After treatment as you return to work, there are many choices you will need to make. One thing you’ll need to decide is how transparent you want to be about your recovery. Being in recovery is nothing to be ashamed of. However, protecting your privacy at work can be helpful and essential.
Sharing your recovery journey is always a choice; it takes time to learn when, where, and with whom to share it. Identifying relationships that can aid in your recovery is a skill set that takes time, but you will learn to balance your need for privacy with openness about your recovery.
The Value of Privacy at Work
Each individual’s experiences at work will vary. However, there are common stigmas regarding addiction. In general, these judgments come from a lack of understanding about addiction. For instance, those who don’t understand addiction commonly believe it is a choice rather than a disease. This belief can result in dangerous and reckless behaviors. When others have this belief, it can influence you. A study published in 2020 found that stigmas regarding addiction are often internalized, leading to poorer recovery outcomes.
Guarding your privacy at work is one way to protect yourself from the judgment of coworkers. In particular, you’ll want to guard against the judgment of coworkers who don’t understand the biology of addiction or aren’t likely to want to learn. The behaviors of those who are judgmental or don’t understand can cause emotional pain and affect your self-esteem. Because of this, it is important to be mindful of who you should be open with.
Benefits of Sharing
While work hours vary, many people spend 40-60 hours a week with coworkers or at work. This is a huge amount of time, and coworkers can be a wonderful source of community. Maintaining and building connections with others is important to maintaining sobriety. After all, there are many dangers of being isolated in recovery, including an increased risk of relapse.
Preventing relapse is very important in recovery. A study published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine in 2015 found that being honest decreases the risk of relapse. Sharing with coworkers can help to educate coworkers about recovery, improving your experience and theirs. It can also help you to build a deep and honest relationship with people, which in turn helps you to be held accountable and get support when needed.
Identifying Safe People
Sharing that you are in recovery does not have to be all or nothing. It is always a choice, and you get to pick and choose with whom you share. There are negative and positive impacts of sharing and it is important to identify the relationships where it is appropriate to do so. Some choices will be more about practicality. For example, being open with your boss can help to explain an absence for treatment or get the necessary support at work.
However, other relationships will be more about comfort. One option is to build on current relationships that you already feel safe within. Perhaps choose one person you trust to confide in first. You do not have to go into all the details and can start at whatever level of openness suits you at the time.
How to Be Open About Your Recovery While Protecting Your Privacy
The way you talk about your recovery can impact how it is perceived and help to protect your privacy while being open. For example, if you are sharing that you are in recovery with your boss for practical reasons, emphasize that you are firmly on the road to recovery. This means leaving out details about past drug or alcohol use and presenting your journey in a positive light.
With coworkers, this can also be useful. Adjusting how you speak about your recovery will change how others understand the situation. This will likely mean sharing what is helpful for you, which can change over time. It also means not sharing the aspects that may damage work relationships. Remember, each relationship is different.
Striking a Balance of Privacy at Work
The most important part of choosing who, when, and how to be open about your recovery is to strike a balance. Choose relationships that are practical to share your recovery with, such as your boss, human resources (HR) department, or superior. These relationships can help you to get support when needed at work.
Balancing privacy and community with coworkers will look different for each person and work environment. For some, not sharing with any coworkers may be the best choice. For others, opening up to a group of coworkers can help. When considering what balance to strike, it can help to consider what makes the most sense for you. If sharing with coworkers aids in your recovery, great! However, there is no obligation to be open. It is always a choice that can change and evolve.
Maintaining privacy can be very helpful at work. However, there are benefits to being open about your recovery, particularly with those you trust and feel comfortable with. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we help working professionals get sober and learn the skills to be successful in recovery. This includes learning how to speak with individuals in your life about your recovery. Your work life is important, and often it’s a huge part of your community. Learning the skills to skare and build relationships that are both professional and honest can aid recovery and also improve your work life. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, call us today at (949) 426-7962.