What to Do When Drinking Is “Part of the Job”

addiction in work culture

Drinking alcohol is ingrained in many workplace cultures. Whether in the creative, tech, or business industry, a common idea that encompasses all these workplaces is that drinking is integral to the work culture and personal success. Some environments may even evoke the feeling that if you decide not to drink, it will be a barrier to advancing and fitting in socially. While some may believe some of the best deals get made at the bar or when everyone has a couple of drinks, this idea leaves an individual who decides not to drink in a difficult position. It can cause them to feel pressured to drink to succeed or simply fit in with their coworkers.

A workplace drinking culture poses a challenge for those who are considering treatment or who are newly sober and thinking about the impact their sobriety will have on their career. Their workplace may have even influenced and encouraged their drinking in the first place. Understand that many people who are in recovery face this challenge; you are not alone. Learning to be social while also maintaining your sobriety may seem impossible—especially in the workplace. However, if drinking previously felt like it was “a part of the job” and you are worried about what sobriety means for your career, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you thrive in your workplace in recovery.

 

Come Prepared 

Entering back into the workforce at the beginning of recovery can be challenging. It is normal to feel uncomfortable or awkward when you start receiving invites to work parties or from coworkers to hit happy hour after work. However, you do not have to let the pressure from your work environment lead you to relapse. Being prepared for these situations and setting healthy boundaries is essential for your recovery.

Your colleagues may be inclined to ask you questions about either where you have been or why you are not drinking. You may be invited to a party, offered a drink, or in a conversation about drinking. Preparing yourself for these inevitable situations can help you not become frustrated or overwhelmed when the moment arises. Knowing what you might say or do ahead of time can help you be more prepared at work events or around your coworkers.

Take some time and think about the best way to answer these questions and deal with these situations. As every individual is different and each person has a unique circumstance, your answers and responses may vary.

In addition to preparing your responses in advance, it can be helpful to have backup plans. For example, if you are at an event, ordering yourself a seltzer and having it in hand or offering to be the designated driver can help when you would otherwise feel uncomfortable bringing up your sobriety. If you feel uncomfortable or triggered at any time, it is critical to do what you need to put your sobriety first. This may mean taking frequent breaks from the event or outing, hanging out with other coworkers who do not drink, or leaving early if you have to.

 

Decide Whether You Will Disclose Your Sobriety or Not

A common choice those in recovery have to make is deciding whether they should disclose their sobriety or not. Discussing your history with alcohol and new sobriety may feel too personal in the workplace. Because it is a private matter, it is entirely up to you whether you would like to share this information with others.

Over time, your coworkers may become curious about why you turn down invitations for a drink after work, and always avoiding the questions may become tiresome. Depending on your relationship with these individuals, you may want to be honest and inform them. You do not have to overshare; your response can be truthful and to the point, such as, “Thank you, but I don’t drink anymore.” You may find that people are respectful of your decision and privacy.

 

Know Your Employee Rights

Job security can be a significant stressor to those who are newly sober. You may be worried about getting in trouble or fired if you need to seek treatment or attend a meeting. Because your health and safety are paramount, there are many resources available for those who need help but are worried about workplace discrimination.

Your experience may vary depending on your employer and your specific circumstance. However, although the stigma around addiction is still prevalent, many companies have policies for those struggling with a substance use disorder who need treatment. Additionally, you may be protected under specific federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If you are still hesitant, it is essential to keep in mind that you may be less likely to lose your job if you take leave to seek treatment rather than waiting and letting your substance use negatively impact your work and impair you to do your job.

 

Worrying about employment can be a significant roadblock to recovery, especially if you are concerned about how your sobriety will affect your success and relationship with your coworkers. Depending on your workplace environment, you may feel that drinking was “a part of the job” and found many successful encounters happened over drinks. However, your health and wellbeing should take precedence if you believe you are struggling with a substance use disorder. There are resources available for those who need help. Because workplace environments can sometimes be triggers for individuals with a substance use disorder, it is essential that employers, employees, and the work environment play a significant role in de-stigmatizing addiction and mental illness. At Alta Centers, we provide a safe and open environment for those seeking treatment. Recovery does not have to mean the end of your life; it can be a new start. For more information, call us today at (888) 202-2583.

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