One of the challenges in recovery is explaining recovery to an employer. Whether you’re in recovery and looking for a job or you’re explaining recovery to an employer you’ve worked for for years, disclosing your recovery in the best possible way is essential for protecting yourself against stigma and discrimination.

Why Should You Tell Your Employer You’re in Recovery?

It’s not always important to disclose your history of addiction to an employer. If you’re strong in recovery and your job doesn’t interfere with your success in any way, you probably don’t need to mention it.

But if you’re explaining an extended absence from the workforce to a potential employer or you need your current employer’s help in staying sober, explaining recovery to an employer may be essential. Being honest with a potential employer will set the right tone from the beginning, and asking for help from your current employer can improve your chances of successful recovery if, for example, you need an extra five minutes at lunchtime to attend a support group meeting or you need to forego a conference in Las Vegas.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Explaining Recovery to an Employer

How you explain your recovery to an employer is important for protecting yourself against discrimination. Here are some important points for explaining recovery to an employer.


Make it clear that the addiction is in your past. Be very clear about the fact that your addiction is in your past and you are moving forward successfully sober and committed to remaining that way.

Focus on the positive. Focus on your success in recovery, and point out the skills that have brought you this far.

Explain your triggers and ask for the help you need. If you have triggers at work, let your employer know what they are and ask for help with them. For example, if your workload is extremely heavy and causes undue stress, ask for a lighter load or more time to complete projects. If you have clients who drink during business lunches and expect you to do the same, ask your boss to send someone else in your place.

Know your rights. It’s important to know your rights under federal non-discrimination laws when it comes to disclosing information about your addiction to your employer. Know ahead of time what your rights are to protect yourself against discrimination.


Provide gory details about your past. Explaining recovery to an employer shouldn’t involve regaling anyone with the sordid details of your past. Keep it simple: “I was addicted to alcohol, but I’ve been in recovery for six months and am committed to lifelong sobriety.”

Give the impression that you miss your old lifestyle. Don’t speak of your addiction with pride or nostalgia. Make it clear that you’re dedicated to staying off of drugs or alcohol for the long-term.

Speak poorly of yourself. When explaining recovery to an employer, stay away from speaking negatively about yourself, even if you’re discussing the past. For example, don’t say, “I was such a weak mess back then,” or “I’m terrible at handling stress.” Instead, say, “I’ve successfully addressed the issues that led to the addiction,” or “I’ve learned to ask for help when I’m feeling stressed out.”

Explaining recovery to an employer can be a good thing if it’s done properly. As long as you stay positive and know your rights, telling your employer about your addiction can help you stay sober and cope with triggers in the workplace, which can go a long way toward helping you stay sober for the long-term.