Are you one of the many people who struggle with pain medication addiction, alcohol addiction, or other substance abuse problems? Perhaps you know your use is impacting your ability to do your job to the best of your ability. You’re not able to stop using, and you know that you need to get help.
But how can you get help and work at the same time?
Will you need to take time off? What will you tell your employer? Will you lose your job?
The Reality: Your Employer Probably Already Knows
If you work closely with your employer, he or she has probably recognized that you’re not doing well mentally or physically. You may not come to work drunk or high, but your employer may sense you’re struggling. Most often, they want to help you.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides you with up to 12 weeks of protected work status if you alert your employer to your need to take time off. There are various prerequisites that must be met, such as the length of time you must be employed before you qualify. However, with FMLA, your job, your health insurance, and your privacy are protected.
After you are ready to return to work, you can do so within the same organization and at the same position. Keep in mind that your salary is not necessarily maintained during this time (that is up to your employer’s policy).
Determine How Much Time You Need
Speaking to an addiction counselor can help you decide how much time you need to take off of work. You may not need to take a block of time. Rather, you may need to just have a few hours during the week where you can step away and get help. Employers may allow you to use your personal time or offer a flexible schedule to help you get outpatient treatment.
If you decide that inpatient addiction treatment and counseling is necessary, you can proceed through the program in just a few weeks, which may be all the time you need to refocus and get back on track. If you are facing a serious health complication or you are chemically dependent, you may need more time during detox before beginning treatment. Work with your counseling team to determine your treatment needs.
How to Talk to Your Employer
You now have an idea of the type of care and support you need. What is your next step? Ask your employer for a private meeting. You just need 30 minutes or so to talk to them frankly.
Be sure that you are alone with those whom you are responsible to, such as your supervisor or the company owner. It’s also a good idea to ask for a human resource manager to be present if your company has one on staff.
Discuss what is happening with you. Provide only the details that you feel comfortable with, but be as honest as you can be. Employers understand that life happens and, in many cases, will want to help you.
Be sure to state to your employer that you are confiding in them and expect confidentiality. In most situations, any health information you provide to your employer is going to be protected.
You may also want to check with your employer or human resource manager about any type of company benefits or support that may be available. If you are a good employee who is dedicated to the company, your employer should want to help you get the support you need. You just need to reach out.
Take the Time to Make That Appointment
When you are facing the difficult decision to get help for addiction, you need an employer who is going to support you. If you need to do so, request help with the FMLA requirements. If you just need a more flexible schedule, talk to your employer about that, too. Your recovery is important to your health and life, and it is likely important to your employer, too.