Returning to Work After Rehab

May 21, 2020 8:55 pm - Published by

Substance Abuse Among The Professionals

Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone. There are as many men and women with addiction that are working 9-5 jobs in corporate offices as there are living in the streets. While typically, many people picture a sloppy homeless person asking for change to buy their next bottle, this is not your average user. Over 10 million full-time employed individuals have a substance use disorder. Most of them choose to not get help, either because they fear losing their jobs, fear the stigma, or any other combination of reasons. Let us start by saying that you can keep your job that you love, and return to work after rehab if you so choose.

In today’s blog, we are going to discuss this difficult situation, and what you can do to make returning to work as easy as possible. The good news is, that you are not alone. The better news is, you have rights that can protect you and your job.

The Stigma

It comes as no surprise that one of the number one reasons that professionals in the workplace choose not to go into substance abuse treatment is due to the stigma it will bring. It is very frightening to think that your coworkers or bosses may know that you have an issue with addiction. While addiction is a disease, it is one thing to return to work after a surgery, but definitely another to do so because of an addiction to narcotics. With substance abuse, guilt or shame are very common feelings that burden us. Being self-conscious about others’ perception of you can cause unneeded stress.

Feeling like people look at you differently, or that they are judging you is unfortunately normal. We feel this way because we have been conditioned to look down upon people who are struggling with substance abuse. Like we said above, we picture a dirty person who has lost it all. But that isn’t you. You are choosing a path of health and wellness, and to maintain a stable lifestyle. Let this stability guide you as you re-enter into the workforce and fight through that stigma. Remember who you are and where you came from, remember what you’ve been through and what you fight for!

The Transition Back to Work

Once your stay at treatment is coming to an end and you are ready to start your life again, it is important to speak with your counselors and case managers. You will have many questions, and will need to settle any affairs that may prevent you from returning to work or home – such as legal issues. These resources will be excellent in helping you get back to where you belong: with your family and starting a life of sobriety. Your support team will help you to build an aftercare plan so that you can make the right moves forward.

If you are returning to the job that you had before you went into treatment, there will be new challenges that you may not have known before. Some of them may be difficult or unpleasant to navigate. If you have decided to find new work, it may be hard to deal with rejections. Remember that it isn’t personal. Keep your head high and keep moving forward, regardless of what path you decided to go.

What to Expect

Everyone will have a different experience depending on their situation, but generally speaking it needs to be stated that returning to work is not easy. Especially if you are returning to a previous position. Things have changed. Consider how tough it is for a mother to go back to work after her 3 month maternity leave? Now, consider that instead of bringing a baby into the world, you were fighting to reclaim your health from the chains of addiction. Will it be impossible? Absolutely not! You’ve already proven that you are strong enough to overcome anything. Will it be tough? Absolutely.

Here are some things to expect as you return to the workforce:

There will be questions.

You’ve been gone for some time. Maybe as much as three months, if you did a full continuum of care. People, especially colleagues who you knew well will want to know where you have been. They probably don’t know about your past, or why you choose to leave if you have kept it a secret. Many will have genuine concern, which is a good thing. Others may have some idea. Many offices have their share of gossip, and there is a chance you will be the topic of conversation for a while. You need to remain strong and positive during this time.

You also need to decide what you are going to tell people. Being open and honest will obviously be the easiest situation, as you don’t run the risk of confusing your information, but it also opens the door for judgment. The question becomes, are you proud of who you are and your choices? If so, then being as honest as possible may be the best way to rebuild your confidence. Understand that not everyone will be accepting, but what matters is that you do your job to the best of your ability.

There is a lot of work to return to.

Anyone who has worked in a busy office setting can attest that even taking a few days off for a vacation results in a mountain of work to return to. Your email inbox is likely bursting at the seams. There has probably been a ton of changes – new leadership, new colleagues, new processes. You will need to relearn a lot, and in all likelihood, will be rusty for a little while while you get back into the swing of things.

All of that is okay! Keep focused, keep a detailed planner of your tasks and communicate regularly with your boss and team to make sure you are on track. What is important is that you work hard and produce quality, so that you can resume your life of stability.

Returning to My Old Job, or Find a New One?

This is a question you need to ask yourself. Was stressors from work a factor in your addiction? Did you drink to unwind from a day of aggravation? If you worked while under the influence, what will your work performance be like when you are sober? It’s important to never forget that there is always a risk of relapse if you allow yourself to be in triggering situations or with people who push you into risky behaviors. If your old job at any point caused your addiction to drugs or alcohol to flare up or worsen, then you may need to consider looking for something new. If they are not accommodating or sensitive to your needs, then even more so.

Finding a new job will be hard, especially when times are tough economically. You may lose confidence in yourself if you receive rejections from potential employers. Don’t give up. You are not alone, and you are not unemployable. Fight on as you have since you started recovery.

Knowing your Rights

The United States Department of Labor has clear guidelines that an employee may leave work for drug or alcohol addiction treatment under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Generally speaking, most larger organizations must abide by FMLA, which provides the employee with health benefits and up to 12 weeks of unpaid, but protected leave. This means that your employers cannot release you from your job if you are taking the leave to get help.

There are a few caveats to this:

  1. Most employers require you to be consistently employed for 1 year before offering FMLA.
  2. If the company has a strict policy against the use of drugs or alcohol, this may supersede FMLA.
  3. You are only protected if you are actively seeking and participating in treatment. This is not your opportunity for a binge vacation.

Further, alcoholism and drug addiction are considered disabilities per the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). The good news is that this protects you from discrimination or poor treatment as a result of your past use.

You can learn more about your rights by reading SAMHSA’s Page on Federal Laws.

Tips to Make Returning to Work Easier

Here a few tips to help ease you back into your work life after you have exited rehab:

  • Stay Strong – You’re not alone. You are not weak. You have just done battle with a deadly disease and took initiative to win. It will be hard to resume your work life, but keep your chin up and be proud of yourself.
  • Follow Your Aftercare Plan – As you make this transition it is important that you continue with your support groups and therapy. You are going to need help navigating through the feelings and fears associated with returning to work, as well as coping with the stress. These are powerful resources.
  • Talk Openly With Your Employer – Let your employer be your champion at work. Bring them up to speed on your needs, any limitations you have and work together to develop a plan that allows you to slowly integrate back at your speed.
  • Be Prepared To Deal With Stress – Stress is going to happen. Work is stressful, meetings are tough, deadlines are not fun. You need to get through these stressors without the help of drugs or alcohol now. Have a plan of coping mechanisms that you can utilize to make sure you prevent relapse.

Reach Out

If you or a loved one has a dependency or addiction and is in need of substance abuse treatment, please reach out to us about your detox and treatment options. Royal Life Centers admissions staff is available 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns. We can be reached at (877)-RECOVERY or 877-732-6837. Because We Care.

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If you or a loved one has a substance use disorder, please give us a call or fill out the form to the right and let us help you change your life for the better.

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