Returning to Work After Rehabilitation

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Returning after several weeks or months away from work might feel daunting for you, but the transition can be smooth if you take steps to prepare for your time away. Even if you did not have the time or resources to make arrangements, you still have options.  Depending on your financial status, you may be able to take some additional time off after treatment or gradually return to full-time hours. Substance use disorder (SUD) is considered a medical condition, and employers must follow specific laws and make accommodations where they apply. You can check city, state, and county workplace laws and regulations online.

How to Deal With the Stress of Returning to Work

The majority of people returning from an intensive outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation program do not have the luxury of taking more time off work. Bills and other responsibilities make it difficult to avoid going directly back to work. You may find yourself in this group.  Increased stress and anxiety is not uncommon during the first few weeks and months after withdrawal, but there are things you can do to lessen the impact of work pressure, including:
  • Communicating with your supervisor or a human resource (HR) representative to inform them of your recovery progress and any limitations
  • Speaking with your doctor and getting a medical note providing proof of a need for any necessary accommodations
  • Contacting your local state or county department of health and human services to find out about local resources

Returning to Your Workplace

Being open and honest about your circumstances can help. Most private businesses have guidelines and policies regarding addiction and treatment. When returning to your workplace after a long absence, you are under no legal obligation to disclose any information you feel uncomfortable sharing. However, if you choose to tell your supervisor or HR manager about your recovery, it can help the transition by making them aware of any possible triggers or lingering side effects.  You may find it helpful to use a local advocacy organization to help you navigate the transition between treatment and returning to work. Depending on where you are employed, there may even be a recovery advocacy program in your workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2018 “approximately 70% of all adults with an alcohol or illicit drug use disorder [were] employed.”  A recovery-supportive workplace model is becoming more popular as larger businesses become aware of the money-saving benefits of helping their employees with SUD get treatment. 

Addressing Your Recovery With Supervisors and Coworkers

You do not have to update your superiors or coworkers about any aspect of your recovery, even if you previously made them aware of what was taking place. United States laws protect your privacy, and you remain in control over what information you divulge.  However, in some circumstances, employers are legally required to take action if they believe that someone under their supervision may be under the influence of a mind-altering substance. Having only half the picture can sometimes cause supervisors to jump to erroneous conclusions.  Openly communicating about your treatment and sobriety will help you avoid situations where your supervisor may feel forced to make decisions based on a lack of information. If they previously knew you were using illicit drugs or abusing alcohol, they may feel like they need to take action without knowing that you have already undergone successful rehabilitation.  

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans With Disabilities Act ensures that you are protected from discrimination if you:
  • Have undergone treatment and are in recovery from a SUD
  • Have experienced alcohol use disorder (AUD) or are in therapy for AUD
  • Have a physical or mental disability related to SUD
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states the following:
  • “Employers cannot fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote someone simply because she or he has a history of substance use.”
  • “Employers also cannot fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote employees merely because they are enrolled in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.”

Starting a New Job After Treatment

If you were fired or quit a job before attending treatment, you might have to be prepared to explain the situation to prospective employers. You get to choose how much to reveal about where you are in your recovery and what caused you to leave your previous job. You can also choose to avoid answering questions related to your substance abuse. In most cases, honesty is often the best policy if you feel comfortable speaking about your circumstances with your new workplace supervisor or an HR representative. 

How to Find Relevant Local and State Laws

Your state health department will have information about laws and regulations regarding the workplace rights of individuals who have undergone SUD treatment. You can reach out to them over the internet or by phone to learn more. During treatment, your case manager can assist you with learning about laws in your area.  Regardless of whether you are immediately returning to work or slowly building back up to your full-time hours, the transition from a treatment facility to the workplace comes with various challenges. Many people find that stress and increased pressure triggers cravings and intrusive thoughts. To avoid relapsing, you will need to take advantage of all your resources, including therapy, support groups, and reasonable workplace accommodations. At White House Recovery and Detox, our case managers can assist you with finding any information you need when returning to work. Our program will prepare you to cope successfully with stressors, triggers, and any long-term side effects of withdrawal. You will learn a range of valuable life skills. We provide relapse prevention education that will leave you feeling confident and self-assured when you start working again. Find out more about how White House Recovery and Detox can help you by calling us today at (800) 510-5393.