disclosing past addiction during interview

  1. 0
    I am very much interested in working the addiction field as an RN with primarily med/surg experience.

    I had a addiction problem years ago and have been sober for several years.

    I want to know if it is helpful or harmful to disclose a past problem like this during a interview for a job in this field as I have heard it is helpful. Thanks!
  2. 8 Comments so far...

  3. 6
    Honestly, unless I was required to (e.g., if they specifically asked about substance abuse issues, if I had disciplinary actions/restrictions on my license, or if I was in a diversion program), I would err on the side of NOT disclosing it for three reasons:

    1. It may make the employer wary of taking a chance on you, especially if they've had bad experiences with staff CD issues. Fair? Not really. But they will be scrutinizing you and weighing the benefits versus risks.

    2. It will not guarantee you the job, no more than my having given birth would guarantee me a job as a L&D nurse.

    3. It could be used as a weapon against you. Could that happen? Yes. How likely is that to happen? Don't know. Some places are very welcoming of nurses in recovery. Others are not...and yes, this also includes some addiction/psych facilities. You may find that whenever you have a bad day, people will wonder if it's related to your addiction. Should narcs or meds go missing, you may always find yourself one of the initial persons of interest even if you were nowhere near the hospital that day. In addition, your coworkers may hold their own beliefs regarding CD and may judge you unfairly.

    However, it is your recovery and your decision, and you need to do what is best for you. If you do feel the need--or are required---to disclose your own recovery, be sure to stress your sober time, how/what you do to help maintain that, and if you have completed any BRN/diversion program requirements. A character reference or two couldn't hurt either.

    Best of luck whatever you decide!
    Last edit by Meriwhen on Jan 15, '13
    TXRN2, TheCommuter, elkpark, and 3 others like this.
  4. 7
    I agree, there is enough grief and pain in one lifetime to prevent the invitation of anymore- if you've been sober without any relapse issues for greater than 5 years and they don't know it, that's a blessing! Count it as one- and lay low

    You see, time passed means nothing really from their perspective. To them, an addict is a pickle. A pickle once was a cucumber- but no matter what you do, it's never going back to being a cucumber again. You and me are "pickles." We are just clean pickles that can be pickled again anytime. You are ahead of the game if they see you as a "cucumber" still- I wouldn't go looking for dill, vinegar, and a mason jar(sorry, terrible analogy).

    That is a ghost that can haunt your career and lifestyle more than you ever imagined if the BON does not already know your past. I live in that very real haunted present- even with near 5 years clean, and no diversion history or occupational related incidences.
    Last edit by BostonTerrierLoverRN on Jan 15, '13
    Nurse_Diane, weemsp, TXRN2, and 4 others like this.
  5. 0
    It depends. I know a place where I live that only hires people in recovery (Thank God for places like that!). I would find out about the facility first.
  6. 0
    I agree with the above comments. I decided when I went through treatment myself that I would love work in this field. I have always been honest during my interviews if asked directly. I think that you have to use your judgement and intuition about the situation. I wear the AA symbol (circle w/ triangle) and that usually sparks interest and questions from my coworkers. I love the program of AA and am not "in the closet" about it, but neither do I force it on others. It was my experience in treatment and my observations in this field that nurses in recovery make excellent recovery nurses! Good luck and just continue to work those steps… in all situations!
  7. 0
    I would not. If you are asked "why addictions?", you could just be vague and say something like, "I have some personal experience dealing with addicts and I would like to help them with x, y, or z". You would think that working with SA and behavioral health people would be more understanding. They're not. I had to disclose my bipolar disorder recently because I had to be hospitalized for depression. I needed a med tweak. After I came back, people definitely started treating me VERY differently, and I work currently for a community based psych rehab agency.
  8. 1
    Quote from TerpGal02
    I would not. If you are asked "why addictions?", you could just be vague and say something like, "I have some personal experience dealing with addicts and I would like to help them with x, y, or z". You would think that working with SA and behavioral health people would be more understanding. They're not. I had to disclose my bipolar disorder recently because I had to be hospitalized for depression. I needed a med tweak. After I came back, people definitely started treating me VERY differently, and I work currently for a community based psych rehab agency.
    Every time I disclose, whether at work or personally, it is a risk. I have to weigh out the options before I open my mouth. Used to be my only concern was, will this help someone, but I've discovered that there are so many other factors
    Meriwhen likes this.
  9. 2
    Unfortunately, I have never had the pleasure of disclosure being an asset to my professional life. It has created nothing but drama, more stigma, and unfair accusations. Not only has it caused these things, but you would be amazed at how small the world really is, and in the health care profession specifically. I can't go anywhere within 40 minutes of where I live without someone knowing someone who heard something about me and why I left this job or that, being in recovery, etc., etc. I had to disclose because of the program I was in, but if you don't have to, don't. Hopefully the stigma and mentality will change, but for now, the reality is such that there is quite a bit of stigma still present and it only serves to harm your professional career.
    SuzieVN and Meriwhen like this.
  10. 0
    I disclosed personal info at one job and it came back to haunt me when the blame game started. I wouldn't do it! In AODA, there seems to be a different standard for nurses. It seems okay for counselor and aides to be in recovery, but not nurses. As another poster pointed out, psych people are really no more understanding than other health care professionals.


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