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How to Open Up to Your Boss After Recovery

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After you have taken the steps to get yourself into treatment, you will eventually step back into your normal daily life. When returning to work after recovery, you will need to decide how to manage the triggers that will inevitably arise. This will include how to communicate with others regarding your recovery. It is vital that you communicate with others the changes that will help you maintain sobriety. One of the most important people to communicate these needs with is your boss.

The Value of Communicating Your Needs in Recovery

Whether you need to speak with your boss regarding your recovery depends on your situation. If you are newly out of treatment or you need to explain why you need time away from work to get treatment, it is essential. When you communicate your needs to your boss, it may help you to ultimately feel more supported overall in your work environment. 

Managing Triggers 

A trigger is defined as an external event that causes an internal reaction. Although this sounds simple, it is a complex psychological process that occurs. Triggers can bring up memories that can lead to cravings. Triggers can also be events that bring up emotions that create a desire to use drugs or alcohol due to a history of using them as a coping mechanism. In treatment and recovery, treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can provide you with tools to manage the emotional responses of triggers. 

At the office or at work-related events, you may be subject to many triggers. Triggers are individual to each person but may include frustrating coworkers or a celebratory atmosphere at holiday parties. When you are open about your recovery with your boss, you may receive more support and ways to manage these triggers. 

Support to Aid in Recovery

The support needed at work and getting help when needed will look different for each individual. However, by being honest with your boss about your situation, you are more likely to have your needs met. This may include help that your boss provides directly or can facilitate in some way. 

While each office is different, in general, your boss will have the ability to help you make the changes you need. Support from your boss may include helping you make certain adjustments that could include some of the following: 

  • projects you are working on
  • who you are working with
  • expectations for participation at a holiday gathering
  • your office/workstation location

Regardless of what changes you may need, they start with being open with your boss. 

Considerations for Talking to Your Boss About Your Recovery

When speaking with your boss, several factors are important. 

Word Choice

How you phrase conversations regarding recovery can impact how they are received. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to word choice. Calling yourself an addict, junkie, or former addict can lead to a negative outlook on you. Instead, consider using the following terms. 

  • Patient
  • A person with substance use disorder
  • Someone with alcohol use disorder
  • A person in recovery 
  • Someone who previously used drugs

What to Emphasize

Along with word choice, you can also choose what to emphasize. It is important to steer clear of talking about stories when you were using drugs or alcohol. Instead, try focusing on your recovery. Make it clear that drug or alcohol use is in your past. This is vital in helping your boss understand that you are approaching them to be honest and get support. Emphasizing where you are heading, rather than where you are coming from. 

Maintaining Professionalism

When you are approaching your boss, it is important to stay professional. While you may be friends or friendly with your boss, this is a professional conversation. This means that you are entering the exchange as an employee who needs to discuss an issue with their boss. Therefore, it may be helpful to prepare the specifics of what you plan to share. 

You may consider sharing your situation, being in recovery, and your needs. Have a plan to help you to stay on track and get the support you need. One way to think of it is like it is a meeting. You are presenting the issue, how you are managing it, and what help you need from them. 

Know Your Rights

Before you speak with your boss, it is important to know your rights. Depending on your boss, you may encounter discrimination because of being in recovery. While your boss has the right to protect the workplace from drug and alcohol use, you also have rights. According to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), employers cannot fire you just because you have a history of substance abuse

If you know you are likely to receive discrimination, it is even more important to know your rights. Speaking with your mental health care professional is one way for you to gain more knowledge in this arena. 

Communicating to your boss that you are in recovery is often necessary and important. While it can be challenging, some methods can help you to maintain professionalism while being open about your recovery. Honest communication with your boss can help provide support and flexibility to maintain sobriety. However, it is important to know your rights and speak in a professional tone. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we help out clients by providing them with tools they can use in the workplace. This includes how to speak with your boss and coworkers as you reenter the office and how to manage triggers. Call us today at (949) 426-7962 to learn more about our programs for working professionals. 


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