For the millions of Americans battling addiction, making the decision to seek help can be a life-changing one. Recovery is a lifelong process, meaning you have to be ready to commit to your decision and all that comes with it. Getting to that point can be stressful enough, but when you also have to think about making sure your career isn’t in jeopardy, it can be overwhelming. Many professionals worry that everything they’ve worked so hard for will crumble if they’re open about their need to seek help, while others are reluctant to take time off to seek treatment for fear that their job won’t be there when they return.

Fortunately, you have rights when it comes to your employment, and there are several things you can do to make this process easier on yourself. From being open about your decision to seek help to knowing what those rights are, it is possible to retain your career even while seeking addiction treatment. Keep reading for the best tips on how to go about it.

Do Some Research

Not only do you need to know what your rights are in regards to the Department of Labor, you also need to familiarize yourself with the rules set forth by your employer. In many cases, if you request time off to seek treatment, your employer cannot discriminate against you or threaten to give your job to someone else. However, there are some exceptions. If you were caught abusing a substance while on the job, your rights may be waived. Do some research and make sure you have all the facts before presenting anything to your employer.

Network

If you lost your job as a result of your addiction, it’s important to stay patient while you look for new employment. This can be a stressful time, so maintaining your mental health is imperative. Look for local programs that pair individuals in recovery with employers, and don’t forget to network. Head to conventions, job fairs, and any other event where you might be able to talk to someone in need of an employee.

Look for Healthy Ways to Cope

Stress, depression, and anxiety can be extremely detrimental to an individual who is in recovery or is attempting to seek treatment. Look for healthy ways to cope with these feelings, such as daily exercise, practicing a hobby, or simply relaxing and doing something you enjoy. Having an outlet will help you stay motivated on your quest to become healthy and sober, and it can be a huge mental health boost as well. To better avoid relapse, it will be critical when returning to work to have a new way of managing work-related stress, which inevitably will come up. Use your time in treatment to find new coping methods so you already have something in your toolbox once you’re back on the job.

Be Open About Your Struggle

Many people who are making the decision to go into recovery have feelings of guilt or shame, but others feel a great sense of relief when they are open about their struggle, which allows them to move forward a little easier. Talk to your friends and family and your employer about your experiences and about the path you want to be on; not only will this help lessen the weight on your shoulders, but it will also help you stay motivated and accountable.

Choosing treatment is a big decision, and it’s important to think hard about the kind you need. Some professionals want a treatment option that allows them to move freely so that they can still go to the office; others prefer an inpatient experience that will help them focus on getting better. Talk to your doctor about what might be best for you.