Roselle Leadership Blog

Addressing Addiction While Keeping Your Career on Track – Guest article by Eva Benoit

You’re cultivating a career and might even be managing others. Maybe you pour yourself a drink as soon as you get home to unwind, only to find you’ve finished the bottle before bedtime. Or perhaps long days behind a desk have aggravated a condition that causes chronic pain, prompting you to rely on prescriptions just to get through the day.

At first, you might not think twice about your habits, but it’s important to understand that not everyone with substance use disorder turns to illegal drugs or is an obvious abuser. Drinking can become alcoholism, and legal prescriptions can lead to abusive behavior. In these cases, it can be more difficult to determine when use descends into abuse. So, what warning signs might indicate you need help?

Although the signals can differ depending on the individual and the substance they are abusing, if you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or cravings for substances of your choice, it could indicate addiction. That’s especially true if you are continuing to use even after experiencing serious negative consequences. Other signals might include an increased tolerance for your substances of choice and loss of control — including repeatedly trying and failing to reduce or stop using drugs or alcohol on your own, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Indeed, the reality is that few people struggling with substance use disorder can stop using and say sober on their own. They also shouldn’t be expected to, considering the fact addiction is a disease that — like other chronic conditions — is most effectively addressed by a team of healthcare professionals. Those experts may provide counseling or other forms of behavior therapy as well as prescribing medications. Effective treatments should also address co-existing conditions, such as mood disorders, that may be a contributing factor for abuse.

Whether you decide on an inpatient or outpatient approach, getting and staying sober will probably mean taking some significant time off. But, before you share your problem and plan with your supervisor, you should educate yourself on company policies that pertain to employees and rehab.

For instance, your workplace could have specific guidelines to help you maintain confidentiality about your health conditions and your reasons for being out of the office. Your employer may also offer additional resources, such as an employee assistance program, that offers counseling services.

It’s also important to know that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects employees from being fired for poor job performance because of substance abuse as long as the employee has chosen to enter treatment. What’s more, you are entitled to as much as 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave annually under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Considering your position is protected by law, the best approach is honesty when explaining to your supervisor why you’ll need time off in the coming weeks.

But the company could require returning employees to sign a return-to-work agreement after rehab. Such agreements outline the employer’s expectations for the employee and serve as an important accountability tool. And the deal is more than just words on paper. Failure to abide by a return-to-work agreement after completing rehab can be grounds for termination, according to Business.com. So, the best way to deal with such agreements is by meeting or exceeding their goals.

While that may be a challenge considering you’re also dealing with the stressors related to recovery, it is possible. Even though you may have thought you were an effective employee or executive before entering rehab, you will likely be exponentially more effective after. And once you’ve gotten back into the groove at work, you might find the time off, and the accomplishments you made in that span, are advancing your career — and your recovery journey.

About 6 years ago, Eva Benoit left her job as an office manager to pursue being a life, career, and overall wellness coach. She specializes in helping professionals with stress and anxiety, but welcomes working with people from all walks of life. She works with her clients to discover and explore avenues that will bring them balance, peace, and improved overall well-being that can last a lifetime. Her website is evabenoit.com and she is author of the upcoming book, The 30-Day Plan for Ending Bad Habits and Improving Overall Health.

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