Returning to Work After Rehab 

Returning to Work After Rehab 

Throughout our journey to become sober, we are usually in a cycle of reward-punishment-reward-punishment-craving-reward-punishment, and so on in perpetuity. The standard accompanying feeling through it all is generally shame. So much of our recovery work in therapeutic settings is built around removing self-shaming behaviors and stigmas within ourselves so that we can be free of the cycle.

Everything changes once we try to get back into the “normal” routine. Plenty of us lost our employment because of our addictions, but still others of us were able to fool the world until it finally caught up with us. This is what happened to Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a physician, memoirist, and opiate addict whose bright future was derailed for a time due to his addictions. He describes returning to work in his field, ready once again to prove himself. What happened next threw him off-guard:

“The fact that I was now in recovery was a great development, and it was further ratification of my progress that I had landed a job and was returning to work. So, why wasn’t I feeling overjoyed?1

Grinspoon goes on to discuss that stigma from addiction (even in the recovery from addiction) can affect how we in recovery see ourselves and others. Grinspoon used recovery phrases to remind him that sobriety and overcoming the challenges of stigma in the workplace were going to be a long process. He repeated the phrases:

  • “Bring your body and your mind will follow”
  • “Just keep your head up” 
  • “Put one foot in front of the other”

Instead of dreading the inevitable conversations about recovery and your rock bottom moment or anticipating the stares and double-checking of your work that might not even happen—maybe, you can just get right back to work. Even before entering rehab, you most certainly were giving and capable, just as you are now. You can show people what you can do, and how much you can do now that substances aren’t in the way.

The reality is, no one is ever assured of an easy transition back into normal life. What we are assured of is this: our reaction to what the world offers us happens within a breath. We feel an action, we have a breath, and then we have our reaction. Rather than reacting with fear, assume good intentions in people and be patient with them as they are with you. 


Learn to recover, recommit to sobriety, and thrive at Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California. We are a premiere men’s addiction treatment facility that uses eight different modalities to help our men become the best versions of themselves they can be. We teach our men that every day of their journey is something to celebrate and that recovery isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon. To get started with Tree House Recovery, call us today at (855) 202-2138

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