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4 Tips for a Graceful Return to Work after Rehab


January 8, 2018

When you have been in rehab, you may feel awkward about returning to work. Perhaps your addiction made an impact on your work life, or perhaps it only became visible when you had to ask for a leave to make a change in your personal life. When your colleagues know about your struggles, you can feel like you do not want to return to work. However, you can do so in a graceful, positive way.

1. Know That You Are Not Alone 

As you plan your return to work, know that all of your colleagues have had personal challenges in their lives. Those challenges may have been different than yours, but you may also be surprised at how many people have experienced addiction or struggled with the addiction of a friend or family member. According to the World of Psychology, "every year, thousands of white-collar professionals enter treatment for addiction to alcohol and drugs." While you may feel awkward, know that you have many silent or potentially vocal allies in your workplace.

2. Know What You Are Going to Say 

The uncertainty of all of the questions that people will ask is what may make you want to run away from your previous workplace. What will they say when you walk in the door after rehab? You need to decide what you are going to tell them if they do not already know where you were. You have a few choices. You could tell them that you went away for a while. You could tell them that you had some health issues to work through and now you are back. You could also tell them the uncensored truth in words that you have practiced beforehand.

The closer you can get to the truth, the easier it will be to keep your story straight. However, you can also be more vague if you feel uncomfortable or if you feel that you will be judged. Talk with a counselor or to trusted friends beforehand to support you in your choice of words so that you feel comfortable with what you are going to say.

If your manager is sympathetic, it can be helpful to talk with that person about the reasons for your absence and discuss how much you want to divulge in the workplace.

After rehab

Find new workplace habits to replace the unhealthy ones from your past.

3. Make New Rules For Yourself 

For some people, the workplace can be a trigger for past addictive behaviors. If you have work lunches that involve alcohol, they can be difficult to navigate. If your pattern is to grab a few beers after work with your friends, this can be even harder.

Consider what new patterns you can use to replace the old, unhealthy patterns. For example, you could replace wine with sparkling water at lunch or choose a coffee shop or pizza place to go to after work instead. If you know that there will be alcohol in the minibar in your room, ask for it to be cleared out before you check in for your work engagement. Surround yourself with your supporters who understand what you are going through and will help you find strategies to continue to remain sober.

This could be a factor in your decision to discuss the reasons for your absence. If you know that it will be hard to avoid workplace triggers or that you are going to have to find a new way to hang out with your friends after work, then it could be easier to tell them. You do not want to lose friendships; you want to find new ways to be social.

4. Know Your Rights 

You need to be prepared to deal with any bumps in the road to workplace reintegration. While you must be fit to return to work, you also have the right to ask for certain accommodations from your employer. Did you know that employers are "required to comply with any special limitations a health care provider deems necessary for recovery, such as time off for doctor appointments and introductory limits on work hours," according to Workforce? Just in case your workplace is not so accommodating, it is good to consider what you need and what you can ask for before you reenter the workforce.

At Advanced Recovery Systems, we are here to support you as you transition into your new life. Talk with us about resources that you can access to enter rehab and feel supported after rehab is complete. Contact us today and start to make a change for the better.

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