Finding That “Get Well” Job When You Are In Recovery

Recovery – “One Day At A Time”

Recovery and Employment

Finding gainful employment when recovering from any illness or injury can be and often is difficult. If you are a treatment professional working with people who are recovering from mental health disorders and/or addiction, then you know how important it is to include a discussion about returning to full-time employment in the client’s relapse prevention plan. This plan might cover names of support persons and their phone numbers, a daily and weekly living schedule, critical relapse warning signs and viable management techniques for each.

If needed, the plan will also include pointers on seeking employment or dealing with returning to a previous employer, that is, successfully returning from a medical leave.

When you suffer from the disease of addiction there is a pretty good chance that your employment record is less than stellar; however, many alcoholics and addicts manage to work for many years shielding their addiction from being discovered by the immediate supervisors and managers.

“Get Well” Job

If you are familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), then you have heard the expression “get well” job. Many AA sponsors will guide their sponsee on how to find that “get well” job. It can be simple routine work: stocking shelves or bagging groceries, working in a small retail store, working at a local coffee store (think Starbucks), working in a movie theater, even volunteering a few hours per week. The goal with a “get well” job is to relearn how to budget one’s time, money, responsibilities, working with a team and/or manager and maintaining one’s sobriety. It is a time, as AA members say, to “suit up and show up” and by doing so one can rebuild one’s self-esteem and confidence.

One of the beautiful things about AA is that it is a long standing social community. People in recovery often network with employers who understand recovery and establish connections to assist people new in recovery to obtain a “get well” job.

Completing a job application for a “Get Well” job

If it has been a while since you completed a job application, then you might find some of the typical guidelines and questions interesting. Consider some of the following:

  • Applicants may be tested for illegal drugs
  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
  • If yes, explain number of conviction(s), nature of offense(s) leading to conviction(s), how recently such offense(s) was/were
    committed, sentence(s) imposed, and type(s) of rehabilitation.
  • Do you have a driver’s license?
  • What is your means of transportation to work?
  • Have you had any accidents in the past three years?
  • Have you had any moving violations in the past three years?
  • Have you ever been in the armed forces?
  • If yes, list your specialty, date entered and discharge date?
  • Please list your work experience for the past five years beginning with your most recent job held.

Being honest in recovery is a goal and that means one learning how to be honest in all of one’s affairs. It means processing how to complete a job application with facts. Sometimes the factual answers aren’t favorable, but an honestly completed application is good in the progression of recovery. Many a recovering alcoholic/addict has learned that there are employers that appreciate honesty, first and foremost, and understand that the recovering applicant is a work in progress.

Veterans search for “Get Well” job, too!

WBUR Boston’s NPR news station ran an interview this week “Vet’s Job Hunt May Be thwarted By Disability Bias”. If you listen to the interview you will learn that Army veteran Justin Claus, 26, is looking for work; however, Justin was honorably discharged and according to his DD214 the reason for his discharge was disability, permanent. The disability is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but usually Jason doesn’t even get that far in the interview process, as when he explains he was involved in a serious parachute accident in 2007, employers appear to assume PTSD.

Take a few minutes and listen to the interview here:

What Justin is really searching for is that “Get Well” job – a new start, a new responsibility to build his self-esteem and to continue his recovery.

Remembering one veteran’s “Get Well” job…

In 1953 a 35 year old veteran was “retired” and “honorably discharged” according to his DD214. He had served since 1936. Factually he was forced to retire due to a medical disability. At the time military doctors told him his life expectancy was six months. He had a wife and three young children under the age of nine. Certainly his $300 monthly retirement pension was not going to support a family of five. He would look for work; however, no one wanted to hire him, no one wanted to take a chance on this disabled veteran. But finally, another self-employed veteran decided to offer this disabled veteran a “Get Well” job pumping gas at an hourly wage of $.25 (25 cents). This disabled veteran worked hard and was eventually offered the opportunity to buy his own service station, supporting his family and being a productive member of the community. Over time the medical disability took its toll, he died at the age of 61. That’s correct…26 years after being retired due to a medical disability! For all of those 26 years this veteran never tired of telling his story about his “Get Well” job.

Resource to connect employers and the “recovering” unemployed

Through research we discovered a website that puts employers in touch with people who are in recovery from substance abuse, as well as ex-offenders and aging seniors (all considered the hard-core unemployables). This website has existed since at least 2005, perhaps an even more important resource in the current recession. It is free for employers and job seekers. The website is America In Recovery. Learn more about America In Recovery from their new video and share this information with others. It could help someone find that “Get Well” job.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Recovery ~ returning to health from sickness

In about a week we will celebrate Labor Day, hopefully this Labor Day employers will learn about the importance of “Get Well” jobs. At the same time, hopefully those new to recovery will seek and discover that a “Get Well” does exist for them. They just have to be willing to take the next step one day at a time.

As always we welcome your comments. 

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