Returning to work after completing addiction treatment represents a major step in your recovery journey. It’s normal to feel a little nervous and apprehensive about rejoining the workforce, but these tips can help you make a smoother transition.
Know Your Rights When Returning to Work
Alcoholism and drug addiction are considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that you are legally protected from discrimination at work due to your past substance use and decision to seek addiction treatment.
Under the ADA, your employer must provide you with time off for tasks that your health care provider has determined are a necessary part of your treatment plan. This includes therapy, 12-Step meetings, and any doctor’s appointments related to your continuing care.
The ADA does not protect current substance abuse, so it is legal for an employer to require a drug test and to terminate an employee who fails the test. Additionally, the ADA does not prevent disciplinary action related to performance issues—which means your employer can legally require you to meet the same performance expectations as other workers who are not in recovery.
When you are returning to work after rehab, the U.S. Department of Labor recommends that you create a return-to-work agreement (RTWA) with your supervisor and your health care provider. This is a written document that outlines your employer’s expectations and what accommodations will be made to help you be successful. The RTWA is not mandated by the ADA, but many employers use them to ensure that expectations are being clearly communicated and there is no unnecessary confusion. (Click here to see a sample return-to-work agreement.)
Take Advantage of All Available Workplace Resources
As part of your employer’s benefits package, you may have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP can help you address any employment-related triggers that can put your recovery at risk by providing counseling, referrals, and connections to community-based resources. Services provided by an EAP are confidential.
While you are under no obligation to share the details of your recovery journey with any of your colleagues, having one or two trusted coworkers you can confide in may help you navigate your transition more effectively. These individuals can promote personal accountability and provide a source of support or encouragement when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Having allies in your corner can also be beneficial if you decide to ask for additional accommodations, such as a part-time work schedule.
Have a Plan to Manage Your Stress
To some extent, stressful situations are an unavoidable part of life. However, you can’t simply ignore workplace stress and hope for the best. To safeguard your hard-won sobriety, you need a plan to keep your stress level in check.
As you’re planning your return to work, create a schedule for yourself that will allow you to continue the wellness-focused lifestyle habits you learned in treatment. These include:
- Sufficient sleep
- Regular exercise
- Nutritious meals
- Time to connect with loved ones
- Time for your favorite stress-relieving hobbies
- Attending all recovery-related appointments
If it seems like things are going well, do not get complacent. Substance use disorders are chronic illnesses that need continual care to be managed effectively. When you start taking shortcuts, you are putting yourself at risk.
Consider If It’s Time to Make a Career Change
Sometimes, returning to work after rehab makes it clear that your current position no longer fits your needs. You may have realized that job-related stress is a major trigger for your cravings or that you’d prefer a job that allows for a healthier work-life balance. Or, perhaps you’ve decided that you’d be happier working in an entirely different industry or starting your own business. Many people in recovery find that their experience inspires them to pursue opportunities in addiction treatment, wellness, or mental health.
Previously on our blog, Daniel Krasner, Summit Behavioral Healthcare’s Executive Vice President of National Business Development, shared his job hunting tips for people in recovery. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry also offers a number of resources for job hunters that you may find useful.
Know That We’re Committed to Your Success
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, we believe that you deserve a chance to achieve your full potential. Our support doesn’t end simply because you’ve completed our residential substance abuse treatment program. We offer a wide range of relapse prevention and continuing care resources designed to help you transition back to independent living. Let us help you face the future with confidence.