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How to Explain Your Past Addiction/Alcoholism

How to Explain Your Past Addiction/Alcoholism

Being in recovery means that you’re committed to working an honest program. And being honest can sometimes be difficult, especially when things from our past are brought up. Whether it’s applying for a job, renting an apartment, getting a loan, or even making new friends, certain question will arise that you’ll have to answer, which might make for an awkward situation. Our advice is to be as honest as possible and to gauge your answer on the situation. What we mean is, you don’t have to lie but you also don’t have to go into all the graphic details of your past addiction or alcoholism.

Remember, addiction is a medical condition and therefore, any treatment you have received or are receiving related to your addiction issues is protected by confidentiality.

Here are some situations that might come up and some suggestions on how to explain your past addiction/alcoholism.

#1. How to turn down a drink

You’re meeting new friends or you’re at a company party where alcohol is being served. Eventually, someone will offer you a drink or they might notice you’re not drinking and ask you why. This of course is completely your call. You can say that you have a medical condition – which, again, is true! – or that you simply don’t like alcohol. What works the best for this kind of situation is to say that you’re the designated driver, which is probably also true.

#2. How to explain gaps in employment

This one always gets me a little worked up. I always freak out that a potential employer will see the gaps in my employment and that it’ll be a total deal-breaker. Now, again, depending on the field, you can gauge how little or how much you wish to divulge.

In my case, I now work in the field of addiction treatment and so it’s totally understandable that I have gaps in my resume – from moving around (see #5), things at the job “not working out,” or being unemployed when my addiction got really bad. When I applied, I could be completely honest about my addiction and being in recovery and, in fact, it was a desired aspect of the job applicants.

So, in some cases, being in recovery can be an asset. In other cases, in which you fear discrimination, you can explain that you were dealing with a medical condition that has now been treated.

#3. How to explain why you have bad credit

Many of us in recovery are still dealing with aspects from our time in active addiction or active alcoholism, one of which being ongoing bad credit. Take me for example, again – I wrote a lot of bad checks and have unpaid medical bills – all of which is still affecting my credit. This can be tricky because you can’t really do much without a credit check being done: renting an apartment, securing a loan, buying a car, etc.

Again, probably the best way to explain bad credit that resulted from your active addiction is to say that you had an ongoing medical condition. The good news is that bad credit can be repaired. Look into credible firms that can assist you with ways to go about repairing your bad credit score.

#4. How to explain why you have a criminal record

Now, this will most likely come up when applying for jobs. You should definitely not lie about having a criminal record because they’re going to find out anyway. Gauge the situation when this conversation comes up. A lot of people nowadays understand recovery – they at least have a general understanding – and they tend to admire the hard work it takes to recover from substance abuse. The best thing to do here is just be honest and emphasize that those were acts of a desperate person with an untreated illness and that you are longer that person.

#5. How to explain why you moved

Many people go to treatment in another part of the country and then decide to remain living there, at least for a little while. If this was the case for you, you’ll probably get asked why you chose to move to that specific place. This could be in casual conversation or during a job interview. Your answer can range anywhere from “it was a healthy decision for me to move here” to “I needed a change of scenery” to “there were more options here” to the less-vague “I came here for treatment.” Again, decide how you want to answer this based on the situation and social cues.

#6. How to explain why you don’t have custody of your children

This no doubt can bring up painful feelings. It might be someone just making conversation with you who’s curious as to where your kids are if you first tell them that you have children. You can explain that you were dealing with a chronic illness that kept you from being able to care properly for your children. And remember, as long as you keep doing the next right thing, situations such as custody will all work out for the best; it’s just a temporary situation.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.

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