Will Going to Alcohol Treatment Affect my Career?

Man painting for his career

Life of an addict is at times dual in nature. On the one hand, the individual has a functioning family life and career with social and moral obligations. Then there is the dark side where that same individual loses himself to alcohol.

Maybe the stress of work was too much, or life pressures were becoming harder to handle, and alcohol provided a much-needed momentary relief.

When this “escape route” turns into a vicious dependence and addiction, it is time to seek professional help and regain control of your life.

Yet, many still hesitate to seek the treatment they so desperately need because of the associated stigma and the threat of ruining everything they have worked so hard for in life. They fear losing their careers.

Impact of Addiction on Your Career

Surveys show that 60 percent of American adults know someone who has been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work.

You might think you have things under control and that your job performance isn’t affected by your drinking and drug use. Chances are someone knows about it.

Addiction can take a toll on your job performance and career. Being under the influence at work can expose you to irrational decisions, inappropriate behavior, and inadequate performance.

Even if you do not drink at work, as your body develops a dependency, you will most likely be struggling with the withdrawal effects at work.

This is essentially characterized by irritability, reduced concentration, lack of energy and intense cravings for the drug or alcohol. Being preoccupied with getting your next drink will take your focus away from work.

Woman at work struggling with addictionFurthermore, your irritability during withdrawal will most likely affect your professional relationships and harm your team spirit at work. All of such shortcomings may result in disciplinary action and even loss of a job.

If your addiction is proving to be a problem at work or affecting your performance, treatment is even more imperative than ever.

Instead of worrying about how seeking alcohol addiction treatment will ruin your career, you need to start realizing that addiction is doing the same and getting the treatment you need will only help you grow into a better professional and person.

In fact, before it even gets to this point, take charge of your addiction before it takes charge of your career and your life. [1]

Protecting Your Career

The trade-off between taking time off for treatment and protecting your career is the biggest predicament faced by professionals dealing with alcoholism.

Even though these fears and concerns are understandable, it is important to treat your addiction before you lose a lot more in life than just your job.

The most significant question is whether you can lose your job if you have to reveal to your boss that you are an alcoholic and need treatment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from being discriminated against due to a disability. The act further defines what qualifies as a disability.

People who struggle with the disease of alcoholism are considered to have a disability under this law.

It is important to note here that under this act, alcoholism being a disability, employers may be required to accommodate an alcoholic employee’s reasonable efforts at treatment and rehabilitation, such as facilitating a flexible work schedule that allows the employee to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

This, however, in no way means that an alcoholic employee will be overlooked for violating the employer’s required performance and conduct standards.

Any such violations, caused by or related to the employee’s drinking, may result in disciplinary action against the employee, including termination. [2]

Hence, it is in your best interest to take action against your addiction, as soon as possible.

Another common question is if the alcoholic’s job will be held during time spent in treatment.

Man workingEven though ADA requires employers to work around schedules to provide flexibility for the employee’s AA meeting or therapy sessions, a longer leave could be looked up under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The FMLA allows eligible employees to take an unpaid leave of absence while still having their jobs protected.

An employee is entitled to 12 weeks of medical leave in a 12-month period.

If you choose to enter an inpatient drug rehab program, the FMLA law protects you from being terminated.

Once you are at the rehab, the physician present there will contact your employer and explain your need for FMLA. The employer does not necessarily have to know you are in an alcohol rehab.

If you have short-term disability insurance, you will be qualified and can start receiving pay.

Using accrued vacation time to spend in treatment also allows the employee to be paid while in rehab. These tools are particularly helpful if you are worried about balancing your expenses with the added treatment costs. [3]

The Cost of Reputation and Career Advancement

Even though you may fear that being away will affect your skills and focus, in reality, there are more chances of your career and abilities improving.

Your body is cleansed of the toxins from alcohol, and your health and cognitive functions improve.

Where your addiction and associated issues were taking up so much of your time and energy, you can now dedicate all this space to your career and family. Your productivity will increase as you will be able to work harder and longer.

Telling your co-workers about your alcohol addiction and treatment is entirely up to your discretion.

Even though you may fear that others will judge you poorly, the chances are that your co-workers will be supportive and appreciative of your decision to seek treatment.

Woman working at homeYour initiative to enter treatment for your alcoholism will send the message that you realized the real problem and are willing to do something about it. It may even make your co-workers see you with greater respect.

In any case, if you feel your co-workers are treating you differently or gossiping, you can always reach out to your human resource representative.

If anything, treatment for alcohol addiction essentially teaches you the importance of self-growth and growth of self-esteem. You emerge stronger from treatment and should look past such negativity and focus on your main goal.

Sana Ahmed photoAbout the Author:

A journalist and social media savvy content writer with wide research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana Ahmed has previously worked as staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute focusing on mental health and addiction recovery, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.

Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. The art of using words to educate, stir emotions, create change and provoke action is at the core of her career, as she strives to develop content and deliver news that matters.


[1] http://www.alternativesintreatment.com/general-addiction/5-ways-addiction-affects-career/
[2] http://warshawskylawfirm.com/lawyer/2011/12/12/Employment_Law/Is_Alco
[3] https://www.recoveryconnection.com/saving-career-life-rehab/

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on February 3, 2018

Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.