Residential Treatment for Alcoholism: How Do I Recover?

Man researching families and addiction on his computer

Choosing to enter residential treatment for your alcoholism is a scary but positive step toward sobriety. There can be many questions you might have, such as what do I do about my employment? How will I manage my home, my family, or pets? How long will I be in treatment and what comes after that?

Job Security While in Addiction Treatment

Attending residential addiction treatment may bring up fears of losing your job, but it’s more likely that your job will be in jeopardy if you do not receive help. Often, if your alcohol abuse/dependence continues without treatment, your work performance and quality suffer.

There are laws that can help protect you when seeking residential treatment [1]. With residential, you will need to take a leave of absence from your work due to the nature of this level of care.

You can apply through your employer for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits, offering up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off that does not affect your health insurance. It allows employees to seek treatment for a medical condition that interferes with their work performance [1].

A second option is to request paid time off from your place of employment. You can use vacation, sick, and personal time to go into residential care. Some employers offer a pool of sick time that other employees donate for any employee to use if facing an illness or in need of treatment.

Man At Work Using His Tablet

There are executive rehab centers that cater to those who have heavy work loads and need to stay active within their workplace while seeking treatment. These facilities offer 24-hour supervised residential treatment while being allowed to work remotely [1].

These facilities, however, are more upscale than typical treatment centers. They are often in secluded areas with maximum privacy and cater to the more wealthy clients who are high-level executives, celebrities or public figures.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 76 percent of individuals with a substance use problem are employed [2]. There is a stigma that if you seek treatment, you will automatically be fired from your job for any length of time away from your employment duties and obligations.

This is simply untrue. Seeking treatment will most likely save your job, and often individuals who do seek residential treatment are promoted to higher positions when they return to the workplace in recovery [2].

What Are My Legal Rights?

Once you enter a treatment facility for alcohol use disorder, you are protected by the ADA and are unable to be fired due to your addiction. If you find that you are terminated due to your treatment, you can file a discrimination suit against your employer which applies to both state, local, and private companies that have 15 or more employees [2].

Woman Telling Her Boss That She Is Going Into Residential Treatment For Alcohol

If you are unable to do FMLA unpaid leave, you can apply for disability benefits while you receive treatment. This can be a challenging process, and you have to prove that you do not make more than the disability income maximum, which is typically $1,000 per month. Also when applying, you have to be able to state that your disability will not last longer than one year in duration and that your disability impairs your ability to maintain work.

When talking with your employer, it is good to know what your company policies are on leave of absence, as well as your insurance and medical leave policies. Talking with your employer as soon as possible, as well as with your human resources representative, is essential.

Ask to speak to both together privately or in separate meetings, also in a private area. Talk with them about your needs, potential duration of time that you will be gone for treatment, and motivation for sobriety and return to work.

Preparing Loved Ones for Your Stay in Residential Treatment

When seeking residential treatment, it may be difficult for your loved ones to have you gone, but a relief to know you are getting the help you need. Make sure they are involved in your treatment process through the use of facility family education weekends or day, included in family therapy, and know how best to support your sobriety.

Mother Preparing Her Child For Her Addiction Recovery Program

When including young children, talk in age-appropriate language to help them understand what you will be doing. Often, the treatment facility will have resources available for you to talk with your children prior to admitting [3].

In many cases, friends, family, and/or partners will care for and manage your family while you are in treatment, but this is not always an option. If you do not have support, there are non-governmental volunteer organizations that will help find temporary homes for your children [3].

Fur babies need care, too. There is no doubt that pets are family members, and admitting to residential treatment can be difficult on them. If there are no family or friends that are able to watch your pet, there are options for you.

There is long-term boarding at most veterinary clinics or boarding centers. It can be expensive to choose this option. Another possible choice is to hire a pet sitter where your pet can go to them and stay while you are in treatment, or come to your home and check-in, walk, and feed your pet [3]. It is important to leave a description of care for your pet and emergency numbers, as well as medical records.

Paying For Addiction Treatment and Cost of Living

Treatment for alcohol use disorder can be costly for most individuals, even with insurance. Often, individuals will use paid time off from work to continue to receive a paycheck for costs of daily life for the family. Other people will ask for help from family and friends for their household expenses and family care.

Seeking residential treatment is an important step in your recovery. Taking the necessary actions to step away from your regular daily life and get the help needed is important and doable.


Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is an Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1] Miller, M. L., & Gifford, B. M. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions About Addiction Rehab. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
[2] Going to an Addiction Treatment Center with a Job (n.d.) Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
[3] Loved Ones and Rehab – Caring for Family During Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2017, from

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 a 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 July 21, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 21, 2017.
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.