Rehab…Or My Career?

Among the many challenges addicts face, keeping their job before, after and during rehab is one of the biggest.

Despite common stereotypes, addicts aren’t just jobless or homeless criminals at the fringe of mainstream society. In many instances, it’s the well-respected CEO, the surgeon, the famous lawyer, or even the pastor who showers his community with charitable donations, who secretly struggles with drug addiction.

It’s more common than not for people who portray squeaky-clean images to lead sordid lives marred by drugs or alcohol away from the watchful eyes of people around them.  According to a survey done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 68.9% of the 22.4 million estimated drug users in the United States are employed, many of whom are in in high-power positions.  The sad news is that many refuse, or more accurately, are forced not to visit drug and alcohol detox centers because of the demanding nature of their career or financial obligations. 

Only 10% Of Addicts Who Are Employed Seek Treatment

Like the average 9-to-5 worker, the vast majority of addicts lead relatively normal lives. Many support their families, pay bills and have career ambitions to work towards. For these reasons, enrolling in a drug or alcohol detox centre facility 24 hours per day for several weeks isn’t always an easy prospect. Most people do not have the privilege of being absent from work for several weeks without serious repercussions. And, then there’s the inescapable shame that comes with admitting addiction to drugs or alcohol to your boss. 

Though these individuals have the option of enrolling in an outpatient treatment programs, those with more severe addictions generally require 24-hour care to overcome their urges or cope with withdrawal symptoms. The good news is that outpatient care programs offered by drug and alcohol detox centers aren’t the only to save your career and get the treatment you need. There are laws to protect all employees, even addicts, from being discriminated and specifically from being fired for a mental illness. And yes, addiction is indeed a mental illness. 

“I’m An Addict and I have Rights”

This is the most important thing to remember in order to ensure that you have a job to go back to after rehab. Understanding your rights will influence how you approach your boss or human resource manager about your drug problem and how you react to their response. And yes, it’s important to come clean with your boss.

Even if you are enrolling in an outpatient care program you may experience serious withdrawal symptoms that may affect your performance on the job. If your performance declines on the job your boss has the right to fire you, assuming he or she as proof of your poor performance.

It’s always best to be honest with your employers. After all, you have rights and like any employee, you are protected confidentiality.

Talking With the Boss

Though you may have managed to keep your addiction a secret from your work colleagues during the early stages, as time progresses they will begin to notice the signs and changes in your behaviour. You may have been late or absent from work too often, caught dozing off at the printer or forgot to complete your assignment.
So, let’s assume your boss, and even some of your colleagues are already in on your addiction. Avoiding their questions or watchful eyes won’t make the problem go away. You have a higher chance of saving your job by talking to your boss. So if your employer has yet to approach you, make the first step.
Speak to your boss confidently and let him or her know you are aware that productivity suffers because of your addiction and will like to make a change by contacting drug and alcohol detox centers. Try to express your remorse to your boss and be humble. He or she might be sympathetic and applaud your courage. Should your employer decides to fire your or break employee confidentiality by gossiping with your work colleagues, then you can you can file a discrimination complaint.

Learn Your Rights

Both the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were enacted to protect addicts (and individuals with other mental illnesses) from discrimination or from being fired for getting the help they need to overcome their addiction, and to a larger extent, ensure their survival.

Once you are a part of a drug or alcohol detox treatment program, ADA prevents you from being legally fired for any issue related to your addiction, even if it causes you to be absent from work for a few days. Now, bear in mind that this does not apply to casual drug or alcohol users who have never dealt with addiction.

ADA does not restrict an employer’s ability to uphold laws regarding drug use in the workplace. Therefore, your employer does have the right to fire you should you fail a routine drug screening test, assuming that you are not a recovering addict. In order to be protected by ADA you should be enrolled at a drug or alcohol detox rehab facility and no longer abusing the substance. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of medical leave for those who are receiving inpatient addiction care annually, so that they can return to their job.

The downside for individuals who are receiving inpatient care is that the employer can opt not to offer paid leave. Many drug and alcohol detox centers offers treatment over several weeks, so this may be a turn off for people who are less fortunate and have several financial obligations. While there are disability benefits available, the process is often lengthy and complicated. For a person to qualify for Social Security disability assistance, he or he should not earn more than $1,130 or more monthly, is expected to be in treatment for at least one year and is unable to work properly due to the addiction. Most addicts do not fall into this category.  However, your rehab center may be able to assist you with information on state disability benefits and finding the best solution to finance your project.
Once you have secured your job, enrolled into a rehab program and completed treatment, you’ll be able to resume your job and begin working towards your career goals.

Returning To Your Career After Rehab
As a recovering addict you may have mixed feelings about returning to work. For some people it may feel like they’re returning to a stressful environment. For others returning to work provides a structural routine in a familiar environment where they can interact with people who have similar career goals. Whether it’s conversing with your work colleagues or solving problems, returning to work can help you to adapt good habits while improving your skills. That said, many rehab treatment facilities such as BLVD encourage patient to return to work after treatment not only to support their families but for their wellbeing.
If you had established a Return-to-Work Agreement (RTWA) with your employer, ensure that you meet all stipulations outlined, before returning to work. Without getting too technical, the RTWA is a document outlining the expectations for employees who return to work after completing treatment at a drug or alcohol detox centre. If you fail to meet the requirements of the RTWA your employer does have the right to fire you.

Closing Point
Sadly, there still a lot of societally imposed stigma about drug addiction. For this reason, many working addicts try to avoid getting treatment in the hope of avoiding office rumour mills and discrimination. As mentioned earlier, only 10% of employed addicts actively seek treatment. What many fail to see, is that seeking drug or alcohol detox rehab is essential to salvage career goals and health.

BLVD can be your concierge to maintain your career while getting the professional care you need to overcome your addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment option. Don’t let addiction ruin your career and goals. Allow BLVD to help you. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.


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