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 primary consideration before getting a job after rehab 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 main consideration for changing jobs after rehab, especially early on in your recovery, is your health and recovery – with financial considerations a very close second, as taking on a new job – especially full-time – can be stressful.
New people, new responsibilities and potentially more stress, can create a risk for relapse. Use the resources you have at your disposal; talk to your caseworkers, your friends and family members. Write out goals, and make a plan. Ask yourself: Where do I want to be a year from now? Two years? Five years?
Weigh all of your options. The important thing is to stay focused on recovery. Go to outpatient addiction treatment, including individual and group therapy. Be honest, be open and stay sensible. 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 take stock and weigh your options. That may seem like a lot of time, but it goes by fast. Utilize the resources you have at your disposal to decide when and/or how to return to work. Remember, job stress may have contributed to the addiction, so give that some thought when making future work plans.
Considerations for Returning to Work After Rehab
When it comes to returning to work, there may be alternatives to going back in at full-speed, , such as returning to your job on a part-time basis, or staggering your hours until you can work into your previous role full-time. Or, you may decide this is the perfect time for a job change. The important thing is to continue outpatient addiction treatment – both individual and group therapy.
Keep alternative outpatient therapy programs in mind. Some programs will work around your job schedule, in the form of after-work rehab, part-time rehab or a rehab aftercare program. The key is to find balance in your rehabilitation program while returning to your career.
While a job can change your life for the better, and provide for you and your family, it also has the potential to upend your recovery. Choosing the right opportunity and number of hours, and managing your stress levels will ensure long-term, sustainable recovery.