The toll that addiction takes on American families is undeniable, with nearly 50% of Americans reporting a relationship with someone who struggles with addiction in one recent study. Its impact on the American economy is just as staggering, with alcohol and drug abuse accounting for more than $400 billion in losses. If you are one of the millions of Americans battling addiction, you are not alone and there is help. Even from the very start of your recovery journey, you don’t have to do it alone. Here are easy steps to take when it’s time to tell you boss you need rehab.
Get Honest About Your Addiction
Don’t think you need rehab because you have a great job? It might surprise you to know that 70% of people who abuse drugs or alcohol are able to hold down a job at the same time – at least, for a while. If your substance abuse has reached the point where you are considering professional help for addiction, then it’s likely that it’s no secret to your colleagues. Even the smallest signs can be meaningful.
For example, the average employee takes 15 days a year off from work because of illness or reasons other than vacation. According to the National Safety Council, however, people who abuse drugs or alcohol call in sick an average of 25 days per year because of hangovers or illness.
People in recovery, it should be noted, take just 10 days per year off from work for illness, according to NSC – less than even the “normies.” That’s a telling statistic. Quitting drugs or alcohol won’t just get you back to being your “normal” self; it could make you even better.
Know Your Addiction Treatment Rights
Before speaking to anyone at work about your addiction, make sure that you know your rights. It is possible to get help for addiction and keep your job, if certain conditions are in place.
The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal law that protects certain employees who need to take a leave of absence for family or medical reasons. Under FMLA, you can take up to 12 weeks off in a year (and it doesn’t have to be all at the same time). The leave is unpaid, but the FMLA ensures that your job will be there for you when you get back — and, your insurance will still be valid during your leave. If you are in a military family, the benefits are even more extensive. You may be able to take up to 26 weeks of leave.
The FMLA only applies to certain types of businesses and certain employees. (Learn more about the details in our ebook below.)
If you meet all of the requirements, you may be able to take FMLA leave for addiction treatment – emphasis on the word treatment. Addiction is a serious illness, and you can only take federal medical leave if you are pursuing medical treatment. Going to 12 Step meetings doesn’t count. In fact, you must pursue treatment that includes an overnight stay in a medical facility in order to be covered.
If FMLA does apply, the law requires your employer to return you to the same position, or one with the same work schedule, location, responsibilities, pay, and benefits, when you return.
Going to Rehab? Keep it Short & Simple
Your employer is legally allowed to terminate you if substance abuse is affecting your performance at work. For that reason, it’s best not to share all the gory details of your addiction – especially if you’re not completely certain that you are ready for treatment.
When you’re ready to have the talk, keep it short and simple. All you have to do is let your boss or manager know that you need to take medical leave. You don’t even have to share exactly where or why.
Remember: Addiction is a serious chronic disease, just like cancer. When you have the conversation, adopt the mindset of someone who is entering serious medical treatment and think of your conversation simply as you serving notice of your upcoming leave. You don’t have to think of it as a confession, a faceoff, or a demand. Keeping the emotion out of it as much as possible will help you get through it.
If you think you can’t handle the conversation in person, an email is even sufficient. But remember, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Addiction is a disease, and employers are used to seeing it at work. Ultimately, they want you to get well so they can have you back at work healthy and happy. If they don’t, it might not be the right place for you anyways.
Take the Time to Heal from Addiction
Some people only get one chance at recovery. If you’re lucky enough to get your shot, take full advantage. Dedicate yourself 100% to your recovery by truly taking off from work during your leave. That means no work calls, no emails, and no social media. It’s time to focus on you, so you can do the work you need to heal and recover.
You don’t have to do it alone, though, and that includes taking the first step. Call our caring admissions team, and we’ll help walk you through the decision to get help – and the decision to tell your boss about it. We can even communicate directly with your EAP or HR department for you, doing whatever it takes to help get you to our sanctuary for healing.