Substance use disorders are far from rare. In fact, almost 21 million Americans report that they deal with addiction to at least one substance, but only about 10% of those seek out and receive treatment. Although many people have continued to fight against the stigma surrounding substance use disorders, many people are still ignorant of the realities of addiction. One question that continually crops up for those who decide to seek help is: should you tell your boss you are in recovery?
There are many hesitations around this subject that might prevent someone from receiving treatment, including the fear of losing a job. Here are some things you should know.
Drug addiction can impact users, but also people like your friends, family, coworkers, bosses, or anyone you may come into contact with day-to-day. When people have not been educated about or exposed to the reality of this disease, they may have certain preconceived notions. So, if you’re recovering from substance addiction, it can be difficult to decide whether or not you should disclose this information to your employer. Here, we will explore the different options and what they may mean for you.
The Stigma of Drug Abuse
Stigma refers to negative behavior, attitudes, and beliefs about a group of people due to their circumstances. Those dealing with addiction might experience discrimination, distrust, prejudice, judging, labeling, social isolation, or stereotyping.
Because of the stigma surrounding drug use and addiction, potential employees might be passed by during hiring. They may be terminated or demoted. Others may refuse to work with them because they fear for their safety.
The stigma may impede users from overcoming their addictions because may prevent them from getting help. When people are afraid to ask for help or simply don’t have access to treatment, their road to recovery becomes much more complicated. Many do not understand that addiction is an illness that needs treatment and that those dealing with it deserve the compassion received by anyone with any other type of illness. One of the main goals of the National Institute on Drug Abuse is to address and eliminate the stigma of substance use disorders and addiction.
Why People Dealing with Substance Abuse Don’t Seek Help
Addiction Center studies show that nearly twenty-one million Americans suffer from at least one addiction. Only a small percentage will find resources for recovery. There are a variety of reasons for their reluctance to find help for a deadly disease that killed 70,630 Americans in 2019 due to overdoses.
Issues with seeking treatment include:
- Inaccessibility to treatment due to cost or locations
- Fear of stigma or judgment
- Inability to accept drugs are an issue
- Shame or guilt
- Fear of repercussions like losing one’s job
Whatever the reason, the vast majority of those battling this deadly disease will never find recovery. Still, recovery is possible with the right treatment resources.
As we’ve outlined, many may not even think or know that they have a problem or don’t think that it’s something worth addressing despite encouragement from family and friends. They may be in denial and think that their addiction will become real if they seek treatment. Another major reason might be fear of the recovery process itself. Recovery from addiction is not an easy or short-lived process. The road ahead may look intimidating and never-ending. But there is hope.
Unfortunately, the stigma around substance addiction poses a huge barrier to those in desperate need of support. Current societal norms play a huge role in determining what is shameful or worthy of judgment, and although there have been efforts to reduce the stigma, it is still very prevalent. There’s a widely circulated belief that addiction is a character flaw exacerbated by a lack of a moral standard. Friends and family alike may truly believe that a person is more than capable of overcoming addiction independently but are unwilling to try.
This is why it might be difficult for people dealing with addiction to let others know what they’re going through. In fact, drug addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and most of those suffering are unable to control impulse behaviors, despite its deadly consequences. Until this point is clear for everyone, many will continue to hide in shame.
Should You Tell Your Boss You are in Recovery?
If you are doing well in recovery and it isn’t affecting your job performance, you have every right not to disclose this personal information. But should you tell your boss you are in recovery? The short answer is, it’s up to the individual. The decision on whether to explain your recovery to your employer is best made by first discussing with people you trust: a counselor, a therapy group, your family, an addiction treatment specialist, or a combination of these.
Leave Under FMLA
If you decide to take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you are not required to disclose your condition. However, your employer has the right to ask for documentation from a medical provider to verify your condition. Your healthcare provider doesn’t have to go into specific details about your situation. Usually, it is enough for them to state your condition and its impact on your work and why a leave of absence is necessary.
Your employer must keep this information confidential from coworkers, so you don’t have to fear workplace gossip. If you decide to use FMLA, you must make the request before entering rehab, or the law will not protect you.
Aside from a legal standpoint, however, getting support from your employer and colleagues can be very therapeutic and can hasten and enrich rehab and recovery. Explaining your recovery can be a positive event. Remain optimistic. Know your rights. When your employer knows about your addiction, they may be able to help you with successful rehab and recovery. It may depend on the relationship you have with your current employer and the expectations they have for you within a job setting.
How to Approach Workplace Colleagues and Superiors
If you decide to tell your boss you are in recovery, here are some things to consider:
- Clearly explain that your addiction is being treated.
- Note that you are moving forward successfully and are committed to sustained sobriety.
- Discuss your recovery success milestones.
- Focus on the things you have learned about yourself and the life skills you have gained.
- Discuss triggers and ask for help in dealing with these. If you need workplace concessions, ask for them and explain why these are necessary.
- Understand your rights and that you are able to protect yourself against discrimination in the workplace.
- Don’t demean yourself and express self-loathing. Focus on your recovery.
Does the Law Protect Those in Substance Recovery Against Discrimination?
Once substance abuse is identified as a medical condition you are addressing, you can be protected from employment discrimination. Legal protections exist, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, and Rehabilitation Act. It is important to note that these protections apply to people who are not currently using illegal substances.
Pros and Cons of Transparency
On the one hand, your recovery is a personal matter. You have the right to your privacy. However, you may need or benefit from your employer’s help in accessing employee assistance programs that assist with the costs of rehab and recovery services.
While employers can discipline or fire you for substance abuse that impacts your work, you cannot be disciplined or fired for seeking rehab. As we discussed earlier, you have certain rights in the workplace that protect you from discrimination. People who are currently using illegal drugs are not granted the same rights.
Oftentimes, when employers are aware of the situation, they are surprisingly understanding and supportive of your initiative. They can help by offering support and assistance through your recovery.
How Can AspenRidge Help?
AspenRidge provides recovery options for Coloradans suffering from substance use disorders. We provide a continuum of care that addresses substance abuse as well as stigmas that surround the disease of addiction. Our experienced and certified staff takes a phase-oriented approach to long-term recovery with thorough assessments to determine the best level of care for you and your particular situation.
Recently, AspenRidge addiction treatment centers expanded access and programs to focus on family therapy while simultaneously addressing alcohol abuse and recovery. We offer inclusive support for residents throughout the state of Colorado. Our programs include:
- Partial Hospitalization Day Program (PHP)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- Evening Intensive Outpatient Program
- Outpatient Program
Please contact AspenRidge Recovery Centers at 855-281-5588 to schedule an assessment.