Can They Handle It? Admitting an Addiction to Your Boss

This article is by Kerry Nenn and published by


Linda lived in a nearly constant state of anxiety. Every day, she worked so hard at her job – but her efforts were as much about hiding her addiction as completing her workload. She couldn’t afford to lose this job. She was convinced her employer would boot her if they knew about her struggle with alcohol. So she kept up appearances and hoped her boss wouldn’t notice.

Linda occasionally wondered if it would be better to speak with her boss, admit her addiction, and get everything out in the open. But, no – she’d just end up jobless, penniless, and homeless. Better to keep quiet, keep her secret, and keep her job.

Are Linda’s fears realistic? They’re certainly common. Those struggling with addiction often fear the negative consequences that might occur if their employer found out about their substance abuse. They’ve thought through the scenario hundreds of times and concluded that it’s better to just keep the truth hidden from their boss.

The problem with this conclusion? It doesn’t take into account other possible scenarios. The truth is, most employers aren’t as unaware as employees believe. Addiction radically changes a person’s behavior. It affects every facet of their lives … including work.

Your employer probably already knows something’s wrong. If you confess your addiction, they may be far less shocked than you expected. And it might be that they have rehabilitation services to assist you. Rather than fire you, they may help you. But they can’t do that unless you admit you are addicted.

Is it Possible You Will Get Fired?

Yes. Is it also possible you will get fired eventually anyway, due to your addiction? Also yes. It is up to you to decide how the situation plays out. You can tell your employer about your struggle, and they can then offer employee assistance programs, work with you to get help and possibly save your career. Or, you can continue to try to hide the addiction, deceive your employer, and ruin relations with them – wrecking any chance of a future with the company.

Either choice involves risk, but only one involves working toward recovery and becoming a better employee, making it the better option. If you’re struggling with addiction, consider discussing it with your employer. Before you do, familiarize yourself with the information you will need to include in your conversation.

When You’re Ready to Admit…

First, create a plan for your conversation. Know what you want to discuss.

Second, know your rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects employees who struggle with addiction from discrimination. You also have rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows those qualified to take 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for a variety of reasons, including to receive rehabilitation treatment.

Third, be open about your problem and your plans. Discuss treatment with your employer. Let them know you are aware of your problem and what you plan to do about it.

Lastly, find out if your employer offers assistance. Some Employee Assistance Programs include recovery assistance. Your health insurance may also provide coverage for some or all of your treatment costs.

You may find that your employer is a wealth of resources previously untapped due to your fear of repercussions. Don’t let this fear stop you from getting the help you need today.

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