Keeping a Job While in Recovery
While having and keeping a job during the addiction recovery process is beneficial, it can present a unique set of challenges—especially during early recovery. We look at ways to help you keep your job while in addiction recovery and discuss special protections to support you legally as you focus on long-term sobriety.
Can I Keep My Job While I’m in Treatment?
A concern that people have when battling substance abuse and addiction is that they will lose their job if they go to a treatment center. However, current laws offer certain protections for people seeking addiction treatment.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects those who have already gone to rehab or are in an addiction rehab program. The ADA protects you from being fired for reasons directly related to the recovery process.
The ADA does NOT protect you from being fired for job-related issues due to active addiction, such as poor performance, drug use on the job, or unreported absences.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an assistance program that offers up to 12 weeks of medical leave. While this time off is typically unpaid or paid at a significantly reduced rate, it allows you to seek inpatient treatment without worrying if you will still have a job once you have completed treatment.
If you are in recovery and are just starting your job search, check out our page about finding employment during addiction recovery.
Do I Tell My Employer That I’m in Recovery?
While you are under no legal requirement to tell anyone that you are in recovery, being open and honest with your employer can make balancing your work obligations and recovery manageable for both parties.
While you can choose how in-depth you want to go, you should be transparent with your employer, especially if you need accommodations regarding your work schedule (for instance, scheduled therapy sessions at an IOP or drug rehab center).
The Importance of Having a Job During Recovery
Aside from the financial aspects, working while in recovery integral part of maintaining sobriety.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), people who maintain employment while in a recovery program have a better overall quality of life, including a lower relapse rate.
There are many reasons why it is important not just to get a job in recovery but to maintain employment as well:
We All Need a Sense of Purpose
We all want to feel like we have a purpose in our lives. When battling substance use disorder, many people with alcohol or drug addiction lose their sense of purpose as their addiction takes over.
For recovering addicts, having a job to go to every day—part-time or full-time—can give you back that sense of purpose. It can also help build your new identity, provide an opportunity for personal growth, and offer a place to build strong relationships for your support system.
Structure Is Beneficial
- Structure and stability are crucial aspects of the recovery journey, especially for those early in addiction recovery. While many people dread the monotony of their workday, for someone in recovery, that structure can play a vital role in their continued sobriety.
- A daily routine that you can stick to can help keep your eyes on the proverbial prize and help avoid the temptations that can come with too much time on your hands or allowing your brain to wander too much.
Financial struggles are often a common symptom of substance abuse and addiction. Many people find themselves in bad financial situations because they spend their money on substances to maintain their alcohol or drug addiction.
A steady income can help you pay off any debts you might have incurred while using and become financially secure overall.
Maintaining Sobriety While Being Successful at Work
While working can be a key part of your recovery, you should also ensure that your work doesn’t damage your overall well-being. Not managing stress levels, for instance, can increase the risk of relapse.
You can do certain things to ensure you are successful at your job while prioritizing your recovery.
Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress is a common trigger that can cause a person in recovery to relapse. While you can’t control the unnecessary stress that comes with most work environments, you can control how you react to stress.
During treatment, you learned healthy and sober techniques for handling stress and found one or more that work for you (e.g., meditation, deep breathing, journaling, etc.) You can use these tools to help you manage your stress levels in the workplace.
If you need to, communicate any concerns with your boss or co-workers so they can be prepared if you need to excuse yourself temporarily and get your stress under control in a healthy manner.
Stick to Your Recovery Plan
For those who have been in recovery for a while, it can be easy to become complacent.
No matter how far along you are in your recovery process, remember that recovery is a lifelong journey and something that you will work on every day. Nothing, including your job, should take priority over your sobriety.
Create a Work/Life Balance
Make sure that while you are making your work a priority, you are also making yourself and your personal life a priority. A healthy life outside of work will make your work life more successful.
Keeping a Job While in Recovery is Important For Your Sobriety
For someone in recovery, especially those in early recovery, it is important to have a job and keep that job. Whether it’s a new job or a job you have been at for decades, make sure that it does not become a priority over your sobriety.
If you, a family member, or a loved one are struggling with your sobriety, whether it is job-related or not, it’s ok to ask for help. Call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit their online program locator to find treatment programs in your area.
Frequently Asked Questions About Keeping a Job While in Recovery
Should I tell my employer that I’m in recovery?
While you are under no legal obligation to do so, being open and transparent with your employer can help make balancing your work obligations and your recovery process easier, especially if you need accommodations from them.
How can I properly balance my job and my recovery?
While you might want to jump right back into your job after treatment, it is also important not to let your recovery get put on the back burner.
Some ways that you can properly balance your job and your recovery include:
- Creating a proper work/life balance
- Managing your stress levels in a healthy manner
- Sticking to your recovery plan
Do I have the right to keep my job while going through treatment?
Yes, you have the legal right to keep your job even during treatment.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents an employer from firing an employee for anything relating directly to the treatment and recovery process. It’s important to note that the ADA does not protect you from being fired with cause as it relates to your substance abuse issues.
The Family and Medical Leave Act offers up to 12 weeks of medical leave. While it is often unpaid, it provides the peace of mind of knowing you can go to treatment and your job will be waiting for you when you are done.