How to Answer Questions from Co-Workers about Rehab

Many people who enter drug or alcohol rehab find themselves needing to adjust their work schedule. Whether they’re taking an extended period of time off to go to an inpatient treatment center or leaving early a couple afternoons a week to attend therapy sessions, these schedule changes may attract attention from curious co-workers. If your co-workers ask about your absence, there are several different paths you can take to answering their questions.

Do not disclose personal information. Remember that addiction is a mental health problem, and as with any other mental or physical health problem, you are not obligated to disclose information about it to your coworkers. (Mental Health Works) If they ask why you took time off, tell them that it was a personal matter that you’d rather not go into. Most people will take the hint and stop pestering you about the subject.

Choose the terminology that you want to use. If you do decide to disclose some information, you don’t necessarily need to be specific. Instead of saying that you were gone from your work because you were seeking treatment for your drug problem, you could say that you were getting help with a health issue, a medical condition, or difficulty with stress, depending on what terminology you feel most comfortable using. (Mental Health Works)

Give straightforward answers. If some of your co-workers already know that you went to rehab and you think it is appropriate to answer their questions, offer them responses that are as straightforward and honest as possible. You don’t have to go into great detail—if they ask how you’re doing after rehab, for example, you could say something like, “I’m making great progress and attending regular therapy sessions and support group meetings to continue the recovery process.”

Provide educational resources. If your co-workers already know that you were in rehab, or if you feel comfortable discussing rehab with them, consider providing educational resources so that they can learn more about addiction. There are still many popular myths about addiction, such as that it “fries” your brain and that addicts can never truly recover. (CNN) Direct your coworkers to resources from reliable sources like the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration so that they can gain a more accurate understanding of addiction and recovery.

Remember, how much you decide to share with the people at work is entirely up to you and based on your comfort level. Some recovering addicts find it empowering to simply lay it all out there and talk to others about what they are going through, while other want their privacy. There’s no right path except the one that works best for you.

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