It’s not uncommon for people to make friends at their workplace, especially considering how many hours a day are spent at a full-time job. Smalltalk is bound to happen, and camaraderie can become vital for a harmonious work environment. For those in recovery, obtaining and maintaining employment is an important milestone; and while loved ones may know about previous struggles with substance use disorder, it can be a tricky topic to discuss with colleagues.
- No one is legally required to disclose their medical history to their coworkers or employers. Federal and healthcare laws in place help workers maintain confidentiality in the workplace. This can even apply to employees who obtain health insurance through their company’s EAP or employee assistance program. However, some exceptions exist: if an employee needs to take time off for treatment and intends to use FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), they may need to show pertinent documentation. Still, no one is required to go into explicit detail, and medical providers may use discretion when filling out necessary forms. Additionally, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) provides employees with the civil right against discrimination in the workplace based on medical conditions while also ensuring employers provide adequate accommodation if needed.
- It’s better to err on the side of caution than overshare. Many coworkers find themselves sharing personal information, commiserating, and chatting about non-job relating things after getting to know each other on a superficial level. Unfortunately, because the stigma surrounding addiction is still quite prevalent in society, details about being in recovery may be best left unsaid, depending on workplace culture. Gossip travels fast, and people who work in competitive fields may find themselves at the receiving end of professional sabotage without a single ounce of certifiable proof other than oversharing with an associate they mistakenly thought they could trust.
- Keep discussions professional. When revealing information about addiction recovery, the gory details are best left for group and individual sessions with a counselor. At work, it’s important that coworkers only know that the journey is ongoing and requires focus and commitment. The conversations had with one colleague should be conducted as if the rest of the job site will hear those words. This helps prevent secrecy and gossip, which can be damaging and triggering for many.
- Ask for help at the first signs of trouble. A toxic workplace can be triggering for people in recovery and should never take priority over safety and wellness. If the first stages of relapse begin to manifest and are left unaddressed, devastating consequences may follow. The protections in place for workers with chronic illnesses like addiction make it easy and safe for employees to ask for help without risking job loss or judgment.
HCRC offers effective, comprehensive treatment options for people with substance use disorder in a convenient outpatient setting. Specialized medical providers, nursing staff, and substance use counselors are ready to assist patients in achieving long-lasting recovery with the help of FDA-approved medications and evidence-based methods that have been lifesaving for so many. To learn more about the programs available, message or call a local HCRC today.