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 Rights and Procedure for Taking Time Off to go to a Substance Use Treatment Center or a Drug Rehab

By Joe Stein

When substance use starts to interfere with your personal and professional responsibilities, it's time to reevaluate and consider getting help. Unfortunately, many people refuse to seek treatment even when they know they could benefit from it. Some may not want to jeopardize their careers by revealing their relationship with substances; other can't imagine putting their lives on hold to pursue comprehensive drug or alcohol treatment.

If you have a full-time job and a salary you can't afford to sacrifice, it doesn't mean you can't take time off for substance use treatment. In fact, if your employer values your contributions, they should be on board with your plan to improve. It's still a delicate process, though, so make sure you take all of the following steps.

1. Find the appropriate treatment for you
Every substance user is unique, so there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Explore your options; you might be surprised how many treatment methods are available today. From intensive impatient centers to online and part-time programs, there are plenty of ways to get help. Locate a substance use program that fits your needs, then contact staff members to find out more about the methods they employ and the work they'll require from you.

2. Speak with your HR representatives
Your Human Resources (HR) department is dedicated to solving problems exactly like yours. They'll know which workplace policies apply to substance use treatment, and help you navigate everything from paperwork to telling your boss.

3. Know your rights
According to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), substance use treatment falls under the same guidelines that require employers to grant paid leave in case of a serious health condition[1]. That means they can't fire you for seeking treatment, even if you must leave work to do so. However, if you miss any work because of the substance use itself, they're free to cite it as a reason for dismissal.

4. Have a conversation with your boss
Even if you don't need official permission from the management directly above you, it's still a good idea to be upfront and open with your boss. You don't have to explain exactly why you're taking a leave, even if he or she is aware that it's for inpatient treatment. You may benefit from their support if you share a close relationship, but no matter how much you disclose, you can still turn it into a positive.
Take this opportunity to explain that you're fully committed to tackling your personal problems head-on, so that you can be the best possible employee when you come back. It's not unprofessional to prioritize your mind and body over your temporary obligations; it's actually a wise long-term business model.

5. Prepare to leave work behind
Before you leave, make sure your workplace is prepared for your absence. If a temporary replacement is taking over your responsibilities, make sure your important files and work space are organized. If you have clients or customers who depend on you, make sure someone else has their important information.
Now, prepare yourself by focusing all your energy on getting sober. If you get distracted by a looming to-do list or leave early to make your employer happy, you won't be fully ready to re-enter the workforce.
Making the decision to seek treatment is often the most difficult part of the process. It requires you to take responsibility for your own mistakes and admit you've lost control, but it also marks the start of your transformation into a better person. You should be proud of your progress so far and excited about the potential that lies ahead.

Bio: The above is a guest post by Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrates on self-directed positive and permanent change. Through the program, we offer the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement.

Resources: [1] webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/fmla/10c9.aspx