Category Archives: Recovery

Why Would You Want Your Employee to Have a Substance Abuse Assessment?

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Whay bother with an assessment? Can’t you just ask the employee what they want?

No! You are looking to have some simple questions answered that you probably can’t answer yourself. If these simple questions are not answered then over the long term the employee could get worse, allot worse. That is bad for safety and also for the person. If things go really bad they could be very bad for you. Accident maybe?

You want to know how bad the problem is? That is important because that has to be identified to make a treatment plan.

What is the appropriate treatment? Many bosses think that a 28 day rehab will solve all the employee’s problems but how do you know and is that reasonable?  What if it is not?  A friend of mine who used to work in a mental hospital said “I had a whole wing of rehab grads.”

Is the person following the treatment plan? This is important because if they are that points to someone who will be safe in the workplace, if they are not then that would be a negative for sure.

Are they stable enough to return to work with a plan that they are following? Does alcohol or drug testing need to be invoked for safety and deterrence?

Yes, these questions will be answered with an assessment, safety will be addressed and hopefully an employee will be restored.

 

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Return to Work, or Not….

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If a person attends counselling rehab or self-help, the ultimate goal is the same, to get sober, stay sober and become a useful, safe employee that is not a risk due to substances. Just as addiction has recurring patterns or themes, recovery has patterns and themes that indicate whether the person is going in the right direction or not.

Some employees try to go around the return-to-work procedure and contact the HR department or management to tell them that they are now fine and wish to return to work. There is no proof they have attended any treatment, no re-assessment, no due diligence and no follow-up recommendation. The employee just “feels” they are ready. Unfortunately it is commonplace for doctors or employers to take the person at their word. We allow them to tell us what they need to get better, when obviously they have not been able to fix themselves up to this point. This is especially amplified when people surrounding an addict have bent over backwards to give assistance and have believed that the addict will change just because they said they would.

If an addict’s old behaviour — whining, complaining, displaying anger, bullying — has worked for them in the past, they may try to use that behaviour to expedite their return to work. Those that have been enabled in their addiction wonder why it should be any different now. I have seen situations where the employee starts complaining to anyone who will listen and manages to get supervisors or union representatives worked up to the point where they try to speed up the employee’s return to the workplace.

Ultimately, my goal in a return-to-work interview is to determine whether the employee has changed to such an extent that is it reasonable to believe they will not pose a hazard in the workplace due to substances. Some people are able to demonstrate this very well, others not so much. What the employer or workplace needs is documentation from the SAP so they can satisfy due diligence and proceed on the most reasonable course.

 

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Barriers to Change

Barriers to Change
In our society, there two things that are big barriers for an addict wanting to make a positive change.

1. The first barrier is our refusal to believe that the problem may actually be addiction. There is a hesitancy to see addiction at the root of certain problems in society and in the workplace. We don’t connect the dots or see the pattern where it exists, and we are always ready to believe it may be something else. Addiction seems like a situation that is too complicated for people to deal with. Education is the key to breaking down this barrier. If a manager or supervisor knew what they were dealing with and the consequences of not dealing with it, they would be compelled to act. And if they understood what to do, they would feel confident about making the necessary decisions.
2. The other barrier is enabling. We as individuals do it, and we have allowed our institutions to do it as well. We prevent the addict from seeing that they actually have an addiction through various ways. We can build a treatment centre on every city block, but if the addict does not believe that there is a problem and that they need help, they won’t go to them.

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Wait for the Addict to Hit Bottom? Heck No!

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Wait for the Addict to Hit Bottom? Heck No!

Managers have told me that they have to wait for an addicted employee to hit bottom before anything can be done. While it is true that the addict must reach a bottom or place where they do not want to go again, it is not true that you have to wait. You can act now by making boundaries, drawing your own line in the sand, and by having a procedure or process in place to handle the outcome. Whether the addict changes or not, you must change in order to deal with the problem. You eventually find out through the process whether there is a problem and whether the employee will deal with it or not. The beauty of the process is that what you have to do to make the workplace safe is the thing that the addict may need to hit a bottom or a crisis.

Substance dependent individuals recover in different ways. Some stop immediately and never to return to usage. These are the ones that hit a firm bottom, decide they want to change and act on that desire.

