Balancing Work and Your Recovery

Balancing Work and Your Recovery

The point of addiction recovery is learning to return to life sober. Doing this requires a lot of determination and dedication. There are many challenges on the road to recovery, and one of the greatest challenges is learning to balance your work life and your recovery.

Work is tough at the best of times. When you’re overwhelmed by work you can experience stress, emotional difficulty, and fatigue – three of the major causes of relapse. However, you can’t always make time to cancel work and tend to yourself during recovery.

This is one of the greatest challenges for people who want to learn how to balance their work and recovery. In this article we’ll give you some tips on how you can do that and why it’s important to.

Why It’s Important to Balance Work and Recovery

There are a lot of reasons that it’s important to find a healthy balance of work, recovery, and life in general. Here are a few examples of why it’s important to find balance.

Balance Work to Manage Stress

One of the most important reasons that you should balance your work life is to regulate stress. Stress is tough for everyone, but people who are in recovery may find some additional challenges related to stress. 

Not only will they struggle with the standard issues presented by stress – including high blood pressure, insomnia, and irritability – but they may be tempted to relapse. Many drug users initially began using in an effort to curb their stress, so when they are presented with stressful situations one of the first things that comes to mind is using drugs.

It can be challenging to balance your work life, especially if you’re in a tough financial situation. Single mothers, for example, may need all the hours that they can get. Unfortunately, this can cause additional stress – sometimes more than they can cope with.

Balance Work to Take Care of Yourself

If you dedicate all of your waking life to work, then you’re not going to have enough time to take care of yourself. It’s that simple.

A lot of people don’t have a solid understanding of what self-care actually is. Modern magazines and advertisements will tell you that self-care might involve taking nice baths and getting a massage. While these are important components of self-care, that’s not all there is to it.

Self-care involves doing the things that you need to do to feel comfortable, stress-free, and satisfied. This might include getting enough sleep, eating regularly, and exercising.

If you’re working all the time, then you’re not going to have time to include these self-care practices in your daily life. When you stop taking care of yourself, you might fall into a state of discontent. This can lead to emotional challenges, stress, and unhappiness – all of which can trigger a relapse.

Not only can these issues cause relapse, they can cause other physical and mental health problems. When you forget to take care of yourself, you may become more likely to get sick, struggle with emotional instability, or have social problems.

Balance Work to Improve Relationships

A healthy social life is important for everyone, and it’s especially important for people who are in recovery. Your social network is the main component of your support network and it’s important to make sure that you build and maintain strong relationships with the people in your social network.

Unfortunately, that’s not always easy. It becomes even less easy if you’re constantly overwhelmed with work. People who work around the clock don’t have time to build healthy relationships, and they may not even have time to maintain their current relationships.

As you might imagine, being unable to maintain your relationships can have a serious impact on your support network. When your support network begins to fail, you become more likely to lose sight of your recovery goals and have a relapse.  

Why Is Work So Important for People In Recovery?

When you think about all the possible risks of overworking yourself and how this can interfere with your recovery, you might start to wonder why someone in recovery would even want a job. Do the risks outweigh the benefits? 

There are actually quite a number of benefits that work can provide for people in recovery – aside from the obvious financial benefits. These are some of the most important benefits that a recovering drug user might experience from being in recovery. 

Practicing Self-Sufficiency

People who struggle with addictions use substances as a form of support. In other words, they have trouble remaining self-sufficient. These drugs help them achieve their daily goals, function socially, and find motivation. Unfortunately, substance abuse is not a healthy or sustainable solution for these needs.

Working can help encourage recovering drug users to find a sense of self-sufficiency. By taking care of themselves, learning to assume responsibility, and accomplishing something every day – even if that accomplishment is simply showing up for work – people in recovery learn to take charge by themselves. 

As people begin to practice self-sufficiency, they also become stronger and develop more self-confidence. These traits allow them to further themselves on the road to recovery.

Helping Return to a Normal Life

For a recovering drug user, one of the most difficult things is learning how to reintegrate into society and social life. Working can help people with this by exposing them to people, activities, and places that they might not otherwise have a chance to engage with.

