Navigating Rehab While Preserving Your Professional Life

Rehab is designed to help you learn how to deal with your addiction (and its consequences) in a healthy way. For most people struggling with addiction, rehab is the first step on the long road of recovery — a crucial one that they need desperately if they want to break the cycle of addiction.

However, most rehabs are in-patient, meaning you have to stay there 24/7 for a month or more — for many working professionals, this might seem impossible.

However, the importance of rehab can’t be overstated — the struggle with addiction is a life-threatening one, and without proper help and support, it can lead to serious health problems, relationship issues, and even death.

For many addicts and alcoholics, the biggest barrier to getting sober is detox. Having to take a week or more to get through withdrawals is very difficult to explain to an employer, not to mention the fact that it can be deadly to do without medical care.

Ultimately, you have to consider the benefits, drawbacks, and risks of each option. What is the risk to your career if you keep going the way you’re going? What is the risk of admitting your problem and asking for help?

While we all hope that employers will support an employee who wants to get sober, not all of them do. Every situation is unique, and ultimately, only you can decide what path to take.

The first thing to consider is how going to rehab (or not going) will impact your life.

The Impact of Rehab on Your Professional Life

One of the main concerns people have when considering rehab is the impact it will have on their professional life. The fear of losing your job or damaging your career can often keep you stuck in the cycle of addiction.

However, while rehab can possibly affect your professional life negatively, depending on your employer, in most cases, continuing to use and/or drink will eventually sink your career anyway.

Substance abuse can lead to poor job performance, missed workdays, issues with coworkers, legal problems, and emotional or mental breakdowns that will be just as bad as (but usually worse than) admitting your problem and asking for help.

For example, your employer might not be happy about you taking 30 days off from work to deal with your drinking problem, but if you wait until you get a DUI or DWI, their policies might require them to fire you outright — whereas you would keep your job if you asked for help before getting into legal trouble.

Many employers support employees who seek help for their addiction. They understand that addiction is a disease and that treating it can improve an employee's productivity and overall job performance. If you’re a valued employee, they likely won’t want to lose you.

Many companies also have programs in place to support employees through the rehab process — you should always check your employer’s policies and your healthcare plan to figure out if this is the case.

Benefits and Risks

You might not want to go to human resources right away and speak to someone about what you’re thinking about doing. They might report what happened, especially if you then decide not to seek help.

It’s best to investigate on your own and be sure you want to go to rehab before talking to someone at work about it.

Not everyone is understanding when it comes to addiction. While the ADA includes protections for employees that prohibit your employer from firing you for going to treatment (or refusing to promote you because you went to rehab), it’s very hard to prove that you’ve been discriminated against.

This also mostly applies to companies with more than 50 employees. Very small businesses can get away with firing you or not covering your treatment program, and if you’re in a “right-to-work” state, your employer can fire you outright for basically any reason.

It’s extremely unlikely that they’ll say “We’re firing you because you’re going to rehab.” They’ll just give you another reason.

It’s also possible, depending on your industry, that you’ll get “blacklisted” for being an addict or alcoholic, which just means that people in your industry will informally know not to hire you, though of course no one would ever reveal this is the case.

On the other hand, it’s also possible you’ll be seen as brave for getting help, that your employer will be extremely supportive, and that, by going to rehab, you prevent yourself from tanking your career as a result of getting into legal trouble or acting out at work.

You might even end up as a success story for your work, proof that investing in the health of their employees is a good idea. They might ask if you’re willing to be open about it as it can help others. It all depends on your work culture.

Fortunately, not everyone has to go to rehab and leave work as there are alternatives, like sober living programs and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). These allow you to get treatment while still working, though they tend to be less effective than going to rehab.

It’s also possible to get help without telling your work anything. If you have enough vacation time, you could spend a week in detox and then go to a sober living program once you get back to work.

You might even have enough time to go to rehab for 30 days without ever telling your employer and just forgo asking them for help entirely.

Whether it’s a good idea to keep your recovery secret from your employer or not is something you have to determine yourself because every workplace and industry is different.

Benefits of Rehab for Your Career

While the fear of negative consequences may hold you back from seeking help, it's important to realize that rehab will, in many cases, ultimately turn out to be the best thing you could do for your career.

By addressing your addiction, you're taking steps to improve your overall performance and productivity at work. You also eliminate the chance of getting into legal trouble or making a fool of yourself at work while intoxicated. These two benefits alone can be a significant boost to your career long term.

A more effective and more reliable employee is someone who gets promotions and raises. If you work for yourself, you’re going to do a better job for your clients and be better able to grow.

Rehab can also help you develop a range of skills that are useful in the workplace, such as stress management, problem-solving, and communication skills. These skills can make you a more valuable employee and may even open up new opportunities for advancement in your career.

Support Systems in Rehab for Professionals

Many rehab centers offer support systems specifically designed for professionals. These programs understand the unique challenges that professionals face when entering rehab and offer resources and treatments tailored to their needs.

These programs may offer flexible scheduling, allowing you to attend treatment sessions outside of typical work hours. They may also offer support groups for professionals, providing a space to connect with others who understand the pressures and challenges of balancing rehab and work.

In addition, these programs often offer career counseling and other resources to help you navigate the impact of rehab on your professional life. This can include help communicating with your employer, managing stress and workload, and planning for your return to work.

Ultimately, Only You Can Make the Choice

Navigating rehab while preserving your professional life may seem like a daunting task, but it's absolutely possible. It might even be the only thing that keeps your career going.

Remember that your health and well-being should always be your top priority, and getting the help you need is the first step toward a healthier, happier life.

Even if you lose your job or get pushed out of your industry, you can still rebuild your career or start a new one, but if your life is cut short by addiction, if your relationships and finances are ruined, there’s no fixing that.

Remember, you're not alone in this journey. There are many others who have successfully navigated rehab while preserving their professional life, and there's no reason you can't do the same. Don't hesitate to seek the help you need — your future self will thank you.

IOP at ASIC Recovery

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About the Author

Cristal Clark, LPC-S, is the Medical Reviewer for ASIC Recovery Services. She reviews all website content for quality and medical accuracy. She is a master’s level Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and graduated from Liberty University in 2011. She has worked in the behavioral and mental health field for over 12 years and has a passion for helping others. She has been clinical director and CEO of a 200 plus bed facility, PHP, and IOP, with experience managing a team of counselors, individual/group/and family therapy, and coordinating continuum of care. Cristal is trained in EMDR and certified in non-violent intervention. She is a member of American Counseling Association and American Association of Christian Counselors.

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