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5 Types of Employment You Should Avoid in Recovery

Stressed business man covering face with hands in office.

Getting a job is one of the many steps that will help you to stabilize in recovery. Though it may not immediately be your dream job, it is a good way to add positive structure to your new life once you have determined your schedule for therapy sessions and support group meetings. Many people look forward to getting a job, as it is often the first step after treatment that demonstrates you are living an active and balanced life without drugs and alcohol.

As with every decision in recovery, however, the choice of which job will be best suited to your schedule, strengths, and personality is important. The tendency may be to take the first thing that comes along, but because you spend so many hours a week at work, it is very important to ensure that those hours are a positive part of your life and not something that could inadvertently trigger relapse.

Here are a few types of jobs that are best avoided when you are focused on staying clean and sober:

1. High-Stress Jobs

Stress in any situation can be a big trigger for people in recovery. If stress is a major factor of a job that you do 20-40 hours per week, it can mean daily exposure to relapse risk that will escalate over time.

Stress at work can come in many forms. You may feel pressured to live up to the standards of a demanding boss, or you may find that the hours themselves are stressful (e.g., so early that you have a hard time arriving on time or so late that you have a difficult time staying awake). It may be stressful to work with a certain person, or you may be stressed out by pressure to perform tasks to a certain standard or on a tight timeline. Whatever it is that is causing you stress, if you are unable to get the situation under control relatively quickly, it can mean that the job is not a good fit in early recovery.

2. Uncomfortable Jobs

Similarly, a job that makes you feel uncomfortable in any way can also be a trigger for relapse. In fact, many people relapse in recovery – or begin drinking or using drugs in the first place – in order to feel more comfortable in social situations, including at work. Thus, if you find that your job makes you uncomfortable for any reason, it may not be the right time.

It is important to note that a situation that feels uncomfortable to you may be a nonissue to someone else, but it does not make your feelings invalid. Pay attention to how you feel. If you find that you are uncomfortable, no matter what the cause, and you are unable to make changes to the situation, then another job may be a better fit.

3. Unchallenging Jobs

Though it is a good idea to avoid jobs that are high-stress or make you feel uncomfortable, it is just as important to find work that is challenging to you. Jobs that are not challenging will mean that you will often find yourself with too much time on your hands, and idle hands often end up “picking up” out of boredom. Even if the focus of your job is not immediately interesting to you, make sure that it at least occupies you physically and mentally so the hours do not drag by.

4. Jobs Working with Exes or Old Friends Who Use

Friends you used to use with and ex-partners who may have played a role in your addiction are not generally the best coworkers, especially in early recovery. Often, your addiction and the choices you made while under the influence are just too fresh for these people to see the new side of you and understand the new life you are leading. Old friends who are still using may repeatedly invite you to drink or get high, or do so in front of you without regard for your current sober status, and/or ex-partners may or may not be a positive influence in your life. It is always a good idea to start fresh and meet new people who know you only as you are now: clean, sober, and working to live a positive life in recovery.

5. Jobs around Drugs or Alcohol

Perhaps it should go without saying, but any job that puts you in constant contact with drugs and alcohol is not a good idea. No matter how well-supervised the situation, you will continually be faced with the choice to use or not to use. When that situation hits when you are having a bad day, feeling stressed out or bored, or just not paying close attention, it can result in relapse.

What Is Right for You?

It is important to note that no specific industry is a definitive “no” when it comes to recovery. It is all about the specific environment, coworkers, your strengths, and your personality, and how those factors work together. For one person, working a restaurant job where they have to serve beer and wine is no big deal because they can find someone else to serve the alcohol, or it simply isn’t a trigger for them. For others, even patronizing a restaurant with a bar is a trigger. Take the time to determine in advance what would be ideal for you. If you find that a job you thought would be a great fit turns out to have problems that are too risky for your recovery, give your notice and start looking for your next adventure.

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