Should I Tell A Prospective Employer About My Addiction And Recovery?

This really comes down to a personal decision.  Our program is intended to develop “a manner of living that demands rigorous honesty,” but it is also an anonymous program.  The “rigorous honesty” demanded is self-honesty.  There are, without question, situations where being too open about our past can destroy careers and create chaos in other ways.  Those situations are not beneficial to our recovery either.  In some circumstances, it may be best to keep things to ourselves.  Some employers simply won’t hire people in recovery — especially in early recovery.  A newcomer of my acquaintance ran into that just a couple of days ago.  With the job market being what it is, possible employment opportunities can be few and far between.

Perhaps the best way to address this is simply to not offer information.  If it is a drug-free workplace and they want us to take a drug test, that shouldn’t pose a problem (assuming that we’re clean and not on methadone or other drug maintenance).  Direct questions about health issues are not permitted, but we need to be careful.  If we lie and are found out, we will almost certainly be fired.  That would eliminate any chance of good references from that employer, and could impact our employability in other ways.

The Internet is a major issue.  If we’re determined to remain anonymous, we need to avoid recovery-related Facebook groups, and all references to our issues in all social media.  If we participate in online recovery forums, we must be extremely careful to use pseudonyms and avoid photographs and other identifying data.  It may be difficult or impossible to keep the secret regardless of our preferences, if we have been careless in the past.

My policy over the years has always been complete honesty.  If someone can’t handle who I am, I want to know it immediately, not months or years down the road.  I make part of my living writing about alcoholism, addiction and recovery.  In that context my history is clearly a plus, not a disadvantage.  However, my other job is in the security industry.  From my beginnings with the company, my employers have known about my past as an alcoholic and addict.  On occasion, I have been able to use my knowledge to help out with the issues of other employees.  But what if I had lied, early on?  What changes would I have had to make in my life, over the years, to keep the secret?  Would I be a senior manager in an industry that requires trust?  Would I have been able to take part in the recovery community as I have?  Would I be the same person?  Would I even be sober?

There’s no cut-and-dried answer to this question, but honesty has one big thing going for it.  It’s less likely to come back, months or years later, to smack you upside the head.

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