Updated on March 26, 2024
5 min read

Balance Work and Addiction Recovery: Tips for Success

We understand that recovery can feel all-consuming at times. Surprisingly, a structured work environment can be a valuable tool in your journey.

A regular job can provide a sense of purpose, offer healthy distractions, and restore a feeling of normalcy during a challenging period.

Balancing work and your recovery process won't always be easy, but it is achievable. We'll discuss ways to create healthy boundaries, openly communicate with your employer, manage your time effectively, and address any workplace concerns⁠—all while making your well-being the top priority.

9 Tips For Keeping a Job In Recovery

With proper support, planning, and dedication, it’s possible to manage work and your recovery journey. However, you might be lost on where to start.

Here are nine tips to help you balance work and recovery:

  1. Prioritize recovery: Although work can take up a lot of time, it’s important to make time for therapy, support groups, and self-care, even if it cuts into work.
  2. Build a support network: A mentor, sponsor, therapist, support group, and loved ones can offer guidance and encouragement during recovery.
  3. Scheduling: Have a calendar to manage your time for therapy, support group meetings, and recovery-related appointments around work.
  4. Talk to your boss: Have an open and honest discussion about your needs and how the company can accommodate them.
  5. Research: Educate yourself on addiction, recovery resources, and legal protections.
  6. Stress management tools: Practicing relaxation techniques can help you handle stressful situations at work and potentially prevent a relapse.
  7. Establish work-life boundaries: Don’t look at anything work-related when you’re off the clock, and prioritize your personal time.
  8. Practice self-care: Healthy habits can be a good way to manage stress and avoid triggers.
  9. Set Realistic Goals: Have realistic and achievable goals for recovery and work.

How to Talk to Your Employer About Addiction

Talking to other people about your addiction and recovery can be scary. But people at your job might be more receptive and happy to accommodate you than you think.

Open communication is important for maintaining a successful job during recovery. Be clear about needing time for treatment and how this can affect your workload capacity. 

If you’re returning to work from inpatient treatment, clarify your expectations for you and your employer. Emphasize your commitment to recovery and how it will benefit your work performance.

Preparing for the Conversation

When you talk to your colleagues about recovery, it’s important to plan ahead. Outline everything you want to discuss. Your boss might need medical documentation to support your requests, so it’s good to have this on hand.

You should also schedule a private meeting with your employer or HR representative. After the conversation, maintain an open dialogue about your ongoing needs and how they can affect your work.

You should also keep your employer updated on your recovery process. Having honest and proactive communication can help you balance work and recovery.

Maintaining Privacy and Confidentiality During Recovery

Although it’s important to share crucial information with your employer, you don’t have to share everything. You’re not obligated to disclose everything, so you should only share details you’re comfortable sharing.

You also don’t have to share everything with your co-workers. Tell your employer or HR representative about handling your medical information with discretion.

If you’re comfortable, you could share resources and information about addiction and recovery with your colleagues. This can help foster a better understanding of your condition and reduce stigma.


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Legal Protections for People in Recovery

There are legal protections for people undergoing recovery. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid annual leave for substance abuse treatment.

During this time, your job and health benefits are protected. Meanwhile, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people in recovery. 

The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations like modified schedules or leaves for treatment. However, the ADA won’t protect against current illegal drug use.

Familiarize yourself with your company’s guidelines on medical leaves and substance use policies. You should also consult HR or healthcare providers if you have questions about legal protections.

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What’s Your Employer Worried About?

It’s natural for your employer to have some concerns about your recovery journey. Understanding these concerns can help you stay on top of conversations regarding recovery. This can help you prepare and address potential issues.

Here are some concerns that your boss might have:

  • Work performance and reliability
  • Attendance and productivity
  • Relapse risk
  • Creating a supportive work environment
  • Legal concerns

The best way to address their concerns is to be honest about your needs and expectations. You should also highlight the positive impact of recovery on your work performance. 

How to Handle Workplace Events

Workplace events typically have alcohol, which can be challenging for someone in recovery. But there are ways to navigate these situations and maintain sobriety.

Here are some of the things we recommend:

  • Bring or ask for non-alcoholic options
  • Practice saying no politely and firmly
  • Be honest about your sobriety goals
  • Focus on enjoying the event
  • Have an exit strategy when you feel pressured or uncomfortable

If you want to be more discrete about avoiding alcohol, have some excuses ready. Tell them you’re the designated driver or that you’re focusing on your health.

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Tips for Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries is an important aspect of maintaining a work-life balance. But for people in recovery, it’s necessary to maintain work and sobriety.

Here are some strategies to help you:

  • Manage expectations: Set realistic expectations about your work performance and gradually increase your workload.
  • Seek workplace support: Programs like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) often provide counseling and support for addiction recovery.
  • Prioritize your health: Avoid getting into stressful situations at work that may trigger substance use.
  • Open communications: Talk to HR if you’re facing challenges at work due to recovery and what they can do to help.
  • Hobbies: Have activities outside of work to support your recovery and overall well-being.

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Updated on March 26, 2024

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