Going Back to Work after Addiction Treatment

Completing a treatment program for drug or alcohol addiction is a great accomplishment. But now it is time to return to work, and you are feeling nervous about making the transition. Returning to work, whether you are going back to the job you had before or starting a new one, is a big step. Be patient with yourself, take things slowly, and ease yourself into the work.

Write Down Your Plan and Goals

Even if you are ready and eager to jump back into work, it is best to go slowly and to have a plan. By having a plan in place before you go back to work, you will reduce stress levels and lower your anxiety. Your plan will be unique to you and your situation. It can be as minimal or as detailed as you want. When you are prepared and know what you will say or how you will handle a situation in advance, you have a greater sense of control. You will not feel uncomfortable being caught off guard.

Examples of things you may include in your plan include:

  • Decide what you are comfortable sharing with coworkers.
  • Know how you will explain your absence to coworkers.
  • For coworkers aware of the reason for your absence, plan what you say to them when they ask about it.
  • Know how you will handle triggering or unexpected situations when they arise.

When you write down your plan, be specific. When you write things down, you are more likely to remember and achieve them.

Create New Rules for Yourself

Some people can be triggered by specific situations in their workplace. For example, some people may have always gone for a few drinks after work with friends, or others may have had work lunches with wine. If you are returning to a workplace where you may encounter triggers, it is time for you to create new rules for yourself. Replace your old, unhealthy patterns with healthy new ones. For example, drink sparkling water at lunch instead of wine or go to a coffee shop after work with friends. Surround yourself with people who are aware of your situation, support your recovery, and will help you make changes to safeguard your sobriety.

If you know it may be difficult to avoid workplace triggers, you may decide to reveal to your coworkers that you were in addiction treatment. That will give them the opportunity to support you and to help minimize possible triggers.

Practice Good Selfcare

Taking good care of your mental and physical health reduces stress, lowers the risk of relapse, and decreases the risk of workplace burnout. When you practice good self-care, you feel good about yourself and have increased self-esteem. Practicing good self-care includes getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy balanced meals, and getting regular exercise. It also means spending time with loved ones and making time for things you enjoy doing. Workplace stress can trigger a relapse. Take time at work to reduce stress by practicing deep breathing exercises, meditating, or listening to relaxing music.

Know Your Rights Under The Americans with Disabilities Act

Being in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means individuals are entitled to legal protection from discrimination at work related to their past substance use and treatment. Workers are within their rights to ask for specific accommodations, such as time off or a modified work schedule to attend appointments related to their recovery and care (medical appointments, therapy, and 12-Step meetings).

Return to Work Agreement (RWA)

A written agreement, a Return to Work Agreement (RWA), is a legal contract. It lays out an employer’s expectations and the consequences an employee who has completed addiction treatment faces for violating any terms. The purpose of the accountability document is to protect the company and provide security to the employee in their position as long as they conduct themselves appropriately. If an RWA is violated, most companies terminate the employee. Most Return to Work Agreements require proper conduct and strict abstinence at work.

Do Not Keep Hesitate to Seek Help

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a progressive brain disease that can affect anyone. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, do not wait to seek help. English Mountain Recovery, located in the beautiful mountains of Eastern Tennessee, is here to answer your questions and guide you through your recovery journey. Take the first step toward sobriety. Call us today.

About the Author: Terry Hurley

Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.

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