It can be stressful and frightening to return to work after completing a treatment program. You have to readjust to the daily routine, cope with job stress, and potentially be confronted by difficult questions from coworkers. Because work-related stress can be a trigger for relapse, you will need to have a strong support system in place to help you transition back to work after treatment.
Legal Protections for Those Returning to Work
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, treatment for substance abuse is considered a serious health condition. In many cases, taking a leave of absence from a job to enter a treatment program is protected by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and an employer cannot legally hold your absence against you. Even if your particular job does not qualify for FMLA protection, most employers will not fire you for seeking treatment for substance use disorder as long as certain conditions are met.
In addition, if you are responsible for providing care for a family member going through treatment, legal protections may apply. Not all employers are covered under FMLA, and other restrictions may apply (for example, if you are missing work or performing poorly due to drug or alcohol use, you may be fired even if you do decide to get treatment).
If you are in doubt about your rights and protections, contact your company’s human resource department.
Helpful Tips for Returning to Work
Settling back into a daily routine after residential addiction treatment can be a challenge. Recovery takes work, and added stress can often be a trigger for relapse. Consider the following tips:
- Talk to your employer. Talk to your employer in advance, either in person or over the phone, so you can make the return back to work as smooth and stress-free as possible. Explain to them the time you’ll need for aftercare, outpatient care, or recovery support, and ask them to help you make any needed adjustments so that you meet your responsibilities while also getting ongoing recovery support.
- Have a plan. Plan how you’ll answer questions from coworkers about your absence and/or your recovery. You do not have to open up at work and tell others your details if it makes you feel uncomfortable, but you’ll want to practice what you’ll say to maintain your privacy. A simple response saying that you were on medical leave is enough.
- Have a strong support system in place. Having a support system is essential as you transition back into the workforce. The support of a coworker or close friend who is sober can give you the encouragement you need when the day gets tough. Attend 12-step meetings daily if needed to connect with others who share the same experiences and can relate to your transition back to work.
- Keep to a schedule. Creating a daily schedule can help you feel less overwhelmed and can keep you on track.
- Prevent burnout. Be realistic about what you can handle, and do not take on extra hours or projects if it can cause you to burn out. Being exhausted due to work can be a trigger for relapse.
- Give yourself time. Be patient as you return to work, and give yourself time to readjust.
- Destress after work. Since it is common to feel stressed after a long day at work, it is important to have ways to handle the stress. Taking a walk or meditating can help you destress and relax at the end of the day.
When It Is Time to Make a Fresh Start
It may be too difficult to return to your previous workplace. You may decide that moving to another company and making a fresh start is the best choice for you and your recovery. If your previous employment was overly demanding and you were surrounded by coworkers who abused drugs or alcohol, it may be wise to move on. You can switch to a different company in the same field or go back to school to pursue a new career.
We Are Here to Help
If you find yourself struggling while in recovery, contact Twin Lakes Recovery Center for help. We can provide the support you need while returning to work. Our experienced staff can connect you with resources in your community that can help you move forward while maintaining your sobriety. To find out more about what programs and services Twin Lakes Recovery Center has to offer, call us today.