talk to boss about rehab

How to Talk to Your Boss About Rehab

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

If you have faced your addiction and are making plans to attend rehab, this is an important and powerful step toward personal recovery. In-patient rehab is essential for many people with addiction disorders because it allows you to fully focus on recovery in an environment separate from your usual influences, stressors, and triggers. You can build a healthy new routine that maintains your physical and mental wellness under the supervised care of compassionate rehab professionals and in the company of others with addictions who know what you’re going through.

But how do you tell your work where you are going? In-patient rehab takes several weeks to rebuild your lifestyle as a sober and happy person. This is the span of time needed to break your previous habits and set you on a solid path toward taking personal control of your recovery. But you will need to take some time off work which means explaining to your boss what’s going on – within reason.

Today, we’re here to offer a few helpful tips and guidelines for talking about rehab with your work – both in friendly and unfriendly situations.

Know Your Rights

The first step is to know where you stand legally in your rights to take time off for rehab without repercussions. You have some legal protections as an employee with a medical condition that needs treatment, so be aware of your rights and prepared to talk about them in a calm, polite manner if necessary.


Addiction is considered a medical condition, therefore you have some protections under the ADA and EEOC which outlaws discrimination based on medical status. In addition, the Family Medical Leave Act provides you with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave provided you have worked for your employer for 12+ months and 1250+ hours in the last 12 months of work. Because rehab is necessary medical treatment, you may use your FMLA leave to attend.

Know Your Company’s Leave Policies

Paired with your legal rights are your rights as an employee of your specific workplace. Every employer has a handbook of employee rights and obligations. There next to the dress code and timecard policies you will find your  allotment of sick leave, vacation, unpaid leave, and the policies associated with each. Study your company’s leave policies so you know which type of leave you can call upon and rules that may protect your privacy.

Get a Doctor’s Note

Often, employers require a medical diagnosis or report to provide FMLA or extended sick leave. So get a doctor’s note detailing that you have an ongoing medical condition and require X amount of time to attend a treatment program. You may not have to share the note, but it will be useful if your employer insists on proof of a medical condition.

Talk About Performance and Wellness

When approaching your employer about rehab, open with a conversation about employment and health. Addiction tends to take its toll on work performance, mood ,and dedication so it is likely that your boss has already noticed that something is weighing you down. Open the conversation by admitting that your performance has slipped and this is due to a medical condition you are struggling with.

Tell your boss that you are now seeking direct in-patient treatment for your condition and that you look forward to returning to work as a healthier and more productive person. This is the least revealing way to talk about your addiction and rehab while giving your boss all the information they technically need to know.

Talking to a Boss You Can Trust

If you have good rapport with your boss and there is not excessive addiction stigma in the workplace, it is often best to come fully clean about the situation. You can tell a boss you trust that you have been struggling with addiction and your leave is an in-patient rehab program that will help you finally free yourself from the condition that has been holding you back.

Ideally, your boss will be compassionate, they may even have friends or family who have been through your situation. However, even if your boss is distant or does not know what to say, simply thank them for the leave and express your enthusiasm for returning to work when you are well.

What to Tell a Boss You Can’t Trust

If you have an employer who is hostile, vehemently anti-drugs, or who is prone to misunderstandings – you may want to reveal as little as possible about your condition and what the treatment is for. In this case, stick to your reasoning that you have a medical issue that needs intensive treatment and would like to maintain your privacy on the matter.

Keeping and Coming Back to Your Job

Most importantly, emphasize how much you want to return to work and look forward to being more productive after treatment. This will achieve two things: it will remind your boss to maintain your spot on the team and will show that you intend to be a better employee once you are out of the throws of addiction. If your performance has been slipping as a result of your addiction disorder, it tells employers that you are aware of the slip and will come back a stronger employee.

Continuing Outpatient Care

Last but not least, make plans for post-rehab outpatient care that fits your work schedule. Maintaining sobriety and fighting the recurrence of addiction is critical to truly achieving your goals of becoming a happier, healthier, and more productive person.

You can find detox, in-patient rehab, out-patient care, and online recovery programs here at First Steps Recovery in Fresno, California. Contact us or call 844-489-0836today!

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