Returning to Work After Treatment

two women going over paperwork

You’ve taken much needed time to get help for substance abuse, a mental health issue, or a process addiction.

Now you’re trying to create a routine that helps you move forward.

Aspects of this might include where you live, whom you associate with, and how you make a living.

After treatment, some people want a completely fresh start and a new job that reflects that. Others are eager to continue a career they might have spent most of their adult lives building. And some people might simply want steady employment they can count on.

Regardless of your choice, there are a few points to keep in mind as you approach the process of returning to work.

You Have a Right to Return to Work

You might have been able to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to enable a certain level of job protection during your absence if you held a job with a covered employer. If you were an employee in good standing prior to your departure, you should be able to return to an “equivalent job,” which is, “a job that is virtually identical to the original job in terms of pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions (including shift and location).”

However, what happens if there was a layoff, position elimination, or another mitigating factor that compromises your ability to resume work with that employer? There may be limitations to the FMLA in these cases, so make sure to review the facts and discuss them with your HR director prior to your return.

And what if the FMLA wasn’t available to you or your employer? Even without it, most state and federal laws require reasonable accommodation of your right to work with certain addictions and disorders under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Often considered solely for physical issues, many people are surprised to learn the ADA also provides guidelines for addiction, as well as emotional or mental illnesses, such as major depressive disorder, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Your employer’s HR representative will have resources to address how the ADA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helps protect your ability to work. As always, the question is: in what capacity? It’s possible you weren’t able to discuss this in great detail before leaving for treatment. So, your continuing care adviser, your supervisor, and an HR expert should be able to consult with you to determine the scope of your employment and key expectations.

Consider developing a right-to-work agreement with your employer to help clarify expectations, outline specific areas of concern, consequences for negligent behavior, and who needs to know about past and current treatment needs.

Making a Fresh Start

If you’re looking for new work after treatment, be sure to know your rights. Your prospective employer might ask certain questions on an application or during a job interview, but unless there are inquiries specifically about criminal activity, you don’t have to disclose any more information than necessary.

That being said, you shouldn’t lie. For example, if you sought treatment for PTSD or another traumatic experience and were out of work for three months, it’s perfectly fine to state you had a medical condition that needed treatment as a way to explain that gap in employment.

There’s No Shame in Rehabilitation

Maybe you entered a treatment facility because of a substance abuse disorder. Or perhaps you sought more specialized care for depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue. Or you recognized that a process disorder such as eating challenges, gambling, or some other type of compulsive behavior required medical guidance to help you become healthier.

Whatever the reason, the most important aspect to remember about your journey is there’s no shame in seeking help. Keep in mind the courage and discipline required to change your life for the better. This is the point you’re at now.

Any unexplained extended absence from your job is bound to make your previous co-workers curious. However, it’s not your responsibility to satisfy their interest.

Your focus is to develop good communication with your supervisor and human resources (HR) representative to make your transition back to the workplace as smooth as possible. While it’s true that your previous behavior on the job may already provide clues as to why you were away, you still have a right to your privacy.

It’s also possible some of your co-workers participated in an intervention out of concern for your health. If they cared enough to encourage you to seek treatment, they might be trusted allies for you now to put rumors to rest as you adjust to the rigors of daily job expectations. It’s helpful to know a few key people are ready to be by your side if you experience certain triggers, so you can manage them effectively.

If you’re starting a new job, it’s always your decision as to who you share your story with and why. As you develop interactions with other people at work, there may never be a need to share your recovery story. But, if you feel it’s important information to help develop a stronger relationship with someone, you still have the power to determine how much to disclose.

Cottonwood’s Philosophy of Care

Our intent is to help you create your reality through a balanced lifestyle. We’ll help you identify what’s most meaningful for you, and design a continuum of care plan that incorporates all those aspects, including support for your next choices in life.

For more information about Cottonwood Tuscon, Arizona addiction rehab, and our programs of recovery, call (800) 877-4520. We are ready to help you or your loved one find lasting recovery.

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