On the other hand, I’ve also witnessed a common pattern: a person hits a bottom, but they forget about what caused it, no action is taken and eventually drug use returns. They will either stop before it gets too bad or be lost again. Occasionally I read about individuals I’ve dealt with through their company policy who have died violently or in some other manner related to their addiction. You might as well know what you are dealing with. It is not pretty.

Do you want to go down the tubes with the addicted employee, or give them a firm chance to get and stay clean? If an employee is having addiction affect their work, deal with it now instead of waiting until they get into serious trouble and possibly hurt others in the workplace.

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There is No Magic to Sober Someone Up but ….

There is No Magic to Sober Someone Up

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The Magic is in the Process

I don’t have any power over anyone and I can’t sober people up and keep them that way. That is way beyond my capabilities. There can be some magic created when an employee has to face a well- run process that causes them to have to look at themselves. There is the magic. That is my experience and that is what I have seen. We don’t wait for people to “come around” and take on that risk and liability. We act with a process that has boundaries and that makes people accountable for their own actions.

Steve Chandler, a business author, has a book where he discusses the choice between people pleasing others or serving them. Serving them gives them reality and employees acting out sometimes are very unhappy to get a dose of that. People pleasing is what the suffering employee wants because they don’t really want to change. They tell you they want to change and promise this is the last time but they don’t. Baby them, tell them it is all right this time, bend the rules and risk an unsafe workplace and they will be happy with you but that is people pleasing and it could bite you in a bad place down the road. Serving can be unpopular but it is the right and safe thing to do. The employee won’t like it but they may thank you for saving their life when they do straighten up.  Do you serve or people please?

 

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Are Addicts Good Historians?

I have heard it said that justification, minimization and rationalization are tools that addicts and alcoholics use to keep themselves convinced that they can still use and not get in trouble. This is so true. During interviews I regularly hear these tools being used.

When addicts are ready to admit the truth those tools are not there. They own the problem and want to do everything that they can to be honest to get the help. Those negative tools are not heard in the speech of someone who honestly believes that they have a problem and wants to get well.

Justification example: “There are lots of other people in this organization that smoke dope too, not just me!”

Rationalization example: “I work hard, make good money why shouldn’t I be able to relax once in a while. What I do on my own time is my own business.”

Minimization Example: I know that they say I failed a breath test but that was because I was up late and had no breakfast. I need it to sleep once in a while so what the heck.  My reading was not high enough to fail a test for drunk driving. I could have driven my car and passed any test the police have!”

These are all signs of someone who does not want to stop but being caught is just an inconvenience for them that must be overcome.  A competent counselor can work with people that really want to stop and also help people see how bad the problem is but there are some addicts that will never stop no matter what is put before them.

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How to Recover

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This is a beautiful picture of how to get and stay sober.  You have to learn from others what to do in order to have a good garden.  Follow the one in front that knows the way to do it. There is nothing in the beginning and what is there has to be tilled up. You have never grown a garden before and it is hard to start as there is no momentum. Progress is so slow that sometimes you have to look at your neighbour’s farm to see what yours could look like if you put the work in. That gives encouragement and faith to keep going. The weather is not always fair either and it changes quite a bit. Some days you will be cold and wet and and you wonder how anything will ever grow.  Everything is flat and nothing is pretty. You need help to plow through and if you have to keep going a day at a time because  there is not going to be any produce to eat if you stop. Every step is built on the former and it is in order. You must till up then plant the seeds and nourish the seeds or you have nothing lasting.

If you don’t look after sobriety then the pests will come and destroy what you are building. You can decide to fall in love or find some other diversion but your garden will go to the dogs. It is constant work and sometimes you will want to quit because it is too hard and it looks like there is nothing growing at all or you can’t imagine waiting long enough for the little sprouts to turn into anything. You want everything to be grown today so you can eat the vegetables but reality is that sobriety does not work that way for anyone.

Even when the harvest comes and the produce is consumed there is always more work to do. You must repair the machinery and get supplies for the next season. Things break down and must be built up.  You have to get prepared in case something goes wrong and even then a bad storm could come and do allot of damage but because of the former work you will make it through.  Sobriety is like that.  If it was easy then everyone would be sober.

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