So you’ve realized that you have a problem with alcohol or drugs and have completed your treatment… but now what? Even if you have existing employment or housing, it may be a good time for a fresh start. Why is that? Because there may be negative influences surrounding your previous employment or living arrangements. Now is really a good opportunity to start over. But what many people may not realize is that even though they’ve completed treatment and are in recovery, there still may be people out there who are doubtful of your sobriety and/or reliability. We’re not talking about whether you’ll be at a lunch date when you say you will, but rather whether you will fall into relapse and then not show up for work, or pay your rent. However, just because you may have had those issues in the past, you should not be punished now because of your past. What we’re talking about here is addiction discrimination.
Addiction discrimination occurs when a person is denied employment or housing, for example, for the sole reason that they suffer with addiction. But thankfully, because addiction is classified as a disease or a brain disorder, it is covered under The Americans with Disabilities Act. What this means is that when it comes time to apply for a new job or find a new apartment or house, if a person is no longer under the influence of drugs (has completed treatment and is not currently using drugs or alcohol), they may not be refused employment or housing simply because of the fact that they are an addict. Again, it’s important to recognize the difference between past drug use and current drug use. If a person is currently using illegal drugs, he or she may be denied employment because of their current use and this violates no laws or regulations.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights defines current drug use as “…the illegal use of drugs that has occurred recently enough to justify an employer’s reasonable belief that involvement with drugs is an ongoing problem.” The employer may also request a drug test and if the test comes back positive for drug use, the person will be considered a current drug user.
Sure, there is a certain stigma around addiction. No one wants to talk about it – even if there is a “happy ending.” Often times someone will enter treatment and finish and there are people who don’t even realize that there was a problem in the first place. This is because addiction is often hidden by the addict or even family members or friends who are embarrassed or ashamed. But addiction is a disease and while, yes, it is heartbreaking and can cause turmoil in a family or even place of work, it needs treatment, like other diseases, and a person can get “better.” Maybe not “cured,” but a person can maintain sobriety and contribute to society. Just like they say, “One day at a time.” But by NOT talking about it, or hiding the truth about addiction and treatment and by not allowing an addict in recovery the same opportunities as any other person, we are only allowing the stigma of addiction to grow.
The important thing to realize, for an addict, is that by getting treatment, especially through an inpatient drug rehab, you are not only going to start your recovery, but you are also beginning a new path – one away from being a current drug user, which means that if someone denies you employment or housing based on your addiction, you may be able to file a complaint or even a lawsuit for addiction discrimination.
Don’t let the stigma of addiction or the fear of discrimination change your mind about getting help and starting treatment. By getting treatment you can become a better version of yourself. In doing this, you can help to change the way the world views addiction. You CAN become a success story. It just takes making the first decision to get help. Contact an addiction counselor today if you or a loved one need help with addiction.
Sources: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights