How to Cope With Alcohol in the Workplace

How to cope with alcohol in the workplace

They say that one of the best ways to kick a habit or addiction is to avoid temptation. Many struggling addicts are forced to change social circles, relocate, or even completely overhaul their lifestyle. But what if you’re a recovering alcoholic facing alcohol in the workplace?

Do you work at a restaurant or bar where you’re surrounded by booze and temptation? Some might say the easiest solution is to just quit.  But what if you love your job and the people you work with? 

This article offers advice on handling alcohol in the workplace as a former addict so that you can live a stable, sober life without sacrificing a job you love.

Who's At Risk?

It’s unlikely that lawyers, nurses, or school teachers will encounter alcohol in the workplace. There are certain professions where temptation is much greater.

Here are a few occupations with the highest risk factor for alcoholism.




Construction Workers



Even if you don’t work in one of these fields, if your job creates any of the following situations, you may also fall victim to alcoholism or relapse.

Feelings of isolation, boredom, or loneliness. This is common among remote workers who lack social interaction. If your job requires you relocate from friends and family, you’re also at risk of depression.

Working shift work or being overworked

Bullying or harassment in the office

Work-related stress 

Lack of fulfillment

Job transfers, change in administration or restructure  


Men and those falling between the ages of 15 and 30 are also at greater risk for alcoholism.  If you’re a recent addict or still moving through the 12-step program, you may want to avoid these professions. But if you’re already employed in a high-risk job, here are a few ways to navigate this sensitive situation.

Be Honest With Your Employer

This is rule number one when going to work following rehab or a battle with alcoholism. Whether you’re returning to your previous job or starting a new one, you need to be honest and upfront with your boss.

Ask to speak with them privately and explain your situation. It’s okay not to disclose every painful detail of your addiction, but you should tell them about anything that directly impacts your job performance.

Most employers will be supportive and understanding of your struggle. They may even change your work schedule to accommodate weekly meetings or to avoid triggers.

Don't Fall Victim to Social Expectations

We’re all familiar with the adage, “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”  The obvious, logical response would be no. But sadly, peer pressure can be a powerful driving force for the decisions we make.

We all crave acceptance. It can be hard to decline an invite for cocktails after work or a glass of wine at the company Christmas party. But you need to.  For many addicts, social drinking isn’t an option. But if you think you’re strong enough to attend social events without drinking, you should. Order a club soda and lime or an Arnold Palmer. 

The gathering should be about company morale and camaraderie, not who can down the most beers.   You can also confide in one or two coworkers you’re comfortable sharing your situation with. When other people know you’re a recovering alcoholic they’re less likely to pressure you into attending events. They might even offer to grab dinner or coffee with you instead. 

Remember the Consequences

Even with the best intentions, temptation sometimes wins. Before you fall off the wagon or compromise your job, take a minute to think of the consequences.  Remind yourself what’s at stake. Is one drink really worth sacrificing all you’ve worked for?

Sure, one drink doesn’t equate to automatic termination but it could be the beginning of the end for many recovering alcoholics.  Using alcohol at work or in excess will negatively impact job performance and productivity. You can’t focus or perform your job properly when also battling alcoholism.

Going to work hungover or under the influence not only puts your job at risk but it also compromises the safety of others. This is especially true if you work in manufacturing, construction, or other professions that involve heavy machinery or equipment. 

Alcoholism will also negatively affect your work relationships. If you’re not pulling your weight, someone else needs to pick up the slack. You may also experience mood swings, causing you to be more confrontational than normal.  This results in resentment and inter-office tension, creating an unhealthy situation for everyone – with you as the root cause.

Ask For Help

Do you feel like you’re struggling to stay sober? Are work temptations getting the best of you? Do you think a career change is in order?

These are all legitimate concerns that your recovery counselor can help with. Don’t face these major life decisions alone. Reach out to your sponsor, therapist, or a support group for advice and guidance when times get tough.

How to Identify Alcoholism in the Workplace

If you’re on the other side of the coin and suspect someone in your office is dealing with substance abuse, here are some tell-tale signs. 

Poor attendance 

Inadequate job performance

Mood swings and outbursts

Visible signs of intoxication

The smell of alcohol on their clothes or breath

Falling asleep at work

These are just a few signs that a coworker is struggling with alcohol addiction and needs intervention. Confronting an addict isn’t always easy.  Don’t be surprised if they get defensive or deny they have a problem. Elicit the help of an expert in alcohol interventions and approach the individual in a non-confrontational or judgmental way.

Don't Let Alcohol in the Workplace Rule Your Life

Congratulations! You’re on the road to recovery and that’s the first step toward reclaiming your life. You’ll undoubtedly face obstacles as you work to get yourself back on your feet. Don’t let alcohol in the workplace be one of these.

By taking an honest approach with both yourself and your employer, you can work to avoid temptation and find healthy ways to cope.

Want to learn more about our team and how we can help you reach your recovery goals?  Contact us today and let’s get started on the healing process.

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