Talking to Your Employer: How to Discuss Your Rehab Experience Professionally

Seeking help for drug or alcohol addiction can be one of the most challenging things a person can do. However, in the grand scheme of recovery, it is only the first step. To ensure a person gets the correct support, they need everyone to understand and be on their side; this includes employers. One of the most common concerns of our clients at Calm Rehab is how they will get the time off work to take part in our rehabilitation program. We want to share our personal experiences and give some pointers on this subject to anyone who needs it. The path to full recovery is one of the most important a person can take, so it is essential to get it right. 

The importance of honesty in successful recovery

Firstly, if someone is well into their recovery journey, it is important to gauge if it is worth mentioning to their current employer. Unfortunately, there can sometimes be some stigma in the workplace concerning addiction, so if someone is getting on okay and has a close support network within their friendship group and family, there is nothing wrong with keeping it to themself. However, if they need the support of their employer to take extended leave for rehab, or they need them to understand why they might not be doing their best when they have a bad day, the truth is usually the best way to go. It can be a difficult conversation to have, and some people may not understand, but it is crucial to remind oneself that the majority will. Having the support of an employer during the recovery process can dramatically enhance results. So, how do you tell them?

Advice for approaching your employer about taking leave for rehab

If you or someone you know needs to tell an employer about a struggle with addiction, it can be terrifying to even think of. However, sometimes it needs to be done. Below are some tips that can help with staying calm, saying the correct thing, and not feeling knocked down. Remember, hearing about drug or alcohol addiction can be a shock for some, especially in the workplace, so it is crucial to understand that their reactions might not be what we want, and they may take some time to come around. 

Prepare yourself – The more prepared a person can make themself, the better. Constantly remind yourself of why you are doing it and how much better off this will make you in the future. Also, practise what you’re going to say and even role-play the most negative reactions imaginable before you have the conversation. There is no such thing as too much preparation for a conversation like this. 

Choosing the best time to talk – Ensure you have scheduled a private meeting with your employer or the HR department. This gives them time to be prepared and ensures that everyone has the time to listen and absorb what you need to tell them. Nothing is worse than having half of someone’s attention when discussing something so personal.

Be direct and transparent – You don’t need to go into great detail about all aspects of your life, but you do need to be an open book concerning your addiction and the help you are seeking. Ensure they know you plan to go to rehab and how much time you need off work. Being transparent and direct will show them you know what you need to do and how serious you are about it.

Don’t be afraid of feedback or judgement – As we mentioned before, everyone will react differently, and it isn’t always how you want. This doesn’t mean that people are against you; they may just need to digest the information. Mentioning addiction and rehab can sometimes be a shock, so prepare yourself for all possible reactions. This will help you keep a steady head and allow them enough time to understand your situation. 

Make a solid plan of action – Before the meeting has finished, you need to ensure you have made a plan of action that you are all satisfied with. It may be helpful to prepare notes and make sure you go over everything you want to talk about. If you don’t have all the answers you need by the end of the meeting, it can be challenging to make plans, and it can sometimes worsen the situation altogether. 

What to expect from an employer concerning drug and alcohol rehabilitation

When someone is planning to have this conversation with their employer, there can be a lot of questions circling their head. From our experience, we have found the majority of employers to be fully understanding and step up to help as much as they can. 

A supportive response – Most people will be fully understanding and have empathy for your situation. The majority of people have known someone who has battled addiction, so it isn’t uncommon ground. It is often overwhelming when you witness the support most employers are willing to provide. 

Privacy and confidentiality – You do not need to worry about word getting out around the workplace. HR departments and employers are highly trained in this regard, and your situation won’t go beyond the people you talked with. 

Return to work plan – Many companies already have plans in place for these situations, so they should be able to talk you through the following steps to take and how to go about it the right way. Workplace support groups have become a regular part of many companies in recent years. 

Dealing with negative reactions 

Although the modern workplace should be fully equipped to deal with the situation, there is always a tiny chance that someone won’t understand. The stigma surrounding drugs and alcohol is still prevalent in our society, so it is essential to know how to deal with bad reactions. 

Stay calm and composed – This can be easier said than done, but it is essential to remain calm and composed when confronted with negativity. Negativity can be a trigger, so learning how to take it is essential for recovery. If this is a struggle, it is advised to seek professional help.

Maintain professionalism – Remember you are in your workplace and want to maintain a high level of professionalism throughout. Even if people become confrontational, you must take the higher ground and respond in the correct way. 

Address any concerns – If someone reacts badly, you should ask them why they feel that way. Gaining an understanding of how they feel can help you provide them with the information they might need to understand your situation. 

Seek advice from your support network – Dealing with the repercussions of negative backlash is difficult in any situation, especially this one. Always ensure your support network is there to provide the advice and comfort you may need if your employer’s reaction isn’t what you expected. 

Understand your rights – If an employer does not respond well to the information they have received and does not want to cooperate, you may have legal grounds to stand on. Of course, this is not the result we want, but if you have done everything correctly and they are not willing to help or they ask you to leave the company, it is worth considering. 

Do you need to take leave to start your recovery journey?

At Calm Rehab, we believe everyone deserves a chance to get their life back on track and start their recovery journey in the most positive way. The initial stages are often the most difficult, so if you need any advice for yourself or a loved one, please feel free to get in touch for a chat. Our team in Bali consists of highly qualified and experienced individuals who can guide you every step of the way. 

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