Tag Archives: the missing ingredient

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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I Had Many Questions


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I worked in a detox centre during the 80s and it was pretty good because I could observe why people change up close. Many came and many went though that detox centre over that year and a half. It was a bit of an education for me. Many just kept coming back and never seemed to get it.

As I live in a small city I used to run into people that had been in detox that had changed their life around. What was common to these people was that they made themselves accountable for their illness and started doing something differently as soon as they got out. These were the ones that made sobriety a long-term commitment. They owned the problem. Their action showed that they made being sober a priority. It was that simple. They found a way to stay clean and worked at it. They did not let other things get in the way of their number one goal. They found some type of behavior and action that they were able to incorporate into their life that helped them stay away from their drug. They changed their friends or living accommodations and developed new habits. They developed this one goal that was important and the rest of the things that came to them was built on that success. The patients that did not return to detox are the ones that I felt that held one part to the secret to sobriety. I witness the other part of it.

So, after a little while I saw what separated the repeaters from the patients that did not come back. I witnessed that it was the action on the part of the addict that had a big part to play in sobriety. Action became the magic word when trying to determine who was going to succeed and who was not but what predicated the action?

What was it that made certain addicts turn inward instead of outward and admit they were the problem which was the first step to getting well? I realized that when others finally stopped enabling the addict then a chance to get better was presented. If their spouse for example walked out it caused some addicts to decide to change. If they were fired from a job that also seemed to create change with some. These occurrences appeared to be great motivators. They were bad events in themselves but they had the effect of getting the addict to look at themselves for the cause of their problems. I saw this pattern with the ones that did “make it.” Something significant happened which led to change. It had something to do with enabling I reasoned because when the enabling stopped so did the addiction! Somebody important stopped covering up the problem. That was the common tie with addicts that finally got it. This was the crux of the situation. I believed that I had found some type of answer to the question of why do some get it? There was more to learn………………….

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