Destination Hope Blog » How to Stay Sober When Your Coworkers Aren’t

How to Stay Sober When Your Coworkers Aren’t

Up to 40 percent of industrial fatalities and 47 percent of industrial injuries can be attributed to on-the-job alcohol consumption, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Additionally, 21 percent of American workers reported being injured or endangered, having to re-do work or cover for their co-worker or extending their working hours due to a co-worker’s drinking or drug use.

The Economic Price Tag of Workplace Drug Abuse

Lost productivity due to drug or alcohol abuse exceeded $120 billion in 2007. The majority of alcohol- and drug-related work performance issues are associated with workers who are non-dependent on drugs or alcohol, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, which points out that two specific types of drinking or drugging behaviors contribute to these problems.

The first type of behavior involves abusing a substance immediately before work or during work hours, such as having cocktails at a business lunch or smoking marijuana on the way to a job site. The second type involves heavy drinking or drugging on a work night, which causes lost productivity due to the next day’s hangover.

Industries with the Highest On-the-Job Drug and Alcohol Abuse

In a recent federal survey,24 percent of American workers reported drinking during the work day at least once in the past year. The construction, food preparation and food service industries have the highest prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse that affects employee performance, and illegal and prescription drug abuse is also prevalent among auto mechanics, light truck drivers and laborers. However, any industry can have its fair share of people who abuse drugs or alcohol while they’re working.

Tips for Staying Sober in the Workplace

Work environments in which drugs and alcohol are common can pose a serious relapse risk for people in recovery from a substance use disorder, and arming yourself ahead of time with strategies to resist using drugs or alcohol with co-workers is essential for maintaining long-term sobriety. Here are some ways you can stay sober and reduce your risk of relapse while you’re at work:

  • Consider reporting offenders to management. Doing so could also reduce your—and their—risk of injury.
  • If reporting your coworkers isn’t an option for you, make it clear to them that you’re in recovery and that you would appreciate it if they would keep any drug or alcohol use out of your sight.
  • Talk to your support group about your specific challenges to get a variety of strategies for handling them.
  • Every day before work, visualize how you will respond to the presence of drugs or alcohol at the work site.
  • Strive to be mindful concerning your recovery during the work day so that any surprises won’t throw you off balance.


Work should be one of the places where you feel the safest in terms of staying sober. If you’re afraid the temptation of drugs or alcohol in the workplace may be too much, consider looking for employment in an industry, such as law enforcement or teaching, that’s not as conducive to drinking or taking drugs on the job. Remember that in the end, your main concern has to be for your own well-being.