Addiction can affect so many aspects of life, including one’s job or career. Often, work pressures can build, or a social drinking culture among co-workers (or even drinking in the workplace) can lead to or compound an addiction problem.
Addiction and substance abuse among employees can cause lost productivity due to absenteeism, lower morale, injuries, higher insurance costs and workers’ compensation costs. This all amounts to an $81 billion loss to employers annually in the U.S.
For someone in recovery from alcoholism or addiction – especially if job stress or work culture contributed to the problem – getting a job after rehab can seem like an insurmountable problem.
But working is a healthy and necessary component of life. It is certainly harder to concentrate on growing a career or even maintaining a part-time, entry-level job when fighting addiction. Treatment does work, and there are certain considerations to weigh when deciding where, when and how you or your loved one should re-enter the workforce after inpatient treatment concludes.
Getting a Job After Rehab: How Long Should You Wait?
The first and primary consideration should always be your physical, mental and emotional well-being – with financial considerations a very close second. If you’re not healthy, you cannot work.
Taking on a new job can be stressful, and there can be relapse triggers involved – people, places or things that can negatively impact your recovery. It is important to discuss all of these considerations with your caseworker or therapist before discharge from any rehabilitation facility.
If you have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time, start slow; explore low-stress, part-time positions or think about volunteering in the community. Consider vocational training or enrolling in college courses; the caseworker or therapists you’re working with can help guide you through all of these options.
The important thing is to continue going to outpatient treatment, both individual and group therapy, and to remain honest with yourself and with your treatment team.
How Long Should I Wait to Change Jobs After Rehab?
The primary consideration for changing jobs after rehab, especially early on in your recovery, should always be your health and sustaining your recovery – with financial considerations a very close second. Taking on a new job can be stressful, especially full time.
New people, new responsibilities and potentially more stress, can create a greater risk for relapse. Use the resources you have at your disposal; talk to your caseworkers and your friends and family members. Write out goals; make a plan. Ask yourself: Where do you see yourself a year from now? Two years? Five years?
Weigh all of your options. The important thing is to stay focused on your recovery. Go to outpatient addiction treatment, including individual and group therapy. Be honest, be open, stay sensible and don’t take on too much, too soon.
Rehab and FMLA
If you were working full time with benefits before you entered a rehabilitation facility, your employment status is protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, an employee who seeks treatment for substance abuse in a certified addiction treatment facility is eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time away from work – without fear of termination or being demoted.
It is important to note, however, that the FMLA does not protect an employee from missed work or dereliction of duties due to his or her addiction. The law only protects individuals who are actively seeking treatment at a certified facility.
Twelve weeks is a considerable amount of time to weigh options and plan for the future. That may seem like a lot of time, but it goes by fast. It’s important to use this time to set goals and weigh options – to use the resources you and your family have at your disposal to decide when or how to return to work. It’s important to consider if you or your loved one’s previous job contributed to the addiction.
Considerations for Returning to Work After Rehab
There may be alternative options, such as returning to your job part time or staggering your time back into your previous role. Or, this might be the perfect time for a change altogether. The important thing is to continue outpatient addiction treatment – both individual and group therapy.
Keep alternative outpatient therapy programs in mind, too. Some can work around your job schedule, in the form of after-work rehab, part-time rehab or a rehab aftercare program. It is important to find the balance in your rehabilitation program and returning to your career.
A job has the potential to change your life for the better and to provide for you and your family, but it also has the potential to upend your recovery. It’s important to choose the right opportunity, with the right number of hours, and to keep stress levels manageable to ensure your recovery is sustainable for the long term.