Your job is probably an important—arguably an essential—part of your life. The money you earn at work makes most everything else in your life possible, so having (and keeping) a job is absolutely foundational.
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However, if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, there is a good chance that things are getting a little dicey at work. Maybe you are having trouble getting there on time. Maybe your performance on the job has been dropping off. Maybe your relationships with your coworkers have taken a hit. At some point, these sorts of problems can put your job at jeopardy. And if you lose your job, all of the other issues in your life are likely to get worse.
Given that reality, maybe you have decided it is time to get treatment for a substance use disorder so that you can reclaim your sobriety—and protect your livelihood. But you might be worried that going to treatment will itself put your job in jeopardy. How will your boss react? Can you take the time off? Will your coworkers treat you differently when you return?
Those are all fair questions—and it is certainly true that it takes work to manage your work situation when you need to go to treatment. We have some advice to offer for how you might handle potential issues on either side of getting the help you need to put drugs and alcohol out of a job.
Make a Plan for Sharing the Situation with Your Boss and Human Resources
The most important thing to keep in mind when you are preparing to talk with your boss is that honesty is—as the saying goes—the best policy. You probably do not want to misrepresent why you need to be away—not only because doing so might harm your relationship with your employer but because it might limit your ability to take full advantage of various rights and benefits. So while you need not go into every detail of the difficulties you are having, you should be prepared to tell your boss that you are headed to treatment to address a substance use disorder.
Your human resources representative can help ensure that both you and your boss understand your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (which can vary based on the size of the company for which you work). HR will also know how much time off you currently have banked, the specifics of your company’s policies around time off, and perhaps some insight into your employer provided healthcare plan. Your human resources rep may also remind both you and your boss that your situation is confidential. If they don’t, you should feel free to mention the importance of confidentiality.
Ideally, when you go to talk with your boss and your human resources representative, you will have some of the details worked out. For example, you might have a strong sense of when you would like to be gone and how long you might be away. You might also come to the meeting with some suggestions for how your work can be covered during your absence. Working together with your boss to make a plan is a good idea and demonstrates that you care about your workplace and coworkers.
Making a Plan for Your Return to Work
As your recovery journey gets underway, you may find that you have a few things to work out with your boss. For example, you may need to negotiate a flexible work schedule so that you can attend 12-Step (or other recovery program) meetings. Again, your HR representative can be helpful during this conversation because they will understand your rights under the Americans with Disabilities (especially if a mental health disorder is intertwined with your struggles with drugs or alcohol) and Family and Medical Leave acts.
It is also important to remember that your coworkers have probably been wondering (and maybe gossiping about) where you have been. You will want to decide in advance how forthcoming you want to be. You are under no obligation to share more than you feel comfortable sharing.
Finally, you will want to take a serious look at any parts of the company culture that might be a danger to your hard-won sobriety. Does the gang go out for drinks after work? Is there a boozy holiday party? Is the job stressful in ways that might tempt you to use drugs or to drink? Figuring out how you might handle these sorts of situations is an important part of ensuring that your return to work does not lead to a return to substance use.
We Are Ready to Get to Work Right Now
When it comes to helping you get—and stay—sober, the entire team at Bel Aire Recovery in Kansas is ready to get to work. You can count on receiving evidence-based, personalized care grounded in expertise and empathy. Getting sober certainly takes some work, but with our help, we are confident you will get the job done.