Tips for Transitioning Back to Work After Addiction Recovery

Feb 24, 2022

Perhaps one of the most challenging steps in recovery is returning to the life you had before entering drug rehab. This transition may involve moving back into your home with your family, reuniting with old friends, or restarting work. All of these situations tend to be fraught with uncertainty. In this article, we’ll tackle your return to work.

Transitioning Back to Work After Addiction Recovery

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Staying Put or Starting Over

As a first step, it’s critical to consider whether your previous work situation was a healthy environment. For example, say you are an attorney, and before entering the addiction recovery center, you worked 80-hour weeks at a prestigious local law firm. You and your peers were well-known for working hard and partying hard, which is part of the reason you ended up in rehab in the first place. If you face a similar situation working with colleagues who regularly drink and use, you may want to rethink putting yourself back in that environment.

Office relationships can have a strong bearing on your efforts to stay sober so assess them carefully. Maybe your substance abuse fractured relationships with your coworkers. Or, perhaps your addiction was not known to anyone until you checked yourself into a drug treatment center. Now, thanks to the office rumor mill, it seems like everybody knows about your struggles and is treating you differently. In those cases, and even though you have explicit protections against discrimination in recovery (we’ll talk about that in a minute), sometimes a fresh start with a new work environment may be the best step forward.

On the other hand, if you have worked at your former job a long time, you likely have formed solid and supportive relationships with many of your peers and supervisors. They can be a great source of strength in your recovery. At the moment, your life isn’t about the career trajectory or a paycheck – it’s about finding a work environment that will complement your recovery support structure and give you the best shot at staying sober.

Federal Resources for Your Back-to-Work Strategy

An excellent way forward in developing a plan for returning to work is through your human resources department. HR has the resources you need to address various hurdles you may face along the way, including work scheduling, resolving any issues with fellow employees or your supervisor, and so on.

You might be surprised to find that if you qualified for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover your time for inpatient treatment, FMLA also will allow you to work part-time or reduced hours as you transition back into your job. This particular resource can help keep work-related stress to a minimum and give you the time you need for essential outpatient appointments and support group meetings.

What if I decided to start a new job or didn’t have enough work hours to qualify for FMLA leave before I went into treatment? Do I have any rights or protections? Yes, you do! A person in recovery for a drug or alcohol addiction is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is considered a disability. This means that an employer may not discriminate against you for being in recovery and must provide any reasonable accommodations you might need at work.

Those accommodations might include flexible scheduling to allow you time off for your recovery-related appointments, allowing the use of a service animal, or not requiring attendance at office events where alcohol will be served.

To clarify, the FMLA and the ADA will NOT protect you from the consequences of using substances in the workplace that are prohibited by company policy. For instance, if you are in treatment for an SUD but arrive at work intoxicated, you can still be fired for violating your employer’s substance abuse policy.

Employee Assistance Programs and After-Care

One of your greatest assets in returning to the workplace is your company’s Employer Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP is designed to help employees deal with personal issues that can affect their productivity in the workplace. The program connects you with professional coaching and counseling resources for financial or legal troubles, marital strife, mental health crises, and substance abuse, among others. EAP participation is entirely voluntary and confidential.

You can also find excellent after-care resources provided by your inpatient substance abuse rehab. For instance, Renaissance Ranch offers continued counseling, group therapy sessions, and regular alumni activities to further build on the gains you made in inpatient recovery. In addition, our Utah drug rehab counselors recommend attending a 12-Step program with daily meetings for critical recovery support the first few weeks after leaving inpatient treatment.

Recognizing that transitions take time and that you’re not alone in your journey will be a great help to you as you navigate your way back to work. Countless people have stood in the same place you’re in now and are ready and willing to help. You just need to ask.

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