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How to Tell Your Coworkers Where You Were During Rehab

How to Tell Your Coworkers Where You Were During Rehab

You give your co-workers peace of mind by going addressing your alcohol or drug problem

Sharing your personal recovery journey is a dynamic way to heal and get sober, yet many people who are overcoming addiction struggle with transparency. It is easy to understand why: stigmas linger around heroin addiction. Although scientific advances have ushered in a new paradigm, prejudices can be hard to shake. Not everyone can be trusted with information about your recovery, so your job is to discern whom to trust, how much to share and when to keep your cards close to your chest.

The workplace calls for extra discernment. Although professional backlash for seeking treatment is illegal under the legislative act known as the Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act (HIPAA) workers still need to be wise[1]. Sharing information with the right people can give you an added layer of support, because divulging private information to the wrong folks can create problems. For tips about guarding your sobriety at the office—and how to explain a rehab absence to curious coworkers—read on.

Your First Day: Navigating Fear, Neutralizing Worry

Recovering addicts who return to work after rehab may battle countless fears even before they walk through the door on their first day. Concerns about being judged rank chief among them—if you decide to tell your coworkers, you might think that people are going to think poorly of you or treat you differently, but chances are that your coworkers will only appreciate you more. You give your co-workers peace of mind by going addressing your alcohol or drug problem. Your decision to get treatment shows that you recognize how your drug problem affected your work; you might even gain respect due to your decision. However, if you think that coworkers treat you differently or gossip about you, then you can approach your human resources representative. However, keep in mind that, when you go to treatment, you will gain more confidence and develop your self-esteem. Look past your coworkers’ negativity and use it to fuel your professional goals.

The truth is that other people rarely judge others as harshly as we judge ourselves. Your perceptions of other people’s beliefs are likely more severe than what anyone really thinks. Even if your feelings of being ostracized or judged are legitimate, know that the problem will soon fade to a distant memory as you sustain your recovery and find renewed success at work. In fact, your experience may inspire other people who struggle with drug problems themselves. At the end of the day, choosing what to tell your coworkers is your decision. However, being honest with yourself and accepting yourself is one of the most important changes you must make in recovery. You will learn in recovery that only a life of complete honesty will reward you with complete recovery.

Deciding to get treatment is frightening, but necessary to salvage your career and life. Choosing the best rehab center can mean the difference between lasting sobriety or relapse. If someone helps you navigate the available rehab centers and get you through the admission process, then you can get and stay clean with professional help.

Navigating Office Gossip

Returning to work after leaving rehab means facing coworkers. Some of them may want details about your absence, but think twice before you answer. If you came from 12-Step recovery, then sharing details about your emotional life may feel second nature. However, it may take work to keep your guard up until you are sure that what you want to share is appropriate. One way to talk wisely about recovery at work is to do so with a friend who has experience navigating professional situations. Seek advice and err on the side of caution when in doubt. You have a right to privacy until you feel prepared to speak. No one deserves an explanation.

Tactful ways to deflect inquiries about your absence abound. For instance, you can shift the focus of conversation back to the office: share gratitude for any concern and then quickly dive into catching up on happenings you missed. Be prepared to get blindsided by unexpected questions and blunt responses. While some co-workers who know about your recovery efforts will cheer you on, others may gossip and backbite. Withdraw into silence, and the latter type will likely soon move on to the next workplace issue.

Nuts and Bolts: Keeping Your Story Together

In early recovery, many people adjust their work schedule. Whether they are leaving early a few afternoons a week to attend intensive outpatient therapy or a 12-Step meeting, these schedule changes may attract attention. If your coworkers ask about your absence, then field their questions in any of the following ways:

  • Do not disclose personal information– Remember that addiction is a mental health problem, so you are not obligated to disclose information about it to your coworkers. If someone asks why you took time off, then tell her that you had personal matters to attend to which you would rather not discuss. Most people will take the hint.
  • Choose your terminology carefully– If you disclose information, then you need not be specific. For instance, instead of saying you sought heroin rehab, say that you sought help for a health issue, a medical condition or difficulty with stress, whichever problem you feel most comfortable using.
  • Be straightforward– If some of your co-workers already know that you went to rehab and you think it is appropriate to answer their questions, then offer straightforward responses. For example, if someone asks how you are doing, then a simple and upbeat reply may suffice.

Providing resources is another way you can put your experience to work for others. If your coworkers already know that you were in rehab, or if you feel comfortable discussing rehab with them, then consider providing educational resources so that they can learn more about addiction. There are still many popular myths about addiction; in fact, CNN reporters note that some people still believe that addicts can never truly recover[2]. Direct your coworkers to reliable sources like the National Institute on Drug Abuse[3] and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration[4] so they can accurately understand both addiction and recovery.

Remember, how much you share with coworkers is entirely up to you based on your comfort. Some recovering addicts find it empowering to talk with others about what they are going through, while other people want their privacy. There is no right path except the one that works for you.

Help for Heroin Addiction

With the right recovery treatment, it is possible to overcome heroin addiction. If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, then please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now. Our admissions coordinators can provide information about treatment, so call now for instant, professional support.