Going to rehab is a significant decision for a mid-career professional. It involves dealing with the potential loss of income, social stigma, financial investment, and interference with your career trajectory. This blog will examine the impacts of rehab on your career and the various factors associated with the decision.
Is rehab appropriate?
The first question a mid-career professional needs to answer is whether full-blown rehab is appropriate. You first need to consider the extent of your problematic behavior. Is it out of control? Are you endangering yourself or others? If the answer is yes, you need intensive treatment immediately.
Challenges to your career can be rectified, while damage to yourself or your family cannot. If you’re not putting yourself or others in immediate danger, you need to examine whether you’re meeting work and family obligations. Are you functional? For many, the answer is “no.” If the answer is “no,” you may need to examine taking a break from work and going to rehab.
A Cost-Benefit Analysis
You ultimately need to weigh the costs against the benefits. Addiction is a challenging disease to cope with, and you have to consider the long-term effects of not going on in your career. In the short term, you may avoid the social stigma, career trajectory, and other drawbacks. However, you may be setting yourself up for a dramatic event in the future that could ultimately derail you, such as a DUI, a fall, a negative work review, an arrest, or worse.
Going to rehab as a mid-career professional has many potential drawbacks. First, you’re going to face questions in your work environment about where you’ve been. You will have to disclose your condition to a supervisor or HR person.
However, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you are entitled to up to three months of leave for a serious medical condition. HIPPA also protects your health information.
There are two ways to approach your trip to rehab in the office. First, you can be open about it. You may be surprised by the support you receive from those in the trenches with you. Alternatively, you could try and downplay your trip to rehab. Some might call it a “retreat” or a personal break from work. The drawback to this approach is the lack of ownership over your story.
For those whose addiction is less severe, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) may be the right approach. Lantana Recovery offers just such an option. Outpatient rehabilitation allows for flexibility. You can keep your job and continue to meet family obligations while treating your addiction.
The downside of intensive outpatient rehab is that it does not guarantee a sober environment in the same way traditional rehab does. It also does not provide the same type of space away from work and family to focus on being sober.
“Substance abuse intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are direct services for people with substance use disorders or co-occurring mental and substance use disorders who do not require medical detoxification or 24-hour supervision” (Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence, McCarty et al., 2015) and intensive outpatient therapy generally consists of multiple meetings per week where individuals discuss their addiction in a group therapy environment. There usually is drug testing and breathalyzing that occurs at the beginning of each meeting.
Can you continue the way you are?
For many, the fundamental question is whether they can continue down the path they are on. Is it sustainable, or does something have to give? In the scheme of your career, rehab is a relatively short period of time. For some, it may be easier to bite the bullet now and take on rehab rather than down the road when the consequences of not doing so become more severe.
Another alternative option is participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other 12-Step programs. As a mid-career professional, you may have some misgivings about labeling yourself an alcoholic or going to a meeting. There’s a reason it’s called AA – it’s intended to be an anonymous group of people.
Others attending meetings care about their anonymity just as much as you do. Nevertheless, you may be worried you’ll see someone you know or that somehow your attendance will become a workplace water cooler conversation. To combat this fear, you may consider going to a meeting frequented by professionals.
According to Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 12-step program attendance is shown to predict lower rates of illicit drug and alcohol use. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research determined that these short and long-term effects were not the result of self-selection.
A Surprising Demographic
You will be surprised by the people who you meet at meetings you strategically choose to attend based on the potential demographic. Addiction does not discriminate. Depending on the meeting you choose to attend, you will find that there are many mid-career professionals struggling with the same issues.
There is a saying in AA that goes, “The opposite of addiction is connection.” There are many highly successful people you can meet through AA, should you choose to put yourself out there. You will be able to draw on their support and leverage their knowledge of the disease. The drawback is that the meetings tend to be more public than intensive outpatient rehabilitation.
Embracing Your Story
Ultimately, you need to make a decision as to whether you want overcoming an addiction to be a part of your public persona. The downside is that the stigma related to addiction still does exist, and you risk facing the brunt of this stigma if you are open about it. The good news is that sobriety is becoming less taboo.
The advantage is that you don’t have to hide who you are. Addiction is often a person’s worst-kept secret, and there is something liberating about being able to be open and honest about it. Others will be able to learn from you, and you will set a positive example, even for those who don’t struggle with a substance abuse problem.
Research on the retirement transition experience has focused on the career and aspects of leaving the career but Lantana Recovery understands that going to rehab as a mid-career professional is a complicated decision. On the one hand, you face social stigma, career interruption, loss of salary, inability to meet family obligations, and others. On the other hand, you face the challenge of addiction and all of the serious consequences that come with it. Ultimately, as a mid-career professional, you need to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. For some who have a more severe addiction, detox and rehab are the best and only options.