Living in Recovery Mental Health

Should You Talk About Your Recovery At Work?

Although the important people in your life probably know about your recovery, you might feel uncertain about how to proceed in the workplace.  Read More

Although the important people in your life probably know about your recovery, you might feel uncertain about how to proceed in the workplace. 

With that in mind, should you tell your boss about your struggles with addiction? Is it appropriate to commiserate with your coworkers? And when, if ever, are you required to disclose your medical history? Let’s get into what you need to know.

Do’s and Don’ts WhenTalking About Your Recovery At Work

Your recovery may be the most significant part of your life, but navigating it at work may seem complicated. You probably don’t want people to judge you (or worry that you’re about to relapse). At the same time, you might value others knowing about your past, especially if you work in an environment where drinking is more prevalent. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind.

You’re Not Legally Required to Share Your Medical History 

Federal and healthcare laws help maintain your confidentiality in the workplace. Therefore, you are not obligated to disclose your addiction or recovery process to your employer. This applies even if you use your company’s health insurance or any employee assistance program (EAP).

Some exceptions to this rule exist. For example, if you need to take time off for treatment and you intend to use FMLA, your employer can legally ask for medical documentation. However, your healthcare provider isn’t required to go into extensive detail when providing this paperwork.

Likewise, if you need reasonable accommodations to perform your work under ADA, you may need to also provide documentation explaining the rationale. However, your doctor can also keep these details vague. 

You May Benefit From Waiting

Once you acknowledge your addiction, you can’t take it back. So, it never hurts to “read the room” before sharing personal details about your life with your boss or colleagues. 

Every company has its own workplace culture. Some businesses value transparency and building personal relationships, and others focus solely on getting down to business. Neither culture is better than the other, but knowing how your workplace operates can help you make the right decision.

It’s Best to Remain Professional

If you want to disclose your recovery, it probably isn’t appropriate to share the explicit details of your addiction. Even though these details are inherently part of your story, they may concern your employer. 

Instead, it’s better to:

  • Make it clear that you’re actively focused on your recovery.
  • Show that you’re making strides in the right direction.
  • Avoid making judgmental comments about colleagues drinking, using drugs, or struggling with other addictive behavior.
  • Be open to addressing questions or concerns they may have.

Finally, you should avoid telling a trusted colleague about your addiction and promise that they keep it to themselves. Office gossip can be a rampant problem, but it isn’t fair to expect someone to hold your secret. 

If You Are Struggling, Seek Help 

Your job may be triggering, and some people find balancing work and recovery challenging. This is normal, but you shouldn’t pretend as if you aren’t affected.

While your employer cannot legally discriminate against you for having a substance use disorder, addictive behavior (such as missing too much work, stealing on the job, or coming to work under the influence) can result in serious consequences. As you know, addiction is a slippery slope- if you have concerns about a relapse, don’t hesitate to reach out for support.