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How to Keep Your Job—Before, During, and After Rehab

Addiction can prove ruinous in more ways than one. It wreaks havoc on the body and the mind, and can cause your relationships and your finances to crumble. Compounding all of that is the level of professional anxiety that many addicts face: Though statistics tell us that the majority of people with addiction are employed, most of them deal with worries over the future of their careers. Addiction can lead to poor performance, and stigma can strain office relationships.

The best way for any employee to maintain employment, even in the face of addiction, is to seek treatment. An executive recovery program can provide the necessary tools for curbing and combatting addiction. With that said, it is also necessary to be strategic in how you conduct yourself before, during, and after your time in rehab.

Tips for Keeping Your Job Before You Enter Rehab

Even after you resolve to go to rehab, you may have concerns about having a job once you get out. It’s important to get your ducks in a row before committing yourself to rehab, and to get your mind right with regard to all that the recovery process entails.

Some general guidelines, pre-rehab:

Understand how your addiction impacts your job performance. Take honest stock of how your work life has suffered as a result of your addiction. Calculate the days you’ve missed or the number of times you have arrived at work tardy. Consider the strain on workplace relationships, and any neglect you’ve shown to your office duties. This should provide you with self-awareness, and reaffirm your need for rehab.

Don’t let stigma prevent you from seeking help. Remember that people who seek rehabilitation are much more likely to keep their jobs and to advance in their careers, statistically speaking.

Know your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Your employer can fire you if you have an addiction problem that impedes your workplace performance—but you’re protected if you seek rehabilitation.

Know your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Not all employees qualify, but those who do are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to seek treatment.

Talk with your employer, and perhaps the HR manager. If you report to a direct supervisor, it is important to be candid about your struggle and your plan for recovery. This is not an easy thing to do, and entire articles could be written about how to do it, but for now suffice to say that being proactive about seeking rehab is better than keeping secrets.

Seek a recovery program that meets your needs. An executive rehab program can be good for managers, leaders, and business owners, as it is confidential and tends to be more expedient than traditional rehab.

Tips for Keeping Your Job During Rehab

Once you’re in rehab, your focus should be on getting yourself healthy—but of course, it is only natural to have ongoing anxieties about your work life and the fate of your career.

Still, the best advice here is to make sure you make your rehab effective. Devote yourself to it fully. Make your top priority getting well—including detox, coming up with a plan for avoiding triggers, and a focus on your nutrition and general physical fitness. If you emerge from rehab unchanged by it, then you’re just back where you started.

Also ensure that you’ve instructed your employer to keep your addiction and your rehab confidential. There are potential legal ramifications for employers who don’t maintain confidentiality here, and most of them know it, but do ensure that you expressly state your wish for privacy.

Tips for Keeping Your Job After Rehab

When you emerge from your recovery program, you will hopefully be in a much better place, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Still, you may have concerns that word of your time off for rehab will compromise your career.

A few tips:

Remember your rights. Again, if you’ve sought treatment, your employer is prohibited from using your addiction or your recovery to discriminate against you.

Follow through with the promises made to your employer. Before your rehab, you and your employer may have hashed out an action plan for your return. Put your best foot forward and follow through on anything you said you would do, including taking reasonable steps to catch up on work that you missed.

Manage workplace stress. Make sure to keep up with the stress management techniques you learned in rehab.

Continue to attend therapy/meetings. If your rehab action plan includes ongoing meetings or counseling, keep up with it; don’t let your rehab be for nothing, and make sure to safeguard yourself against relapse.

Don’t beat yourself up. You may have a setback. Most people do. But don’t allow it to derail your confidence. Just move on from it and get back to the strategies that have worked for you in the past.

There is no question that addiction and recovery can make you think twice about the future of your career—but that doesn’t change the fact that seeking recovery is absolutely the right thing to do, both for your health and for your job.