How to Stay Sober Through the Loss of a Job

How to Stay Sober Through the Loss of a Job

By In Addiction Recovery, Relapse Prevention, Tools for Recovery
Posted August 18, 2017

Margaret Thatcher once said, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” When it comes to recovering from addiction, these words ring particularly true. Getting sober is a major accomplishment, but you must continue striving to maintain your sobriety.

This can be challenging when unexpected hardships occur, such as the loss of your job. Job loss brings change, uncertainty, reduced self-esteem, stress, and grief, all of which are potential triggers for relapse. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that job loss strongly correlated with relapse rates among former smokers, for instance.

Still, you can stay sober through the loss of your job by following these tips.

Focus on the Positive

Losing a job is an incredibly difficult experience, but Forbes emphasizes the importance of focusing on the positive.

Don’t take your job loss personally, and don’t let it define you. If you determine that your job loss signifies personal failure, you’re less likely to bounce back and find a new job, and more likely to turn to destructive behaviors.

As soon as possible, set your sights on the future. Instead of wallowing in “shoulda-woulda-coulda” thoughts, focus on the steps you need to take to secure a new—and possibly even better—job.

Maintain Structure

In the meantime, treat finding a job as your new job. For a recovering addict, too much free time when you’re already feeling vulnerable can be disastrous. Try to maintain a sense of structure in your day.

Develop a plan for your job search, and break it down into practical, manageable steps. Update your resume, search for job postings online, reach out to your network, fill out applications, follow up with phone calls, etc.

Focusing on your job search and the new possibilities it may bring can fill your days and prevent you from dwelling on the negative.


Close up of people sitting and holding hand.

Helping others is another way to occupy your time, find a sense of purpose, and feel good about yourself.

Studies show that helping others increases production of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, the “Happiness Trifecta” of neurochemicals. These are the same chemicals produced by antidepressants, so volunteering really can ward off feelings of depression.

Your acts of kindness can be big or small: Help an elderly neighbor, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or simply do a few good deeds for your friends and family. You’ll feel happier and more productive as a result.

Prioritize Self-Care

If you want to stay sober through the loss of your job, self-care is vital. Avoid the temptation to wallow in self-pity, lying on the couch or in bed surfing TV channels.

Exercise, be active, and socialize with positive people. Do anything healthy that makes you feel better: play a sport, plant a garden, do yoga, walk your dog, express yourself creatively, etc. Remind yourself that there are plenty of positive activities that give you a genuine sense of happiness and well-being.

Seek Support

As a recovering addict, it’s important for you to seek support any time you feel vulnerable or are worried you may relapse.

Turn to the caring, positive people in your life, and don’t be scared to confide in them. Don’t isolate yourself or shut yourself off from others, as loneliness is an additional trigger for relapse.

If you’ve been attending 12-step meetings, it’s a good idea to step up your attendance if possible. Share with the group about your struggles, as it’s likely that others can relate and share their own stories and advice.

Stay in contact with your sponsor, an addiction counselor, or anyone else who has offered support during your journey to sobriety. The people in your life want you to stay sober and should be willing to help. Avoid anyone who may be a negative influence, and focus only on uplifting and positive friends and family.

A couple sitting in a meadow laughing.


It might not be easy, but you can survive job loss with your sobriety intact.

Focus on the future, treat finding a job as your new job, and seek opportunities to help others. Prioritize self-care, and surround yourself with positive and uplifting influences.

If you make your days productive and positive, the risk of relapse will decrease.

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