Tag Archives: Enabling

Wait for the Addict to Hit Bottom? Heck No!

2015-08-07 12.35.11

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

but

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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Alcoholic High Wire Act in the Workplace

The Alcoholic High Wire Act

I have heard it said that watching the alcoholic is like watching the high wire act at a circus. This is a good analogy which explains the relationship that the addict has with people around him or her. There are themes common in all addictions that we can see when we recognize patterns and are looking in the right places.

At the circus the high wire performer climbs the big supports and the crowd gets nervous. “Look how high it is” they exclaim! They are excited to see what he is going to do and how he is going to pull off the next part of the act.  He walks across the small wire balancing a long pole and the crowd’s heart paces. The circus actor who has done this many times before takes the crowd through death defying feats but always winds up fine on the other end. Part of the suspense comes from the observer’s minds knowing that the circus actor could wind up dead on the hard floor if he falls but he never does. He builds his performance and just keeps on doing more and more dangerous things until the act ends in a heart pumping finale. The crowd knows he is on that high dangerous high wire and they know anything can happen but he always comes out of it and they are relax and become relieved.

Here is one of the major points I have been telling people for years. The problem with our society is that it believes it has to wait for the grand finale to play out before anything is done with an addict but society is wrong. You don’t have to wait for disaster to happen. With the correct process you can act now!

This high wire act explains the performance of a drinking alcoholic or drug addict perfectly. Many around the addict know that there is a problem and they also know that maybe the next performance could be bad but they hope it will be better. They look and they wait. Individuals look in anticipation at what the next act will be. He is in trouble again at work or with the police or with his family. She has another divorce and her kids are mad. How will he ever get out of this one? They all watch with wonder at how the addict skillfully guides everyone’s eyes to something other than his/her drug that is causing the problem but never ever the addict themselves. We then question our own sanity because we think we are seeing things. “Maybe it is not the drug at all” we say.

The addict then shows us that it is always someone else’s fault. It may be their bad childhood, terrible life, ex-wife, awful kids, the bad deal at work, the stock market, – something is making this poor person miserable. No wonder they drink we think. You would drink too! Everyone watches with amazement but no one does anything but watch. They sit back and wait for the finale.

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Could the Problem be Addiction?

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.bell island 4

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Consequences for the Addict – Why They are Your Friend

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.

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Enabling

At one time, in the not so distant past, it was considered reasonable and ok to hide someone’s symptoms of addiction no matter how bad it got. Co-workers and managers – they all did it! The problem is that the actual issue never got solved and that addiction just gets worse over time. Hiding someone’s symptoms hurts them and the whole company not to mention it is a very unsafe thing to do that creates liability. The addict never gets to see the mess that they are making and in order to recover they have to see their mess. If someone with a problem can be treated ethically then why would you want to hide their symptoms? To keep the workplace safe, addiction is one of those things that must be tackled.

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