work Challenges in Recovery

As with anything in recovery, having a plan in place can be a lifesaver. You know that your job can present you with big-time stressors, your co-workers might push your buttons, and you might experience some self-induced pressure to perform based on your past with addiction. Accepting these factors can be the best thing you can do for yourself, as it can allow you the ability to manage these challenges before they spiral out of control.

Some of the ways that you can handle work-related challenges in recovery include:

  • Be honest with your employer about your disease. Having an addiction is nothing to be ashamed of, especially if you’re in recovery. This honesty can help you feel more relaxed and less like you are hiding something.
  • Think of exit strategies for work parties, events, or even conversations that might make you uncomfortable. Knowing that you can walk away before feeling triggered to use again can be empowering.
  • Practice good management techniques through organization. Allowing tasks to slip through the cracks can set you back and place added pressure. This added pressure, especially if it happens often, can wear away your resolve and leave you susceptible to relapse.

In order to protect your recovery in the workplace, you will need to do things outside of work to support yourself. This can include attending 12-Step meetings, such as those offered through Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Obtaining support from others who can relate can make all the difference in the world.

Get Help Right Now

The disease of addiction is one that can be difficult to manage, even when in recovery. At JourneyPure in Knoxville, we can help you develop a strong foundation for your recovery so that you can continue to achieve success along the way.