EMPLOYMENT AND ADDICTION
It’s not always the case, but many addicts are actually able to maintain employment and never stop caring about this facet of life. In fact, many addicts avoid treatment because they are afraid of how treatment might affect their current employment or even future employment. In the past, it may have been the case that addiction treatment would be a blight on one’s record, but in today’s world, the law protects addicts who seek treatment from being discriminated against in the workplace. You have a right to get help.
Many employers recognize not just the law but also how treatment might benefit their employees when they return to the workplace after rehab. Addiction can take a drastic toll on work performance, and most employers want you to get help just as much as you want to get help for yourself. If you’re edgy about entering treatment because of employment, it can help to have a plan in mind when speaking to employers about taking time away to get help for an addiction.
A SERIOUS DISCUSSION WITH AN EMPLOYER
It’s normal to be nervous about talking to an employer about an addiction. It’s even normal to be embarrassed about it, though there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Just like you perform a job for your employer, you’re going to have the job of sitting down with them to discuss your job and a possible stay in rehab. Honesty is always the best policy in life, and this situation is no exception. Be candid about your desire to enter treatment, and be honest about the amount of time you feel you’ll need to be away from work.
Assure your employer that you will finish any work projects you have before taking time away. Let them know that part of the reason you’re seeking treatment is that you want to do better at your job and to rid yourself of something that might be hindering your performance in the workplace. Remember that you have no responsibility to tell your co-workers about what’s going on. You can tell them that you’re taking a leave from work. That’s all they need to know.
Something called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) keeps you from being discriminated against because of your taking a leave of absence to enter a rehab facility. You have the right to seek treatment, and your employer should be supportive of that. It doesn’t mean that every employer is going to be happy about it, but it does protect you from losing your job.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is another protection that you have. If you qualify for it, you can take a leave of absence that’s up to 12 weeks long during any 12 month period, during which you can’t lose your job. Entering a treatment facility is a medical decision. It’s one that affects your health. Addiction is covered under the FMLA law.
FINANCIAL ASSIST THROUGH EMPLOYER
There are some instances where an employer wants to make sure that their employees get help for any existing addiction problems. After all, the effects of addiction drastically affect employee performance, and it’s in an employer’s best interest to offer services for their workers who suffer from addiction. If your employer offers this, you’ll need to prove medical necessity, but if you have an addiction, as defined by a DSM-5 diagnosis, this will be no problem at all.
Many things might go into proving medical necessity, such as:
- You have shown that you cannot get well with less intensive treatment
- You’re strong enough mentally to benefit from rehab
- You are capable of behavioral change
- You show the motivation to get well
These are just a few of the criteria, but in general, employers are very willing to let their employees get help in an inpatient facility. The fact is that you have an addiction, and you’ve shown your employer that you want to recover from this addiction and return to work and do an even better job. Addiction costs employers so much money and productivity that a good many employers now have services to refer employees for help. You’re taking the step of doing this yourself, and it shows that you genuinely want to get well. It’s a bold step that you should be proud of, and if your employer cares about you, they will be supportive, even if not celebratory, of your decision.
GETTING THE HELP NEEDED
It can be scary to think of talking to an employer about taking time away for drug addiction. Every employee who’s ever had to do this will tell you that it’s not a pleasant thing to think about, but it’s undoubtedly a necessary thing. If you continue to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, you will eventually see that your job performance suffers, and you may end up losing your job anyway in the future. If you go to treatment now and begin the process of getting better, you’re going to have much higher job security in the future.
If you’re unable to secure your job and go to treatment at the same time, then it’s time for the tough decision. Do you go to treatment anyway and risk losing your job? That’s a matter that you’ll have to discuss with your employer and your family, and remember that you still have protections under the law. You can seek a lawyer if you feel you were unfairly terminated for seeking help in a rehab center. Remember that your life is on the line here. Many drug addictions, if untreated, will one day cost you your job or even your life. Knowing you need help is the first step to getting well, but just knowing you need help isn’t going to save your life.
When you’re ready to go to treatment, it’s best to have everything set up and in place if possible so you can give your employer the exact dates of your absence. Be very transparent during the discussion with your employer, and make sure that they know how much you want, and need, help. In the case you’re unable to keep your job during an overly long treatment stay, be encouraged by the fact that many addicts who lost a job to go to treatment ended up finding an even better job later down the road. If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, the chances are very high that you’ll lose your job anyway without treatment. The sooner you’re in treatment, the better, even if it temporarily costs you a job. You can always get another job. You can’t ever get another life.
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