Change is a major aspect of recovery. Changing our behavior, changing how we interact with others, turning and facing the strange (ch-ch-changes), not wanting to be a richer man, just gonna have to be a different man. Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.

Poorly-shoehorned-in David Bowie references aside, one of the many things we may need to change when we enter recovery is our career choices. There can be multiple reasons for this. For some, our careers may put us dangerously close to drugs/alcohol. Perhaps we hated our current careers and used that as one of our many excuses to drink or use.

Rethinking career paths are decided case-by-case, and everyone is different. Whether or not a change in your career path is necessary during recovery depends on the person. I’ve known people who have gathered years of sobriety while still maintaining the career path they started before entering the rooms. I’ve also known people who have changed their careers after recovery. 

In this article, we will discuss rethinking your career path in recovery.

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

Why Change Your Career? 

The reasons for potentially changing your career in recovery are pretty varied. As mentioned above, whether or not a change in your career path is necessary depends on the person. Another thing that depends on the person/career is why someone would change a career when they enter recovery. 

Getting Out of Old Bad Habits

Whether you have a steady or no career, no one enters recovery on a winning streak. No one is completely happy and content in life, without any serious problems or threats to their legal or personal life, and decides, “hey, I think I’m going to start going to AA meetings.” A friend of mine puts it this way: “Welcome to AA, the world’s largest organization that no one ever wanted to join.” 

Why do I mention those things? Because if you’re entering recovery, it’s safe to say that you have bad habits. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t need to enter the rooms. Some of these bad habits can be intertwined or exacerbated by our career paths. 

The bar industry generally has several potential triggers for addicts and alcoholics. An obvious example would be if you worked in the bar and restaurant industry and had a habit of drinking at the end of all your shifts. Being surrounded by alcohol at work every day is probably not good for someone new in recovery.

Some workplaces and career paths can also lead to very toxic work environments. This varies depending on the different companies and career paths, but specific workplaces have unhealthy cultures that can drive you to drink or use or put you in situations where you feel pressured to drink or use. The financial industry is an excellent example of this. 

You get the picture. For various reasons, our careers can be intertwined with some of our bad habits. Switching your career can get you out of these unhealthy environments.

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Breaking Cycles

Some career choices can contribute to the cycle of addiction. You make an honest commitment to stop drinking or using, then something happens at work, and you end up repeating the cycle. 

For example, you could work in marketing or sales and frequently travel for work, be it for trade shows, meeting with clients, etc. Maybe you’re a salesman, and while you’re driving out to a sale, you stop for lunch with no intention of drinking. Then, hypothetically, let’s say you order a sandwich with a side of milk. Impulsively, you decide to order some whiskey, but you justify it by putting the whiskey in your milk. Because in your mind drinking the whiskey in milk wouldn’t hurt you on a full stomach, never mind how much of a weird combo whiskey and milk is, I like milk, but that’s a weird flavor combination. 

In your mind, that experiment goes well, so you order another milk and whiskey combo and another. Thus starts another trip into an institution, all because your alcoholic brain convinced you that drinking whiskey would be okay if you put it in milk and drank it on a full stomach. 

If you’re wondering, I didn’t come up with that example. That’s a somewhat infamous passage from the Big Book. Infamous because of how weird the combination of whiskey and milk is. You should read the Big Book if you didn’t get the reference. Bonus points if you read it with a sponsor. But it gets the point across well. Our career paths can contribute to the cycle of addiction. 

Gaining Happiness With Work

We’ve all had jobs, some of which we hated. We all know that feeling, dreading going to work, counting the clock until your shift ends, working in retail and dealing with rude customers, etc. There are many, many reasons people have for disliking their work or careers. For some, these disliked jobs are temporary things. Others end up doing the job they dislike and making it into a career. Maybe they just happened to end up there. Maybe they thought it would be fun and ended up miserable. 

Entering recovery allows you to start your life anew and pursue a field you’re passionate about. Many of us can’t just willy-nilly change our career paths for various reasons. This is usually a process that is slow and takes time, something that flies in the face of our innate desire as addicts or alcoholics for instant gratification. But taking the necessary steps to change your career path can be worth it if you end up in a fulfilling field.  

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

The Benefits of Changing Your Career Path

In the previous section, we hinted at some benefits of changing your career path. Depending on your situation, changing your career path can have any number of risks and benefits. We should also add that we aren’t necessarily talking about a complete 180-degree change in career path. Maybe you’re in a similar field, just a different position that suits your interests, talents, and passions more.

Some benefits include the following: 

Being happier with your work

We spend a lot of our lives working. Why not spend that time doing something that gives you some satisfaction, or at the very least, doing something you enjoy. It is necessary if we want things like food and housing, which are good things to have.

Yes, it is possible to have a job you don’t dread going to every morning, night, or whatever time your shift starts.

Possible increases in salary

Speaking of paying for things like food, housing, and childcare, a salary increase can help you afford those things a lot easier, with some extra money! I should add, salary doesn’t necessarily equal satisfaction with your job. Sometimes a career path change will pay you less money but leave you far more satisfied. Still, more salary is always a good thing.

The excitement of a career change

Facing new challenges can be exciting, especially if you’re going into a field that interests you in some way. 

Free Close-up of Hand Holding Text over Black Background Stock Photo


Creating a healthy routine

When I was brand new in recovery and sober living, they stressed getting a job, and there’s a reason for this. Getting a secure job can give you a healthy routine, something important for people new to recovery. Healthy routines are usually conspicuously absent when we are in the midst of our addiction. 

Meeting new people

Changing your career and the routes you take to make that career change can lead you to meet new people with similar goals. When you’re in recovery, ideally, you’ll have a growing network of friends who are also in recovery. With a career change, you can make even more new friends outside of your recovery circles. 

Resources For Finding a Job After Rehab

You might wonder, “are there any resources to find a job for someone new in recovery or maybe straight out of rehab?” Well, as the title of this section implies, there are resources. Resources include:

Recovery Centers of America – Employment Guide for Recovering Addicts & Alcoholics

Recovery Career Services

National HIRE Network

Central City Concern (Portland-based resource)

Oregon Recovers

OTR Can Help

You can’t make a career change in recovery until you begin your journey. Oregon Trail Recovery is the perfect place to begin your recovery journey. Contact us today for more information.