Going through treatment for a substance use disorder can be a meaningful but challenging experience. This life-changing process can take considerable time to work through. Inpatient rehab treatment is often the most effective way to treat a serious condition like an addiction. However, the intense process can be disruptive to family life and jobs.

Going back to work after rehab can seem like a daunting task. Life after rehab may feel strange yet familiar at the same time. The process of rejoining home life, the community and the workplace can also feel unsettling. However, many people have successfully transitioned into a healthy, daily routine following rehab. To help people with the transition, supportive resources and legal protections are available to ease the transition and promote long-term recovery.

Know Your Rights with FMLA

According to the United States Department of Labor, a substance use disorder may be considered a serious health condition in some circumstances. If you require inpatient or ongoing treatment, your time off from work is protected by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In this circumstance, your employer cannot take action against you because of work absences.

You can also benefit from FMLA if you provide care for a family member going through treatment.

As helpful as the FMLA can be for rehab, it’s important to know the boundaries of FMLA protection. The FMLA does not protect a person’s job if work absences are due to substance use itself. And if a person’s workplace has a clearly stated policy that substance use can result in termination, FMLA does not apply.  

Tips for Returning to Work After Treatment

Returning to work after rehab is an important and challenging step in recovery. This step is the start of a new chapter in a person’s life. However, even healthy changes can seem stressful and overwhelming at times. To help with this important transition period, many rehab centers offer transitional care and extended support. Check with your treatment center to find out what options are available to you. Consider the following tips when returning to work following rehab:

1. Decide What to Say to Coworkers

Dealing with coworkers again may feel somewhat awkward at first, even if you enjoy working with them. You may feel close to some coworkers and not know others well at all. Prepare a few comments to help you feel ready for the first conversations. Decide how much you are ready to reveal about your process and to whom. Understand that you have control over how much information you share, including the option to keep things entirely private.

2. Discuss the Transition with Your Employer

Your employer is an important ally in your recovery process. You and your employer can create a work transition plan tailored to your specific situation. Share your treatment goals and needs with your employer so they are aware of changes in living arrangements or work availability. This plan can also help your employer know what to do if you struggle during your transition.

3. Have a Plan to Handle Work-Related Stress

Work-related stress is unavoidable no matter how much you like your job or coworkers. Depending on how long you have been on your job, you likely know many of your stress triggers are at your workplace. Use your treatment recovery plan to help you manage these stressful moments. Decide which coping skills are most appropriate for your work setting and discuss the options with your employer.

4. Follow Through with Aftercare

Your aftercare treatment plan is the key to making a good transition from rehab to work. A major transition like this can have ups and downs, so rely on your aftercare treatment plan to keep your risk for relapse lower. Aftercare plans are designed to support you and keep you accountable as you continue your recovery. Aftercare activities like support groups and alumni gatherings are less intense than rehab, but they are vital for long-term recovery.

5. Utilize your Employee Assistance Program

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are available at many workplaces in the United States. These programs are designed to give short-term supportive services for workplace conflicts, behavioral health issues, workplace violence and family stress. EAP programs can also be a resource for local referrals. If a difficult situation arises related to your recovery, an EAP can provide additional support and interventions suited to the work setting.

6. Beware of Burnout

Burnout is a combination of physical, emotional and psychological exhaustion. A person recovering from a substance use disorder may be more susceptible to complete exhaustion. This scenario can lead to burnout relapse. Additionally, you might find yourself replacing your substance use behavior with work addiction behavior. In early recovery, healthy habits are newly established and less stable. At this stage, it can take less stress and exhaustion to cause a person to be at risk of relapse. Take self-care seriously and be sure to prioritize healthy eating and good sleep.

7. Know You are Not Alone

You are not alone in your recovery process. Recovery is not always a smooth ride, and you may have some uncomfortable experiences getting back into your work environment. Know that many others have successfully traveled this road before you. Recovery can feel lonely at times. Stay connected with your most supportive relationships, caring professionals and support groups. Keep in mind that many people are ready to help and encourage you.

8. Return-to-Work Agreements

Completing return-to-work agreements after rehab spell out expectations of an employee returning to work following substance use treatment. This agreement helps the returning employee remain accountable. This document also acknowledges the possibility of termination if work standards are not met.

The return-to-work agreement, as well as communications between supervisor and employee, are all confidential. Many workplaces are supportive and compassionate toward employees returning from rehab. However, this agreement is a clear reminder of the employee’s personal accountability to their workplace.

Getting Treatment for Addiction

Many individuals in the workplace struggle silently with a substance use disorder. If you or a loved one are in need of treatment, The Recovery Village can help. Our caring professionals are able to answer questions and help you understand more about treatment. Call today and speak with a representative from The Recovery Village and get started toward a healthier future.