Okay, so… you got sober! You’ve transitioned from inpatient treatment to outpatient treatment and you’re ready to start getting back to your day-to-day life. This means more independence including the independence to go back to work. Maybe you still have a career to return to or maybe you are looking for a brand new opportunity. Of course it is recommended that those in early recovery stay away from bartending and other jobs that directly involve alcohol and drugs. Other than that, finding a job is fair game.

So you land a job and you get acquainted with your coworkers. Then one day the unthinkable happens… they invite you to join them for happy hour once your shift ends. It is completely normal to feel anxieties and concerns about telling coworkers about your recovery or even about the fact that you don’t drink. At Guardian Intensive Outpatient we believe that as far as addiction recovery goes, honesty is always the best policy. We also believe that you get to decide who you talk to about your recovery and when you tell them if you decide that transparency is the best option. Being sober doesn’t require that you tell everyone you don’t drink. However, you might find that being honest about your situation is the easiest route to take.

Talking About It Is Up To You

The first and most important thing to remember is that there is absolutely no rule saying that you need to tell people about your addiction recovery. If you want to share with your close family members, that’s up to you – if you want to share with your friends, that’s your call. Many sober individuals choose not to share their sobriety with their coworkers because there often isn’t a reason to. Coming to terms with your own addiction is the first step on the path to recovery. Once you learn to be honest with yourself you will be able to begin healing. Healing from addiction is a personal journey and as long as you’re consistently honest with your sponsor, your sober supports, and yourself, you will be okay.

Discussing your sobriety is up to you. If you don’t feel like you’re ready to answer questions about why you don’t drink be prepared to answer questions. Say your coworkers ask you to join them for drinks when your shift is up. You don’t need to say “Sorry, I don’t drink. I struggled with alcoholism and addiction and now I’m in recovery.” All you really need to say is something like “Thanks for the invite! I’ve got plans tonight.” Or “Thanks, but I’m taking an extended break from drinking.” They might push and say something like “You don’t have to drink, just come hang out with us!” At this point you’ll have to gauge how comfortable you would feel in that setting. If you think watching people drink would trigger you, tell them that you have another obligation after work. If you’re in early sobriety, avoiding potentially triggering situations is crucial to avoiding relapse. Just remember that once you’re more stable in your recovery – once you’ve worked through the steps with a sponsor – the mental obsession will have been lifted and you’ll be able to go anywhere safely.

Important Points to Remember

When deciding whether or not to talk to your coworkers about your recovery there are several important points to keep in mind.

If you do tell your coworkers, make sure they understand that addiction is in your past. Make sure that your coworkers understand that you’re moving forward and that recovery has been a positive experience for you. You can say something like “Trust me, it’s a good thing that I’m not drinking anymore!” Try to keep things light and don’t feel like you ever need to go into the personal details of your experiences.

  • Know your rights.

There are federal non-discrimination laws in place that protect you from being fired for being in recovery. Make sure that you know your rights ahead of time to avoid discrimination, if things should ever come to that. More realistically, as soon as you say the words “I don’t drink,” people will stop asking questions.

  • Don’t ever speak poorly of yourself.

If you do decide to tell your coworkers, don’t put yourself down. Try not to say things like “I drank because I couldn’t handle what was going on in my life,” or “I’m a mean drunk,” or “things got really, really bad when I was drinking, I was so depressed.” Leave out the gory details! You don’t need to delve into your reasoning, just stick to the facts – I don’t drink.

  • Explain your triggers.

If you feel comfortable opening up to one or several of your coworkers, you explain why joining them for happy hour might not be in your best interest. You can say something like “I appreciate the invite but I don’t think the bar is the best place for me to hang out right now. I’m down to go bowling someday soon!” Offering a viable alternative will let them know you’re still interested in getting to know them but you want to avoid triggering situations.

  • Focus on the positive.

Always remember to talk up your recovery – it doesn’t make you different, it’s something to be proud of! Explain what a positive impact living a drug and alcohol-free life has had on you. You never know… someone who has been struggling might need to hear the message you’re conveying.

Guardian Intensive Outpatient is Here to Help

At Guardian Intensive Outpatient we believe that addiction recovery is something to be proud of. It’s a very brave route to take – recovery is certainly not for the faint of heart. There will be ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. At the end of the day if you’re happy with your own progress, that’s really all that matters. Know that you are not alone and while you might feel “different” or “weird” for refusing to go out drinking with your coworkers, recovery is nothing short of admirable. Give it time and you’ll slowly begin to realize that your sobriety doesn’t define you, and that you’re a good, worthy human being – no matter what you decide to do with your spare time.

If you have more questions about talking to your coworkers about your recovery or if you’d like to speak with a member of our team about our outpatient program, reach out to us today. We are looking forward to talking with you.

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24/7 at (888) 693-1894


Reviewed for accuracy by:

Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.