Many people have a complicated relationship with their work. On the one hand, they may enjoy their job, the people they work with, and the goals they are trying to achieve. On the other, there are likely any number of frustrations: some of their coworkers may be difficult to get along with or leadership may not set clear goals or establish why they are important.
Forming a Plan
If you have recently completed treatment for a substance use disorder and are gearing up to return to work, you may be worried about that transition. How will your boss treat you—especially if you need more time off to support your recovery? What do your coworkers know about your situation, and how do they feel about it? Has the work piled up while you have been away to such a degree that you will feel dispirited just thinking about trying to catch up?
As these sorts of questions rattle around in your brain, you may find yourself wishing you didn’t have to go back to work at all. Arguably, the best thing you can do is to make a plan for how you will handle various situations that may arise.
We have a few suggestions.
Ask Yourself This Important Question: Does Your Job Provide Support for Your Sobriety?
As you get started on your recovery journey, it is essential that you take some time to reflect on the role your job may have played in the development of your substance use disorder. Is your workplace a high-stress environment? Is the staff constantly in conflict? Does workplace culture involve frequent social gatherings that involve alcohol? If you answer “yes” to these questions and others like them, it may be that your current job works against—rather than for—your chances of long-term sobriety.
If that is the case, it is time to make some tough decisions. Can you get enough support at work to make important changes that will not only support your sobriety but also improve the work environment more generally? If so, maybe you want to stay at your current job and rally for change. But if change does not seem possible, you will probably want to seriously consider finding a new position.
A job search offers stresses of its own, of course. It might be a good idea to keep your current position until you land a new job so that you don’t experience financial hardship.
We should be clear: Steady employment offers benefits for a person in recovery. The routine and the need to focus on the work at hand can help keep cravings at bay. When you reach key goals, you may feel a boost in your self-esteem, which is important to your recovery efforts. And if you have good relationships at work, you may find that you get the kind of emotional support that can be so beneficial in recovery.
Speaking of Your Coworkers: How Much Are You Willing to Disclose?
Your coworkers have obviously noticed your absence. And if your substance use disorder was affecting your work, your coworkers may have already figured out why you were gone. Those who don’t know you have been struggling with drugs or alcohol will also have plenty of curiosity about why you have been away.
You might feel like you owe all of these people an explanation. After all, they have likely been covering your work while you have been away. It probably seems like telling them the whole story is the least you can do.
But remember this: your story belongs to you. Perhaps your boss and human resources team are privy to the details of the situation (which they are absolutely required to keep confidential), but when it comes to your coworkers, the decision about what—if anything—to disclose is entirely up to you.
There will be pros and cons to any decision you make. The most important thing to consider is whether or not sharing your story will help you maintain your sobriety. If sharing helps you build up a supportive community, great. If, on the other hand, sharing would make you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or like you are being judged by your peers, it is just fine to keep the story of your substance use disorder and recovery to yourself.
Your First Job Is Getting Sober
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, you only have one job right now: getting help so that you can get sober. At The Aviary Recovery Center, we have the expertise and compassion needed to ensure that your treatment experience sets you up for success when you return to your everyday life—and your workplace. And our commitment to a continuum of care means that you will continue to have access to support and resources that will help you maintain your sobriety as you readjust to daily life. Your job is to get help. Our job is to provide that help. And we are very good at our job.