For those struggling with a substance use disorder who don’t get help quickly, the loss of employment is an all too common outcome. Employers quite rightly have very little tolerance for employees who show up under the influence of drugs or alcohol, miss days of work due to impairment, or fail to complete required work in a timely fashion and to the standards required. So, even if you have started to get your life back together by going through detox and rehab, you may still be facing a significant challenge: finding a new job.
You may feel nervous about trying to find a new position. You might be worried that you will have to explain why you left your last job. You may wonder if anyone will be willing to serve as a reference for you. You might be concerned about any lengthy gaps in employment that were caused by your substance use disorder. It may seem as though no one could possibly consider you a qualified candidate for a job given your history with drugs or alcohol.
But all of these challenges can be overcome, and you can land a new job. To help you do just that, here are some things to keep in mind during your job search.
Don’t Lead With Your Substance Use History
There is absolutely no need to mention your history with drugs or alcohol in your cover letter or on your résumé. While you may be tempted to treat the subject like a bandage you just have to rip off, your substance use disorder is not relevant at this stage in the application process.
Concentrate instead on making the best possible first impression. In your cover letter, highlight your experience, expertise, and enthusiasm. Make sure those things are reflected in your résumé, too, emphasizing things you have accomplished in your work in the past. Call attention to your strengths at this stage.
Decide In Advance How Much You Are Willing to Disclose
It is important to remember that a substance use disorder is a medical condition. There are limitations on what a potential employer can ask you regarding your health. That said, there may be legitimate reasons for you to share some information. For example, you may need some flexibility in your schedule to allow you to continue attending 12-Step meetings or to see your therapist. Discussing that upfront, especially if you are clear that you are committed to maintaining your sobriety, may give the employer some time to think about what—if any—accommodations could be made for you if you were hired.
Be Upfront and Honest
While hiring managers can’t ask you about your health, they can ask you about criminal convictions and about cases in which you have been fired. It is absolutely essential that you are honest when asked about such things. If you lie and are found out, you will never get the job.
Because these sorts of things can be difficult and embarrassing to talk about, you may want to practice in advance. You can practice in front of a mirror and/or you can record yourself so you hear how you sound when answering questions about any criminal history or involuntary terminations. Better yet, you might ask a trusted friend to play the role of an interviewer so that you can practice answering questions from an actual person. As you practice several times, your friend’s feedback may help you craft better answers and feel more comfortable delivering them.
Remember: Rejection Isn’t the End
Sometimes you aren’t going to get the job. That might have something to do with your history of substance abuse, or it might not. Sometimes you just won’t be the most qualified candidate for a given job or your personality won’t seem like a good match for the existing team. That’s okay.
It might be discouraging, but it would be better to think of each interview process you go through as a learning experience. If you don’t get the job, think back on the process and try to spot the moments where you struggled. Which questions tripped you up? What made you most nervous? What do you wish you said that you didn’t say—and vice versa?
Thinking these things through can help you be better prepared and less nervous the next time you are interviewing for a job.
Keep in Mind That Your Next Job Doesn’t Have to be Your Last Job
We would all like to land our dream job, but sometimes that dream job just isn’t in the cards right now. If you have to take a job that doesn’t seem like something you’d like to be doing long-term, that is perfectly fine.
The key is to remember that every job—no matter whether we like the gig or not—offers opportunities to grow and gain experience. That experience can help you move on to the next job—a job that might be a couple steps closer to the job you would love to have. If you work hard, make connections, keep learning, and maintain your sobriety, you may find that more opportunities are available in the future than are available right this minute.
Our Job Is To Help You Overcome a Substance Use Disorder
If you are struggling to get out from under a substance use disorder, we have good news: we are on the job. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we are wholly committed to the work of helping you get free of drugs or alcohol while also addressing any co-occurring disorders that may be contributing to your difficulties. Our job is to help you get sober and to give you the resources to make it stick. Your job is to stay sober. That can be hard work, but we know you are up to the task.