Recovering from addiction is not only about abstaining from drugs and alcohol but also about finding a healthier way to live. The only way to keep recovering in the long run is to feel happier and more fulfilled without substance use. That typically requires making some changes in how you live, including treating any co-occurring mental health issues, making healthy lifestyle decisions like eating healthy, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly, and cultivating healthy relationships. For some people, it may mean changing careers, or at least finding a job in their field that’s more conducive to recovery. While every job has its own hassles and rewards, some kinds of jobs significantly increase your risk of addiction or relapse. Here are the main factors that can make your job a liability in recovery.
For many people, stress is a major trigger of cravings and relapse. Feeling overwhelmed or helpless at work can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, and many people rely on drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with work stress. There are many factors involved in how stressful a job is. One is the stakes involved. Lawyers, doctors, and other healthcare workers often do their jobs knowing that someone else’s life or livelihood is at stake. Many not only feel internal pressure to perform well, but pressure from their clients, patients, and supervisors as well.
Another kind of pressure is long hours. Again, doctors and lawyers often have to work dangerously long hours, especially early in their careers. The long hours are thought to be one reason rates of substance use and mental health issues are high in these professions. For example, a study by the American Bar Association of more than 12,000 attorneys found that more than 20 percent had alcohol use disorders, 28 percent experienced symptoms of depression and 19 percent experienced symptoms of anxiety. That’s about twice the national average for alcohol use disorder and nearly three times the national average for depression.
Finally, stress isn’t just a matter of high stakes and long hours. Motivation plays a big role as well. Workers who feel they have little freedom or control over their work tend to feel a lot more stress. That means workers on the lower rungs of the hierarchy, whose work is highly monitored and regimented tend to feel a lot more stressed for a given workload. This is often an issue for workers at big retailers and call centers.
Another factor that can add stress to a job and increase the risk of anxiety and depression is having an erratic schedule. This is detrimental in two big ways. First, it adds to the stress of a job. If you’re never quite sure when you’ll have to work, you feel like you’re always on call. Many workers in today’s part time and “gig” economy aren’t even sure if they’ll get enough work to pay the bills and many also have to juggle multiple part time jobs. And most people have other responsibilities outside of their jobs as well. These considerations make erratic work schedules a huge contributor to stress. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that erratic work schedules are especially common in agriculture, financial services, retail, and entertainment and are a significant source of work-family conflict.
The other big reason erratic work schedules are a major risk factor is that they affect the quality of your sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, shift work can have serious effects on your mental and physical health, including a greater risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, impaired cognitive performance, and depression. On top of that, the poor sleep that results from an erratic work schedule is likely impair work performance, leading to even more work stress. Lack of sleep has even been linked to major industrial accidents like Three Mile Island and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Access to drugs and alcohol
Typically, people new to addiction recovery are advised to stay away from drugs and alcohol entirely, but many people have jobs that require them to be around drugs and alcohol every day. This is true for doctors, nurses, bartenders, restaurant staff, entertainers, athletes, and others. Doctors and nurses have access to powerful prescription drugs. Bartenders serve drinks and watch other drink all day every day. Restaurants often combine many factors that make work stressful, including high pressure, long and erratic work hours, lack of autonomy, financial instability, and an environment where drinking and drug use are accepted or even expected. Athletes are often given painkillers to get them through games or practice and drinking is often a part of team culture, even for junior athletes. Entertainers often perform in venues where alcohol is served and on top of that work erratic hours with a lot of travel and little job security.
Risk of injury
The final major category of risk is risk of injury. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, construction, mining, and utilities are among the highest risk jobs for developing a substance use disorder–with 14.3, 11.8, and 11.5 percent risk, respectively. One major reason for this is the high risk of injury. These jobs are physically demanding. Workers often deal with aches and pains as part of daily life. Workers with more serious injuries are often prescribed opioids so they can keep working. This is thought to be one reason the opioid crisis has hit areas like West Virginia so hard–a large percentage of the labor force works in mining and timbering. Injuries often put people in these occupations out of work, further increasing their risk of depression and substance use.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, Hired Power and our team of dynamic, experienced recovery professionals are here to guide you every step of the way. We offer many services, including helping you choose the best treatment program and transitional services, including interventions, sober monitoring, and personal recovery assistants. Call us today for information on our recovery services: 714-559-3919.