Workplace addiction is often stigmatized, but more people suffer as addicts while at work than you may think — 77 percent of illicit drug users are employed either part-time or full-time. That’s eight out of ten people and 9.4 million workers who deal with addiction on a daily basis. The United States also only makes up five percent of the world population, yet its citizens buy and consume 60 percent of the global illicit drug supply.
Employee drug abuse leads to a decrease in productivity and increase in accidents on and off the job. As a result, workman’s compensation and medical claims go up, raising the employer premiums and employee contributions. Meanwhile, the addiction sufferer must deal with increased absenteeism and the resulting decreased pay — they don’t perform at their best and cost the company through inaccurate work, missed deadlines and equipment loss or supply theft. Both employer and addicted employee suffer.
You know the story, and you lived it. You went to receive treatment. Now, you have to deal with the potential stigma of your coworkers and employer, all while staying on track with your work and healing. Ideally, your employer will have a supportive program in place, or you will develop a plan with your employer as you transition back to work and life.
Making a Plan With Your Employer
While your coworkers may not know why you were gone, you will want to be as open and clear with your employer as possible about how your treatment went and what’s on your mind about your role at the company as you move forward. Many employers have drug policies that indicate no tolerance, but that didn’t lead to your firing. Instead, it led to your recovery process.
Your employer is invested in your whole health and well-being. Now, it’s time to show you’ve done the work, and you’ll continue to do the work. You still have dreams, goals and plans to achieve in life and at your place of employment. Start with that, and the rest will follow as you sit down with your employer to make a plan.
Educate yourself about your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and related policies at work. Employers with long-term and successful EAPs report increased productivity and morale, with a reduction in accidents, absenteeism and turnover among recovering addiction sufferers. What services are there to support you right now? EAPs typically offer assessment, referral and short-term counseling. Do your employer’s healthcare benefits cover any continued counseling or medical needs?
Create an individual plan with your employer for your day-to-day work. Will you integrate slowly back into the swing of things or dive right in? What tasks do you feel ready for? Do you want to work solo instead of in a team? How will you and the employer address your absenteeism to coworkers and others?
Don’t be afraid to discuss your concerns with your employer and Human Resources, who will guide you through the process. Be honest about where you are and what you can handle right now.
Take it Slowly in Your Personal Life
Alcohol was the first recorded substance to affect employee performance adversely. Workers suffered from the overuse and abuse of other substances, such as cannabis, opiates, painkillers, sedatives and stimulants.
You may struggle as you see others in your lives interact with these substances. A family member may need sedatives and other prescribed medicine for their health, while a friend may drink a little too much and still invite you out after you’ve expressed a need to distance yourself. You know the importance of staying away from influential triggers and others who don’t have your wellness in mind.
Meanwhile, in your professional and personal lives, others may guess what you went through and respond with judgment, support or mixed emotions as they process what happened. People will also surprise you in a positive way because they know someone who’s been there, and others will ignore it or not care.
In the end, you’re the one that matters right now. Take it slowly in your personal life. Developing healthy routines are essential to your continued wellness and maintaining a work-life balance. Routine sounds boring, but it’s the foundation of leading a full and happy life.
So, what are your routines? How do you get up and go now? Do you need extra time? Are there healthy hobbies and coping mechanisms you’re going to put into practice, such as exercise, painting or martial arts? Structure those into your day, and you may learn a new skill to boost your work performance as well as your mood.
Going to rehab may feel like the worst experience of your life, and coming out to deal with the world again closely follows. All you need is a shift in perspective to stay on track at work and in life, but some days will be harder than others. Getting back on track comes with time, and there is a track — take it at your own pace, and you’ll be fine.