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You’ve decided to seek treatment for your substance abuse problem. No doubt, you made this decision in part after watching your addiction taint the most important areas of your life, including your job. You are no longer performing at your best, and you want to make a change. Now comes a big question: Do you tell your employer you are going to rehab? And will your job be there when you get back?
Your concerns are warranted, but it’s important to keep in mind that people who seek treatment for substance abuse problems are much more likely to keep their jobs than people who do not. In fact, many go on to even better positions. Here are some additional pieces of advice:
Keep in mind, your boss may already know
One of the most dangerous parts of addiction is that it pulls the wool over addicts’ lives. You may think you’ve been able to hide your addiction from your co-workers and manager up to this point, and maybe you actually did, but the chances are greater that they already know. As addiction escalates, the signs and symptoms become more pervasive.
Do your homework
Before you talk to your boss about your plans to attend a recovery center, look into your company’s drug and alcohol policy. If they don’t have one, examine the healthcare policy for sick employees.
Whether or not your boss suspects you have a substance abuse problem, your best bet is to be as upfront and honest as possible with him or her. Your employer may offer you additional resources through the Employee Assistance Program, such as counseling or referral to a physician or specific treatment center. Plus, your honesty will communicate your commitment to the company and integrity as a person. Backed with the support from your employer, you will have a much better chance of a successful recovery from substance abuse.
Rest assured your job is safe
Many employers have policies in place to protect employees who seek substance abuse treatment. And according to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), most employees who have been in their job for at least 12 months are permitted to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a family or medical reason within each calendar year. You can use this time for addiction recovery treatment. The FMLA also assures you will have your job when you return. After all, it costs employers more to hire and train a new employee than to give a valued one the time off he or she needs.
Don’t worry about your reputation
Chances are, your addiction has hindered your job performance in some way. Maybe you were late a few times because you were hungover. Or perhaps you even used drugs or alcohol on the job, and the quality of your work suffered because of it. By addressing the problem and getting treatment, you will improve your work in the future. Research shows, employees who attend rehab have better job performance and fewer absences after they get well.
Tie up loose ends
Disclosing your rehab plans to your employer will help assure your job functions will be covered while you’re gone. Talk to your fellow employees about your current clients and projects, and don’t be afraid to delegate some of the work so you don’t come back to an overwhelming pile when you return.
Don’t fear judgment
Seeking help for substance abuse is one of the most courageous decisions a person can make. Unfortunately, only 6 percent of people with addiction problems seek help, leaving more than 8 million Americans untreated. One of the most common reasons people avoid treatment is fear of stigma and prejudice. But you shouldn’t hold yourself back because you’re afraid of what other people may think. Contrary to these fears, recovering addicts often find support and praise from their peers once they go back to work.
Or, keep it to yourself
If after reading these tips you still don’t feel comfortable talking to your employer about going to rehab, that’s OK. You don’t have to tell them. Ask your manager for a leave of absence or use any accrued vacation time, so you don’t have to give a reason why you will be away. Another option is to share your plans with your boss only and then attend a recovery center outside of your hometown. Some rehabs specialize in treating professionals and executives and promise to protect privacy.
Remember, just like diabetes and heart disease, substance abuse is a treatable condition. The sooner you attend a recovery center and get better, the sooner you will be able to return to work and maximize your career.
HOW TO KEEP your job IN REHAB
Once you’ve made the decision to go into rehab and have gone through proper channels at work to inform your supervisor or boss that you have a substance abuse issue that requires treatment, secured the appropriate referrals, confirmed insurance coverage and/or other financing routes, and arranged for your current and ongoing projects to be handled by responsible co-workers, the next and biggest priority is to go to treatment.
It’s critically important—both for being able to keep your job in rehab and for your personal recovery—that the full course of treatment be completed. Do not, for any reason, leave rehab prematurely.
Make sure you attend 12-step and other self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, both during rehab and once you’ve returned home. You need the ongoing support and nonjudgmental camaraderie of others who are in recovery as you navigate the sometimes-difficult days post-rehab.
Continue with post-treatment aftercare or continuing care, generally provided on an outpatient basis, sometimes in intensive outpatient programs that can be offered on the weekends. Here you will have access to ongoing counseling, group therapy, family therapy, certain treatment modalities, resources, skills improvement courses and more. Aftercare greatly enhances your chances of achieving successful recovery and returning to your job with greater confidence and ability to perform at your best.
Comply with any required drug tests, either as part of aftercare or as mandated by your employer. If you fail drug tests, it may be grounds for your termination.
Be sure to be fully compliant with any Return-to-Work agreement your employer has drawn up, as this is a document that protects both you and your employer on your return to your job.
Finally, be sure to attend to your health and well-being by minimizing stress through effective coping methods, switching to healthier lifestyle activities, eating right, getting enough sleep and participating in regular exercise. The new, healthier and sober you deserve the opportunity to be a fully contributing member of society, at work, home and everywhere else.
For related information about how to keep your job while you’re in rehab, see the following articles in our Learning Center:
- Employer Drug Screening: What to Know
- Choosing Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment
- Will Going to Rehab Impact my Professional Career? The Benefits of Finding Treatment
Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. “Treatment barriers identified by substance abusers assessed at a centralized intake unit.” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1986793/
La Medicina del Lavoro. “From the addiction rehabilitation program to the return to work: results of an employment and social intervention among young adults with substance dependence.” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27681571
United States Department of Labor. “Wage and Hour Division (WHD).” “Family and Medical Leave Act.” Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/
U.S. Department of Labor. “FMLA (Family and Medical Leave).” Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla
Work. “The challenges that employees who abuse substances experience when returning to work after completion of employee assistance programme (EAP).” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26835858