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.
What is treatment? Knowing an effective procedure to deal with substance abuse affecting the workplace is enough to know for a manager without having to understand the various types of treatment. It is helpful for managers and supervisors to be aware of the general categories of treatment 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 worker gets appropriate help if needed. This is the reason for the professional assessment procedure.
Some companies have sent their employees away for example on expensive 28 day programs but the employee continues to get into trouble. The manager may tell me that “they have already have had treatment.” Who recommended it, how did they know it was the right choice, was there follow up, did the employee accept the continuing recommendations from the treatment? These are some questions that could be asked about an employee who went for treatment. So there is more to treatment than being locked up for a month. That type of treatment is just a small part. 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 are the general categories.
There are four general characteristics that I look for to determine if the employee has reached the stage of becoming an addict. These characteristics are: obsession of the mind, lack of control over usage, negative consequences and denial. To what degree addiction has become a problem is what I do my best to find out through the interview process. I look and see if this person could be a possible safety risk in the workplace due to alcohol or drugs usage. This takes knowledge, skill and practice asking questions and also in observing what happens to people in the coming months. Sometimes no one is happy with what I come up with and it is usually because some of these employees have been able to get away with drinking and drugging by people around them for many years.
In most cases people around the addict make excuses for the behavior and therefore it continues. It is as simple as that. No one likes to think of someone as an addict either to drugs or alcohol. They feel that is degrading and too simple an explanation. We all want to find reasons for the behavior other than what the real problem is.
One of the main problems I encounter in talking to managers and employees in the workplace is that generally people don’t know what an addict is. They think that it is the homeless guy living on the street or the prostitutes up the road that are working to support an opiate addiction. Yes, they are addicts but these people have lost control to such an extent everyone can see there is a problem.
Because of the shame attached to having an addiction people cover it up. The shame causes the addict to hide and deny their actions. The shame causes others around the addict to hide the behavior as well. Most of the addiction in society remains below the public radar so that when we think of addiction only the most serious of cases come to mind. As a result of being poorly educated in addiction we as a society get the idea that unless it is bad and very visible it is not addiction. This is inaccurate. Once the pattern of addictive behavior is established it takes a while for that behavior to be noticed by society and people close to them. This is especially true if the addict is being enabled by someone to keep going along their bad road.
Sometimes I have managers asking me questions about how to help one of their employees. I usually ask them some questions too to find out what the problem is. It is amazing that the same patterns are repeated over and over again in many workplaces trying to deal with an addicted employee. The pattern is…… employee gets in trouble, he or she gets a talking to, they promise to be good now, everyone forgets and then they get in trouble again. The problem is that no serious action is taken and no long term accountability results. They don’t realize that without boundaries that this problem will reoccur. The workplace needs a procedure that they can use to find a solution to the problem that is ethical and will help but primarily this is a safety issue. If substance abuse is looked at from the safety aspect that can affect others then that is where to start. That can be the focus of your plan.
One question I ask a manager or human resource professional looking for my advice on a problem employee is “How long are you prepared to allow this situation go on?” I gauge their seriousness and their intention from that question. I suggest that they do have control over situations that are causing them grief and with some understanding and a procedure things will change.
When it is determined that someone does have a problem and they need help then question I love to hear is “what do I have to do to get better?” The question I get most often is “when I am going back to work?” The answer to the second question is in the first question. When the employee does what is necessary for recovery then the risk is minimized. With good action and some alcohol or drug testing the process is set up for the employee to return to work.
Company boundaries dictate to the employee that they are required to change prior to returning to work can be hard for the employee to accept. The employee may balk at this suggestion. This is why everyone involved must be educated and understand that the process of being out of work to get recovery is for the individual’s own good as well as the safety and due diligence of the company.
I have seen situations where the employee starts complaining to anyone who will listen and manages to get supervisors or union representatives worked up trying to speed things up. You may be dealing with someone that is used to getting what they want by whining and complaining. They reason that people whine and complain is that it has worked in the past.
The two greatest positive signs that I can see in an employee who is working on themselves is action and attitude. They are doing something to help themselves and they also are feeling better about the changes. When employees are grateful for the chance to change I believe that they are on the right track. Gratitude and action together shows me that they are moving ahead. This does not happen overnight so the employer has to have strong boundaries about returning to work until certain actions are fulfilled.
A lifetime of thinking one way does not change in a short time but sometimes personal transformations are amazing. I knew a man personally who 31 years ago turned from one of the most cranky resentful, hateful people into one of the most spiritual and happy people I know now. He drank daily for 20 years prior to his change. He now works hard to help others even at 84 years old. Change like this happens but usually not that quickly or dramatically.
On the other hand, it seems like some employees act like they are waiting for some outside force to change them without any effort on their part. Their inaction shows me that they are not motivated to change and don’t really want to put any effort into the process. I have to conclude that it has not become bad enough for them to want to stop. They don’t understand that they need help. Needing and wanting are two different things.
