Ten Tips for Returning to Work After Rehab

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo

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A new chapter awaits for you—one filled with hope but also potential trepidation.

You’ve just completed rehab, and are now transitioning back to your workplace. You likely feel many emotions—anxiety, fear, or a general uncertainty of the unknown.

First, please know that taking steps toward recovery is courageous, and you should be proud of yourself. The transition from treatment to the professional world requires planning ahead.

Consider this article your guide for this transition. You are not alone in this. Many have come before you, and you can learn from their successes. Here we will explore ten tips to help you make a smooth and confident transition back to work after rehab.

1. Develop an aftercare plan

While in rehab, you likely created an aftercare plan. If you didn’t, it’s time to make one before you go back to work. Think of your aftercare plan as a roadmap for success in recovery. The plan should be tailored to your unique needs and challenges and should include relapse prevention strategies.

Aftercare plans are detailed and include the specifics about challenges that may come up. When developing your aftercare plan, include details about:

  • Regular check-ins with a therapist
  • Scheduled support group meetings
  • Strategies for managing triggers and stressors

Your aftercare plan will serve as a lifeline for your recovery and give you a sense of empowerment and preparedness for whatever comes your way.

2. Be open and honest with your employer

Communicating openly with your employer is essential when returning back to work after rehab. Before your first day back, schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your return. Share your commitment to maintaining your sobriety and assure them you are dedicated to your responsibilities in your workplace.

Be honest about your needs and any potential challenges you may face. Keep your dialogue with your employer open and honest after you return. This will foster a trustworthy relationship in the future.

3. Know your workplace rights

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Make sure you are well-informed about your workplace rights. This understanding will empower you to navigate the transition back into the professional environment with confidence. It will also ensure a supportive and inclusive work culture.

For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities, which includes those recovering from addiction. This article published by the ADA provides details of how these individuals are protected by law. Additionally, you should familiarize yourself with any applicable company policies about workplace accommodations and confidentiality of medical information.

4. Boundaries—They are a big deal!

Establishing (and maintaining) personal boundaries is vital for a successful transition to the workplace after completing rehab. This goes back to the be open and honest tip but also includes both supervisors and coworkers.

Clearly defining your needs and expectations with others is key here. This may include negotiating work hours, breaks, or potential triggers that could impact your recovery. Your colleagues should be informed about your need for sensitivity and understanding.

Setting boundaries is one thing, but enforcing them is another. Regularly reassessing and adjusting your boundaries as needed is important to ensuring a healthy work-life balance.

5. Build your support network

Returning to work after rehab is a significant life change, so you absolutely need a strong support system. Reach out to your friends, family, and colleagues who are understanding and supportive of your recovery. Openly tell them about your goals and ask for their help when needed. A supportive network is vital and provides encouragement and accountability.

A positive support system not only provides emotional reinforcement but also can help you with practical matters in going back to work. Attending support group meetings and staying connected to those who understand the nuances of recovery can foster a sense of community and belonging.

6. Self-care matters

Self-care is much more than getting a massage or a facial. Self-care looks different for everyone, but it can be attained by asking this question: What will help my mental, emotional, and physical health?

Activities such as mindfulness practices or meditation are a good start, but only a start. It’s worth your time to make a list of what activities help you feel your best. Of course, don’t forget the basics, such as getting enough sleep and exercising, but include other things that feel like self-care to you.

Practicing self-care is vital for maintaining your recovery when returning to your workplace after rehab.

7. Establish a structured routine

It’s safe to say that early in recovery, if you don’t have a routine, you are on shaky ground. Establishing a structured daily routine is instrumental in maintaining confidence and stability during your return-to-work phase. Consider these parts of your day and add more as you create your routine:

  • Wake-up hours
  • Bedtime hours
  • Working hours
  • Regular exercise
  • Support groups
  • Self-care activities

Keeping your routine as specific as possible and adhering to it will minimize stress and reduce the risk of relapse. Some people, new in recovery, plan their day the day before and include their activities minute-by-minute. Then, as they become more comfortable in the transitions, they can loosen their grip a little. Just make sure you do what works for you.

8. Set goals but make sure they are realistic

When returning back to work after rehab, you’re likely going to set some goals for yourself. Goals are great, and setting them is important for your recovery, but keep this in mind. There’s a reason why Alcoholics Anonymous uses the slogan “one day at a time.” It’s because you must set realistic and achievable goals. Instead of looking at the big picture, just take a look at what is in front of you right now.

Break down your personal and professional objectives into smaller, manageable tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Then, celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Use them as motivation to continue moving forward both in your career and your recovery.

9. Be mindful of your triggers

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Triggers are sneaky, and they often sneak in during transitional times, like when returning to work after rehab. It’s crucial to be mindful of your triggers and have a concrete plan when they come along. Identifying them is step one—they can be people, places, things, thoughts—the list goes on. In the workplace, they could be stress, work dynamics, or specific coworkers.

After you recognize your triggers, develop proactive coping strategies such as mindfulness techniques, seeking support from a colleague or brief breaks. Open communication with your supervisors about your triggers is also beneficial and will allow for potential adjustments in your work environment.

10. Use Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Check to see if your employer offers Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), as many workplaces do. EAPs can be a valuable resource for those returning to work after completing rehab. These programs are designed to provide confidential support and help to employees facing personal challenges, including those related to substance abuse and mental health.

If your workplace offers EAPs, you will have access to professional counseling and other support services, which may help during your transition time. Taking advantage of EAP services, you can proactively address potential obstacles that may hinder your recovery success and contribute to a healthier work-life balance.

Your recovery journey is just beginning

Your rehab days are over, and now you are back into real life. The journey doesn’t end with rehab—it is just beginning. Your story is a narrative of triumph and your successful return to work can be stamped with all the essentials for relapse prevention:

  • Open communication
  • Supportive networks
  • Healthy boundaries
  • Realistic goals
  • Self-care

Utilizing all resources that are available to you will ensure a successful transition back to work and back to life. The recovery journey is ongoing—with your dedication and commitment, you will be successful in both your career and your sobriety.

Tikvah Lake—We are here to help

As you navigate the transition of returning to work after rehab, remember that you are not alone. Tikvah Lake offers a plethora of resources to empower your success. Whether you seek ongoing professional counseling, support group connections, or guidance on workplace communication, our dedicated team is here for you.

Tikvah Lake offers a tailored treatment plan to everyone who walks through our doors. Your recovery is our priority, so let us help support you. Take the first step and contact us today to speak to one of our addiction treatment specialists. You are not alone.

About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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