Returning to Work After Rehab: How You Should Prepare

returning to work after rehab

Returning to Work After Rehab: How You Should Prepare

It’s not easy to make the important decision to enter a drug and alcohol treatment center, even though it’s the right choice for your health, life, and future. You likely have many concerns before you select and enter a drug rehab program. Although some of these concerns will relate to the program itself, others will center on how going to a drug or alcohol rehab program will affect your everyday life. One of the most common concerns about going to rehab is what it will be like when you return to work after attending a rehab program.

You might wonder what to expect after rehab. How you will be treated by your coworkers after you return is a big concern. Will your coworkers be happy to see you and praise you for taking the time and effort to overcome your addiction? Or will they resent you for past behaviors or even for leaving work to attend rehab? Will your work friends still invite you to happy hour and other social events? You might also wonder if going to rehab will affect your career. Will you be given the same responsibilities and opportunities for advancement? Will you even be able to keep your job if you go to rehab?

As a society, we have come a long way in understanding addiction. Most people now recognize that addiction is a disease that can be overcome with proper treatment and support. However, some stigma still surrounds substance abuse and addiction. As a result, although you will likely find that most of your coworkers will be proud of you for seeking treatment, you may notice that others are not as supportive. Despite evidence to the contrary, some people mistakenly view addiction as a character flaw. The drug and alcohol treatment specialists at HARP have advice to help you deal with both types of coworkers, as well as how to deal with other challenges, when you return to work from a stay at a drug rehab center.

How to Deal with Coworkers

Anyone who has ever had a job knows that the workplace rumor mill is always looking for new gossip. It doesn’t matter if you work in an office or a warehouse, you can expect your co-workers to be curious about your absence. The best way to handle their curiosity is to decide in advance how to respond. You need to decide if and who you will share your struggles with. Keep in mind that while it can be helpful to have coworkers who understand your struggle to get clean and sober, you don’t need to tell them every single detail. You can save the more detailed personal information for your therapist, sponsor, and loved ones.

You’ll also want to decide how you will respond to the questions you don’t want to answer. It makes the situation much more difficult when you don’t have a plan for how to respond before you go back to work, because no one does their best thinking when they’re put on the spot.

If you do decide to tell your coworkers about your decision to attend a drug and alcohol treatment program, you’ll find that some of them will be supportive, while others may not be. When you find coworkers who are supportive and encouraging, you can consider these individuals to be positive additions to your critical support system. As for the more judgmental coworkers, take their response with a grain of salt.

Although they might enjoy criticizing and gossiping early on, they will lose interest in your situation after a few weeks and move on to the next piece of gossip. In the best case scenario, you may even find that they change their mind about you after seeing your determination and renewed focus. Actions speak louder than words, so let your commitment to your career and recovery do all of the talking.

How to Handle Return-to-Work Agreements

Depending on your employer, you may have to contend with a return-to-work agreement after completing a stay at a drug and alcohol treatment program. Certain employers require employees to sign a written agreement after they complete rehab.

Each agreement is different, but some of the terms may include random drug testing, added supervision at work, and long-term monitoring to help prevent relapse and problems on the job. If you have to sign such an agreement, you should realize that there are consequences if you relapse and breach the terms of the agreement. The consequences may include disciplinary action, additional treatment for substance abuse, and termination.

Given the severity of the consequences, you should be honest with your boss about your situation. With open dialogue, you can work together to develop solutions to help you avoid relapse and stay in compliance with the agreement, allowing you to keep your job.

How to Deal with Work Stress

Job-related stress often contributes to or even causes drug or alcohol abuse for many people who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction. If this is true for you, you need to be careful to manage job stresses to avoid relapse. Managing work stress can take many different forms.

For an existing job, you might consider talking to your boss about easing back into work with a flexible work schedule or limited job duties until you readjust to the demands of your position. For a new job, it can be stressful to learn the ropes of your new role. In this situation, you might also want to discuss a modified work schedule or reduced job responsibilities.

