If addiction was part of your past, you might find yourself wondering how often you need to bring it up in the present. You might feel comfortable sharing your story to help others in recovery, but feel less inclined to disclose that information to an employer.
But should you tell them? Is that something to mention in an interview, or is it more of a first month, “Oh, by the way,” conversation?
Actually, it’s very much up to you.
While that answer might not be entirely helpful at face value, allow us to explain the pros and cons to consider when thinking about opening up to your employer.
Reasons you might not disclose your history
If you struggled with substance abuse in the far distant past (for example, during your teenage years, but you’re now a middle aged adult), it might be unnecessary to share. This part of your life could be so removed from who you are as a person now that to bring it up might cause judgment when there’s absolutely nothing to judge.
Additionally, you might not feel comfortable or see any reason to disclose the information. This is also entirely valid. If your work life and home life remain separate, and you foresee little possibility of a past addiction interfering with your work, it might not need to be disclosed at all.
Again, this is entirely up to you. While being open and honest is always a good, healthy mindset, there are some parts of your story you will always choose to keep private.
The benefits of opening up about past addiction
Firstly, keep in mind an employer is not allowed to ask about or make decisions based on a history with substance abuse. A conversation on such a topic should be initiated by you alone. But there may be certain things you are concerned about or that you want to bring to light right off the bat.
You might consider opening up about a history with substance abuse if:
- You have gaps in your resume – If you spent time out of work and in treatment, or weren’t able to work during your fight with addiction, there may be months of unemployed time on your resume. If your employer asks, you might want to consider being honest, ensuring your employer that the addiction is in the past and you have (and will continue to) put forth great effort in overcoming it.
- Your social media discloses it – If you have disclosed online that you’ve battled substance abuse, consider either removing those posts or being up front with your employer right away. New employers are bound to look you up online and instead of letting them assume what they will from pictures and posts, talk with them directly before the internet does it first.
- You are concerned about triggers in the workplace – Your trigger may be acute stress, often caused by an insurmountable workload; you might find it helpful to talk with your employer about your past in order to help him/her understand why you need a lighter load or longer deadlines to help you manage stress. Or, there may be certain business trips you prefer to forgo for the sake of maintaining sobriety; your boss might be more inclined to let you skip the trip when they understand why.
- You want that added support – Some people become good friends with their supervisors, and if this is your situation, you might want to disclose your history of substance abuse just to have that additional support. That way, if you need to take a day off for your mental health, or want to work with your boss to help make the workplace a safe environment for you to be in, you will feel much more comfortable approaching them.
That being said, the decision to tell your supervisor about your past is completely up to you. If you choose to withhold the information because you’re not ready to speak about it, or you have a strict business relationship with your boss, that’s okay. If you want to tell them about it just so they know, that’s great, too.
Any information that you do disclose, however, is completely confidential and by law your supervisor is not allowed to disclose anything shared with them without your permission.
When speaking about your history, be candid without sharing unnecessary details; don’t speak negatively about yourself, but assure your employer it’s no longer a lifestyle you have any interest in. Give examples of how you’ve improved and continued to improve, as well as your dedication to a drug-free workplace.
Substance use support
Even if drug addiction was a thing of the past, recovery is continual and lifelong. If you want added support, are seeking a support group in which to partake or would like to speak with a therapist as you navigate the transition into a new job, consider Rehab After Work. With many outpatient options, you’ll be able to sustain your recovery while continuing your routine.