Let’s Talk About Addiction Recovery… or Maybe Not — Talking to Employers About Addiction Recovery Treatment


Individuals with addictive behavioral disorders who are still actively misusing illicit substances often spend a large amount of time and effort deceiving others, as well as themselves. Lies about finding ways to obtain illicit substances or hiding their substance misuse from employers or loved ones can consume a large portion of their daily routines. Although the extent of lying among those struggling with addiction — and even those who aren’t, for that matter — is hardly a quantifiable number, the prevalence of this sentiment is so well-known that addiction recovery communities have running jokes about the amount that could be accomplished if even half the effort put into lies was put to a constructive, sober purpose. 

These statements are in no way meant to vilify those who suffer from addiction; lying to avoid potential negative consequences is only a natural reaction, and these individuals just so happen to run a higher risk for both imagined and very real negative consequences. Rather, the point is simply to reiterate the importance of honesty in addiction recovery. Deception’s pervasive presence in active addiction only makes the push for an honest and open dialogue with the self and others even more vital to the addiction recovery process. 

You can only imagine then how approaching an employer with such personal and private information regarding your addictive disorder and potential treatment presents itself as a conundrum to the recovery process. The two most common scenarios that those in addiction recovery experience with employers are:

  1. Current employees in need of and/or seeking out addiction treatment
  2. Potential employees either in outpatient treatment programs or in addiction recovery

For current employees, the process of discussing addiction treatment may be difficult to broach, but the previously developed personal relationship with employers as well as federal law may ease the process. Potential new hires, especially for those in early recovery, may find revealing a medical history of their addictive disorder slightly more challenging even in spite of the laws in place to protect employees.

Legal Protection for Employees in Need of Addiction Treatment

Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 offer protection and job security for any individual seeking addiction recovery treatment. Under both of these provisions, no employer can legally fire or deny employment based on medical issues which include mental illness and addictive disorder.

Recently updated amendments to the ADA in 2008 have further clarified that its equal opportunity clause applies to individuals with mental illnesses and addictions. The ADA not only makes it easier for employees with addictive disorders to openly and honestly seek out employment, but it also is helping to reverse much of the negative public stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. 

While the ADA is more applicable to individuals seeking out employment, the FMLA is in place to offer protection to current employees from being fired for seeking medical treatment — and yes, rehab is a medical treatment that is also recognized/covered by the majority of insurers, as well. The provision allows employees to seek medical treatment for up to 12 weeks. Those 12 weeks will be designated as unpaid time off from work, but individuals are free to take that time without the fear or risk of losing their job.

A Push for the Honest Approach

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to how you should approach an open conversation with either a current or potential future employer when it comes to your addictive disorder. Similar to addiction recovery treatments, each case will require a unique and individualized approach, as much stigma and ignorant prejudice still exist regarding addiction. 

Thankfully, though, national laws have been passed that protect your rights to an open and honest conversation about an addictive disorder, as well as seeking out any potential treatment options. You may have to gauge how honest you choose to be with an employer: a lie by omission is more than permissible and foreseeable in your future, but any conversation regarding your addictive disorder should avoid any direct form of deception. The negative consequences of falling back into the pattern of hiding your addictive disorder could potentially trigger a relapse and should obviously be avoided at all costs.


If you or someone you love is looking for addiction recovery treatment, Choice House can help. We specialize in dual-diagnosis treatment for men suffering from addictive behavioral disorders with co-occurring mental health issues. Utilizing a variety of therapeutic modalities, we help men achieve sobriety while also teaching them the necessary skills to maintain a long-term approach to sober living by creating a new foundation of love and empathy. Our addiction recovery programs include a 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, and the opportunity to take up residency at our sober living campus. We are located in the Boulder County, Colorado area with the Rocky Mountain National Park literally in our backyard. We are also just a short drive from the bustling city of Louisville. Taking full advantage of the beatific national park nearby, Choice House offers a unique outdoor wilderness therapeutic modality that allows men to participate in outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, and more. Through this outdoor therapy, men are able to reconnect with themselves and others as they bond and create lasting friendships that can help them throughout the addiction recovery process. The proximity to the city of Louisville is also beneficial to individuals undergoing outpatient services or residing at our sober living campus. It is particularly ideal for those in early recovery who wish to seek out and maintain employment while still receiving the necessary guidance and support of treatment. For more information about Choice House’s programs or facilities, please give us a call today at (720) 577-4422.

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