If you’ve just started thinking about getting sober, you’re probably at least a little worried about the great unknown. One of the biggest questions on people’s minds is whether they’ll lose their jobs.
If you’ve been struggling to keep your job through an addiction, know that you’re taking the right step. There’s a good chance your boss already suspects a problem, so he or she should see this as a step in the right direction instead of the other way around. Never let the stigma of addiction keep you from seeking treatment.
In truth, you really can keep your job. Many people have gone through recovery with their jobs intact, and you can do the same.
Here are some tips for keeping your job during addiction recovery:
Understand the scope of your problem
You’re at the point where you know there’s a problem, but now it’s time to think about the severity of your addiction. If you cannot stop using drugs or alcohol without experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, you should seriously consider an in-patient rehabilitation center with a program that spans a minimum of 30 days.
If you can stop using without physical withdrawal symptoms, you may be able to recover with the help of out-patient or group support. This would be the better choice for your employer, but it’s dangerous if you need around-the-clock care. Evaluate your situation to determine which option is best for your health.
Know your rights
Your employer cannot legally discriminate against you, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA). This means that your employer cannot fire you for your addiction if you are getting help. Employers also have the right to safe and substance-free workplaces, so they still do have the right to fire you if you show up impaired.
If you’re planning to attend an in-patient rehab, you’ll probably have to bring your employer into the loop. Know that the ACA protects you from being fired as a direct result of this conversation. Your employer can still fire you for other valid reasons, so try to make sure you are in good standing with the company.
As for leave, many employees are covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which would allow you to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for recovery. You can talk to your employer about options, but you may also be able to use vacation days or other paid time off to cover some of your rehab.
Rehab programs aren’t free, so you’ll have to figure out who is going to cover the cost. Some employers have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that cover some of the cost of counseling or rehab.
Your insurance will likely cover some or all of your recovery costs, so check with your provider to find out more. All insurance programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are required to cover mental health and substance abuse services.
If your employer and/or insurance doesn’t cover rehab, check out a state-supported rehabilitation program or call around to find a rehab that offers flexible payment options.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may also be an option for some people, but there are strict guidelines. For example, SSDI is available to alcoholics who would retain a disability after they get sober. There are also work restrictions for people who collect SSDI, so this option may not be ideal for you. Check out this page of the Social Security Administration’s website for more information.
Work on recovery
Right before you’re ready to check yourself into a rehab program, it’s time to get your affairs in order. Make sure your rent and bills are paid for the duration of your stay, and task someone with maintaining your home. This way, recovery is the only thing you’ll have to worry about while you’re away.
With your boss on board and everything else handled, you’re free to recover without worrying about losing your job.
Joshua is an ex-addict and founder of the Ohio Addiction Recovery Center. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge.