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How to Go to Rehab and Keep Your Job

The stereotype According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, three-quarters of substance abusers are employed, but only about 1 in 10 are in treatment.

I’m Afraid of Losing My Job” If I Go to Rehab

One of the biggest fears for many active substance abusers is the worry about the repercussions to their job or position if they admit to having a problem and need to take time off to go to treatment.

  • Will I get Fired/Demoted/Replaced?
  • Will it hurt my chances of getting a promotion?
  • What happens to the projects I’m working on?
  • What are my co-workers going to think when they find out?
  • No one is going to trust or respect me again.

Because of all these concerns, the struggling substance abuser hesitates and delays, while their disease only progresses and the consequences worsen. Eventually, their disorder causes far more damage to their career—and to every other area of their life—than going to rehab ever could.

How to Protect Your Career and Position While You Go to Drug Rehab

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

  • Learn Your Legal Rights–Under the ADA – the Americans with Disabilities Act–you enjoy protected status when you are diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. You have the RIGHT under the law to participate in the recommended drug or alcohol rehab program WITHOUT fear of losing your job or jeopardizing your position.

Under ADA guidelines, employers are required to make “reasonable accommodations” for addicted employees–i.e., time off to go to residential drug rehab, schedule adjustments to attend outpatient treatment, etc.

Also by law, your insurance company must provide coverage for addiction recovery services.

  • Tell Your Employer the Truth–Your employer has both 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.

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.