5 Ways Vocational Programs Enhance Sobriety

5 Ways Vocational Programs Enhance Sobriety

Recovering with Job Training Stay Sober Longer

“I will always hire recovering addicts because in my experience they are more loyal, harder working and more compassionate than my other employees. Everyone has issues, but with recovering addicts I know what those issues are and it’s easy to tell when they are dealing with them in a healthy manner.”

-Matt S.
Business Owner in South Florida

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That is what the owner of my company told me during my first review. I had never had a career before, never worked for anyone other than my parents up to that point, never written a resume, gone on an interview or had my own desk. Yet, there I was getting a raise, a bonus and being told that I was not only good at my job, but great. I had just achieved 1 year of sobriety and everything seemed to be going my way. My recovery program from drugs and alcohol had a lot to do with it. However, the long road of professional reform was paved by the vocational program I attended while in drug rehab. Here I learned all the tools I needed to forge a new career for myself. One I could be proud of, one that would teach me the life skills I need to survive and one that would provide tangible results that I could look at and say, “For once I am doing well.” The career based accomplishment also went a long way to increasing my level of and commitment to sobriety. There were actually a lot of aspects of my rehab’s vocational program that enhanced my sobriety, but here are the 5 ways vocational and life skills training benefited me the most.

#5 Vocational Training Provides Skills for The Future.

Many addicts and alcoholics come into rehab with little to no experience working in the real world. They’ve never been on an interview, never worked on the clock and have never written a resume. I was one of these people. In order to survive in the post drug world I needed to learn a lot of things that my non-addicted brothers and sisters have known since birth. For example I had an interview at 11 a.m. and showed up to my vocational program group at 8 a.m. and didn’t shave the night before. I thought the ladies would dig the beard. My vocational instructor made me get up and walk the 2 miles back to my room to shave. It was a wake up call.

I didn’t even think about shaving for the interview or about ironing my pants and shirt, I was a mess. She told me I have to dress for the job I want, not the job I have, which was no job at all I pointed out to which she said, “Exactly.” In vocational group I also learned how to write a resume. This was particularly difficult since at the time I saw myself with no real assets to offer and very, very limited job experience. In group, they showed me what my strengths were and taught me how to highlight those on paper. I had such a negative view of myself for so long, this resume building experience wasn’t just a resume building exercise – it was a positive character building exercise and I began to like what I saw. After the resume we went on to interview skills. My vocational program therapist pointed out that I need to look the employer in the eyes and taught me how to answer difficult questions like, did I have any felony’s and why I was suddenly in Florida. These skills not only landed me the job of my dreams but also became the tools I would use to pave a better future for myself. I wish all treatment centers had a plan for vocational therapy.

#4 Vocational Training Increases Self Esteem

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Like I said, my view of who I was as a person was shot. It wasn’t until I was taught true vocational and life skills and began working that I started to see a rise in my self esteem. To people not inflicted with the disease of addiction it seems, easy or normal to wake up each morning, take a shower, make a lunch go to work, eat the lunch, return home and repeat. For many addicts and alcoholics this is next to impossible. Some weeks I wouldn’t even shower. Normal people take for granted the fact that they can wake up whenever they want and decide not to get high on Tuesday at 2:15pm. In my addiction I could not, so when I got the call from an employer that they wanted to hire me I thought they had the wrong number. The idea that someone wanted to hire me to do a job boggled my mind and shot my self-esteem through the roof. What it also did was provide irrefutable proof that sobriety was working in my life. The boosts of self-esteem I got from working a real sober job made me feel good, it made me feel alive, I gave me everything that drugs used to provide without the horrible side effects.

Through vocational training and on the job training I also learned all the parts of myself that were good and useful and all the parts that I could be proud of. If I had simply gone to a career center or checked out monster.com I would not have gained all the personal insights and self-esteem steroids that the vocational program gave me. In addition to increased self worth it also provided something I had desired for years – stability.

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#3 A Sense of Stability is Essential to Long-Term Sobriety

I used to wake up everyday not knowing where my next meal would come from, not knowing where I would get the rent money and not knowing who I was. Today I know. Since the day we are born we are on a constant search for stability. It’s why babies are less fussy when swaddled. Many addicts and alcoholics use drugs to find that stability for their emotions and to gain a peer group. By snorting cocaine or shooting heroin we can guarantee the feelings our bodies are will experience. That is type of behavior is known as unstable stability.

What does offer long-term stability is purpose, drive and ambition. This was given to me through my career and that was provided by job training and life skills taught to me in treatment. Alcoholics and addicts are impulsive people who crave structure and stability. I found these things when I got a job and was leaving the house each morning with a duty, a specific purpose for being alive other than getting high. Putting in an honest day’s work and seeing a pay check at the end of the week was another indication that I was on the right path and that my plan for sobriety was working and working well. I had places to be each day, tasks to complete and goals to accomplish. I had never had those things or accomplished anything in my life, once I did another, natural high was provided and I continued to chase recovery. What came next would take my spirits and level of sobriety to new levels.

#2 Self Sufficiency

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At age 28 my therapist at my IOP treatment center asked the group, “Who here wants to live in their parents basement for the rest of their life?” I was the only one who raised his hand. That is where my life had gone to. I didn’t think I would ever be able to live on my own. I thought it would be best to just live in my parent’s basement… forever.

After learning the life skills needed to sustain life I became self-sufficient and realized that I could do anything. Essentially, I had learned how to grow up. I was taught how to pay bills and how to budget and how to work smarter not harder. Being self sufficient, is to this day the greatest gift that sobriety has given me. I now have all the needed skills and tools to go out a become anything. Never have I had that feeling that can only be described as hope.

#1 Hope

I was dead on the side of the road in about 7 years ago and now I have been working in the advertising industry for 7 years, own my own home, have a wife, a baby girl and two cars. In just 7 years this dead drunk has accomplished things that he never thought possible and just and 50% of the reason is because two incredible people in my vocational program taught me the weapons I needed to live. Now I get to tell this story so that the next person who thinks the mountain is to high to climb can get up off the street and walk tall hopefully filled with hope.

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