Any battle with addiction is difficult. Any recovery period feels long and takes its toll on your life. However, if you have had a particularly lengthy struggle with addiction and time spent in recovery, the havoc it wreaks on your life can be overwhelming. While being an addict, trying to quit, and going through recovery, everything else takes a back seat: your relationships, your job, your health and your finances.
While putting yourself first in order to get well is important, you also need to consider the effects your struggles have had on others. As an addict, you may have done some terrible things. You not only failed to contribute to society, you may have also been a harmful aspect of it. Now that you are on the mend, the time has come to re-enter society as a contributing, useful and respected member, but it will not be easy.
Get an Education, Get a Job
The most obvious way in which you might start becoming a productive member of the community again is to get a job. Having a job means that you can support yourself without being a burden on anyone else and that you are contributing in a meaningful way to society at large. There is an immediate level of respect that you can get from others and from yourself when you are useful and working again.
Getting a job may be easier said than done for someone in your position, though. It is time to recognize that you may need to start out at the bottom. Any job is better than no job, so even if you have to work the cash register at the supermarket (but you used to be an engineer), take the job. With hard work you will work your way back to a better job.
If work is totally out of the question, or you are not able to find a position, consider advancing you education. Learn a trade or get a certificate degree from a community college. Education can help you get to a better place, both in terms of work, and into a more respectable position within your community.
Start Building Credit
There’s a good chance that after a long addiction struggle, your finances are in the toilet. You may have destroyed your credit during binges or even stolen to get your fix during the depths of your addiction. To be able to be a normal contributor in society, you need to work at getting your money problems sorted. Once you have a job and are earning again, speak with a credit counselor to help you get your finances and your debt under control. There are non-profit organizations that can help you, but be wary of scams. The Federal Trade Commission has useful information for getting credit help.
Contribute to the Community
Now that you are well and in recovery, you may feel guilt and shame about your past. Maybe you did some things that you are not proud of, or maybe you hurt people. One great way to start feeling better about yourself and to repair some of the damage you have done is to get involved in your community. Volunteer your time in any number of ways to make a difference.
You might be able to speak to young people about addiction, drugs and making good choices. Maybe you can help out at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Anything that you can do to contribute to your community in a positive way will help you feel better, will help others, and will begin to repair your position in society.
As someone who is re-entering society as a reformed addict, trust is one thing that many people will not feel toward you. Whether it is your closest family or a potential employee, trust is something that you need to earn back. It takes time, and the only way to do it is by being trustworthy. Demonstrate through your actions that you are someone to be relied upon, and little by little, people will trust you again.
Becoming a valued member of society after a long time on the outside is an uphill battle. But, if you can start earning, become responsible about your finances, give back, and demonstrate trustworthiness, it will happen. Remember to be patient, but also keep in mind that you will always be in recovery. If you need to, get help again. Speak with your mentor, go to meetings, get back into counseling, or just ask a close friend for help. Whatever you do, do not let your hard work unravel by sliding back into addiction.