Drug and alcohol abuse has destroyed countless promising careers. If you are thinking about rehab, keeping your job while in treatment may be easier than you think. Here we look at how you and your employer can find a solution that works for both of you.

Keeping Your Job During Rehab


  • Rehab needn’t destroy your professional life. Here are our tips for keeping your job during rehab.
  • Is drug or alcohol abuse affecting your career? Learn how you can get the help you need without losing your job.

Substance abuse in the workplace is an issue that affects both employees and employers. For employees it can lead to loss of professional reputation, termination, accidents or even death. For employers it can mean decreased productivity from workers, more absent days and increased compensation claims.

It is therefore in both parties’ interest to tackle the issue head on. While this can be a difficult subject to broach with any manager or employer, you may be surprised by the sympathy and support you receive to help you enter rehab and get you back on track.

Identifying Whether You Have a Problem

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether your alcohol or drug use is having serious negative impacts on your professional life. This will require you to be honest with yourself and candidly review your performance and behaviour in the workplace. Here are some tell-tale signs that it may be time to come clean and begin making preparations to enter rehab:

  • You are more frequently absent and/or you take more medical leave than your colleagues
  • You are less productive than your colleagues
  • You are prone to accidents or injuries at work
  • You have poor relations with management and the people you work with
  • You are unproductive or sluggish early in the day
  • You have received warnings about your appearance and/or dress
  • You lie to management and colleagues to hide your alcohol or drug problem

If you exhibit any of these signs it may be time to confront your problem. It is important to remember that you are not alone. In the US, for example, an estimated 76 per cent of substance abusers are employed, and countless people go on to successful and rewarding careers after rehab.

You Deserve to be Happy

Overcoming The Stigma of Addiction

Very often, dealing with the stigma surrounding alcohol or drug abuse is the most difficult step on the road to recovery, especially when it relates to your professional life. It is only natural to assume that owning up to your alcohol and drug dependence will have a negative impact on how your colleagues see you, but this is often not the case. Many employers will appreciate your honesty and your willingness to tackle the issue head-on. Remember, it is your employer’s best interest to assist you in your recovery.

It is a good idea to read and clearly understand your employer’s policy on drug and alcohol use before you speak to your boss about entering rehab. Responsible employers will have a clear and transparent policy that allows for workers to keep their job while they get the help they need to return to full productivity.

For example, the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management’s sample Employee’s Handbook for employers states: “Employees who are addicted to alcohol, drugs or other substances and who disclose their problem will not be dismissed provided that they seek immediate medical treatment.”

Indeed, many employers will have trained staff who can deal with addiction problems in the workplace and will actively assist you in your recovery.  Many companies will also have Employee Assistance Programs in place to help you find the right treatment. Helping employees get past their substance abuse issues has proved much more cost-effective for companies than replacing employees.

To Rehab or Not to Rehab?

Depending on the seriousness of your problem, you may want to consider some time in rehab to help you get past your drug or alcohol dependence. If you think this is the best option for you, it pays to be transparent with your employer. Discuss possible rehab options and find out what level of support your employer is willing to give.

Monetary concerns are always an issue when taking time in rehab, so some flexibility on your employer’s part will help a lot. If they are not willing to give paid leave for your time in rehab, then it is possible that you can use your vacation time for your rehab stay. This will allow you to get inpatient treatment at a rehab centre where you can focus solely on recovery. Some inpatient programs may even allow you limited access to computers and telephones so you can continue to perform key tasks while you are away from work.

If you cannot take a leave of absence or have limited vacation time, you could consider an outpatient rehab programme that allows you to continue to work while you receive the treatment you need. Outpatient programs tend to be flexible, usually allotting one to three days per week for treatment so you are free to work for the rest of the week.

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Getting Back to Work

Returning to work after time in rehab can present its own challenges. At first, it can be awkward, and in some cases you may have to rebuild your relationship with your colleagues. However, if you have been transparent with your employer and your colleagues from the outset, returning to your old job should be a relatively smooth process.

The best way to dispel any negativity or stigma is to excel in your professional life. If you are reliable, productive and establish yourself as a key member of staff then you will quickly regain the respect of your co-workers while assuring your employer that they made the right decision in helping you through the recovery process. With a little patience and a positive outlook, you can achieve more than ever before.

If you think your alcohol or drug use is having a detrimental effect on your professional life, The Cabin Hong Kong offers a range of discreet, flexible programmes that can help you get back to your very best. Contact us today to learn more about how our certified therapists can help you.

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