You have probably heard the term “need to know basis.” It simply means that something—usually something related to the military or the government—is only revealed to individuals who have a specific need for the information in order to complete their mission or do their job.

The vast majority of us will likely never be in a position to receive this kind of “need to know” information. But the idea that some things only need to be revealed to certain people for specific reasons can be applied to the recovery journey.

When it comes to revealing that you have received treatment for a substance use disorder, who needs to know? Let’s consider a few people with whom you might need to share this information.

Your Healthcare Providers Need to Know

Your doctor or therapist or specialist relies on a complete picture of your medical history in order to provide high-quality care. A medical doctor, for example, needs information about your substance use disorder so that they can make the best possible decisions related to medications they might—or might not—prescribe. Keeping your mental health professional in the loop is also essential because it allows them to help you build the skills and employ the strategies that might best help you maintain your sobriety over time. Remember, information about your health that you share with doctors and therapists is confidential, so you can be honest without worrying that this very personal information will be spread around.

Your Human Resources Rep Needs to Knows

When it comes to the workplace, it can be challenging to make decisions about who needs to know what regarding your treatment for a substance use disorder. This might be especially true if you have been gone for a period of time for treatment and you suspect that rumors are flowing among your coworkers. But the only person you must provide details to is your human resources representative. Employers must follow confidentiality guidelines provided by the Department of Labor, and this responsibility resides with human resources. That said, you may be subject to various requirements and restrictions in the workplace related to your sobriety.

As for managers or coworkers or others in the workplace, the choice of how much—or how little—to reveal is entirely yours. You may feel as though being open about your experience will lessen rumors and awkwardness in the workplace. You might also feel as though your experience is intensely private and need not be shared. There is no single answer for everyone and every situation, so you have to do what feels best to you when it comes to sharing or not sharing.

And what about a potential new employer? Ideally, you would have a chance to talk with the human resources representative as part of the hiring process. As a person with a substance use disorder, you are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but employers do have the right to ask you about illicit drug use. The staff at your treatment center can help you navigate this situation and understand the protections provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A Newly Serious Romantic Partner Needs to Know

The standard advice when it comes to romantic relationships after regaining your sobriety is to wait a year before pursuing a new attachment. But let’s assume you have made it through that first year and you have begun seeing someone with whom you can see building a future. As the relationship grows more serious, it is time to think about sharing information about your substance use history, your treatment, and your ongoing recovery journey. This might not be easy—and your partner’s reaction is hard to predict in advance—but it is necessary because your most important goal is to maintain your sobriety. Your life partner needs a clear understanding of the reality of that so that they can support you going forward. 

Be prepared to answer questions and to weather some stormy moments as your partner comes to grips with this information. It might take some time for both of you to process what your recovery journey means to the future of your relationship—and that is perfectly okay.

You Need to Know Where to Get Help

If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, we can help. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we provide personalized treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, or disorders centered on past traumas. We provide medically supervised detoxification, a robust rehabilitation program that includes individual and group therapy, and a continuum of care that allows you to start your recovery journey with confidence. 

Wooded Glen Recovery Center—located in Henryville, Indiana—was named one of America’s best addiction treatment centers in 2023, and we are eager to provide that top-flight care to you so that you can reclaim your sobriety and your life.