On top of this, working is an important responsibility that helps people find stability. When you’re in recovery, developing a sense of stability and responsibility is important. As you continue to do this, you will find that it becomes increasingly easier to remain focused on your recovery.

Improved Financial Well-Being

In the cycle of addiction, people often struggle to maintain their finances. Over time, this can lead to the development of bad financial habits. Many people on the road to recovery find that they struggle to maintain a savings account, for example, or that they may be more prone to compulsive spending.

Working can help to mitigate these problems in a number of ways. Firstly, encouraging people in recovery to work for their finances helps to re-establish the importance of financial security. As people begin to build their bank accounts back up, they may be able to find a sense of pride.

When you’re working hard for your money, you’ll become more inclined to use it for responsible purposes. Taking home your first paycheck once you’ve started your recovery can be an immensely satisfying accomplishment and one that helps to guide you towards your goals.

Encouraging Responsible Use of Time

When you first enter recovery, you may find that it’s easy to dwell on past mistakes. While it might feel natural to ruminate over these experiences, getting stuck in the past doesn’t really help you move forward in your recovery.

Instead of spending time thinking about the error of your ways, you might be able to put that time to productive use by starting to work. The more that you put your time to productive use, the easier it will be to make this a habit.

Over time, as you continue developing healthy habits and a constructive use of time, you’ll find that you’re less likely to dwell on your addiction. Redirecting your focus and time to such healthy activities can promote your recovery immensely.

Improved Sense of Responsibility & Commitment

During addiction, it can be easy to lose your sense of responsibility and commitment. It’s no secret that many people who are in the throes of addiction tend to eschew their responsibilities, sacrifice commitments, and struggle to maintain their relationships. These issues are not necessarily due to a fault of character but rather to the intense and overwhelming nature of addiction itself.

One of the best ways to regain a sense of responsibility and commitment is to hold a steady job. The added financial benefits of work can help to keep you focused and committed. As you begin to remember the importance of responsibility and the sense of accomplishment that comes along with it, you’ll be able to better yourself in other areas of your life.

Tips to Help Balance Work & Recovery

Even when you fully understand the importance of maintaining a job during your addiction, it can remain a challenge. These are a few tips and tricks that can help you balance your work life and recovery life.

Set Realistic Goals

When you first sober up, you’ll probably feel quite excited and proud of yourself – and rightly so. However, this excitement can often lead people to set unrealistic expectations and goals. When you’re first returning to sober life, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities available to you and attempt to bite off more than you can chew.

Furthermore, you may attempt to redeem yourself by overachieving in an attempt to rectify some of the negative changes that resulted from your addiction. It can seem like a good idea to fill your schedule with work, sign up for several new classes, and attempt to soar quickly to the top of the pack once you’re in recovery.

Unfortunately, setting unrealistic goals can also set you up for failure, stress, or overwhelm. As you become more stable in your recovery, the initial euphoria and excitement may start to fade. You may find yourself saddled by too many responsibilities and goals.

It’s important to be considerate towards yourself and not to jump too quickly into too many goals. Start out slow and make sure that you’re only taking on what you can handle. It’s better to do a great job at several smaller tasks than it is to do a mediocre job at a huge number of tasks.

If you do set unrealistic goals and find yourself being overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to see what options are available to you. Talk to your employer and explain your situation to see if there is a possibility of you decreasing your workload so that you can maintain your recovery.

Take Some Extra Time

While it might seem in contrast to the last tip, it can be a great tip to take some extra time for your job. 

When you’re first coming back into the working world, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. It might help you to show up to work a bit early so that you have time to ease into the day rather than rushing to get things started.

It might also be in your benefit to stay a little bit after your shift is over. Rather than pushing yourself throughout the day, you might appreciate giving yourself a bit of extra time to finish the thing that needs doing.

Check In With Yourself

When you first return to the working world, it’s not uncommon to want to set a good example. You may not only be trying to impress your boss and co-workers – you might be trying to impress yourself and prove that you can easily return to work.

While this is admirable, it can also cause some issues. The most important thing here is not to impress everyone – it’s to make sure that you remain sober and capable. If you push yourself too hard, you may find that you get stressed out or overwhelmed.

