“Why should we look to the past in order to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to look.”
– James Burke, British science historian, BBC broadcaster and author
Early addiction recovery is no time to be considering the outside world, with all its pressures, confusion, and challenges. No time at all. The beginning of your journey in recovery from whatever substance addiction consumed you and your life, and drove you to whatever depths of despair it could, that journey is fraught with its own dangers, and its own daily battles.The last thing you need during such a time is to be adding anything approaching drama to your life.
These months of early addiction recovery is like your preparation time – to prepare yourself for the time when you have no other option but to consider the outside world. And when you do – to put yourself out there, to engage, to find work, if you need to, and to reconnect with the better parts of your life so far – then your early recovery, which has strengthened and refocused you, will keep you safe, clean and sober.
Eventually, the time will come – to earn money. It’s a prerequisite of living in that outside world.
That means job interviews, which may well feel like the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far. It’s not – not even close. If you’re still clean and sober, you have met your challenges, day after day, and come out on top. An interview for a job? That’s just a meeting, a conversation.
Still, it was one meeting that was very low down on my list of priorities when I left the Phoenix rehabilitation center that had got me clean and sober. I just wanted to stay sane, so focused, and survive. However, after several months, I had no option but to look for work – good intentions don’t pay the rent or buy your food.
What follows from here on in is the excellent, essential advice I gleaned from the rehab center, and from experienced people within my 12-Step program – your “4 Essential Tips for Job Interviews During Addiction Recovery” to prepare you for that meeting, the questions you’ll be asked, and the answers you give.
And it all starts with, unsurprisingly, a question – only this one is one you ask of yourself…
#1. To Disclose Your Addiction or Not?
Whether you decide to disclose your medical history (and it is your medical history), and so your addiction, is 100% entirely up to you. The best advice, whatever you decide, is to be honest – 100% entirely h-o-n-e-s-t. Another question: Can you be completely honest while still holding back the complete story? In a word, yes.
Your addiction story is yours, and you do not have to impart anything, any information whatsoever, if you are not comfortable with doing so. If you choose not to share your story, resist the urge or temptation to fabricate or to even lie; for example, filling in the blanks on your employment timeline with made-up stuff – remember, 100% honesty, at all times.
Personally, I chose to disclose. Yes, it may have been a risk at the time, but I believed it to be the right and honest thing – if I was going to live my life differently, in direct contrast to those days of addiction, this was me putting that into practice. I believe my honesty was appreciated – I got the gig, anyway.
However, it’s an interview, so always focus on your strengths. Steer the conversation back if it’s dwelling on something you don’t wish to speak about.
#2. Addiction is a Strict Teacher – Demonstrate Your Learning
If you’ve decided to be honest and to disclose (keeping in mind that you want to discuss your strengths), you can raise a huge number of positives by talking about your addiction and your recovery.
With preparation involving the company’s mission statement, ethics, and branding, show how these strengths will benefit their business. Seriously, addiction forces you to be focused, resourceful and objective – all companies want people with this skill-set.
#3. Know Your Rights
Yes, know your rights. In the world we now live in, never has this been more advisable. In fact, be more than just knowledgeable – learn all you can about how a company has to operate by law, eg. how they are required to treat their staff, to protect their staff, and to plan the professional progression of their staff within the company.
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against anyone with a substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD) who aren’t currently using those substances. If you are hired, you are within your rights to request reasonable assistance under the law for rehabilitation efforts and medical care, if needed.
With the U.S. being the patchwork of states that it is, check out the regulations and protections that apply within your home state. Importantly, even if you opt against disclosure of your past addiction, don’t forget to study and learn the benefits provided by your prospective employer for rehabilitation, counseling, medical care, or other potential needs.
#4. Listen to Your Recovery
Last, but certainly not least (because it gets to the very crux of your decision to find employment), listen to your recovery – this cannot be emphasized enough. Your addiction recovery is your #1 priority today. It demands a lot from you, so don’t stretch yourself too far. You will still be experiencing the effects of your addiction for years to come. Therefore, you must consider your own needs in that respect when applying for a new job.
Remember, if you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing a critical part of your life experience with someone right from the beginning, how comfortable would you feel working for them over a number of years? It’s an important question – let your recovery answer…
Have you had job interviews during your addiction recovery? What was the process like, and were you successful? Did you disclose your past or not? Please feel free to let us know with a comment below to be shared with other readers. Thanks.
And remember, opportunities are like buses and taxis – they’ll be another one along soon enough.