How to Keep Your Job While You Go to Rehab

Per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 3 out of 4 substance abusers have a job, but only about 1 in 10 are in treatment.

I’m Afraid of Losing My Job”

One of the major obstacles for many actively-addicted people is the fear of losing  their job or position if they admit that thy have a problem or if they take time off to go to rehab .

  • Will I get Fired…Replaced…Demoted?
  • Will it affect my promotion?
  • What will my co-workers think?

Due to these concerns, struggling substance abusers hesitate, their addiction progresses, and the consequences get worse. Eventually, their career—and the other areas of their life—are damaged far worse than going to rehab ever could.

Protecting Your Career While You Go to Drug Rehab

If you are struggling with a substance abuse disorder such as alcoholism, illicit drug addiction, or the abuse of prescription medications, you CAN get the professional help you need without having to worry about your position, IF you:

  • Learn Your Legal Rights– The Americans with Disabilities Act grants a protected status to workers who  are diagnosed with a Substance Use Disorder. By law, you have the RIGHT to participate in a drug or alcohol rehab program WITHOUT harming your career.

Per ADA guidelines, employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees with SUD–i.e., time off to go to inpatient drug rehab, adjustments to their schedule so they can attend outpatient sessions, etc.

Additionally, your insurance company is required provide coverage for rehab and recovery programs.

  • Tell the Truth–Your employer has the right and the responsibility to provide an environment free of drugs and alcohol for ALL workers, in order to protect other workers and the best interests of the company.

It is YOUR responsibility to seek help proactively, before there is an incident. Don’t wait until it’s “too late” – a failed drug test or a workplace accident.

As for any supposed embarrassment you think you might feel– in all truth, your employer probably already had a suspicion that “something” was going on to affect the quality of your work, even if they weren’t exactly sure what that “something” was.

Your employer is also obligated by law under the requirements of the ADA to treat your personal medical needs – drug treatment – as confidential.

  • Use ALL of Your Available Resources–There may be several beneficial programs offered by your job that can give you all the time you need:
    • Employee Wellness/Assistance Programs
    • Sick Leave Accrual
    • Vacation and Personal Time
    • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants eligible workers 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave for medical or family reasons. Drug rehab qualifies.
  • Honor Your Part of the Bargain—When your employer grants you an accommodation they are doing so for two reasons – because of the law, yes, but ALSO because you are a valued employee. For your part, YOU have to:
    • Complete your recommended treatment plan – do not leave residential rehab early.
    • Continue with ongoing aftercare – outpatient drug rehab, drug tests, etc.
    • Attend 12-Step fellowship meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
    • Comply with any “Return-to-Work” agreement that your employer may have prepared.

What’s the Bottom Line?

One more, very important point –addiction is a protected disability, but addictive behaviors are not. If you show up to work drunk or high, commit a crime, miss too many days, etc. – you will lose your job. The key to protecting your job while you deal with your addiction is to ask for help before it is too late.

If you are worried about the impact that your drinking and drug use might be having on your career, and you don’t know what to do, let Chapman House help.

As one of the most-trusted rehab programs in Southern California, Chapman House has been offering premier drug and alcohol treatment services in Orange County since 1978. To get the help and support you need, contact Chapman House TODAY

by Albert Fontenot