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How to Tell Your Coworkers Where You Were During Rehab

How to Tell Your Coworkers Where You Were During Rehab

If you took time off from work to complete rehab for OxyContin addiction, you may be wondering how to navigate conversations with coworkers about your absence. No matter your physical or mental health condition, staying at or returning to work after rehab is typically a good idea. The Daily Mail[1] shares, “Studies show that if people stay at work either part time or in a phased return after a period of rehabilitation, it greatly aids their recovery…Staying in work keeps people motivated and engaged.” Returning to work or finding new employment is an important part of addiction recovery, and doing so often comes with questions from coworkers—coworkers who are concerned about your health or curious about what is or has been going on in your life. Their concern and curiosity comes from a place of caring and interest, so sharing some details about your addiction and recovery can create healthy work relationships. However knowing when and how much to share can cause some stress. Since stress can challenge sobriety, knowing how to navigate conversations with coworkers after rehab is an important part of a strong, healthy recovery.

How Can I Tell My Coworkers?

Before worrying about what to tell your coworkers, take the first step of beginning your recovery journey. Now is not the time to stress about after treatment, now is the time to focus on your addiction and your decision to move forward and get healthy. You are under no legal or personal obligation to explain why you are taking time off, and you can take a medical leave of absence or use accumulated time off without divulging details. You do not have to worry about explaining your absence until after treatment, and even then what and how much you share is up to you. Most importantly, rehab will teach you how to talk about addiction and recovery. This is not a skill you are expected to have before going to treatment. In fact if you knew how to easily, honestly and openly discuss your struggles and your concerns about your drug use, addiction may not have developed or reached its current point. The Recovery Book[2] explains, “The skills and strengths you are developing in recovery will also help you at work. You will know more about how to interact well with coworkers.” You aren’t expected and shouldn’t need to tell your coworkers about rehab before you go. Rehab will prepare you for conversations about addiction and recovery on your return and will give you the skills needed to decide when, to whom and what you should share.

Why Tell Coworkers?

Once you have completed rehab and returned to work or found new employment, you may choose to explain your absence. This explanation can skirt around the truth, only reveal part of the truth, or involve full honesty about why you took time off. The choice is ultimately up to you, and you never have to share more than you are comfortable with. However, supportive coworkers are a great resource for maintaining recovery. In fact having support at work is so important that the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists[3] will not allow practitioners to return to work after rehab until they have, “Supportive colleagues at the workplace familiar with history and needs for reentry.” Other associations have similar guidelines for returning to work after addiction. They want to retain dedicated employees who are working to become even better, but they want to make sure these individuals have a solid, supported recovery.

Telling your coworkers is good for your health, and it is also good for theirs. The Daily Mail explains, “Someone who decides, however, to keep quiet about an illness may end up fooling only themselves…In such situations a culture of silence creates uncertainty, which leads to a deterioration in morale.” Your coworkers likely knew problems were present before you left for rehab. They may not have known addiction was the issue, or they may have been aware, as addiction is a difficult disease to hide, even if those struggling with it often believe otherwise. Telling your coworkers why and where you went can be a relief for everyone involved. It can create a healthier and more understanding work environment, and you are likely to find you have more allies at work than you expected.

Could I Lose My Job?

One reason people worry about telling coworkers about rehab is that they are afraid it may put their job in jeopardy. This is not an unreasonable fear, but it is one that can limit or stymie recovery. Just as it is important to have coworkers that understand what you need to return to your job, it is important to have a supportive employer as well. Before you share your story with your coworkers, it is a good idea to sit down and have a conversation with your employer. If you tell coworkers first, it is possible rumors could reach your boss and reflect poorly on you, but if you honestly present the situation, a good employer will be understanding. As the Daily Mail shares, “If an employee falls ill and is unable to do a particular job, then a good employer will be both flexible and creative in how to retain their talents and skills.” Addiction is an illness, and many employers are more than glad to make the reasonable accommodations required by law. This may include allowing you to leave early or during the day for therapy sessions or support group meetings, and it may involve lightening or changing your workload so that work doesn’t become too stressful. Talking to your employer can make work more enjoyable and turn it into an activity that supports rather than challenges your recovery.

Learn How to Balance Work and Rehab

If you are considering rehab for OxyContin addiction but are worried about taking time off from work or about returning to the work environment after recovery, call our toll-free helpline. We are here 24 hours a day to help you find rehab programs that work with your insurance, your work schedule and your recovery needs. We can even help you arrange a medical leave of absence, paid time off or other accommodation that allows you to return to work as easily as possible. You can balance recovery and work, and you can do so with our help. All calls are free and confidential, so you have nothing to lose by talking with us and learning more. Please call today.

[1]Is Truth the Best Medicine at Work?The Daily Mail. 11 Nov 2010. Web. 29 Nov 2015.

[2] The Recovery Book: Answers to All Your Questions about Addiction and Alcoholism and Finding Health and Happiness in Sobriety. 1 Sep 2014. Web. 29 Nov 2011.

[3]Re-entry Recommendations and Resources.” The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. 2015. Web. 29 Nov 2015.