19 Sep Coping with your Addiction at Work
It’s every addict’s worst nightmare: people know about your addiction. Even worse, the people that you work with and maybe even your boss has discovered your secret. As an addict, you are in a constant struggle to keep others from seeing that you have a problem. You have likely become very good at lying, hiding, and generally creating the sense that nothing is wrong. There comes a point, however, when you can no longer hide your addiction from people who are around you every day.
Another possible scenario is going into recovery for your addiction and returning to work, only to find your coworkers know exactly why you were gone. It is natural to feel embarrassed or even ashamed when the discovery is made, but to get back to normal and to avoid a relapse, you must learn to live with your addiction and your recovery.
Hiding your Addiction
Addiction at work is more common than you may think. Most addicts are employed either part time or full time, which means that if you are struggling through work each day while coping with an addiction, you are not alone. Others understand the difficulty you have feeding your addiction while trying to hide it from those who see you every day.
The first thing to know is that your efforts to hide drug or alcohol use at work indicate that you truly have a problem and you need to get help. Trying to hide this from your coworkers is understandable; however, it is an issue that must be faced. When you are ready to tackle this head on, look into resources that are provided by your employer before divulging your secret to anyone at work.
You may find that your employer has an employee assistance program, or EAP, that is designed to help all workers cope with various life problems. EAPs typically provide confidential services so that even your boss may not know that you are taking advantage of them. If your addiction is severe, you may need to leave work for a period of time in order to fully recover. Your EAP services may be able to help you find a facility for rehabilitation or help you determine how much leave you can take and whether it will be paid or unpaid. If you have no EAP at your workplace, discuss time off with your human resources department. Confidentiality will be respected.
If your coworkers do find out about your addiction, you may find that they begin to treat you differently. There will be little you can do to improve your situation at work without getting help. Whether you take a leave to go to rehab or you simply get counseling or join a support group after hours, once you recognize and take steps to conquer your addiction, you can begin to face the issue of your coworkers.
Work after Recovery
If you have decided to leave work for a period of time to go to a rehab facility, your secret may be difficult to keep upon your return. You have no obligation to tell anyone why you were away, and you can certainly make up a lie about where you were, but facing the truth may be inevitable. Going back to work and facing your friends, coworkers, and your boss is going to be stressful and challenging. The first thing you should do to ease the transition is to be sure that you are fully ready before you go back. Financial concerns and the desire to get back to normal may push you into work too soon. The stress of the situation, however, and facing your colleagues may increase your odds of relapse. Take the time to really consider your readiness before getting back on the job.
When you do return, you may feel stigmatized by your coworkers when they realize that you have been dealing with addiction. Some may feel that they cannot fully trust you or may worry that your job performance will be compromised, especially if it was before you left. You may find yourself excluded from office events. In doing so, your colleagues may have good intentions. People often do not know how to deal with a recovering addict in social situations, and even more so in those that involve alcohol.
All of these pressures can combine to make you vulnerable to relapse. In addition to being prepared to go back to work, be sure to have adequate support from family and friends or even from a twelve-step group. Support group meetings can be a great place to go when the pressures and stresses of work are getting to you. With the right support from outside, you can face getting back to work and stay sober.
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