It’s time to go back to work now that you’ve completed addiction treatment. Reintegrating into the workplace does present a set of challenges, but when handled properly, the adjustment can be smooth and simple. Read on for tips on the best ways to handle getting back into the workforce.
How to Handle Your Coworkers
Naturally, people you work with may be curious as to where you’ve been. This curiosity can put you in an uncomfortable position. You might not care to reveal that you’ve been in addiction treatment—and you don’t have to. Your time away from the office is your own business, so don’t feel obliged to discuss it with everyone who asks. Be prepared with a standard answer that’s truthful but doesn’t disclose the whole situation. A simple “I was on sabbatical,” or “I took time off to focus on my health,” should be sufficient.
If you choose to disclose that you sought treatment for a substance use disorder, you may be surprised at the number of people who admit they also sought treatment at some point in their lives or had a close family member or friend who did.
If you decide to tell your whole story to coworkers whom you trust, you might find there are many who understand and empathize. You’ll have to decide what level of transparency is best for your situation since you personally know the types of people you work with.
How to Handle Your Employer
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, workers are permitted to take medical leave without providing specific details to their employer as long as they have been diagnosed by a professional.1 The Americans with Disabilities Act also offers protection of information for those who have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder.2
As a general rule, to avoid any complications with your employers, it’s best to rely on the protections that the FMLA and ADA afford you and keep your treatment private. If your employer asks about your time off once you’re back in the office, a simple “I enjoyed my vacation” should be enough information.
If you decide to disclose your addiction treatment to your employer, first partner with your human resources department or your employee assistance plan for guidance and support. Either or both can help you prepare what you want to say to your bosses and can assist you if there is any fallout from your disclosure.
Your Success Lies With You
It’s key to remember that whether or not your coworkers or employer support you in your recovery, past substance abuse doesn’t preclude career success. Your job can be a source of building your self-worth, and employment brings stability and routine to your daily life.
If you’re unhappy with your current job, update your resume and start looking for something that is a better match for your skills and personality. When you’re job hunting, be diligent in finding the right position for yourself. Either way, you can find the path to rewarding and productive employment with the right support systems in place.