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  • If you live with drug addiction (also called substance use disorder), you might assume you’ll lose your job if you go to rehab.

    Fortunately, that’s not true. By following these tips, you can easily stay employed during addiction treatment. 

    1. Consider Outpatient Treatment

    Most substance abuse treatment centers offer outpatient rehab programs. Unlike inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab lets you live at home. That means you can schedule your treatment sessions around your work schedule. 

    There are three main types of outpatient treatment programs:

    While outpatient treatment is convenient, it’s recommended only for people with mild-to-moderate addictions and strong support systems at home. Ask your health care provider whether you’re eligible for outpatient treatment. 

    2. Practice Self-Care

    As you recover from addiction, it’s important to manage stress. That’s because stress is one of the most common causes of relapse. 

    You can’t completely avoid stress at work. However, you can handle it more effectively when you take care of your health. 

    During and after treatment, prioritize self-care by:

    • getting at least eight hours of sleep a night
    • eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits
    • exercising regularly
    • spending time with friends and family

    You should also make time each day for activities that help you relax. For example, you might enjoy meditating, journaling, or taking a bath. You could also try some creative activities like painting, dancing, or playing an instrument. 

    3. Use A Planner

    It takes a significant amount of mental energy to manage drug cravings and recover from addiction. Treatment sessions can exhaust your brain, making it difficult to remember everything you need to do at work.

    To stay on top of all your tasks, record them in a planner or notebook. Arrange them in order of importance, and schedule a time to devote to each one.

    This type of planning not only keeps you organized but also reduces anxiety. Once you record a task, you don’t have to worry about forgetting it. With less anxiety, you’ll likely find it easier to get enough sleep, which is essential to your success both at work and in treatment. 

    4. Avoid Distractions

    Along with affecting your memory, treatment-related exhaustion can make it difficult to concentrate. Stay focused by eliminating as many distractions as possible. 

    Unless you use your phone for work purposes, turn it off, silence it, or put it somewhere you can’t see it. Schedule specific times to check your email so you’re not constantly looking at it and losing focus. 

    Also, if you have an office, close the door. If you don’t, put on noise-canceling headphones. The headphones will not only block out noise but also signal to your co-workers that you don’t want to be disturbed. 

    5. Ask For Accomodations

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects people with disabilities. It requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, including addiction.

    Common accommodations for people with addictions include:

    • more frequent breaks
    • special break locations
    • flexible scheduling 
    • support animals
    • weekly meetings to determine whether the accommodations are working 

    Such accommodations can lower your stress levels and increase your productivity.

    To qualify for accommodations, you must work for an employer with at least 15 employees (or a state or local government). 

    6. Use Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Benefits

    An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) helps employees cope with personal problems that affect their job performance. It offers free resources such as counseling, education, and referrals to support groups. 

    These resources can help you navigate the challenges of working during treatment. They’re also highly convenient, as most are available via phone, e-mail, video chat, or online chat.

    To determine whether your employer offers EAP benefits, contact your Department of Human Resources. In most cases, all employees qualify for EAP benefits, even if they don’t belong to the employer’s health insurance program. 

    7. Take Medical Leave

    If you feel unable to work during treatment, or if you need inpatient treatment, you can take medical leave.

    Many people take medical leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 

    This Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for medical reasons. It also allows you to stay on your employer’s health insurance plan during treatment. To qualify for FMLA leave, you must:

    • work for an employer covered by the FMLA (most private employers with at least 50 employees are covered)
    • have worked for the employer for at least 12 months
    • have worked for the employer for at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before your medical leave
    • work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles

    You may also be able to take medical leave using your paid time off or your employer’s disability plan. 

    After you complete treatment, you can return to work with no penalties. 

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Provide Support
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Drug Addiction And Federal Disability Rights Laws Fact Sheet
    U.S. Department of Labor - FMLA Frequently Asked Questions

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on May 25, 2022
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