Whether you’re in school or have a solid career, your addiction has made an impact on where you stand today. Unlike family and friends, your approach to how you handle your professional relationships can either help or hinder your future success.
In traditional in-patient treatment rehab, people are forced to either quit their job or beg their employers to keep them on while they go to inpatient treatment, which is a big ask. Some employers are in a position to do so and may encourage it as they definitely don’t want someone with a substance use disorder working or alcoholic employees as it creates poor job performance with an increase of workplace injuries, while other employers may not be in a position to help and by just bringing it up could cause you to lose your job.
One study that was done by the National Library of Medicine, estimated that companies in the United States lose about 400 billion dollars per year annually, due to drug and alcohol related problems. Some of this is due to health care costs related to chronic disease or medical conditions caused by drug and alcohol abuse disorders such as liver disease or heart disease. This means that many employees may find the workplace policy difficult to navigate.
A recent Hartford study showed that 52% of employers have dealt with substance misuse and addiction.
“The recent research from The Hartford is encouraging and shows U.S. employers are concerned for their employees’ mental health,” said NAMI’s CEO Gillison. “We are acutely aware that the need for mental health services is only increasing and reducing stigma in the workplace is paramount to improving the lives of employees. Mental health support in the workplace is a win-win for both workers and businesses.”
The last thing you need is to be stressed about health care costs, work or money when getting treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction. So it’s easy for these large in-patient facilities to welcome you with open arms, give you high quality treatment but what good is that going to do after the fact if you go back and you are unemployed and have no money. That’s why being prepared is key to your success. Of course, if quitting your job is something you need to do to save your life then absolutely but if you have other options you can try first, then maybe those options are worth exploring. Not everyone needs in-patient rehab so if keeping your job is important then finding an alternative, something you can do online like here at Live Rehab might be a better approach. But that doesn’t mean work won’t be a struggle and it’s still important to know what to do in a professional environment.
Reading the room – there is no one size fits all
When fighting an addiction there’s never a one size fits all category and that’s what makes professional working or educational relationships that much more complicated. Some people have great relationships with their co-workers and can trust confiding in them while others may put their careers in jeopardy by doing so. Some people work for companies where they are protected by a union, HR, or even have an Employee Assistance Program that can help, while others risk getting fired if their company found out about their addiction. Before saying anything to anyone, if that’s what you choose to do, it’s critical that you know the ramifications of doing so. It may help you to be honest or honesty may cause you to get fired on the spot. Does anyone even need to know about your alcohol consumption, heavy drinking habits, binge drinking, or substance abuse or will an explanation of your behavior portray you as honest and forthcoming? You need to read the room, know your rights, and understand all possible outcomes before taking any action.
How to explain your drug or alcohol addiction as an employee
Everyone will fall into one of two categories when it comes to each professional relationship you have: you either tell them about your addiction or you don’t. With that being said, each professional relationship you have may need a different approach. Some people you may want to tell while others you may not want or need to tell.
We talked earlier about reading the room and knowing your rights, understanding if it’s safe to talk about it or even necessary. Let me give you some examples.
Let’s say your workplace setting is a small organization with no HR, in a right to work state, and you’ve been struggling with a pornography addiction. Your addiction has caused you to lose focus on work. Part of you may want to talk to your boss to tell them you’re taking the steps now to fight your addiction but you’ll need to think about that decision and whether or not the risk is worth it. Don’t just think short term though like yes, you may lose your job but think long term. Would losing your job cause you to feel triggered and then have a relapse? In a case like this, it may not be a good idea to talk about your addiction.
Another example would be let’s say your workplace is a large organization that has an HR and maybe even a union. Let’s say your addiction has been affecting your work, perhaps you have an unsteady gait or have had complaints about being under the influence of alcohol, and you are in jeopardy of being fired. Some large organizations have Employee Assistance Programs programs or confidential support programs that can help and even protect you from getting fired if you’re honest and open.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, for example, partners with federal workplaces to provide drug-free workplaces which provides employee education as well as evidence-based prevention interventions or substance abuse treatment to address substance-related issues such as job drinking. These programs are help empower everyone to take action while still being able to hold each employee accountable for their performance.
In a case like this it may be in your best to talk to somebody as there are options that would avoid disciplinary action.
There are lots of others in between scenarios to think about too. Some of you may not want to talk to anybody but may have an alcohol use disorder. Going out drinking at Happy Hour on Friday is part of company culture. In a case like this would you tell someone? That’s a tough judgement call but we recommend, when it comes to alcohol abuse to talk to your co-workers about you not drinking. Depending on your comfort level you can say you had a problem and you’re not drinking anymore or you can blame it on something else but not saying anything at all will give your co-workers a sudden cause for concern and speculation will only arise. Did she stop coming because she doesn’t like us? Nobody is a mind reader so being professional honest, when possible is a good policy to live by.
