Protecting Your Career While in Drug Rehab

Asking for any extended time away from work can be intimidating, especially if that break is to spend a month or more in drug rehab. What will your employer and coworkers think? Will your job still be waiting for you after rehab? Faced with these questions, many people worry themselves into inaction, which for addicts can be counterproductive and even life-threatening. While these concerns are understandable, what is standing between you and long-term career success is your addiction, not drug rehab. Let us set some of the most common fears at ease. The Fear: My reputation among my colleagues and/or customers will be tarnished. The Reality: Your employer relies on you to perform your job well. If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, in at least certain respects your job performance is suffering. Even the most high-functioning addicts struggle with missed assignments, absences from work and poor judgment, which typically worsen over time. If you go to drug rehab, the prospect of doing your job may be delayed, but at least there’s some reassurance that you’re addressing the problem and will be functioning at your best in the near future. If your concerns about your professional reputation are preventing you from getting help, you have a number of options. Ask for a leave of absence from work or use any accrued vacation time so that you don’t have to give specific reasons for your absence. Alternatively, share your concerns only with a trusted boss or manager and attend a drug rehab center outside of your home town. Drug rehabs that specialize in treating executives and professionals are known for their privacy and confidentiality. By choosing the right drug rehab, you can minimize the risk that your coworkers, neighbors and acquaintances learn of your drug problem. The Fear: My job will be given to someone else by the time I finish drug rehab. The Reality: Companies benefit from getting help for their most talented employees. It costs employers more time and money to hire and train a replacement than it does to get a valued employee the help they need. Drug rehab is a wise investment for many employers as studies show that post-rehab, employees are more loyal and productive and have fewer absences and disciplinary problems. Even if your employer doesn’t understand the benefits of helping an addicted employee, federal law prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities, which in many cases includes people experiencing or who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Getting help offers more protection than trying to hide an active drug or alcohol addiction. People who currently engage in illegal drug use are not protected under anti-discrimination laws, and missing work because of your drug use or showing up under the influence can result in immediate termination. Many employers have policies in place to protect employees who require drug rehab treatment, and the Family Medical Leave Act can cover up to 12 weeks of leave for employees with a serious health condition that prevents them from working. The Fear: My career will never be the same again. The Reality: Your career trajectory may be different after drug rehab. In all likelihood, it will be much improved. Studies show that people who enter drug rehab are more likely to keep their jobs. Some get even better jobs that are more supportive of their recovery after treatment. Drug rehab centers that specialize in treating addicted executives may set aside time for critical job functions, minimizing the impact of being away from work. For example, an executive whose absence would be detrimental to the operation of the company may be able to maintain key business contacts and attend important work engagements while in drug rehab. Even if the worst-case scenario came to fruition and you lost your job or damaged your professional reputation, you would have your health, family and employability to get you through any rough spots. Without drug rehab, you would likely fare much worse. Losing your job would be the least of your concerns as you’d also jeopardize everything else that matters to you. The Fear: I won’t be able to make ends meet while in drug rehab. The Reality: Drug rehab requires a substantial investment of time and money, often involving at least 30 days away from work. There are a number of options that make treatment financially manageable. You may be fortunate enough to have accrued vacation or sick time you can use without missing a paycheck, or health insurance benefits that cover part of drug rehab treatment. Your employer may also offer a short-term disability policy that assists with the cost of drug rehab. In the absence of employer-provided benefits, a number of drug rehab centers offer payment plans and financing options. In some cases, people rely on the generosity of friends or family to get through this temporary period when finances may be less stable. The Fear: The day I go back into work, everyone will be judging me. The Reality: Others rarely judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves. While there is a stigma of having mental illness, including drug addiction, your perceptions of other people’s beliefs are likely more severe than what anyone really thinks. Contrary to these fears, people in recovery frequently tell stories of returning to work being greeted by applause and support from a team of peers. Even if you feel ostracized or judged when you return to work, your problems will soon become a distant memory in office chatter. As you sustain your recovery and find renewed success at work, your experience may be an inspiration to others who know someone or are themselves struggling with a drug or alcohol problem. Only about 6 percent of the people who abuse drugs or alcohol get treatment, largely because of the stigma of addiction. This leaves 8 million Americans without the help they need. Don’t hold yourself back because of other people’s beliefs or prejudices. Preserve Your Career, Get Help Today As recognition grows that addiction is a disease similar to heart disease or diabetes, more professionals are able to admit to a problem, get treatment and return to their careers. You are in the best position to save your professional reputation. By getting drug rehab treatment early on and choosing a program that vigilantly guards your privacy and assists you in returning to work, you give yourself the opportunity to preserve your career and your life.

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