Assuming that you can’t reach out to your employer about changing the schedule or responsibilities of your position, you’ll want to take other steps to manage stress. You should regularly attend support group meetings, rely on your support system of loved ones and medical professionals, and utilize the stress management and sober living skills you learned during your stay in rehab.

Moving into a sober living environment that provides additional support and structure during your transition back into the workplace can also be helpful in certain situations. In addition to these tips, you can incorporate regular exercise, meditation, and therapy into your routine as a way to alleviate work stress.

Each individual is different, so you will need to decide which solutions and tools will best meet your needs. The one thing that is important for everyone is taking action as soon as you begin to notice signs of stress or relapse. Although it might not seem like it early on, taking these steps is best for you and your employer.  These steps allow you to slowly reach maximum productivity.

How to Handle Changes in the Workplace

While you were away at a drug and alcohol treatment program, your employer might have instituted changes in the workplace. Some of the changes might be related to your absence, such as hiring a new employee to take over your duties during your absence, while others might be completely unrelated and caused by changes within the company.




If you return to work and notice that it is different than the way you left it, you’ll need to be flexible. You should introduce yourself to new employees and familiarize yourself with how they function in the workplace. If someone has taken over your duties during your absence, you’ll need to be flexible in terms of your job duties, salary, and opportunities for promotion. Although it can be frustrating, if you keep a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, you’ll prove yourself to your employer and coworkers, allowing you to advance in your career.

As an added bonus, you might find that having reduced work responsibilities creates a good work-life balance that can help you during your recovery and transition back to work. Any situation that makes you happier and healthier is positive.

How to Avoid Becoming a Workaholic

As important as it is to watch for signs of relapse, it’s equally critical to watch out for new addictions. People who struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol are often prone to other types of addiction, including workaholism. Although some people view this as harmless, and even necessary to advance in your career, it is still an addiction. Replacing an addiction to work for an addiction to drugs or alcohol means you aren’t truly doing the work to achieve sobriety.

People throw themselves into their work after returning from rehab for many reasons. Some people look to work as a way to avoid their feelings, stresses, or relationships, while others simply might be trying to prove themselves at work and make up for lost time. Regardless of the reason, when people in recovery throw themselves into their work, they are prone to experiencing burnout and exhaustion.

Make sure that you don’t let working late or working from home in the evenings keep you from the important aspects of recovery, such as spending time with loved ones, attending support groups and therapy, and participating in other activities that are important to your recovery. During the recovery process, you need to find time to take care of yourself to prevent relapse. Take time to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, exercise, spend time with friends, and relax. All of these activities help keep you sane and sober, ensuring that you have enough energy to live your life.

If you’re afraid you won’t be able to keep up at work, you should take the following steps to manage your productivity. To maximize your efficiency, you should make lists and set goals for each day. These activities help you stay on track, so you don’t waste time thinking about what project you need to tackle next or how to tackle it. You should also try to keep socializing at work to a minimum so you don’t waste time on chit-chat when you should be working.

How to Deal with Feeling Dissatisfied

Rehab isn’t a magic pill that instantly makes your life easier and better. When you leave a drug and alcohol treatment program you’ll discover that you still have bills to pay, chores to do, and job duties to complete. Life’s stresses don’t go away by attending rehab. You might also discover that your boss is being hard on you after your return from rehab, or you might feel like you’re failing to meet your responsibilities.

The feelings and stresses that are involved with the daily grind sometimes resolve on their own, but sometimes you need to take action to improve your situation. You might need to seek a new position to solve a problem with an unreasonable boss. You may also consider going back to school or getting additional training so you can advance in your career. Volunteering can also help you avoid feeling stuck in your life and recovery.

You will find challenges on the road to recovery in everyday life. However, by taking action and continuing with your long-term recovery plan, you can find your place in the world, as well as health and happiness.

If you have questions about our treatment facility or the HARP methodology, you can contact our caring and knowledgeable drug and alcohol treatment professionals to get answers. Our team is here to answer all of your questions so that you can feel comfortable with your decision to enter our treatment center. If you or someone you love needs help overcoming addiction, you can rely on the experts at HARP.

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