Secrets at Work: Should I Share My Addiction History?

Secrets at Work Should I Share My Addiction History

Despite massive efforts to end the stigma of addiction, the fact is – it still exists! Is it a good idea to share your addiction history in the workplace?

It would be a mistake to think that people with addiction are unemployable because of their substance use. On the contrary, most addicts are gainfully employed. Many lead productive lives, and some work in the top of their fields. In this blog, we will examine the benefits of staying silent about your addiction history, and discuss the advantages of sharing your story.

Staying Silent

It is likely that the majority of people with a history of addiction choose to remain silent. What is the reason for this silence? Despite the growing recognition of substance abuse as a disease, there is still a great amount of stigma surrounding the condition. Many employers, as well as co-workers, view the addict or former addict as flawed, unable to perform their work functions, or outright dangerous.

Great strides have been made to accommodate other illnesses or conditions that, in the past, would have been the target of discrimination. Not long ago, a person with a physical or learning disability might not have even been considered for a position.  Despite advances in anti-discrimination laws, subtler forms of discrimination, including discrimination towards mental illness and addiction, do persist. A survey conducted by the Shaw Trust found that half of employers would not hire someone who disclosed a mental health disorder.

Furthermore, employees who share their addiction may be demoted, lose opportunities for promotion, or even be dismissed based on their condition. For these reasons, experts such as Bob Carolla of the National Alliance on Mental Illness advise against disclosure.

The negative attitude towards mental health and addiction, while unfortunate, is understandable. Using substances affects work performance and social relationships, both of which are critical to being a productive employee. As a result, employees with addictions are a concern for employers. It should be the goal of any employee, therefore, to seek addiction treatment and to maintain sobriety, in order to remain an asset to their employer.

Sharing Your History

The decision to share your addiction history at work is best done intentionally, if at all. While you may be tempted to let slip anecdotes and stories, done haphazardly, these disclosures may form the basis of gossip about your character and history. Rather than such random disclosures, it is recommended that you consider the following questions before sharing:

  • How will sharing affect my work relationships?
  • How will sharing affect my goals for sobriety?
  • How can I share in a way that meets my needs for sobriety and positive work relationships?

When considering these questions, you may need to tactfully consult co-workers, friends, and other knowledgeable people regarding the likely consequences of disclosure. Ideally, if you are in treatment, consult your mental health provider and consider the options for disclosure and likely outcomes.

While there is some risk involved in disclosure, there are also benefits. Having the support and understanding of your co-workers will help you maintain your goals for sobriety. It will lead to closer relationships at work, and it may even inspire others struggling with addiction to recover.

Whether you choose to disclose or remain silent, it is important to remember that having an addiction history does not limit your ability to be a productive employee. On the contrary, when one becomes sober, work can become a deeply fulfilling source of pleasure. As you focus on your work rather than your addiction, you will find yourself increasingly productive and making greater contributions to your work.

The Cabin Chiang Mai offers world-class addiction treatment in a residential facility. We specialise in treatment for high-functioning addicts. If you are concerned about addiction, please contact one of our specialists today.