Over 75% of all substance abusers are employed, according to a report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. But 91% of those with the disorder aren’t receiving services.
One of the most common objections raised by substance abusers as a reason to keep putting off getting the professional help they need is “I can’t go to drug rehab – I’ll lose my job!”. Meanwhile, their disease of addiction worsens and the consequences to their everyday life, their health, and their future keep getting ever-more serious.
Luckily, like a lot of denials and deflections put out by active addicts and alcoholics, that excuse might be little more than a smokescreen that enables them to keep feeding their disease.
Here’s the reality – your addiction will harm your career FAR MORE than going to rehab ever will.
The Best Time to Get Help for Your Substance Abuse Disorder Is Always RIGHT NOW
Even if you are a so-called functioning addict/alcoholic, this insidious disease is progressive – meaning it’s only going to get worse as time goes by, if steps aren’t taken to arrest its advance. Without help, there will come a point when you will no longer be able cover up the tardiness, the absences, the decreasing work performance, or the worried looks from concerned coworkers.
Companies have a right to protect their employees and their interests, so if you are drunk or high on company time or on company property, you can get fired.
To keep that from happening, you need to address the issue NOW, rather than some hypothetical point in the future when it might be too late.
Here are some tips that will help you get the professional help you need for your addiction while at the same time salvaging your career.
Tip #1 – Familiarize Yourself with Your Company’s Drug and Alcohol Policy
Usually found in your company’s Employee Handbook, this should list your rights and responsibilities under the law and in accordance with Company Policy. You can also look into the policy regarding employee Sick Leave.
Most companies have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place for precisely this sort of situation. You can get confidential – and usually free – help and guidance for a number of personal wellness issues. Check with your handbook or your EAP coordinator to see what are the proper next steps to take.
Tip #2 –Know Your Rights Under the Law
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers make “reasonable accommodations” to employees with certain medical conditions. In most circumstances, substance abuse rehab qualifies as a reasonable accommodation.
If your drug rehab needs require a longer time commitment than your company’s insurance plan allows, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may offer some relief.
For employees who qualify, the FMLA allows them to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, employment/position-protected leave due to specified medical or family reasons within a 12-month period. The FMLA may be used to undergo treatment for substance abuse.
Tip #3– Be Honest with Your Employer About Your Need for Drug Rehab
If you expect your employer to respect your health needs as an individual, you have to respect their needs as a company. While this may be a difficult conversation to have, your employer deserves to know if your drug rehab is going to impact your attendance/performance or require an adjustment on their part.
You probably don’t need to worry or feel embarrassed as much as you might think. Your supervisor is more than likely already aware that something was affecting your work performance, even if they were not entirely sure what that “something” was.
In fact, taking this proactive step may actually save your job.
According to the SAMSHA, your employer is bound by law to respect your confidentiality on matters of substance abuse or treatment.
One important point to consider – have this talk sooner, rather than later– don’t wait until you have been at-work incident such as an accident, a failed drug test, or showing up impaired. The ADA does not protect you in such cases.
A failed drug test can be grounds for termination even if the drug is legal.
For example, medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000, and recreational use was decriminalized in 2012. But individual businesses can still prohibit marijuana use by its workers. In 2010, a quadriplegic worker with his physician’s authorization to use medical marijuana was fired by Dish Network under the company’s “zero tolerance” policy, and that termination was upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court.
Tip #4 – Consider Outpatient Drug Rehab
One option that may work for you both professionally and personally is to seek help via an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that offers extensive counseling, education, and support, while still allowing you to live at home and work.
Usually, participants in IOPs attend classes and therapy sessions 3-5 times per week, either in the mornings or the evenings. If this is the case in your area, then the only accommodation your employer may need to make is to allow you to leave work a little early on the days you have treatment.
Tip #5 – Communicate with Your Employer
If attending drug rehab – whether residential or outpatient – will require someone else to assist or replace you on work projects, take special care to communicate all pertinent information with your employer so your absence does not create an undue hardship.
Keep up your end of the bargain. If you participate in an IOP that allows you to continue working, you will still be required to keep up with your work obligations.
Tip #6 –Comply with Your Return-To-Work Agreement
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an employer has the right to generate a legally-binding written document that spells out an agreement between the employer and employee, who has completed alcohol/drug rehab. Typical requirements might include:
- The returning employee must comply with the recommendations of medical professionals
- Random drug testing can occur for a specified period of time
- The employee signs a Release of Information form that allows the employer to receive updates of attendance/progress from rehab professionals.
In the end, companies want healthy, experienced, and loyal workers. It is in their best interest to allow you to receive the treatment you need to return to a state of wellness and productivity. Now it’s up to you to justify their investment in your future.
For more information about how you can get help for a substance use disorder without jeopardizing your career, contact the knowledgeable professionals at AspenRidge Recovery in Lakewood, Colorado. If you need treatment, an AspenRidge case supervisor can help craft an individualized plan of recovery that can help you restore balance, sobriety, and serenity to your life.
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