How to Manage Work and Family Obligations During Your Addiction Treatment
Can I lose my job? Who will care for my children? How do I juggle work and family demands while I’m in treatment?
If you’re contemplating addiction treatment, troubling questions like these are often foremost in your mind. Everyone has responsibilities, whether it’s paying the bills or caring for a small child. Some people, like single parents, are in charge of doing it all. Daily responsibilities present unique challenges for substance abusers who want to regain their health. While it may require some creative thinking, support, and discipline, you can manage the daily demands of your life during your addiction treatment.
If you have children, especially little ones, at home, the thought of finding childcare while you attend addiction treatment can seem daunting. It may be especially hard to get affordable care if you’re a single parent or you have a partner with a full-time job. Finding childcare during alcohol or drug rehab can also be difficult for those who live far away from family and friends. In addition, few rehab facilities offer care for children.
Start, if possible, by asking available family or friends to help. Those close to you may already realize you have a problem and may be more willing to help with childcare than you’d expect. Another option is to express your concerns to the treatment facility. While it may not offer childcare, the professionals there may have connections with resources, like church groups, that will provide it. Finding the best solution might require patching together a number of resources, but it can be done, even if you are the primary caretaker.
Talk with your employer. A manager or supervisor may already know you’re dealing with substance abuse. Even if they haven’t been “officially” told, chances are good they’ve noticed frequent absences or a decline in work performance.
Discuss options for covering your absence. You may be eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows workers with serious health conditions, including substance abuse, to take up to 12 weeks off for treatment. While you won’t be paid for the time you miss, it can protect your job and provide continuation of health coverage. Not all companies are required to provide FMLA protection, so speak with your manager or human resources director to learn if you’re covered. If FMLA is not an option, you can request to take time off for “personal reasons.” Be aware that in sectors that require the handling of controlled substances an employer might impose restrictions or other consequences because of your substance abuse.
Another big fear among those considering addiction treatment is that they won’t be able to meet financial obligations because of time lost at work. You may be worried about paying for the mortgage, rent, car loans, or student loan payments. Begin by speaking with your employer to find out if you can use vacation time or sick days to cover some or all of the time lost. It’s possible other employer-related benefits are available as well, including short-term disability policies.
The cost of rehab might add to your anxiety as well. If you’re concerned about the cost of treatment, check with your health insurance policy to find out what it will cover. It’s also important to express your concerns to the treatment facility; many offer financing options or payment plans that make the cost of treatment doable.
Healing for the family: Obligations to family members involve more than finding adequate childcare while you’re in addiction treatment. Your partner and children may be confused, angry, hurt, or frustrated. While the initial focus should be on healing your own addiction, it’s also important to find out what resources are available for your family members, especially your children. In fact, substance abuse is often called a “family disease” because it has such a profound impact on an addict’s loved ones. Individual, group, or family therapy may help your loved ones work through their negative emotions and learn healthy ways to cope with them.
Caring for the elderly: Many of us are in what’s known as the “sandwich generation,” caring for both children and aging parents or grandparents. A local office on aging will direct you to resources able to provide senior care while you seek treatment. For instance, it may be able to recommend a program that provides daytime or evening care for an aging loved one. An office on aging might also be able to arrange transportation for an independent senior who needs to go grocery shopping or see a physician.
Managing extracurricular activities: Substance abuse is an all-consuming mental health condition, so it may have been hard for you to keep up with other activities, like playing the role of “class mom” or hosting the weekly poker game. But if you’re still involved with extracurricular activities, now is the time to step away. During recovery, the focus will be on healing yourself first and then healing relationships with loved ones. After you’ve completed treatment and entered long-term sobriety, you may be able to resume other activities as long as they’re in a healthy environment that doesn’t contribute to your substance abuse.
The Cost of Non-Treatment
It will be challenging to manage family or work responsibilities during your addiction treatment – it may even feel overwhelming at times. However, the cost of leaving your substance abuse problems untreated is extremely high. Addiction puts everything at risk: your relationships, your job, your emotional and physical health, and even your life. Left untreated, addiction can leave your children without a parent, your spouse without a partner, or your parent without a child. You cannot afford to ignore or neglect it, and you cannot overcome it alone. Professional treatment is necessary.
Your concerns about juggling family and work responsibilities during substance abuse treatment are valid and should be taken seriously by others, including your team of treatment providers. Don’t let challenges prevent you from getting the treatment you and your family deserve. Tap all available resources, from family and friends to the addiction treatment center, to create solutions that allow you to get healthy and get your life back on track.