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The Guide to Keeping Your Job Before, During and After Rehab

Jun 22, 2024

In an Employer Brief the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) notes that 76 percent of people with substance abuse problems are employed. Unfortunately, many people avoid getting treatment because they fear doing so could actually hurt their careers. The stigma associated with drug and alcohol addiction is often what causes many people to avoid getting treatment.

The reality is that avoiding treatment can actually be much more damaging. Following is a resource guide for those suffering from substance abuse problems. It provides the information they need to ensure they can keep their job before, during, and after entering drug or alcohol rehab.

Before Entering Rehab

Understand your addiction and how it affects your job performance. There are certain signs and symptoms of drug abuse that indicate it’s time to seek help. For example, if drug or alcohol use is causing you to neglect your work responsibilities, has led to a bad relationship with your boss, has caused you to miss work, etc., it may be time to seek help through a rehabilitation program.

To help you determine the severity of your alcohol or drug abuse, the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc., offers the “Am I Alcoholic?” self test and the “Am I Drug Addicted?” self test.

Don’t let the stigma of addiction stop you from getting help. The stigma of addiction can lead people to decide not to get help because they think it could hurt their career. It explains that people who receive treatment are “more likely to keep their jobs, or get even better ones.”

Know your rights under ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against and protects the rights of people with disabilities. The ADA allows employers to ensure their workplaces are drug and alcohol free, but it also protects recovering drug addicts and alcoholics from discrimination. If you are currently in a rehabilitation program or have been successfully rehabilitated you are covered under the ADA. If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against you can file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Know your rights under FMLA. For employees who qualify, the Family and Medical Leave Act allows them to take 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave due to specified family or medical reasons within a 12-month period. The FMLA can be used to receive treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.

Discuss your plans with your employer. This article acknowledges that this can be a difficult discussion to have with your employer. It offers advice on the steps you can take before the meeting to ensure it is a success.

Find out if your employer offers Employee Assistance Programs. Employee Assistance Programs are offered by some employers to help employees with personal problems. If your employer has an EAP, it can be used to receive counseling or referrals to rehab facilities.

Figure out what your health insurance will cover. Depending on your health insurance provider, the amount of coverage you have may vary. However, all health insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace must cover 10 essential health benefits, one of which is mental health and substance abuse services. Check with your health insurance provider to find out exactly what kind of coverage you have.

In order to get your health insurance provider to pay for your substance abuse treatment, you may need to prove medical necessity. The core components of medical necessity are per the American Society for Addiction Medicine.

Though it can be difficult, you may be able to qualify for disability benefits due to your substance abuse. The Social Security Administration explains how it makes this determination here.

Know your options if insurance will not cover your treatment. You shouldn’t let a lack of insurance coverage prevent you from receiving treatment. As this article explains, there are still many options open to you. It notes that many private facilities offer alternative payment options and lists other inexpensive program options, such as state supported rehab programs, mutual support groups (AA, NA, secular groups), faith-based alcoholism programs, and online recovery support.

Choose the right kind of program for you. This article explains the different kinds of substance abuse programs, e.g., residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, counseling, sober living, and brief intervention. It also offers advice on what to look for in a program, such as proper accreditation and licensing and whether aftercare services are offered.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse also provides comprehensive information on drug addiction treatment. In this fact sheet, the NIDA explains the principles of effective drug treatment and effective treatment approaches.

If you need help finding a facility, use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s facility locator.

Tie up loose ends. As this article from U.S. News & World Report notes, it’s important that you work with your boss and coworkers to make sure all of your major work functions will be handled by someone while you’re gone. Update them on what is going on with your projects, clients, etc. If you don’t feel comfortable telling your boss or coworkers that you’re going to rehab, simply tell them you’re taking a leave of absence.

While You Are In Rehab

Ask boss for confidentiality. In its “Are You In Recovery from Alcohol or Drug Problems? Know Your Rights” SAMHSA explains that employers must maintain confidentiality regarding any information they receive about your addiction or treatment. And in “An Employer’s Guide to Workplace Substance Abuse: Strategies and Treatment Recommendations,” the National Business Group on Health Center for Prevention and Health Services emphasizes the importance to employers that employee confidentiality be protected.

Make your treatment a success. Though it’s a difficult process there are many steps you can take to ensure your rehab experience is successful so that you can return to work happier and healthier. Here is a selection of articles featuring tips on how to make your treatment a success:

  1. Principles of Effective Treatment
  2. 10 Tips for Recovering from Addiction
  3. Overcoming Drug Addiction
  4. 5 Tips for a Successful Drug Rehab
  5. 5 Tips for Managing Triggers During Addiction Recovery
  6. How to Beat Drug Addiction
  7. 7 Helpful Tips for Drug Addiction Recovery
  8. 6 Lessons for Early Recovery

Going to treatment is scary and there are many fears that could get in the way of your recovery. Get educated in the process and what to expect to stay in control.

After Rehab

Know your rights when you return to work. In its “Are You In Recovery from Alcohol or Drug Problems? Know Your Rights” SAMHSA explains the on-the-job rights employees have.

The guide explains that your employer must provide “reasonable accommodations,” such as adjusting work hours to enable you to attend treatment, as long as it doesn’t cause them undue hardship. Your employer is also prohibited from using your disability in a discriminatory manner as long as you are qualified to perform your job.

Manage job stress. WebMD offers a comprehensive look at what causes job stress and provides great advice on how best to manage it. The American Psychological Association also provides great tips on managing job stress, such as “track your stressors,” “develop healthy responses,” and “take time to recharge.”

Meet all Return-to-Work Agreement requirements. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a Return-to-Work Agreement (RTWA) is a written document that establishes an employer’s expectations for an employee who has completed mandated alcohol or drug treatment. If you have an RTWA with your employer, be sure you understand all requirements and stay compliant with them.

Maintain aftercare. This article from Addiction Today stresses the important role aftercare plays in achieving long-term recovery. Surrounding yourself with a strong support system that fits your needs and belief system can play an important role in aftercare.

Move on after setback. You may feel your performance prior to receiving treatment or your time spent in rehab is a setback for your career.

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