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7 Struggles of Working in Addiction Treatment

Working in addiction treatment can turn out to be one of the greatest and most gratifying experiences for someone in recovery. It offers you a chance to work with others and give back to the recovery community, and working in the field of addiction treatment also opens you up to a variety of careers and specialty training. You get to share your experience with others, and it can keep the reality of active addiction fresh in your mind at times. There are plenty of great gifts that come from working in addiction treatment, but there are also a great deal of struggles and concerns in relation to this type of occupation. These are 7 struggles of working in addiction treatment.

  1. Schedules can be intense…

For those who work very closely with clients on a regular basis the schedule can be an intense one. Addiction and alcohol treatment requires that clients be able to receive constant care if need be, and this means over-night shifts of medical staff and behavioral health technicians to assure that any time they are needed, they are available.

This can be a serious struggle for those who have a hard time adjusting to changes in their sleeping schedule. Having to re-adjust yourself and your patterns based on a changing schedule makes it difficult to maintain a healthy and consistent life-style outside of work. It is important when working in the addiction treatment field to find ways to optimize your sleep schedule and other habits to avoid physical and mental stress.

  1. You can see yourself in a client…

Sometimes being able to relate to clients is a great thing. For the recovering alcoholic or addict it reminds us of who we are and how we used to be, and it also shows us how far we have come as individuals who have been in the position. Going through medical detox and inpatient treatment is something a lot of us identify with.

On the other side it shows us that we must remain vigilant. It can be hard to see others who have shared in our experiences and who show a lot of the same behavior as us, and then watch them continue to struggle and hurt themselves or others. It weighs heavily on the emotions to know how similar you are to a client and understand how difficult it is for them to accept treatment.

  1. You can’t convince clients to get help…

Something that relates closely to seeing yourself in a client that makes it even more of a struggle is not being able to influence them or inspire them to get help or to take their treatment seriously. Some clients simply do not want to hear what you have to say, and may not even believe that you can relate or understand where they are in their life or what they have been through. As much as we want to convince a client to get the help we know we needed, they don’t always want to take our word for it.

  1. Some are sicker than others…

The reality of the disease of addiction is that some are going to suffer a little more than others. Some have experienced drastic trauma, and some have developed more serious disorders. Be it mental or physical, some clients have a little more difficulty and need a little more treatment. For someone working in addiction treatment this can be extremely hard to try and help someone who suffers from a mental illness whose behavior is less stable, or a client with serious health problems.

  1. It can be a thankless job…

Not everyone who comes to addiction treatment is all that grateful to be there. Working in addiction treatment can really be a thankless job when you have clients who you work so diligently to try and help, and at the end of the day they remain defiant or indifferent.

This can go along with not being able to convince everyone, because some clients with intentionally ignore or reject all offers or efforts to help. If they believe you can relate or not, some people just do not want to hear it. It can be deterring for people who work in addiction treatment and put so much into working with an individual and then end up being abused for enforcing the rules by ungrateful clients. Having been on both sides of this I can personally relate completely.

  1. Some people confuse work with their program…

One serious and common problem with people who work in the field of addiction treatment who are in recovery themselves is that some confuse their work with their own program of sobriety. This problem is one that is easy to develop, not too easy to spot, but is easy to take care of in most cases.

People working in addiction treatment who take clients to meetings can often feel worn out on meetings, or they excuse themselves from going to their regular meetings because they attend a meeting during work. People can just get worn out on working with newcomers based on the fact they see them all day, or they slack on doing things outside of their job for their own recovery because they feel they spend too much time already on clients.

It is very dangerous for those in recovery who work in addiction treatment to forget to dedicate time and energy to their own sobriety, it is important to be able to separate the work you do for the client from the work you do for your program and for your fellowship.

  1. Not all people make it…

The most heartbreaking struggle relevant to people working in recovery is the fact that not everyone makes it. Sadly some clients will complete treatment, go back out into the world, relapse and die. That is the harsh reality of working with people who suffer from drug and alcohol addictions. If you work in treatment then you may spend a decent amount of time getting close to some of your clients and creating friendships, and this only makes it more devastating whenever a client passes away. But this disease is fatal and progressive, and too many people don’t take it seriously.

While working with addicts and alcoholics can inspire new levels of gratitude, and you can relate so closely to those who are still afflicted, it makes it an emotionally tragic experience to see that someone you related to so much and were so grateful to know is unable to stay clean and sober, especially when it costs them their life. But given the knowledge that not everyone will make it, we who work in the field of addiction treatment continue to show up and reach out because we know we needed it, and someone did it for most of us when we didn’t believe we could ever recover. I do what I do because someone did it for me, enough said.

The men and women who work in addiction treatment, especially those who are recovering alcoholics and addicts themselves, show up every day to try and help change the lives of people who are sick and suffering from an illness that often times hits close to home. As therapists, nurses, clinical staff and behavioral health technicians the people working in this industry are exposed to a variety of struggles, but they willingly work to try and show their clients there is an answer, and many of us know from firsthand experience. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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