Every year, approximately 10 to 20 percent of adults in the United States use alcohol in an unsafe or dangerous way. While alcoholism rates have dropped significantly in the past 20 years, many people still have trouble moderating their intake of alcohol. Since alcoholism doesn’t carry the same stigma as drug abuse, many people try to downplay their alcoholism.
Alcoholism and Work
Alcoholism is a disease. While many people may consider it to be a personal failure or a moral weakness, some people are predisposed to an increased risk of alcoholism based on their genetics. For these people, one drink can easily turn into several.
Most employers do provide medical leave for employees; that being said, employers are unlikely to perceive alcoholism in a positive way. Because of this, employees who take a leave of absence from work to go to an alcoholic rehab center may be at an increased risk of dismissal.
Many employers believe that alcoholism is due to personal failures in an individual’s life. It’s likely that a supervisor or manager will not perceive alcoholism as a disease.
In some cases, employers will attempt to create a negative work history for an individual who has left for an alcoholic rehab facility. This work history can then be used as grounds for dismissal from a job. However, there are some effective ways to reduce the risk of this happening.
Undisclosed Medical Leaves
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), alcoholism is considered a mental illness. Most health insurance policies purchased through a state or federal exchange will provide coverage for alcoholic rehab facilities.
Employees are not required to disclose the nature of a medical leave to their employers. While it may seem dishonest, it’s usually a good idea for employees to avoid telling co-workers or managers the exact nature of their leave. This will reduce the risk of dismissal from a job.
Many physicians will provide a discrete note stating that an individual needs to take a leave of absence from work. While a physician will not lie to a person’s employer, many physicians will exclude the exact nature of a medical leave from a note, if needed. However, it’s important to directly ask a physician to do this for you.
Timelines for Absences
Alcoholism is a very serious disease; acute withdrawal from alcohol can trigger a condition known as Delirium Tremens. This occurs when an individual’s nervous system becomes habituated to the presence of alcohol.
If a person suffering from alcoholism attempts to quit drinking too quickly, he or she will experience Delirium Tremens. An individual may experience seizures, severe depression, anxiety, insomnia, suicidal ideation, feelings of anger and more. These symptoms can be managed by a physician or healthcare provider.
During the first four weeks of detox, an individual will need to remain hospitalized. After this time, a patient may be able to attend a low-level rehab facility. The total rehab process may take up to three months.
If possible, it’s a good idea to check in with an employer regularly. While an employer can’t fire an employee on medical leave, an individual who returns to work after a long absence will be under a very high level of scrutiny. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that your job performance is top-notch after several months away from work.
Most important of all, it’s essential to avoid getting back into the habits that led to alcoholism. Many alcoholic rehab facilities recommend 10-step programs to manage the psychological feelings associated with this disease. Through constant self-assessment and self-improvement, everyone can avoid negative habits that lead to alcoholism.