Practical Strategies for Working Adults to Balance Employment and Substance Use Disorder

In the United States, an estimated 46.8 million adults aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2022. That equates to 16.7% of the population. 

Many people with SUDs are employed, but the condition can significantly impact their work performance, job security, and overall well-being. The pressures of work can intensify cravings and triggers, hindering recovery efforts amid the need to stay employed. Yet, achieving a healthy balance between work and a life free from addiction is possible. 

In this article, we provide practical strategies for working adults with SUD to balance employment and recovery effectively.

Acknowledging the Problem

The first step toward achieving balance is acknowledging that you have a substance use disorder (SUD). Admitting SUD struggles can be challenging for working adults due to stigma and professional consequences. However, recognizing the need for support is fundamental to initiating effective strategies for recovery while maintaining a career.

Data underscores the significance of this acknowledgment. A study published by the National Institute of Health revealed that only 10.9% to 16.9% of individuals with SUD receive treatment. Most received SUD treatment through self-help groups, residential programs, and outpatient rehab facilities. 

This highlights the critical importance of acknowledging the problem early on, as it opens doors to accessing necessary resources and support networks.

Seeking Professional Help

A significant portion of the U.S. population goes without needed mental health or substance use care. A recent study by the National Council of Mental Wellbeing found a significant unmet need for mental health and substance use care. Nearly half (43%) of U.S. adults who needed this type of care in the past year did not receive it. 

Professional guidance offers expertise in managing addiction and essential tools for handling workplace challenges and maintaining productivity. Counselors, therapists, or addiction specialists provide valuable support. They help individuals create personalized recovery plans that align with their career goals. 

Addiction specialists can provide you with personalized treatment plans, coping mechanisms, and relapse prevention strategies. Many treatment options are available, including outpatient programs, inpatient facilities, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Seeking professional help empowers you to manage SUD, enhances your future and enables you to thrive in your career and life.

Utilizing Coping Mechanisms

It’s essential to cultivate healthy coping strategies to manage SUD and prevent relapse. These include stress management methods like meditation, physical activity, and connecting with supportive friends and family. Also, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be a powerful tool for recovery. 

Suboxone, which blends buprenorphine and naloxone, is a widely used medication for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), easing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Yet, it may lead to dry mouth, potentially heightening the risk of tooth decay and sparking legal actions against its manufacturers. The Suboxone lawsuit alleges that the manufacturers failed to adequately warn patients about this potential side effect. 

TorHoerman Law states that the Suboxone Tooth Decay MDL consolidated claims into one federal court. Presently, 258 lawsuits are unified in the Suboxone Film Products Liability Litigation. This information is sourced from the most recent filings by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML).

Communicating with Employers

Effective communication with employers is crucial for working adults managing SUD and maintaining professional commitments. Being transparent about one’s condition can foster a supportive workplace environment. This support is essential for both recovery and productivity.

The US Commission on Civil Rights states that employers can ban illegal drug use and alcohol consumption at work. They can also fire or deny employment to those currently using illegal drugs. Starting an open dialogue with employers enables individuals to discuss accommodations that support their recovery without affecting job performance. 

These accommodations might include flexible schedules for therapy sessions or access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Also, it’s necessary to understand policies on medical leave. Such discussions help balance recovery needs with professional responsibilities.

Creating a Structured Routine

Establishing a structured routine is instrumental for working adults managing SUD to maintain personal and professional stability. A structured routine involves regular sleep and wake times, scheduled therapy or support meetings, physical activity, and time for healthy meals. This regularity aids individuals in handling triggers and cravings, boosting productivity and alleviating workplace stress.

Gateway Foundation reported that a study found it takes 66 days on average to form automatic habits. After two months of sobriety, your new routine may start to feel instinctive. This helps integrate recovery practices into daily life more seamlessly. 

Adhering to a consistent daily schedule helps working adults prioritize health and meet professional responsibilities, promoting a balanced lifestyle amid SUD challenges.

Building a Support Network

A supportive network consists of friends, family, colleagues, and recovery group members who offer encouragement, understanding, and accountability. Engaging with these networks may entail group therapy sessions, involvement in peer support groups, and maintaining open communication with trusted individuals. These connections are vital for navigating challenges and maintaining recovery from Substance Use Disorder.

Nurturing these relationships empowers working adults to enhance resilience, receive practical guidance, and navigate SUD challenges while maintaining stability and well-being.

Setting Realistic Goals

Don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Set small, achievable goals that celebrate progress and build confidence. Focus on daily goals like attending support groups or practicing relaxation techniques. As you gain momentum, gradually set larger goals related to work performance or personal development. 

Remember, setbacks are part of the journey. Don’t let them define you. Focus on learning from challenges and recommitting to your goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I discuss my substance use disorder with my employer without risking my job?

Emphasize your dedication to job performance and seek support from EAPs or counseling services during the discussion. Show your commitment to workplace policies and discuss accommodations to support your recovery journey, ensuring transparency and confidentiality.

How can I maintain a healthy work-life balance while managing my recovery?

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance while managing recovery involves prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, and communicating openly with employers about necessary accommodations. Building a supportive network and adhering to a structured routine also help manage stress and maintain overall well-being.

What are effective coping mechanisms for managing stress and cravings at work?

Effective coping at work: deep breathing, mindfulness breaks, stretching, and a balanced diet manage stress and cravings. Engaging in regular physical activity and seeking social support also contribute to managing stress and cravings effectively.

Achieving Balance and Wellness

Navigating both work and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) brings distinct hurdles, yet with proactive strategies and supportive workplaces, success is attainable. Employers should foster environments where seeking help for SUD is stigma-free. These strategies foster resilience, productivity, and health, promoting a balanced approach to managing SUD challenges effectively.

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