Work can become challenging for most people at some point in their life. However, when you are also working on maintaining your recovery, it can become incredibly difficult. The added layers of anxiety and contemplating how your co-workers will perceive you and how you should address your recovery can create triggers that lead you into relapse.
Since you have work relationships, a colleague will likely ask you out for a drink at some point. Such pressure might cause you to worry that if you do not participate in going out for drinks, then you might miss an opportunity for career growth. Therefore, you might wonder if you should tell your co-workers that you are sober or if you should keep it a secret.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle is learning how to be social in the workplace while maintaining your sobriety. Understand that you can thrive in the workplace with the right mindset and planning and become a successful, respected, and essential asset to your company environment. Let's take a look at four ways to deal with substance use in and around the workplace and how to preserve your sobriety and peace of mind.
1. TAKE PERSONAL INVENTORY
The idea of inventory is to get rid of older products and replace them with new products. Taking personal inventory is similar in philosophy and can become a great daily practice in your recovery regimen. It is imperative in early recovery to sit with your emotions, understand them and then address them.
Taking inventory requires you to face your feelings in your personal life and your professional life. For example, you might become anxious, fearful, or angry, having to answer what seems like a million questions about why you were absent from work. When you don't take inventory of how you feel, you might begin to resent people that inquire about your absence or talk openly about their social drinking in the workplace.
Take time each day to write out how you feel and how you think about a given scenario happening in your life. Writing things down helps you see and report back to how you feel at certain times, and it all works to help you discover the underlying cause of your emotions. You might reference what you have written down before and after a mindfulness or meditation session.
You can also have this list handy when you talk with your therapist or counselor. Taking inventory helps you discover why you feel a certain way. You will soon find that how you feel is rarely ever to do with a co-worker, but rather what you are experiencing internally. Working through these emotions helps create more confidence and self-control so you won't feel like an outsider at work.
2. WHEN TO TALK ABOUT YOUR SOBRIETY
Before going back to work, you might stress about whether or not you should tell your co-workers about your sobriety. Deciding whether to tell others in the workplace about your sobriety is difficult and should be approached with care and tact.
First, you do not need to tell anyone that you are clean and sober; it is your business. However, when more questions get asked, your co-workers stand to become more curious. Therefore, when you do address these questions, keep your responses short and to the point. You might say, "I needed to get help to get healthy."
Likewise, you might get asked why and how you decided to get sober, and replying in concise and confident ways will help your co-workers understand the situation. Remember, it is your choice on how much you want to disclose to co-workers, if anything at all.
3. PREPARE YOURSELF
Once you return to work and are back into full swing, you might find yourself invited to work parties, dinners, and happy hours. However, don't let the pressures of work gatherings lead you to relapse. Preparing yourself to handle these situations will help you respond appropriately to invites and maintain your respect and sobriety.
Creating healthy boundaries with yourself and others provides strong guidelines that help you understand what you can and cannot do – the same goes for your co-workers. However, if you feel that you can handle a social environment, you can also create guidelines for these environments. Some examples include:
- Ordering for yourself
- Drinking your favorite non-alcoholic drink
- Socializing with any non-drinkers to help you feel more comfortable
- Drive yourself and leave when you feel uncomfortable
4. FIND SUPPORT
Maintaining your support network is essential to maintaining recovery. Continuing to attend support meetings, counseling, therapy, and connecting with friends, family, and peers helps you relieve some of the stresses you feel at work. Such stress could be caused by feeling misunderstood by a co-worker, and therefore reaching out to someone who does understand can help you feel like you are not alone.
You can also try to find support in the workplace. Do you have friends in the workplace that are supportive? Are there others that are managing recovery?
If your workplace offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you will want to know your rights. Knowing your rights helps you understand that you will not and cannot get discriminated against for seeking help for your addiction. It also provides peace of mind when returning to work because you know that you have options should you be exposed to discrimination.
Maintaining your recovery is challenging, but it is also one of the most rewarding things you will ever do for yourself. Remembering why you have chosen to become sober in the first place is a great motivator to keep you moving forward. At START UP RECOVERY, we help prepare you to face the obstacles you will encounter in your personal and professional life. Our goal is to connect you with a network of support consisting of professionals and peers alike. We believe that your experiences in life and the workplace should not be a burden and help you discover your individuals needs to overcome these challenges. The pursuit of recovery is more than just seeking treatment; it is about transformation and acquiring the ability to achieve your best success. It begins with taking the first step toward recovery. Find out more today by calling START UP RECOVERY at 310-773-3809.