How can an individual with a drug or alcohol addiction communicate their need for help to their employer?

More than 70 percent of people living with a substance use disorder (SUD) also have jobs. Some have access through their employer to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides support to those needing treatment for addiction. For those without an EAP or similar program, consider other options for communicating with your employer about your need to seek help for an SUD.

Often people will avoid reaching out to their employer, fearing they will lose their job. This deadly decision is the result of the stigma of addiction. Stigma prevents millions of people from seeking treatment for their SUD. Although addiction is a chronic brain disease that requires treatment, the stigma fosters fear of reaching out for help, ultimately costing lives.

Even though stepping up and sharing your need for treatment with your employer seems scary, the odds are your coworkers have already noticed the signs of addiction in your workplace behavior. Therefore, it is essential to reach out as soon as you decide to seek help for your addiction.

Denying your problem and trying to cover up the consequences will only hurt your chances of staying employed. With support from your employer, you have a higher chance of successful treatment. So the sooner you reach out to your employer, the more likely you are to have a job after treatment.

How to Talk to Your Employer about Addiction

Take these steps to ensure successful communications about your SUD and need for treatment with your employer:

  • Do not wait for fear of losing your job. Deciding to seek treatment for addiction could save your life ­– and your job. Speak to your supervisor sooner rather than later;
  • Review your employer’s benefits program, sick leave rules and alcohol and drug policy. Be educated about your options and your rights as an employee;
  • Research treatment options that would work best for you. Valley Hope offers a continuum of care and works closely with employers to ensure successful outcomes for their employees;
  • Gather as much information as you can about addiction, specifically about the clinical classification of SUD as a chronic brain disease that requires treatment and supportive care; and
  • Take accountability for how addiction has affected your productivity and emphasize your desire to receive treatment that will help you fully maximize your professional work.

Being open and honest with your employer and your loved ones about your addiction is essential as you begin the journey of treatment and recovery. The odds are your employer will be grateful for your honesty and your courage.

Do not wait any longer. Take action today by having an informed and direct conversation with your boss about your decision to begin the road to recovery.

Explore Valley Hope’s blog for more information on stigma and addiction in the workplace, EAPs, and for extensive resources and information for loved ones, families and the recovery community.

Do you need information on other recovery subjects? If you have a related topic you would like covered, please submit your ideas to recovery@valleyhope.org.

If you feel like you need help immediately, the Valley Hope team is available 24/7 at (800) 544-5101.  Get help. Find hope.