If you’re hesitant to enter a recovery program out of fear of losing your job, you aren’t alone. Many people delay seeking treatment because they worry it will hurt their careers. Despite this perception, getting help can improve your career, not hinder it.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 76% of people with an addiction have a job. Substance use disorder can be destructive to your career, causing you to miss work or your performance to suffer. You are more likely to lose your job if you don’t get the help you need.
Seeking treatment will improve your quality of life and work while expanding opportunities to advance your career in the future. If you have health insurance benefits through your job, you may be able to use those to pay all or some of the cost of rehab.
Don’t let fear or resistance keep you from starting your recovery. Discover how you can keep your career–and improve it–while seeking treatment for substance use disorder.
Many people considering treatment have common questions about starting the process. Answering these questions can give you the reassurance and confidence to begin your healing journey.
While this is a valid fear, the short answer to this question is no. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you from discrimination for having a disability. The ADA considers an addiction a disability, which means you can’t be fired for it.
However, it is possible to lose your job due to other behaviors. If your productivity or work quality suffers because of your addiction, your employer can legally fire you for poor performance. This circumstance doesn’t count as discrimination under the ADA.
That’s why it’s essential to seek treatment before receiving disciplinary action from your employer. The ADA will protect you if you are actively seeking treatment for substance use disorder. It won’t protect you just based on the use of illegal drugs or other substances.
If you choose to enter a recovery program, the ADA protects your job. Your employer must make reasonable accommodations for you to seek this treatment. This might mean allowing you a more flexible schedule to attend meetings or counseling sessions. It may also involve using the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
You should be able to attend rehab and receive treatment without fear of your job disappearing. If your employer resists making the appropriate accommodations, you may need to refer them to the ADA or consult the HR department for assistance.
The FMLA guarantees eligible employees an unpaid leave of absence without losing their job. You are legally allowed to take 12 weeks of medical leave during a 12-month period. That means you can use the FMLA to protect your job while in rehab.
Your employer must continue your health insurance during your leave of absence. They must also guarantee the same pay, benefits, and other stipulations promised when they hired you. However, they’re not required to give you the same job when you return as long as it meets those terms and conditions.
To use FMLA, contact the recovery program you wish to enter. They will help you navigate your insurance, have a physician contact your employer when you arrive, and explain that you are taking FMLA. They will not reveal the details of your treatment to protect your privacy.
Many people fear losing their edge or believe their skills will get rusty if they take an extended break from work. The truth is that seeking treatment will improve your skill set and ability to accomplish tasks.
You heal from addiction and improve your mental health when you attend rehab. You may discover that you have more clarity, bandwidth, and energy to tackle your work and daily life. You can return to your job with more focus and curiosity. In all likelihood, your skill set and productivity will improve after rehab.
Another understandable fear is that you won’t be able to pay your living expenses while taking an unpaid leave of absence. You have a few options to explore to help you maintain financial stability.
If you have paid vacation or sick time accrued at work, you should be able to use that to cover part of your leave. Another possibility is long-term or short-term disability. Check to see if your employer offers disability and if you can use it to cover all or part of your absence.
It can be scary to take the first step on the road to recovery. It’s a significant change that involves plenty of preparation and uncertainty. Know that you are making the right choice for yourself and your career, setting yourself up for future success when you return.
There are a few ways to prepare for your leave that can make the transition easier, including:
Communicate with your workplace–While your employer doesn’t need to know why you’re leaving, you should ensure they’re ready for you to step away. Delegate your responsibilities to others, wrap up any loose ends, and inform your coworkers that you’ll be leaving.
Do your research–Read your company’s employee handbook and get familiar with their policies. Make sure you know what the ADA and FMLA guarantee you. Learn exactly how your insurance coverage will work.
Know how to respond–You may get questions about why you’re leaving or where you’re going. Decide how transparent you wish to be about your recovery. You aren’t obligated to share what you’re going through with others. It’s up to you to decide how to respond to inevitable questions.
Consider a Return-to-Work agreement–You or your employer might suggest a formal Return-to-Work agreement that outlines the terms of your return and what both sides will expect when you get back.
Stay in touch with your support system–If you have friends or family who know what you’re going through, stay in contact with them as you get ready. Don’t hesitate to ask them for help in your preparations.
Preparing for your departure will give you the comfort of knowing everything will be ready for you when you return.
Once your program is over and your leave ends, it’ll be time for you to return to your job. The transition back may be jarring, but there are a few things you can do to make it smoother:
Use your Employee Assistance Program (EAP)–If your company’s benefits package includes an EAP, take full advantage of it. An EAP can offer you support in returning to the workplace and managing any triggers that might arise.
Keep up with your recovery–Attend all support group meetings, counseling sessions, or other appointments associated with your care after leaving rehab. This will ensure your continued success in recovery and at work.
Turn to trusted colleagues–If you have friends among your coworkers, don’t hesitate to ask them for help as you get used to the routine again. They can be valuable resources in your transition.
Be patient with yourself–Remember that big changes take time. It might feel challenging initially, but you will gain confidence as time goes on.
Seeking treatment or entering rehab is an achievement to be proud of. The work of recovery will continue long after you exit your program, but it’s an essential step in your healing journey. You can keep your career during rehab, and you may even discover that it’s an asset in the long run.
You deserve a recovery program that understands where you are in life and knows how to help you preserve your career. Jackson House will help set you up for success and give you the tools you need to return to work and life once you’re done. Explore our programs today and contact us to learn how we can help you.