How to Tell Your Coworkers Where You Were During Rehab

Cocaine addiction, even if in the early stages, is often noticeable to those who work closely with the addict. Co-workers are often the ones to see slight changes in an individual’s work quality and ethic early into the addiction, even before loved ones notice any changes. These changes could include increased productivity, irritability, and frequent breaks or absences from their work setting.

Because co-workers may be suspicious of the addict, a sudden prolonged break from work may raise some questions for those who work with the addict. Even those who genuinely care about the addict’s well being may casually ask or hint at asking the addict about his whereabouts or why he was absent from work. Properly addressing this issue can help the recovering addict feel secure and comfortable in his work environment while being able to still concentrate on his sobriety.

Addressing Absenteeism While You Were in Rehab

For many recovering addicts, especially early into their recovery, getting back to work is both stressful and extremely beneficial. They may be anxious about how others will perceive them once they know the reasons behind their time off.  They may be concerned that their boss and co-workers will no longer be able to trust them or rely on their ability to perform at work. Or the recovering addict may face resentment from co-workers over his past work performance, attitude, and absenteeism. No matter where one may be at in recovery, gossiping co-workers can make for a difficult work environment. If you are willing to be honest with coworkers, here are some strategic ideas on how to address absence from work to attend rehab:

  • Be honest
  • Address concerns
  • Relocation/new job

If the recovering addict is willing to discuss why he was gone from work, then he should be honest when answering questions about his addiction. Only share as much information as you want. You are not obligated to share any information that you do not want to, so set a boundary and if you’re uncomfortable don’t cross it. If you find that the constant gossiping and current work environment may jeopardize your sobriety, look at the possibility of relocating or even finding a new job.

What If I’m Not Ready?

Maybe you’re not ready to open up about your addiction or your experience at rehab with your co-workers at this point and that’s ok. First, it is extremely important to understand that under the Family and Medical Leave Act[1] you are allowed to take medical leave without providing specific details to your employer about why or where you were while out of the office. Furthermore, diagnosed addicts are even protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.[2] Included in the following are some strategies to help recovering addicts talk to their co-workers about their absence when they are not ready to address their rehab:

  • Prepare answers ahead of time
  • Don’t share more than what you’re willing to
  • Re-evaluate job choice

Before going back to work, think of the possible questions you will be asked and rehearse your answers to them. You can be as vague or detailed as you like. Although you are proud of successfully completing treatment, maybe you’re not ready to share with others about your past addiction struggles. By being prepared and knowing how to answer specific questions, you are able to control what information you share.

Opening up to others, even if outside of work, can help give you the added support needed during this transition from rehabilitation back into society. Those you can trust may be the foundation needed to start rebuilding, so trust your instincts and open up to those you know will support your new lifestyle change and avoid those who will not. If you are unwilling to share your story because your workplace is hostile or triggers relapse cravings, you may want to consider a new job where you can be honest and get the support you need.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one has recently completed treatment for cocaine addiction and is now struggling with the pressures of everyday life, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our highly trained and extremely knowledgeable counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer your addiction questions and help you determine your options for additional treatment. One call can save your life, so call us today!


[1], Family and Medical Leave Act, United States Department of Labor, 11/28/2015.

[2], Information and Technical Assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act, 11/28/2015.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email