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The Truth About Working in a Drug Rehab Center as a Recovering Addict

by | Last updated Oct 2, 2020 at 4:16PM | Published on Jan 6, 2020 | Rehab Programs

Working in a Drug Rehab Center

It’s very common for recovering addicts to consider working in a drug rehab center after completing treatment. While rehab centers employ mental health professionals, therapists, psychologists, and social workers; they also employ admission specialists and volunteers. Addiction is a complex diagnosis, with many pathways to recovery. Developing a career in addiction treatment can be very rewarding, yet also troublesome for recovering addicts.

What to Expect When You Work in Drug Rehab

Working in a drug rehab center is an entirely different experience than getting treatment at one. Recovering addicts know far too well the struggles with anger management, self-esteem, frustration, and family issues. They also know that those in recovery are struggling with the worst crisis in their lives. 

As a recovering addict, it can be challenging to separate yourself from a patient’s needs, trauma, feelings, and difficulties, mostly when so many of their struggles mirror yours.

People in rehab are often not thinking clearly. Often, patients are more impulsive, frustrated, and desperate to get better. Managing all of these emotions can be extremely challenging for therapists and other rehab employees. 

Depending on where you work, you may also encounter patients who are not voluntarily in treatment. These need additional support to embark on their path to recovery. Overall, no two days are alike when you’re working in drug rehab. 

The Benefits of Helping Others

The primary benefit of working at a rehab center as a sober person is the ability to help addicts and alcoholics in early sobriety. Generally, recovery addicts hear in meetings that newcomers are the most important people. Thus, recovered addicts should always have our hand out to those who are struggling with addiction. Working at a rehab center and being in recovery gives an individual the ability to help newcomers. 

Still, there is a significant drawback – being paid. It’s one thing if you’re volunteering at a treatment center. It’s another if you’re an employee. While addicts may be helping newcomers in drug treatment by sharing experience, strength, and hope, they are not doing it for free.

Additionally, there are some other benefits of being a man or woman in recovery and working in treatment. We’re able to connect with patients in a way that individuals who have not personally struggled with addiction, may not. Hence, being sober and working in a drug rehabilitation center may provide the ability to be a more productive worker. That’s true of behavioral health techs (BHTs), therapists, doctors, group leaders, alumni coordinators, clinical directors, and everyone else who help operate a drug rehab.

The Risk of Relapse When Working in a Drug Rehab Center as a Recovering Addict

For the average person, one without a previous history of substance abuse, there are many risks of working in a drug rehab facility. Some risks include:

  • Burnout and exhaustion
  • Trauma due to exposure to the patient’s traumatic experiences
  • Feelings of inadequacy and frustration when you cannot help a patient
  • Uncertainty and anxiety when a patient chooses to leave treatment against medical advice

However, for a recovering addict, working in a rehab center is an entirely different experience. Yes, they will still face many challenges, just like any other person working in addiction treatment centers. However, they face a different challenge — relapse.

The risk of relapse is genuine and very dangerous. The damage that a recurrence of use can have on patients can be overwhelming. Being surrounded by people in the early recovery stages can pose tremendous challenges. Not to mention, the added stress and anxiety of working with patients can be a dangerous relapse trigger. 

Even when they hold all the tools and mechanisms, they learned during treatment, relapse triggers, and relieving the experience through others can be risky. Having to face the same traumas, struggles, and stories regularly can lead to an intense urge to start using again. It takes extreme willpower to face these reminders and maintain long-term sobriety. 

Making a Decision

Choosing to go back to work after rehab is paramount for long-term sobriety as it’s part of the reintegration process. However, choosing to seek employment at a drug rehab can be tricky. Some people will be able to work in treatment and flourish. On the other hand, some addicts may struggle with the reality of dealing with addictions of others 24/7.

Consult with your friends, family, or sponsor. Additionally, discuss the risks of relapse and burn out with your significant other and those closest to you to ensure you have a reliable support system in place if you decide to seek the rewarding career path of helping others.

If at first, the idea seems overwhelming, consider your options. If your goal is to help others struggling with the same issues, consider becoming a sponsor. Many 12-step programs welcome recovering addicts from acting as sponsors to others in the early recovery stages.

If you’re looking to choose a career path that has to do with health care, research the state requirements to work in addiction recovery. Take time to go back to school and slowly but steadily find your long-term career path in drug rehabilitation. 

Consider an Aftercare Program

Sometimes recovering addicts feel lost when they complete their rehab program. Suddenly, the lack of structure and motivation can leave them wondering what to do. Before you jump back into the workforce, an aftercare program can provide guidance. 

In aftercare treatment programs, rehabilitation incorporates ongoing support, group meetings, individual therapy to address those early days in recovery, and sober living. Besides these efforts, aftercare programs discuss life skills development that includes career searching, interview preparation, and career path planning. It might be a more comfortable step towards choosing to work in a drug or alcohol treatment facility. 

We’re Here to Support You

If you’re a recovering addict or someone who is, and you’re looking for a career in alcohol and drug abuse treatment, don’t hesitate to reach us. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our therapist team and staff are always open to discuss what working in rehab feels like. 



Molly is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Case Manager and Vocational Services. She has a Bachelor’s in International Relations, is a Certified Addiction Counselor, and it’s currently working towards her Master’s in Social Work. Molly’s experience allows her to provide expert knowledge about solution-based methods to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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