What is treatment?




Knowing an effective procedure to deal with substance abuse affecting the workplace is enough for a manager to be expected to know without having to understand the various types of treatment. Unless you work in this field it can be confusing.  Programs change quite a bit as well and are different everywhere you go. It would be helpful for managers and supervisors to be aware of the general categories of categories of help but to find out and understand all of the treatment options is too much to ask and it is not necessary. What is necessary is that the workplace be kept safe and secondly that the worker gets offered appropriate help if needed.  Leave the treatment choices between the employee and the SAP who assesses them.

Some companies have sent their employees away on expensive in-patient programs but the employee comes back and continues to get into trouble. The manager may tell me that they have already have had treatment so therefore it is not necessary. Firstly, I may tell the manager in a nice way that it is not working very well if the employee is still getting into trouble. I may also ask who recommended the help, how did they know it was the right choice, was there follow up and did the employee accept the continuing recommendations from the treatment center? There is more to treatment than being locked up for a month or two. That type of treatment is just a small part if it is necessary at all. What is important is what the employee does with the treatment afterwards. For that monitoring is required.

There are several categories of addiction treatment to be aware of if you are dealing with an employee that needs help. In-patient, out-patient, detoxification, aftercare and groups (both professional and mutual-help) are the general categories.


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Drunk Driving – Cause For Concern in an Employee

 Drunk Driving Conviction

When someone shows such little control that they are charged for drinking and driving that is a big cause for alarm. Society is becoming more realistic about the dangers of drunk driving in recent years even though the media has minimized it in various ways.  The drunk driver is controlling a dangerous weapon, the automobile and there is a potential for great destruction.

Whether they have very poor judgment, an issue with addiction or both, there is something that is not right with an employee who drinks and drives in this day and age where information on the dangers are everywhere.  An opportunity to your employee assessed is right there for you. have

A drunk driving conviction is definitely a sign addiction although more information is needed. Some companies with an advanced alcohol or drug policies send their employees for an assessment when they find out that they have had a recent drunk driving conviction especially if the employee is in a safety sensitive job.

It just makes sense that if you have an employee that has a current drunk driving offence that there is a chance that they may have an alcohol problem that may affect their job performance and the company’s safety. Would you be comfortable with an employee operating an 80 foot crane in an industrial setting with lots of other employees underneath if you knew that they just lost their license for drunk driving recently? Wouldn’t you feel some kind of need to get this checked out? If they are a hard-core drinker they could have a seizure on the work site for example and kill someone. Alternatively, they could be still impaired from the night before or hung over and making poor choices. They could destroy equipment worth millions of dollars. What kind of reputation would your company have if some of these things happened to you and you were letting signs of impairment or addiction slide till the next time? These questions are very useful to think about.

Alcohol is a dangerous drug to some people that are unable to limit their usage. It is really one of the most dangerous drugs out there. It can kill quite easily. Read about why alcohol is called Europe’s Youth Killer. http://www.boes.org/world/europe/who010219alc.html  Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs to have in the workplace.

Not long ago I had to convince a man that a drinking and driving offence on his vacation is still of interest to his employer especially where he drove as a condition of his job. He could not understand why it was any of his company’s business where he was not on the job. Since he lost his driving privileges he was no longer able to drive as was one of his duties. The employer in its lack of foresight just gave him another job where he did not have to drive. As a result of this the employee did not have to look at his problem. This was another example of a company enabling an employee to stay sick and thwarting any sort of realization of safety and drunk driving. The employer should have sent him for an assessment before he ever got back to work for a more effective experience. His employer was actually teaching him that drinking and driving was an ok activity and catered to him with a new job where he did not have to drive.

One of the themes that I bring up when interviewing an employee during an assessment is their legal history. I have noticed that there is a high correlation with addiction and drunk driving. The two go together and if someone has had a conviction it puts me on alert during the assessment that there may be a problem. Most average people do not drink and drive.

The law has recently changed where I live regarding boating safety. If boater gets a drunk driving charge and conviction on the water, part of the sentence is that they would also lose their driver’s license for the road as well. This is only logical and makes total sense to me. If you show little enough care for safety in operating a water craft, it says to me that you could easily drive a car drunk as well.

