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How to return to work after residential rehab

By Tim Woodley

Returning to work after undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol misuse is more than a little daunting for most. After progressing on your journey of recovery and healing it can be difficult to face even the thought of the workplace and the fresh challenges it can bring.

This can be for a variety of reasons, with some struggling with colleagues knowing of their issues or, in many cases, those colleagues being stressors themselves that can cause relapse through events like social drinking and nights out. In today’s article, the Help Me Stop team is talking about how to plan your return to work after you’ve succeeded in a residential rehabilitation programme.


From pain to pride

The first emotional battle recovered individuals face is often fear based on guilt and embarrassment. You might be worried that your colleagues will look down on you for your struggles and that your reputation amongst your peers will be damaged for good.

If your addiction is known of amongst your colleagues, the great news is there’s nothing to be ashamed of! Millions across the world live with addiction, and it’s sadly true that many of those people die from their disease. To succeed in recovery and return to work is a triumph and a testament to the power of your will and resolve. While it can feel like your peers will judge you for your journey of recovery, the truth is the vast majority will be respectful and supportive as you reintegrate into normal working life.


Avoiding relapse: A genuine benefit of working after recovery

Relapsing is a very real threat in the life of any person who has succeeded in residential rehabilitation for their substance misuse. Addicted individuals learn through their journey of recovery that the danger is always there, needing to be respected and adjusted for on a daily basis.

While common events like social drinking after work can be a challenge that should ideally be avoided entirely; especially in the early stages of recovery, it’s often the case in the accounts of many recovered individuals that diving back into work gives them a challenge and sense of purpose that directly helps them avoid relapse. With this in mind, your return to work can be framed as a beneficial thing that will improve your life instead of detracting from it and placing you at risk of relapsing into substance use.


Coping with workplace stressors

While work can and will help you focus on a life without drugs and alcohol after recovery, it’s important we address the aforementioned stressors that may be present. At Help Me Stop we take great care in educating and informing our clients on aftercare and life after completing our treatment programme, and an integral part of this is collaborating on the creation of your own relapse prevention, aftercare and continuing care plan. However, completing a Dayhab treatment programme is very different from completing a residential treatment programme and then going back to work, as during Dayhab treatment clients can continue to work while in treatment.

Every journey of recovery is different, and documents like relapse prevention plans are living and breathing agreements that will help you know where, when and how to use recovery skills and resources you will gain during your treatment programme. These can be coping skills such as using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills when upset or overwhelmed or drawing on the support of family members by phone or use of peer support systems like AA, NA, CA and SMART if stressors begin to threaten sobriety.

Sadly, there is evidence that around 60% of individuals that complete a residential rehab will relapse in their first year, with the primary factor in most cases of this is that individuals do not put enough credence on continuing care or aftercare. Residential rehab provides a terrific space for recovery, but is a protective bubble that makes returning to “normal life” with all its pressures, stresses and strains a serious shock.

This is why many individuals are now looking to programmes like Help Me Stop as an alternative to residential treatment or to support them in their aftercare, as they can still work while still receiving the intensive support that’s so important to recovery.


Further tips on how to return to work after rehab

Here are a few additional points of advice on how to succeed in your return to the workplace after your treatment programme is completed.

Negotiate with your employer: It’s often the case that recovered addicts need to ease themselves back into the workplace. If you are returning to work after treatment, your first point of contact will be with your company’s HR department. This is an important opportunity to discuss your rights and plans for your return and to negotiate with them a realistic easing back into full working hours that suits you and minimises your risk of relapse. It can also be a springboard for discussion in looking to attend a support programme like Help Me Stops that operates in the evenings and weekends.

Brief family and friends: It’s extremely helpful to talk with your family and friends about when you might need their help. Doing this in advance makes a real difference, helping to ensure that you always know who you can get in touch with successfully on short notice. If stressors are creeping up on you, it pays to be sure of having a loved one to speak to privately.

Don’t take your job home: While it can be hard in the modern age to do this, it’s an important part of life after recovery. Decompressing and unwinding after work is particularly important to a recovered person, and you’ll minimise your likelihood of relapse through prolonged exposure to workplace stress if you draw a firm boundary between your work and life outside of it.

Keep your employer updated: Whether during one to ones or through contact with your HR department or line manager, it’s helpful to keep your employer abreast of your progress and feelings after your return to work. This helps them care for you better and removes the stress that uncertainty over the plans or feelings of others can bring.


Here for you

We hope you’ve found our latest article on returning to work after residential treatment useful. The Help Me Stop team would like you to know we’re here for an informal chat at no obligation if you need our help. Simply call us on 0208 191 8920 or use our contact form to get in touch.

Our breakthrough Dayhab treatment model is flexible, non-residential and available at a fraction of the cost of traditional rehabilitation programmes and can be used as an alternative to residential treatment or as an aftercare programme upon leaving. Learn more about it and the costs of the programme itself right here.


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