Employment After Addiction

For individuals coping with substance use disorders, finding and sustaining addiction recovery is only half the battle. After finding recovery assistance, the common barriers that may make it difficult to secure and retain employment include legal issues stemming from previous arrests while under the influence, poor work history, and lack of access to stable housing, internet, telephone, food, clean clothing, transportation and childcare, which can make it difficult to even begin the interview process.

While finding employment after addiction may be challenging, it is attainable. A case manager or an employment counselor is an invaluable resource when navigating the employment landscape, but if you are managing the process on your own, become your own advocate. Ask questions and seek information from all available local agencies to ensure you get the support and resources you need to succeed. The following tips can help you get started:

  • Find a case manager. Many people do not take advantage of the local and state resources available for those in addiction recovery because they are not aware of them. A dedicated case manager will help identify all the resources and support services available in your county and most importantly – advocate on your behalf.
  • Assess or address any criminal history. Employers may be hesitant to hire a candidate with a criminal record. Legal resources are available to help expunge records where applicable and career centers can provide guidance on addressing these issues during the interview process.
  • Visit a one-stop career center. All New Jersey counties have a one-stop career center that can connect you with an employment counselor to help navigate local resources, including training and job placement, and can also assist with federal bonding and criminal history.
  • Manage your mental health. Most individuals who have or have had substance use disorders also struggle with co-occurring mental health diagnoses. Not only is it critical to address mental health challenges to promote your overall wellbeing, but there are also dedicated supported employment services offered through the state for those with mental illness.

About the Author: Giesel Girona-Ussery, MAS, is associate vice president of work incentive services at CarePlus NJ. She oversees the agency’s supported employment programs including Pathways to Recovery, a program now being offered in nine counties through the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL) to help individuals impacted by addiction find employment.

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