If someone demonstrates a lack of judgement using a powerful and potentially dangerous weapon called the automobile, what does that say about their thinking process and their capacity to do harm in your workplace?  This is a perfect opportunity to help the employee and protect the public by referring them to a substance abuse professional.

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Addiction and Safety


When I was first asked to participate in this SAP process in 1994 I was asked to do allot of reading to understand the new way of addressing addiction in the workplace.  I became very excited at the potential after starting to understand that this simple process had the power to change people’s lives. It was different from any type of counselling or treatment that I had been involved in before.

I was amazed what changes took place! Very rarely did the employee refuse to meet. They all wanted their jobs. The procedure helped them see reality so that they could decide if they wanted to change. That is the pre-step in recovery circles, the gradual opening of the mind to the realization of what they are doing is not working, especially in the workplace. Their career was where their problem was being noticed. The employer was setting boundaries that the employee could understand. To me this was a huge advancement in safety and in the way we treat substance abuse which affects the workplace.

An exchange of information with other professionals was needed on certain employees that I had assessed. I experienced many problems in trying to get others to understand either by their ignorance on addiction or their personal stubbornness and desire to leave things as they were. Difficulties appeared because the professionals did not understand and were trying to protect their client or in some cases they were purposely being resistant. They were looking at it from their client’s rights and not the rights of the company or other workers around the employee. It appeared that taking responsibility for safety in the workplace was a totally new way of taking action on addition issues. Unfortunately, these counsellors got an awakening when the company kept the employee out of work until a successful outcome was attained. Then the employee became cooperative. Action is hard in the beginning but with momentum it is easier. Once employees got moving on recovery activities they were on board with it too.

This idea of looking at addiction as a safety issue did make people think past what the addict wanted. They could eventually see what the company’s point- the possible effects on those around the problem employee and the potential for tragedy. Once other professionals understood that the process revolved around safety and also was a completely ethical way of doing things, doctors and treatment providers went along with it for the most part. I still face some opposition from some in the field who feel that the most important thing is to act as an advocate for their clients. Safety comes first, however, not what the employee wants or had been used to. It also helped some addicts come down a notch and see their rightful place in a company being one of the many only. They could not talk themselves back to work anymore with lame excuses. They needed the assessment and the issue came out there. In working with anyone addicted to alcohol or drugs accountability is important for personal change.

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Change Change and More Change




When dealing with an addict it is important to remember one thing. This also applies to people as well.  Here it is “you cannot change another person.”

Sounds pretty simple but to learn this but how many times in our daily lives are the things we do designed to change others.  Saying something to a family member because you don’t like the way they are. Trying to bend over backwards for someone to get them to not do something. Pretend that you know what they are thinking or can read their mind in order to be ready to counteract what you think they may do or not do. There are tons of ways we try to change others maybe not even realizing it.  Here is an example. I have been married a long time to a woman who when she walks she likes to walk fast. She has a goal and she wants to get there and thinks by walking fast it is healthier. Maybe it is. I don’t know but I like to walk slow and ambling. I like to make it a social time or talk, an experience, a learning or whatever but not a fast walk trying to catch my breath. No matter what I have done over the years makes her walk slowly.

So two different people, to walking styles. I continually ask to slow down and sometimes I drag my own ass just to try to slow it but never have I been able to change her. She walks fast, that is the way she is always was and always will be.

So what to do? I can change myself and walk faster. I can choose not to walk. I can just accept that this is the way she is. I can walk part way and go home. I can go biking instead or on another walk with the dog at my pace. There are lots of things I can do.

I watch Gerry Springer from time to time and I am amazed how when men with a cheating history are caught again the significant other says they will give him one more change because she loves him.  Then they bring out the other woman and there is a big fight. The reason I am interested is that I have seen this in real life. I see that people can have a life but stick with the loser for some reason thinking they can change them. It is amazing but we all do the same thing in less dramatic ways.

As with an addict they are going to do what they are going to do. Only thing you can do is to set your own boundaries and decide what you will tolerate. This includes workplace policies.  Create your own goals, your own hobbies and your own life, follow them and you will be a happier person. Trying to change others does not work. I have tried and tried myself to change addicts. Ha! What a waste of time and whatever will be will be. Get a life of your own maybe the addict will be so shocked they will decide to change themselves.


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