Staying Sober in the Workplace

May 10, 2021

As you’re getting settled into a healthy routine, while adjusting to life in recovery, you may be wondering how you can incorporate your work life into the new routine you’ve created for yourself. When returning to work, it’s understandable that there will be challenges you’ll face at work. You might ask yourself, “how do I maintain my sobriety and still maintain good relationships with my team at work?”

Follow these five tips on maintain your sobriety while in the workplace:

  1. Perform Regular Personal Inventories – Take stock of your emotions while at work. If you’re feeling angry or resentful of your co-workers about them being able to partake in social activities such as drinking, but you can’t, grab a paper and pen and take some time to think about those feelings. Also talk to your counselor or sponsor about your feelings, so they can help you process how you’re feeling and help you move forward in your recovery.
  2. Choose Your Words Carefully – You may be wondering if you should tell your co-workers that you’re in recovery. This is a personal choice and you shouldn’t feel pressured to tell them if you don’t want to. However, if you do, approach the conversation with thoughtfulness and tact. Inevitably, they’ll ask questions, but you can answer them in a short, simple way that emotes confidence and friendliness. This will help your co-workers to understand your situation better.
  3. Be Prepared – Prepare for times when you are out with your co-workers in social settings such as a bar. First of all, if you decline to go, that is your absolute right. But, if you do decide to go, be prepared with a few things such as ordering your own drink at the bar (with club soda, soda, sparkling water, or your other favorite non-alcoholic drink), socializing with other non-drinkers, and, of course, at the first sign that you feel uncomfortable, make your exit.
  4. Get Support – If you don’t plan to tell your co-workers about your sobriety, find support groups outside of work that can help you in your recovery. If you do decide to include your co-workers in your sobriety, look to those that you can trust and will support you in your recovery. Additionally, if your company has an Employee Assistance Program, make an appointment to meet with them to see what recovery-related programs and resources they have to offer.
  5. Know Your Rights – Some of the most distressing questions you may ask yourself is, “will I get fired because I went to treatment?” or “will I get fired for going to AA/NA?” The truth is, many employers should have policies that are favorable for those who are getting treatment. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources regarding federal laws that protect you from being discriminated in the workplace, as well as in job training, housing, health care and educational opportunities. Become familiar with these laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Workforce Investment Act, so that you can have peace of mind when returning to work and have the option to pursue, in the even that you face discrimination at work.

Keep these tools in your back pocket as you make your way back to work, so that you have not just peace of mind at the workplace, but peace of mind in your recovery.