Returning to the workplace after rehab can be a difficult transition. Either you’re returning to a job where everybody knows you and wonders about your extended absence, or you’re starting a new job with the shadow of your former addiction and treatment hanging over you. It leaves you struggling with the decision of what you have to tell your coworkers, and even more, your employer.
Overcoming employment challenges after recovery can be an uphill battle, and disclosing your past is one of the largest ones for many people.
Legally, of course, you don’t have to tell your employer that you once used drugs or that you’re currently in recovery. But if you’re going to occasionally be absent from work for therapy, group sessions or other follow-up treatment options in recovery, or if you want your employer to be aware of your issues so you can avoid triggers that might spark renewed cravings, you may feel it necessary to tell your employer.
If you decide you need to tell your boss about your recovery, you need to ensure you tell him what you need to, without giving a bad impression or complicating the situation. Remember, your employer may need to know for practical reasons, but you don’t have to share your life story. You’re sharing your current medical needs, not giving a testimonial about your former addiction habits.
Focus on how your addiction is in the past and reinforce that you are in recovery and not planning to return to substance abuse in any way. Explain your success in reaching this point, without placing emphasis on your low points in the past.
Don’t speak negatively about yourself or your decisions. If you’re in recovery, you clearly regret your substance abuse patterns and addiction, but there’s no need to criticize your past. Instead, focus on the future, emphasizing that you are no longer making those decisions and are better prepared to deal with challenges moving forward.
The most important thing to do is inform your employer about any possible triggers you feel you may encounter on the job. If you had a problem with alcoholism, inform your employer you are uncomfortable with social situations involving drinking. A business lunch over cocktails may be something a different employee should handle, for instance. Or you may need concessions in high-stress situations, such as less work at once or longer deadlines, to deal with a workload that once may have pushed you to drug use as a stress reliever.
Remember, your boss cannot legally fire you for having previously abused drugs or alcohol. Drug use is recognized as a medical condition under federal employment law and you have rights to proper care and consideration from your employer in such situations. Finding out your exact legal rights in your state is important as you use that to determine how much your employer needs to know about your situation.
Good Landing Recovery can help recovering addicts make such determinations in how to handle such disclosure on the job and how to navigate employment as a recovering addict.
Overcoming such employment challenges after recovery is a vital step to a better future for the recovering addict. Disclosing your past is not an easy step, but with help from Good Landing, it’s one you can take with confidence.