People are people and what they say they are going to do they don’t always do. Some people are moved to change when the pressure is on but after that their effort dwindles. What is said today is not necessarily done tomorrow and people change their mind. I have found that the process in assessing people returning to work cannot be a dogmatic and inflexible procedure based on power. That is not helpful to anyone. Many situations can develop when a person is asked to take the initiative to get help and sometimes we just have to give some solid direction and wait to see what happens. I have had some interesting cases over the years for sure.
What I look for are characteristics and behavior in the employee that shows or starts to show that good change is taking place. My question that I ask myself is this: “Does this person have a reasonable chance of not using drugs or alcohol when they return to work?” The idea here is “reasonable. The process must be fluid while taking into account what the employee does. Are they moving away from drug usage or back to it?
So many people that I talk to have told me that they wished that they did not start down that road with an addict. Now they feel it is too late. One friend of mine buys cigarettes, alcohol and grass for his own 20 something son. He also pays his rent, high cell phone charges and hires lawyers to keep him out of jail. He also takes physical and mental abuse from this son he thinks he is helping. He is most times on edge wondering what the next crises will be. I foresee a very bad ending either for the son or my friend. Obscene and crazy you say? Ask yourself if you are doing anything to keep the addict from seeing their problems and try to see how it ended up this way. You see that you willingly let yourself be pulled along a path of bad help. Get some good information and learn how to get out of this trap before it hauls you in and sucks the life out of you like it is doing to my friend.
So, the term co-dependent is apt and accurate. It takes two (there may be many more) to form this sick relationship and it just gets worse and worse. When I question and expose it as bad help sometimes a bull’s eye on my head because I am upsetting strong systems and former beliefs by getting enablers to look at themselves. They don’t ever want to look at themselves because the sick addict has been the patient not them. “Don’t look at me! I am the good one here! I am the victim, leave me alone!” Normal for a codependent, but yes, wrong if you want the addict to recover. The bad help has to go. They cannot bear that thought that they are perhaps part of the problem. Silly me for suggesting this.
Bosses, supervisors, society, parents, doctors, counsellors, spouses and children can all be sucked into this trap and I find my self fighting with this invisible monster which is helping to keep addicts the way they are. It is awful when it is seen for what it is and it is hard to rally against it without someone getting their feathers severely ruffled.
You don’t and you should not care either. If someone is working for you or you are managing them and they are doing a good job you have no reason to get into their business. On the other hand if someone is continually in the limelight for issues you may want to know if it is substance abuse related especially if there are signs. That could be dangerous and contrary to due diligence principles to ignore abuse of drugs or alcohol.
What are the signs? There are lots of them and you can look at this template on my web site or find your own. www.addictionconsulting.com under the heading for supervisors.
The main thing is that you concern yourself with the safety aspect of substance abuse. There may be subtle signs that over time spell trouble for your organization and the employee.
When I first see an employee for an assessment, I can’t tell from one meeting what the employee is going to do in the future. Some employees give the appearance of understanding that they need help but that can change when the meeting is over. Some talk a good talk but it is their action on the problem that tells me what they really think. I can’t predict the future but I can reasonably assume that if they have really caught on to some aspect of recovery that they look like they will continue this way. Sometimes they don’t. I look for action and some type of attitude change. I may ask during a follow up interview “What are you doing today that makes it reasonable for me to assume that you are not going back to your drug of choice?” I try to find out what is different this time. When I do ask this question I feel like I have heard every excuse that there is already until I hear new ones. I also listen to sincere promises from people based on what they are going to do in the future without having anything up to that point. Where is the action to go with that promise? There is the key to it.
Consequences for the Addict – Why They are Your Friend
The addict, if they continue with their drug, usually gets into some type of trouble. Examples would be, money problems, failing health, personal relationship problems, jail time, lost license, excessive sick days etc. In the past you may have responded to the addict and their issues by using up lots of energy yourself. You may have felt turmoil and feel you must help the addict because somehow that is what you are supposed to do. This is what you have always done.
What society is not aware of that consequences are very important for the addict and that they actually can have the effect of pushing them to want them to get better. It is precisely the consequences that help the addict to see what is going on. If there are no consequences to one’s behavior then there is nothing that will get the addict see what they are doing and they won’t change. They actually need the consequences to be able to see that they, themselves, are the problem. If you keep the addict from experiencing consequences then you become are part of the problem.
Addicts don’t recover because they see the light; they recover because they feel the heat! They hit a bottom that causes them to think about changing. The bottom may be something very simple like being disciplined at work. This is how it happens. Businesses learn how to say no to addictive behaviour in the workplace through their new understanding, policies and actions. Doing nothing is the worst plan. It is about recognizing the problem, setting boundaries and sticking to them. The addict is changed because they finally have to face themselves. The workplace can help where no one else can. There can be no argument with this philosophy as long as the process is enacted fairly and communicated thoroughly. Understand that there is a solution even if the addict does not want to change. The solution may be that the addict sobers up or goes somewhere else to work.