Having Backup Plans in Your Pocket
You might be in a situation where you were partaking in your addiction with your classmates or co-workers but aren’t ready to tell them the whole truth and to be honest, when it comes to professional relationships it’s really none of their business why you stopped drinking or smoking or whatever. If you find yourself needing to have excuses because well, it’s the workforce and that’s just reality it’s a good idea to have backup plans always in your pocket. If a coworker you’re used to drinking with or smoking weed, or using cocaine with asks you to go out on Friday, if you’re not ready with a backup plan you may be tempted to go out, telling yourself you won’t partake. That’s a dangerous situation to be in. We recommend that for at least 30 days you don’t put yourself in a situation that can jeopardize your sobriety. So what kinds of things can you say?
Maybe you have family in town, have a birthday party to go to, have someone coming over to do work on your house, etc. Just make note of things and practice how to say them so you don’t get caught off the guard. The more practice you have the more natural it will feel. Don’t worry too much about the lying part. You have to do what you have to do in order to protect your sobriety.
My favorite excuse is to use the health or medical one. I’m on medication that doesn’t allow me to drink, smoke, etc. Not many people will question that.
After 30 days, you’ll notice that the pressure will calm down a bit but it will still be there. You can then decide where you’re at with everything and then slowly integrate yourself back into the professional yet social side of the workplace setting. Perhaps after time you’ll get comfortable with just saying I don’t do xyz anymore. Your co-workers should respect you for that.
Distancing Yourself from Toxicity for Your Health and Recovery
Toxic co-workers can cause so much distress and turmoil especially when tackling an addiction. We’ve all dealt with toxic co-workers or classmates at some point in our lives but when those toxic people start to interfere with workplace conditions such as job drinking, your job performance, sobriety or your ability to stay away from your addiction it’s important to recognize that and do what it takes to keep your distance. Toxicity doesn’t generally just go away on it’s own so waiting it out to see if things get better secretly hoping they quit or change schools or jobs is never a good idea. If there is a person or people in your professional life who are making you miserable do whatever it takes to distance yourself. If that mean changing classes if you’re in school or changing departments at your work then take immediate action to do so. Your ability to fight your addiction and fight it for good depends on you having solid and healthy relationships and that includes professional relationships too.
Your options and Employee Assistance Programs
You may be trying to fight your addiction but sometimes work or school is what consistently causes you to feel triggered or have a relapse. We talked about how to distance yourself from toxic coworkers or classmates but we also recognize that sometimes it’s not that easy. We also talked about being able to understand your rights, knowing what’s available and accessible to you and just having an overall sense of whether or not talking to others about your addiction will be safe. Now I want to talk to you about what to do if you feel like you have exhausted all of your options and you’re in position where someone, multiple people, or even the work itself is so stressful that you feel like if something doesn’t change drastically you may be putting your ability to fight your addiction, your sobriety or even your career on the line. Before it gets to that breaking point you may have to talk to someone. Now I don’t necessarily mean that you have to talk to someone about your addiction and that’s something that you’ll need to decide for yourself but what I am talking about is talking to someone about work related issues so that they can get resolved before it’s too late. It’s better to take action now because it doesn’t always get easier.
So if this is you and you’re really struggling at work or school start to think about who you can talk to, what you’re going to say, and when you can take action.
For example, let’s say you have an alcohol use disorder and you work for a medium sized firm. You have a small HR but overall get the feeling that nobody would really understand your addiction fully. Let’s say you have a co-worker who is constantly belittling you, stealing your work and overall just bringing on a negative vibe. If switching departments is not an option and you don’t feel like you can talk to your boss about it you may want to consider going to HR to see what your options are. All they need to know is how this person is affecting your ability to work and they would need concrete examples of how this person is making your work experience miserable.
Some of you may feel comfortable going to your boss or your teacher and asking them for general advice or help but my advice to you is to not just try and stick it out. If you do that you will end up putting your recovery at risk. Making positive changes in your life is what will set you up for long term success.
When your performance isn’t valued – knowing when to leave
What if nothing changes and no matter how hard you try you just keep feeling like you’re treading water. That’s a quite common place to be in when fighting an addiction. Sometimes when you are fighting an addiction you have to think about making big changes and one of those changes may be looking for a new job or a new school especially if your work situation is connected to your addiction in any way.
When making the decision to find a new job or a new school it’s important to not make any impulsive decisions. Sometimes we can get so worked up about the current situation that we fail to see the bigger picture. But what you can do is start taking the steps you need to make this change.
Think about the end result and where you want to be. Do you need to change jobs? If so, what type of job would you be looking for and what steps can you take to do this? Maybe it’s connecting with recruiters, applying for jobs online or talking to people in the industry. Do you need to switch schools if you’re a student? Is it possible to stick it out to the end of the semester while you apply to a different school as opposed to dropping out right now?
Think this through and take action now. New beginnings may be in order.
Finding the Right Treatment Provider
Your professional career and workplace setting is important and you shouldn’t have to give anything up or take any steps backwards just because of your past experiences and in fact, when tackling certain situations head on while stopping your addiction may actually help your career or education soar. You should never feel as though your addiction is a burden so by knowing your options and where to go, you are setting yourself up for greater success. If you are looking for an alternative to inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment for alcohol, drug abuse, or any behavior addiction, check out Live Rehab. We provide online addiction and recovery courses for those who are struggling with any addiction including alcohol dependence and drug abuse. Live Rehab’s Sobriety Success Method uses a holistic approach to addiction recovery that is flexible and tailored to your specific needs.