Tag Archives: Recovery from Addiction

Assessing Employees for Addiction

 

I was in Cuba for a week and did not update my blog. Cubans keep their cars running for 50-60 years as you can tell by this picture. The guy was using this old car as a taxi.  They are very ingenious people to make do with what they have.  I will talk about my trip sometime later but back to the workplace…………………………….

In 1994, new safety regulations came into effect that govern the North American transportation industry. The main reason for the new rules was safety; too many people were being killed and injured by incidents involving addicts and substance abusers. Ever since the regulations were implemented, it has been my job to undertake addiction assessments on employees who have found themselves contravening company policy. As a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), I assess the employee then make recommendations based on the addiction assessment to move the employee forward if there are addiction issues.

I have found this work to be very interesting and rewarding. Some of the people I assessed were addicts, and some were not. Some needed help, and some did not. The types of people I have dealt with have ranged from the sensible and cooperative to the loud and hostile. Many of these employees had not previously faced limits regarding their alcohol and drug usage. They either never heard the word “no” or they were able to get their way through manipulation. I have dealt with habitual behaviour that hurts the person and has safety implications for themselves and others.

Generally, the ways to help individuals with addiction are evolving and, hopefully, advancing. Interventions with addicts are becoming a common practice. The intervention is supposed to break through the addict’s defenses so they see themselves as they really are and realize that they do need help. Once they do see this reality, they can accept assistance. The ways that interventions are carried out continue to be modified, but the core dynamic is always the same. Denial is broken so that the addict can make the decision to change. Action comes out of that decision. Addicts in the workplace are no different.

Every recovered person that I have ever seen or made contact with has changed, not because things were going well, but because things were getting bad. Something had to happen that pushed them into making the decision to try to change. In my thirty-two-plus years around the addiction recovery world, I don’t recall ever hearing of somebody who had a serious problem with alcohol or drugs deciding to change for the heck of it. It does not happen that way.

For the working addict, as for all of us, the ability to make an income is very important. (Most addicts are working. Go to http://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/toolkit/assess-workplace for detailed statistics.) Consequently, the workplace, if managed correctly, can have a tremendous influence upon a person with a drinking or drug problem. When companies set firm boundaries around alcohol and drug usage in the workplace, the procedure helps addicted employees see reality and they are given the opportunity to change. They understand what they are doing is too dangerous and they also risk losing their job if they keep it up. I have been amazed to see how effective this environment can be in helping working addicts tackle their addiction.

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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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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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