Work-life Balance in Recovery

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Recovery can seem like an endless trail; the end marker looming long ahead.

There are many steps to recovery, and long stretches of abstinence are required before seeing results. Returning to work is not only an important element of returning to sobriety but in fact, helps to speed up the recovery process.

Avenues Recovery has supported many patients in striking the right work-life balance in recovery. Guided by their experience in the field, read on to hear why our staff believe working during the recovery process is not a hindrance but rather a help in your journey towards sobriety.

Finding the Perfect Work-life Balance in Recovery Can Be Done

Working and holding down a job are huge steps in recovery. Surprisingly, waiting to return to work can actually delay recovery. Almost ten million people with substance abuse disorders hold down full-time jobs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association [1].

Quitting work for a long period of time can lead to depression and poorer physical health. More than proving to others that you are a responsible human who can change your ways, keeping up with work in recovery proves to yourself that you are someone capable and worthy of respect.

Can You Work While in Rehab?

Many addicts seeking recovery avoid going to rehab due to fears of being unable to work during their recovery process.

Working while in rehab is actually a common process of recovery in rehab. After attending the programs, and noticing how your approach to alcohol or other substances has changed drastically, you’ll start thinking- am I ready to return to work now?

Fortunately, there are many intensive outpatient programs offered by rehab centers that allow patients to continue working while receiving help for substance abuse disorders.

How to Go to Rehab and Keep Your Job

Once one becomes aware of their illness and makes the appropriate decision to begin rehab, one of their worries may be about how entering a rehab center will affect their job.

Thankfully, there are federal laws and policies established to protect the rights of those suffering from addictions and various mental illnesses. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) [2] protects eligible employees from losing their jobs if taking leave for specified medical reasons.

An intensive outpatient program (IOP), like that offered by Avenues Recovery Rehab Centers, is an excellent choice for those who want to continue working while going to rehab. Patients continue their recovery trajectory while maintaining their employment and life responsibilities.

The Work/Life Balance

Balancing recovery and work simultaneously is quite a juggling act. After clocking out of work each day, just like everyone else in the world, you also deserve a little downtime. This time should be designated for any (recovery-friendly) activities that help you to relax and detach from stress at work. The famous proverb of ‘All work and no play’ holds quite true. Poor work-life balance has negative consequences on your health and recovery.

Recommended Strategies to Balance Work and Recovery:


  •     Spend quality time with family and friends

Surround yourself with people whom you feel your best self around

  • Take up a hobby you enjoy

Your body will release endorphins-often called “happy hormones” when you make time to do an activity you enjoy

  • Recharge your body & mind with exercise

Create an enjoyable workout routine- and keep to it

Recovery at Work

By integrating back into a working community, there’s a renewed sense of belonging and purpose, which does wonders for addiction recovery. Substance abuse often causes isolation from family members and friends. Once detoxification begins, and patients are no longer occupied with constant unhealthy thoughts, the natural need for relationships resurfaces. Returning to work accomplishes that need. It’s an empowering feeling when you belong to a social network; feeling needed by others provides direction and purpose to the day.

The pleasures of alcohol or drugs will then be replaced by the longer-lasting pleasures of belonging and feeling needed.

Tricks of the Trade

Once you take the big move to rejoin the workforce, it’s wise to integrate good recovery practices into your working environment.

1.      Stay Organized

You may have never been a list-taker, but it’s wise to start implementing schedules and plans into your day. Writing out daily tasks and prioritizing them will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed when things pile up.

2.      Eliminate Distractions

The last thing your boss wants to see are employees busy on their phones when there is work to be done. There is so much happening around you that you have to make a conscious effort to concentrate on work. Cell phones, in particular, are the biggest distraction in the office. Consider turning it off or leaving it out of sight when at work.

3.      Take Breaks

In a long workday, brief interruptions are important to refresh your mind. These short breaks will help you ease back into the workforce. Although you’re eager to display a good work ethic, don’t work through scheduled breaks. Make sure to use the opportunity for a quick midday mind recharge. You’ve come so far; it would be a shame to relapse because of stress.

4.      Communicate Regularly

Maintain open communication with your boss. You may feel that your working schedule has to be modified during recovery. It’s important to be honest with your employer about the current circumstances so that you can construct a plan that will work for both of you. Remember- recovery is the goal, and anything that can make the work experience easier during this time should be done.

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Working in Addiction Recovery


The substance abuse treatment field is unique in the sense that many clinicians were in recovery themselves. It is not a random occurrence that 37% of addiction counselors had personal experience in their field of expertise.

There are many choices of careers in the addiction recovery field, including social workers, vocational counselors, and guidance counselors.

Recovered patients make great counselors for many reasons:

1.      Empathy

They don’t empathize with the textbook disorder, but rather relate to the human experience behind it. Their background is their greatest asset.

2.      Credibility

Patients feel validated and understood, and are able to relate to them with trust. They view them as an example of future success.

3.      Tolerance

Substance abuse counselors have to develop high-stress tolerance levels for the nature of their work. Recovered addicts have already acquired that level of tolerance.

There's a unique sense of satisfaction for counselors who coach and support others facing the same challenges that they have already fought and overcome, leading them triumphantly all the way to recovery.

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Prepare for Success

Returning to the workforce is both a healthy and necessary step in the recovery process. However, it can feel scary and intimidating. Rehabilitation centers such as Avenues Recovery can guide and support you fully through this part of the journey. We’ll empower you to maintain stability in your work-life balance during recovery. Contact us 24/7 to hear more about what we offer and to find out how to begin.

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