Take time to check in with yourself throughout the day. Ensure that all of your recovery needs are met, even if this means opening up to your coworkers or your boss about your situation. 

In the long-run, the best thing that you can do is to take care of yourself. Only by doing this will you be able to return full-force to the working world and impress the people that you care about – and yourself!

Manage Your Time

Procrastination should definitely be avoided when you return to the working world. If you leave too much work until the last minute, you might find yourself getting stressed out and overwhelmed.

When you become stressed out, it becomes easier to doubt yourself and your capabilities. One of the easiest ways to do this is to learn how to manage your time. There are lots of different ways that you can do this, including using a day planner, a calendar, and various time management apps that can be downloaded onto your phone or computer.

Another important component of time management is taking time for yourself. It’s not just blocking off all your time so that you spend each moment of your day working – make sure that you schedule ample time to meet your recovery needs and simply relax.

Practice Self-Care and Build Healthy Habits

Another important thing for anyone in recovery is learning how to care for yourself and build healthy habits. There are lots of different ways that you can do this.

  • Make sure to develop healthy eating habits. Addiction can wreak havoc on an individual’s eating habits and many people with addictions tend towards nutritional deficiency. It’s important to make sure that you learn how to eat healthy. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and free from processed foods will help to keep your strength and energy up.

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep every day is important. Sleep helps to improve your hormonal health, your energy levels, and your emotions. On the other hand, sleep deprivation can cause stress, irritability, and fatigue which can impair your work life and your recovery.

  • Consider following a spiritual or religious path. Whether this means attending church or studying Buddhism, it can be immensely fulfilling to develop a spiritual understanding. A spiritual approach to life allows you to contemplate and understand many different things that science and medicine cannot account for. Many recovering users agree that following a spiritual path has helped them remain grounded, hopeful, and dedicated.

  • Exercise regularly. If you follow a regular exercise routine you’ll be able to produce more of the neurotransmitters that keep you happy, healthy, and emotionally balanced. Regular exercise also encourages your body to produce more energy so that you can remain focused and energized throughout your work day.

Take Care of Your Social Needs

Having a healthy social life can keep you functional at work, especially if you work in a social atmosphere. It can be overwhelming attempting to return to a social job after relying on substances for months or years.

Here are a few tips on how to balance your social needs so that you can stay strong in your recovery.

  • Make sure to take time for free socializing. This might mean something as simple as having a coffee with a friend that you haven’t seen for a while or watching a movie with a family member. Even chatting on the phone for a while can provide a social and emotional boost that lasts for a long time.

  • Join a club or group. This is a great way to meet people who share similar interests as you. One of the most important aspects of recovery is learning to build a social support network of sober people. If you’re not reaching out to people who have similar interests, it can be tough to do this.

  • Attend recovery meetings. Recovery meetings are the best way to regularly engage with other people who are in recovery. These meetings can provide a social fix as well as help to remind you why you’re staying sober.

  • Stay in contact with a recovery sponsor. Not only does a sponsor help you remain conscious of your recovery goals, they can provide you with social support.

Am I Ready to Return to Work?

Many recovery programs will encourage you to return to work as soon as possible. The quicker you return to work, the sooner you will be able to establish healthy habits and re-engage with society.

It is also recommended that you return to your previous job, or at least a job similar to the one that you had. Making drastic changes too early in your recovery can cause unnecessary stress and additional challenges in your recovery.

If you are unable to return to your previous job, then you may want to take some time to re-integrate and build up your strength, social network, and recovery skills before you jump into unfamiliar territory.

It may also be important to take extra time and find support if you’re returning to a job that places strong emotional demands on you. People who work in the healthcare space, for example, may want to partake in a less stressful job for the earlier parts of their recovery.


Recovery is a challenge for everyone, and one of the biggest struggles for anyone in recovery is returning to work. It’s important to make sure that you take time for yourself and remain true to your recovery. Your recovery is of utmost importance, and if your work life is causing you too much stress or discomfort, you may need to pull back a bit.

The tips and tricks included in this article can help you find a strong balance in your recovery. As long as you don’t overwhelm yourself and make sure to stay true to your goals, you’ll be able to return to society and build a successful life.                               

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