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Should You Tell Your Boss You’re Going to Drug/Alcohol Rehab? How to Tell Your Employer You Have an Addiction and Keep Your Job in Treatment

Medically Reviewed
Last Medically Reviewed on: 20220705
Man in stress

Written by

Kevin Lang

Medically Reviewed by

Updated on

2 Jul, 2022

You’ve finally decided that you need help with your drug/alcohol addiction. You have decided that the best option to treat your addiction is by going to an inpatient drug/alcohol treatment facility. However, lingering questions and fears might keep replaying in your mind that prevent you from taking action, such as: Should I tell my employer I need to go to rehab? How will my employer react when I tell them I have an addiction? Can I get fired for having a drug problem? If so, how will I find another job once I leave treatment?

Unfortunately, some of these thoughts can keep people who need rehab the most from seeking treatment. However, not taking further action to treat addiction can be more damaging than taking the risk of losing their job. Fortunately, learning how to approach the drug/alcohol topic with one’s employer can help someone with a substance abuse disorder take the most appropriate and beneficial next steps to long-term sobriety.

Should You Tell Your Boss You’re Going to Drug/Alcohol Rehab?

First, seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction takes courage. Furthermore, despite some common stereotypes and misconceptions around addiction being the main concern with people who are already unemployed, the reality is that an estimated 70% of people with a substance abuse disorder are employed. With that being said, because the effects of addiction are all-pervasive and typically interfere with one’s performance at work, it is likely that an employer already has a suspicion that something is causing your increasingly less-than-average performance at work.

While you may be good at hiding your substance abuse disorder for a while, it is more common than not that someone in the work environment has picked up clues as to why you may be struggling with their workload and may have attributed it to addiction because of other tell-tale signs of addiction.

When deciding whether to tell your employer about going to drug/alcohol rehab, you must do some research beforehand on the company’s policies on drugs and alcohol in the work environment and, if they don’t have one, what the healthcare policy is for sick employees. While you do not want to lie to your employer about your absence, it is best to approach the situation with wisdom to ensure that you maintain employment (to the best of your ability) while in rehab.

Fortunately, there are laws that protect people with substance abuse disorders from workplace discrimination, particularly from getting fired, as it is considered a disease and a mental illness. Therefore, knowing your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can help inform you if you feel that you’ve been discriminated against when telling your employer about your addiction and file a charge of discrimination, if necessary.

Lastly, it is possible that you may qualify for 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if you are unable to report to work for medical reasons (including going to drug/alcohol rehab). Knowing what you qualify for and what your rights are as an employee can help alleviate some stress concerning the discussion you will be having with your employer about taking time out of work to receive treatment in a drug/alcohol rehab facility.

How to Tell Your Employer You Have an Addiction

After researching your employee rights, it is best to take some additional time to prepare for the conversation you will be having with your employer. Here are some tips to help alleviate your stress before speaking to your employer about your addiction:

  • Be prepared. As mentioned earlier, researching your rights as an employee will help mitigate fears about telling your employer you need treatment.
  • Be honest. Even if your employer does not know you suffer from a substance abuse disorder, it is likely they already suspect something is going on with you currently, possibly due to diminishing performance on the job or other factors. Therefore, it is in your best interest to be honest about your struggles without feeling like you need to disclose every detail about the addiction. Typically, honesty will help the conversation go more smoothly.
  • Don’t fear judgment or worry about your reputation. Your substance abuse disorder has likely impacted your job performance. However, this should not deter you from getting the help you need. On the contrary, receiving treatment can only strengthen your job performance upon returning to work. As such, do not worry about judgment from your boss or coworkers. They likely know people who suffer from this disease and may have compassion for you.
  • Help your employer and coworkers prepare. Tie up any loose ends with work, if possible, and let others know about your absence so that you can prepare them for any deadlines they will need to adhere to when you are gone.
  • Have a tough conversation. It is best to discuss your addiction with your boss. However, if you feel you cannot speak to your employer about drug/alcohol treatment, make sure to disclose that you will be taking a leave of absence for your well-being. Preparing your employer about your time away is essential to mitigate the potential risks of losing your job.

How to Keep Your Job Before, During, and After Drug/Alcohol Rehab

Once you’ve discussed with your employer your need for drug/alcohol treatment and prepared them, along with other coworkers, for your leave of absence, the next biggest priority you have to do is to follow through with going to treatment. This means that once entering treatment, you make a promise to yourself and your well-being that you will under no circumstances leave treatment prematurely. If you followed the tips on preparing your work for your absence, there should be no reason to leave treatment early.

It is most beneficial for your recovery that you attend twelve-step program meetings, either through Alcoholics Anonymous or any other drug-affiliated twelve-step program, while in treatment. The Twelve Steps are extremely important for your healing and recovery. As you transition out of treatment, it is essential to your long-term sobriety to keep your focus on the 12-step program and continue attending meetings. Through these meetings and step work, you will gain the ongoing support you need to maintain sobriety.

Furthermore, you can continue to get the help you need through intensive outpatient treatment that can be utilized as a resource for transitioning back into the work environment. This can provide you with ongoing individual, group, and family counseling and many of the same recovery modalities offered in inpatient treatment without staying in the facility overnight. Furthermore, intensive outpatient rehab has more flexibility for someone wanting to still work, as typically, many appointments can be scheduled outside work hours, and you do not have to stay in the facility all day just for those scheduled appointments.

When you return to work, you must fulfill any requirements outlined in the Return-to-Work agreement that your employer may have set forth before leaving for treatment.  This may entail that you willingly comply with any drug tests you may need to take upon arrival. Lastly, it is essential that as you transition back to work, you find healthier coping mechanisms for your stress to ensure that you do not potentially relapse in the future. This could include eating healthier, exercising, meditating, and, as mentioned previously, attending 12-step meetings and working through the 12-steps with a sponsor.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Austin, Texas

It is essential to your long-term sobriety that you find a drug/alcohol treatment facility that will develop a holistic plan to meet your needs. Furthermore, finding a treatment center that accepts your insurance, or is willing to work with you financially, may be beneficial. This can prevent the stress of trying to pay back any debt incurred through rehab so you can more easily focus on your recovery once leaving the treatment facility.

Fortunately, for people living in or near the Austin, Texas area, Infinite Recovery provides in-depth, custom-tailored, individualized support while providing a financial means to attend treatment. Additionally, Infinite Recovery is in a network with major insurance companies and many smaller, more privately-owned companies. Furthermore, with Master’s level clinicians on staff and medical professionals on hand 24/7, you’ll have the peace of mind you need when entering rehab for your addiction.

The time to seek help for your drug or alcohol addiction is now. Don’t delay seeking treatment out of fear of losing your job – avoiding seeking treatment can cause you to lose your job in the first place. Have a tough conversation with your employer. You may be pleasantly surprised when they encourage you to take the next steps to improve your well-being by walking on a path of sobriety.


Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Society for Human Resource Management. Employing and Managing People with Substance Use Addictions. SHRM. Accessed July 5, 2022.
  2. Felman A. Addiction: Symptoms, effects, and what to look for. Published October 26, 2018. Accessed July 5, 2022.
  3. United States Commission on Civil Rights. Chapter 4. Accessed July 5, 2022.
  4. US Department of Labor. elaws – Family and Medical Leave Act Advisor. Accessed July 5, 2022.
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