Going to drug rehab requires an immense amount of personal dedication and motivation. It’s intimidating to accept that you need help and to go out of your way to find and make time and space to get that help. But, asking for time off from work is often even more difficult because many people are afraid that getting help for drug addiction will affect their career and their job.
While the truth is often that failing to seek out drug rehab is more damaging to your career than doing so, there are specific steps you can take to protect yourself and your career while you seek out help. Depending on your role and whether or not you were required to sign or swear to a moral code of conduct (doctors, lawyers, and some other careers often have this), your tenure in drug rehab will have varying effects on your career. It’s important that you understand your options and their potential implications before making choices, but also that you seek out rehab so you can recover no matter what.
Your Right to Take Time Off Work
It’s understandable that you’d be uncomfortable taking a long period of time off work. Most rehab programs last anywhere from 30-90 days and sometimes longer. Asking for that much free time can seem like a death sentence to your career with a company. At the same time, you are protected under law. In addition, many large companies actually have policies in place specifically designed to protect employees who are seeking out help – because they benefit when you seek out help and recover. Why? Drug and alcohol abuse is a common problem, affecting as many as one in ten Americans. It also contributes to massive declines in productivity and work quality because even the most high-functioning addict will suffer declines in focus, cognition, absences, and even missed work. Seeking out rehab is the easiest way to restore your performance to normal and your company will benefit.
In addition, you are protected under the Family Medical Leave Act. Here, you can take up to 12 weeks of medical leave for health reasons that prevent you from working, and you are not legally required to disclose the reason to your employer providing you have a doctor’s support. While it’s not always a good idea to refuse to disclose why you are taking leave, this can protect you if you are in a role where a code of conduct or third-party body such as a board may choose to revoke your rights to working in the role if they discover your drug or alcohol use.
You Are Protected if Your Boss Discovers You’re in Rehab
Many working professionals fear that if their boss discovers they are in rehab, they will lose their job. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines alcoholism and addiction as a disability providing you are seeking out help. This means that while your boss can fire you if your work performance has declined because of substance abuse, they cannot do so if you’re in rehab or have already been. You are not protected if you are currently using drugs, only if you are actively in recovery.
This means that seeking out rehab is actually the best move to protect your career, because your boss cannot fire you unless you got o rehab and then relapse and test positive for drug use.
Keeping Rehab to Yourself
If you work in a role where drug use could actively harm your career or your reputation, you can seek out help privately. Doctors and other medical professionals are bound to non-disclosure under HIPAA, the Family Medical Leave Act allows you to take up to 12 weeks of non-disclosed medical leave, and you can always take vacation time from work to attend rehab. While this can be complicated, it does give you the freedom to take a lengthy leave of absence, attend rehab, and return to your career without telling anyone.
In this case, your best option is to attend a rehab center away from your hometown, where you won’t meet anyone you know and your attending a rehab program will not be common knowledge.
Choosing Outpatient Care
If it’s truly not possible to take 30 days or more off work, you can choose to attend outpatient drug rehab. Here, you can continue to go to work and attend to your daily and weekly duties but will attend daily and then weekly therapy and counseling before or after work. Here, it may be beneficial to take 1-2 weeks to attend an inpatient detox program, especially if you are using a drug such as opioids or amphetamines which can have severe and often dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Outpatient rehabilitation is a viable alternative to inpatient care but may not be effective if you have a long history of addiction and relapse, are very heavily addicted, or work and live in a stressful environment where you will frequently experience triggers for drug use.
When Can Drug Rehab Affect Your Job?
In some cases, drug rehab may have additional impact on your job. For example, if you work as a doctor or nurse in a role where you dispense medication or narcotics, some hospitals may have a policy where you will have to either take frequent drug tests to prove you are not using or you could lose your job. They cannot fire you providing you seek out rehab first unless you have a clause stating otherwise in your contract.
Similarly, many lawyers face issues with drug abuse due to clauses or moral conduct set by the bar. If you voluntarily enter rehab on your own and get treatment, this should not be a problem, because you are protected under ADA. However, your license and performance may be brought up for review which could result in losing your license or a suspension if it is determined that your performance suffered as a result of drug use. However, in most cases, this will only happen if you are caught using rather than seeking out rehab on your own.
Protecting Your Reputation in Drug Rehab
While many people are concerned about their reputation and how colleagues and coworkers will think of them after drug rehab, it’s important to remember that you’re actively working to better yourself. You could choose to not disclose that you are going to rehab (your physician can call your boss on your behalf and explain you are taking time off under the FMLA), but there’s nothing shameful about helping yourself to be better. More importantly, chances are that your colleagues already noticed something was off. Even high-functioning addicts suffer performance issues, have trouble connecting with others, need more time alone, and often miss more work or perform more poorly than before the addiction. Anyone who has known you over a long period of time will have seen these changes and may have already connected them to drug or alcohol use. Being upfront and disclosing that you are seeking out rehab and getting help for yourself may earn you respect because you recognized the issue and are actively working to fix it.
However, you don’t have to feel obliged to disclose your recovery to others. The only important thing is that you be open and honest with yourself, recognize that you need help, and work for it.
Going into rehab is a big step but it is one that will change your life for the better. Most importantly, there are numerous laws in place to protect your job and your career if you are seeking help. To get more information about it please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today. We are to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.