One of the things that can hold people back from seeking treatment for substance abuse is concern about keeping their job. It can be hard enough working up the nerve to ask for a single day off, depending on the temperament of your boss, but what do you do when you might have to spend months in a residential treatment facility?

First of all, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. Addiction is a disease, not something you’ve done wrong. It takes a lot of strength to admit that you have a problem and need help, and you should be proud of yourself for that. Also, you’re hardly alone in your struggle. It’s been reported that 10 percent to 25 percent of American workers are occasionally on the job while under the influence of alcohol or some illicit drug.

Make a plan before you talk to your employer. Go in prepared with explanations of how long you expect to be away, who can take over your duties, and whether you’ll be able to keep in communication while in treatment. You may even offer to help train someone to temporarily replace you while you’re away.

Choose an appropriate time. If you know that there’s a huge project next week and your boss is under a lot of pressure, maybe don’t choose that exact moment to have the discussion. Request a private meeting (or possibly one that also includes someone from human resources) ahead of time.

If you know that your performance has been lacking, acknowledge it. Apologize for any problems you may have caused and assure your boss that you’re aware of what you’ve done and are actively taking steps to better yourself, so that when you come back you can be a model employee.


If your employer is less than understanding or threatens to fire you, remember that you have rights. The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that guarantees certain employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year with no threat of job loss. If you have group health benefits, they must be maintained during this time. The FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. A substance use disorder is considered a medical condition that is covered by the act.

If you aren’t part of the group covered by the FMLA, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against employees who have disabilities. If you enter treatment for your addiction, you can’t be fired for missing time to go through recovery. However, if you are currently taking illegal drugs and your employer finds out and fires you, you are not protected under this act.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.