Blog | Addiction Recovery

Your Career After Alcohol Rehab

Alcoholism kills dreams. In a relatively short amount of time, addictive behavior can destroy what you have built over your lifetime – your reputation, your relationships and your career…your future. Are you one of the many people who have lost their jobs and professional standing due to alcohol abuse? Or have you been forced into receiving drug rehab treatment on the threat of losing your job if you don’t?

What Does It Take to Rebuild a Career Following Treatment?

Woman hugging manAssuming that you successfully complete a formal drug rehab program, then what? How can you take what you gain through alcohol rehab to improve your professional standing and rebuild your career? Take heart. While it’s certainly not easy to resurrect a new life from the abyss of addiction, completing alcohol rehab, staying clean and showing new resolve greatly helps your chances of opening doors of opportunity for the future you desire.

Some tough decisions and actions must be taken. You must squarely face your past mistakes, adjust your expectations, commit to working hard, smart and responsible, maintain a positive, “can do” attitude, and make an honest assessment of your current situation. Doing each of these things will go a long way in preparing you to move forward – both personally and professionally – to a brighter, healthier tomorrow.1

A Back-to-Work Conference Following Rehab Sets Ground Rules, Expectations

Meeting with colleaguesOnce you feel ready to return to the workplace following a sufficient period of rehab, it is a good practice to have a back-to-work conference with key individuals in your life – in most cases, this would include your supervisor, the employee assistance program (EAP) counselor, a staff member from your treatment program, other appropriate personnel from human resources, and your representative (if you wish).

This back-to-work conference can give perspective to what transpired during alcohol rehab, details concerning your treatment schedule and any needed workplace changes, such as a travel schedule or closer supervision.2

Accountability and Support Activities Should Continue Following Formal Rehab

With your return to work, some type of aftercare – such as a 12-Step program or other group meetings, therapy, EAP sessions or any combination of these measures – should be implemented. You must adjust to life without alcohol and other addictive drugs. A whole new lifestyle is in the making. At the start, it will likely feel strange and awkward. New friendships may need to be formed and old relationships mended. It takes time, hard work and lots of practice to build healthy habits, establish daily routines and forge new, positive, drug-free relationships and rebuild your career.

These post-release sessions should cause only minimal disruption to your work schedule. They will serve to support you as you get a handle on the challenges being faced.2

What Actions May an Employer Take If Drinking Continues to Interfere with Business?

Employers may prohibit drinking or illegal use of drugs in the workplace, as well as other “inappropriate or disruptive behavior,” so it is important you conduct yourself in a manner that is suitable to your particular work environment.

Whether an employer’s application of a conduct rule to an employee with a disability – such as alcoholism – is job-related and consistent with business necessity may rest on several factors, including the manifestation or symptom of a disability affecting an employee’s conduct, the frequency of occurrences, the nature of the job, the specific conduct at issue, and the working environment. These factors may be especially critical when the violation concerns disruptive behavior which, unlike prohibitions on stealing or violence, is more ambiguous concerning exactly what type of conduct is viewed as unacceptable.

Generally, it is inappropriate for the employer to focus discussion about a performance or conduct problem on an employee’s disability. The point of an employer’s comments to you should be a clear explanation of your performance deficiencies or misconduct and what he expects you to do to improve. Moreover, emphasizing the disability risks distracting from the focus on performance or conduct, and in some cases could result in a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that the employer “regarded” (or treated) the individual as having a disability.

An employer may ask you if you require a reasonable accommodation. Alternatively, an employer may prefer to ask if some steps can be taken to enable you to improve your performance or conduct without mentioning accommodation or the employee’s disability.

Under the ADA, an employer may require an employee who is having performance or conduct problems to provide medical information or undergo a medical examination when it is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Generally, this means that the employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that an employee is unable to perform an “essential function” or will pose a “direct threat” because of a medical condition.The scope and manner of any inquiries or medical examinations must be limited to information necessary to determine those specific performance or environmental factors. Furthermore, an employer must have objective evidence suggesting that a medical reason is a likely cause of the problem to justify seeking medical information or ordering a medical examination.3

Be Creative, Resilient in Moving Your Career Forward After Alcohol Rehab

Your best career move after alcohol rehab may be researching degree or certificate options or giving a different slant to your resume. Keep your mind open, continue to network, and don’t stop trying. If you are diligent, you may very well surpass where you were before alcohol rehab. Over time, your new lifestyle will feel more natural, and you will be healthier and more positive about yourself, others and your work.4

If you find that you need more support during the process of getting acclimated to the work environment and life beyond the highly monitored alcohol rehab, we encourage you to contact us at Michael’s House for help. You can call us day or night on our toll-free line. We care…one person at a time.


1Grohol, John M., Psy.D., and Kanton, Marc, “Returning to Work After Addiction Treatment”, PsychCentral, https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/07/08/returning-to-work-after-addiction-treatment/, (July 8, 2014).

2 “Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors”, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/worklife/reference-materials/alcoholism-in-the-workplace-a-handbook-for-supervisors/.

3 “The Americans with Disabilities Act: Applying Performance and Conduct Standards to Employees with Disabilities”, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/performance-conduct.html, (January 20, 2011).

4 “Getting Back to Work: Returning to the Labor Force After an Absence”, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2004/winter/art03.pdf, (Winter 2004-2005).