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Should You Tell Your Boss About Your Addiction

76 percent of people who struggle with a drug or alcohol addiction still maintain their job. It makes sense then, that one of the most common reasons that people do not go into treatment is that they are afraid it will affect their career. 

It’s important to remember that your boss or co-workers may already know that you are struggling with addiction. As addiction escalates, the signs and symptoms become more pervasive and people may think something is bothering you, or that “you’re not acting like yourself.” When you’ve decided to seek treatment though, wondering whether or not you’ll have a job waiting for you after your recovery shouldn’t be something you have to worry about. 

You should never let the stigma of addiction or fear of losing your job prevent you from seeking the help that you need.  In fact, its common for employers to have policies that protect employees who seek substance abuse treatment. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. The FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain medical reasons, addiction treatment among them. 

You qualify for FMLA if you are a:

  • Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer;
  • Public agency, including a local, state, or Federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.

The human resources department at your company is a resource to you. If they do not follow the proper protocols, or if your employment is terminated because you seek treatment, you have legal rights. For more information or if your company does not have a Human Resources department, you can also refer to the Department of Labor website.

Only six percent of people with addiction problems leave work to seek help. 

Seeking help for your addiction is courageous. It is the first step in healing and will help you understand and deal with trauma you’ve experienced. It may also improve the narrative about why workplace leave for addiction recovery is so important.

If you, or someone you know is struggling with addiction and hasn’t entered recovery for fear of losing their job, the following are some important things to consider and research so that you can be prepared, and recovery can be as seamless a process as possible. 

  1. Be prepared – Before you have the conversation, read about your companies’ policies on drug and alcohol abuse. Review the employee handbook or other paperwork and material you were given when you were hired. If there aren’t any policies about job security if you leave for medical detox or drug rehab treatment, look into the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  2. Honesty – Chances are your boss may suspect something is amiss already, although, they may not know what it is. Explain your need for treatment and how your addiction affects your overall health. Honesty is the best route with this, your boss will appreciate it.
  3. Don’t avoid the conversation – Even if you are fearful of having the conversation, you are protected to seek treatment under the FMLA. Seeking treatment sooner rather than later can be the difference between life and death. 
  • PRO: According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, substance addiction is a valid disability. You cannot be fired for entering rehab.
  • CON: If you continue using on the job, or even off the job, and this is affecting your performance, you can be fired.

Outpatient treatment may allow you to work while getting help 

In patient recovery requires patients to be on site all day and can make maintaining a career during recovery impossible. Many people believe that this is their only option, but that is simply not true. An Intensive Outpatient Program is a viable option for those who want to get help for a substance abuse problem and keep working.

With an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) you can receive quality, evidenced-based addiction treatment services several hours a night three to five times a week. This allows you to return home at night instead of staying at a residential treatment facility. This allows you to maintain your work schedule while getting help for an addiction to alcohol or drugs. 

Many people find that an Intensive Outpatient Program is the ideal solution to getting the help they need while keeping their job. It allows the flexibility and freedom to maintain their typical work schedule while providing the support, structure, and treatment necessary to overcome an addiction.

Alternatives to telling your supervisor about your addiction

If you don’t believe you can safely tell your supervisor that you have a problem, you may have some other options:

Vacation time – This is not an ideal option, but if left without alternatives, you can take your vacation time in order to begin your rehabilitation.

Sick time – Although you may not be left with many or any days when you return from rehabilitation, taking sick time is a viable option.

Family medical leave – You can discuss this with your company’s human resources department. You may be able to take medical leave without disclosing your reasons for absence to your boss.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that your health should be a priority. Please contact us at Harmony Place with any questions.