How to Talk to Your Employer About Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and the workplace is an important issue. One of the most common excuses for employees who are addicted to alcohol and drugs is fearing to lose a job and ruining a career. There are so many negative connotations surrounding addiction like rejection, fear, shame, self-hatred to name a few,  that it’s much easier to ignore the situation than having the courage to handle it head-on. Reaching out and getting help for an addiction problem can be one of the bravest decisions you can make and the first step to healing. Most of the time, employers already suspect there is some personal issue but unless it affecting job performance, usually waits until it becomes an issue. Here are some things you need to consider before you confront your employer about substance abuse and seeking treatment.

Get To Know Your Company’s Drug and Alcohol Policies

Research your company’s drug and alcohol and health care policies so when you share the news about your problem, you can have an educated, detailed conversation with your employer. Learn about short term disability and temporary leave of absence policies, especially if you are considering rehabilitation. This conversation, although difficult, being honest with your employer may result in suggested courses of action such as additional, helpful resources and counseling options.


Research the Family and Medical Leave Act: The Family And Medical Leave Act provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It is meant to assist employees to balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing unpaid leave for serious medical conditions. This FMLA is ensuring you will have a job to return to.

Be Honest and Transparent with Your Employer

As stated earlier, your supervisor may also suspect you are struggling with an addiction issue. The longer you wait to get help the worse the issue becomes. Schedule a meeting near the end of the workday so you can have a professional, honest conversation without interruptions or being overheard by colleagues. Tell the truth about what is going on and report how you plan to get the help you need. Your supervisor may become an instrumental person on your road to recovery.


  • Keep It Simple:  Simply explain that you have a substance abuse issue that needs treatment. If available share a physician’s written diagnosis with your supervisor.
  • Ask If Your Company Assists with drug treatment for professionals:  Some companies will financially assist their employees who need help with addiction. Ask your supervisor who would know these details.
  • Focus on the Future:  Explain that you want to keep your job and when you return you’ll be a more productive employee. Ask your employer for resource suggestions to make them part of the solution and share resources or drug rehabs for working people
  • Keep Records of Conversations: After every conversation about your substance abuse, record the date, time, person and a summary of what was discussed. Consider following up to everyone who was present via email and blind copy yourself through a personal email.

Create A Plan Of Action to Get Help

Before you leave work for rehabilitation or a leave of absence (just like when you go on vacation or holiday), create a plan of action for your colleagues. Tie up loose ends, answer emails, return calls, write down every task and job responsibility, share passwords and contact lists, meeting schedules, etc. Share all of this information with your supervisor so they can reassign your responsibilities. Preparing others, especially your supervisor while you are out of the office will create a positive work environment and a solid foundation for your healthy return.


You may consider sharing your addiction issues with your co-workers, who could be a positive influence on your recovery and your future sobriety.

Let Rise in Malibu Help You Get Sober for Good

Rise in Malibu offers an exclusive drug & alcohol treatment program at our beautiful location on 10,000 acres in Malibu overlooking the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. We offer an innovative treatment program for professionals and executives that allows a personalized experience which leads to sustainable recovery. Learn more about our program or contact us today at 1-866-229-5267. 

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