Addiction carries less of a stigma than it once did, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier or more comfortable to tell co-workers you are in recovery. But do you really need to let everyone in the office know that you were addicted to drugs or alcohol?
The answer is, it’s up to you. There are definitely some benefits to letting your co-workers know that you no longer drink or do drugs, but there are also some pitfalls to consider.
How to Decide Whether to Tell Co-Workers You are in Recovery
With recovery comes myriad lifestyle changes that support a life of abstinence. These can extend to the workplace. Depending on the culture of your office and your relationships with your co-workers, informing them you’re in recovery can be beneficial, or it can cause problems.
Benefits of Telling Co-Workers
Some of the benefits of telling co-workers you’re in recovery may include:
- Additional recovery support from your work family
- Respect from co-workers for having the courage to get help
- The possibility that you’ll inspire others to get the help they need
- Avoiding awkwardness at company functions or when co-workers ask you to join them for drinks after work
Pitfalls of Telling Co-Workers
Some of the pitfalls of telling co-workers you’re in recovery may include:
- Your announcement being met with disapproval
- Your boss seeing your addiction or your sobriety as a weakness and passing you over for a promotion or project
- The risk that co-workers will treat you differently
- The risk that co-workers will feel awkward around you
- The possibility that co-workers will feel like they can’t have fun with you
The decision about whether to tell co-workers you are in recovery should hinge on whether doing so will benefit your recovery. The workplace can be supportive in your recovery by helping you keep work-related stress levels down and giving you time to re-acclimate to the workplace and redefine relationships.1 On the other hand, if your workplace culture is very conservative or you don’t have a good relationship with your co-workers, it might do more harm than good to tell co-workers you are in recovery.
First, Know Your Rights
It’s important to know your rights before you tell co-workers you are in recovery.2 A number of federal laws protect you from discrimination for having had an addiction, which is considered a disability under The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
How to Tell Co-Workers You are in Recovery
Once you decide to tell co-workers you are in recovery, decide how you’ll go about it. If you work in an informal, friendly environment, you may choose to tell everyone at the same time. Or you may decide to tell each co-worker individually in a private conversation. Do what you think will be easiest for you and the least awkward for them.
Remember that you don’t have to go into any sordid details if you don’t wish to. You can simply tell co-workers you are in recovery after struggling with drugs or alcohol for some time, and that’s why you’ll be ordering soda with lime at company functions from now on and maybe passing up the after-work gatherings, at least for a while. Let them know you appreciate their support, and tell them you’re happy to answer any questions they have.