You’ve finished your addiction treatment program and are making the transition back to home and to work.
Your supervisor might know why you took a leave of absence, but maybe you’re wondering how to field questions from coworkers. You might also be wondering how work will affect your commitment to recovery. Below are some things to consider as you readjust to the work schedule and environment.
Talking About Treatment (or Not Talking About It)
When it comes to talking about your addiction recovery, you have several options: 1) talk about it openly; 2) don’t talk it about it all; 3) talk to only a few people, knowing that the news may spread to everyone anyway. The choice is yours, but whatever you decide, remember the following: You don’t owe anyone information about your private life. And: Don’t take personally the reactions people might have to you or to the information you choose to share. You are on your path; they are on theirs. Be kind, and try not to worry about what anyone thinks.
While it’s not your responsibility to reveal your private life to anyone, consider that the more we treat addiction as shameful, the more difficult it is for people who battle addiction to seek treatment. You were brave enough to speak your truth and seek treatment; your calm and reasonable response to questions about substance abuse will help to dispel ignorance and encourage more open dialogue. It might even encourage a coworker to realize their own addiction and seek treatment.
Taking Time Off As Needed
Returning to a full-time schedule has its benefits (it keeps you focused) but also its pitfalls (becoming tired and stressed can trigger relapse). As hard as it might feel to ask for time off just after you’ve had a month or more of time off, don’t let embarrassment keep you from taking care of yourself. Talk to your supervisor about adjusting your schedule or workload so you can take care of yourself and/or your family while still managing your work duties.
Remember to follow protocol if you plan to take time off during work for AA or NA meetings or other forms of outpatient treatment. The ADA and FMLA provide these types of accommodations, but you need to file the appropriate paperwork or be at risk of lawful termination.
Does This Job Support Your Sobriety?
While you know by now that you can’t blame others for your addiction, it’s also important to be realistic about what types of people and environments support your sobriety and what types do not. Especially if you’re a recovering alcoholic, being in a work culture that revolves around alcohol can be dangerous. What is your supervisor’s attitude toward your recovery? If the people around you are unsympathetic or impatient—or heavy alcohol or drug users themselves—your emotional well-being may suffer. Yes, you can take it as a challenge, but do you need the extra challenge right now? Finding a job and coworkers that make you feel welcome and valued might be a better choice.
You might also want to check into your company’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program) options for continuing treatment and counseling.
Is This Really the Job for You?
If your job becomes so stressful that you begin to crave your substance of choice to find relief or escape, consider whether you might need to look for a different job. Yes, it’s important to learn how to handle stress in a healthy way, but if job stress played a big role in your addiction, chances are that returning to that stress will only trigger relapse.
It’s easy to feel trapped financially, especially with medical bills piling up, but try to maintain perspective. Is this job worth potential relapse? Take some time to envision the type of work that you would enjoy, and then share that vision with those you trust. Talk to your therapist or sponsor about finding work that feels rewarding. Ask for guidance from your Higher Power. Read tips on searching for work after treatment. Ask an English major friend (or visit websites like this one) to help you draft a resume and cover letter.
If you’re in the fortunate position of not having to work, you might still consider the benefits that steady employment can bring to someone in recovery. A daily routine keeps you stable and keeps you from being bored. Work that you enjoy can help build self-esteem as you accomplish tasks and contribute to a team. If you don’t have to work, consider volunteering. Check out this website for ways to connect your talents and interests with organizations that need your help.