Michelle didn’t seem to take her job too seriously; she was usually 5-10 minutes late, took an excessive amount of breaks and often called in sick, all without remorse. However, she was clearly one of the best saleswomen in the region. Her convivial way with shoppers carried over to managers, to whom she promised she would never show up late again or simply that she would make up for all of her break through record sales. Unfortunately, her tardiness continued and eventually her skills began to deteriorate.
One day, Michelle was on one of her many breaks when a coworker came running out and asked, “Where did that lady go who you were helping?” Michelle sat silent and confused for a second, then realized she had brought her to a cash register… and left her there, too focused on her cigarette to remember to ring her up. Turns out that lady had walked out; annoyed with the poor service she had received. And she took her unpaid clothes with her – a hand bag, 2 pairs of jeans, 3 nice tops and 2 pairs of earrings valued at $1035. Michelle was interrogated by her boss and forced to take a mandatory drug test. Her immediate termination was based on the cocaine found in her system, and she was forced to forfeit her final paycheck along with an additional $400 to make up for her drug induced mistake.
The US Department of Labor supplies the following incredible statistics to business owners and managers as a warning:
- Employees with drug & alcohol problems are 25-30% less productive than others
- They miss work 3 times as often as their non-abusing coworkers
- 65% of all work-related incidents are caused by those using
- Not only does this add stress to the workplace, but it also adds $100 billion in costs to the economy every year
Obviously, businesses cannot afford to ignore the signs of addiction, even when they think there are no other options. So how can owner and managers spot an addict? Here are a few common signs we look for:
- General inconsistency (effort, showing up, attitude, etc.)
- Lack of punctuality and excessive nonappearances
- Lots of breaks throughout the day
- Judgment mistakes and calculation errors
- Difficulty remembering requests and concentrating on tasks
- Anxiety, moodiness, excessive energy or lack of energy, and quick to anger
As a business owner or manager, try not to avoid confronting employees for displaying these signs. Far too often this is done and leads to unnecessary incidents in the workplace. Sometimes it is blamed on personal problems, issues at home or personality traits, when illegal and dangerous substances more often cause it. Addiction cannot go unnoticed.
An easy solution is to implement a company policy to require random drug tests. Inform managers to be on the lookout for the common signs of addiction listed above. It may even be necessary to refer suspicious employees to the HR department or an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) for an assessment and list of places where he/she can get help. Without doing one of the latter, owners and managers are simply enabling the addict and hurting their own bottom line in the long run. So please, keep addiction out of your workplace. It’s good for business.
When we acknowledge that addiction is a brain disease it becomes easier to understand that there is a battle going on inside the addict’s head. They hear the “voice of the disease” saying that they need drugs and alcohol to cope with life, or they really don’t have a serious problem, or what they do is no one’s business. And then there is the “voice of recovery,” reminding them of the consequences that have come from their use of drugs and alcohol, their inability to make wise choices, and the knowledge that “just one” will never be enough.
This battle inside an addict’s head intensifies at the beginning of treatment. Addiction uses manipulation, dishonesty and denial to protect itself, and when the use of drugs and alcohol stops, the addiction fights back. There are unpleasant physiological symptoms, increasingly strong cravings, and intense thoughts and dreams about using. It is at this stage that tough love is often necessary to keep someone on the path to recovery.
All too often we see addicts wanting to leave rehab within the first week of treatment. Many think “I can do this on my own,” even when the individual’s past experiences prove otherwise. Staying in treatment for those first few weeks and learning how to begin a strong recovery are not easy. Quitting crosses the mind of most.
In these times, it is crucial for family and friends to stand strong as well. If they want the person they care about to stay in treatment and change his or her life, they must resist the temptation to believe the manipulation and lies. A great way to do so is to create consequences for quitting, such as revoking financial support, housing or even friendship. Failing to do so is like abandoning the fight against addiction before it has really begun.
Joe provides a good example:
After five days in detox he was feeling better than he had in years, his family could hear a new person on the phone, and excitement for a new life began to grow. Joe said all the right things about how “this time will be different” and how he was ready to be a new man. He argued that he did not need to stay in treatment; he was ready to start his new life now. So he left.
Two weeks later Joe relapsed. It wasn’t that he had been intentionally insincere, but he was nowhere near ready to begin recovery on his own. He had not learned the necessary skills to think in new ways, nor had he established a support network to help him manage the challenges of recovery. A month later, Joe admitted defeat, and began addiction treatment for a second time.
Marie’s story does not have a happy ending:
Ten days into her treatment for a heroin addiction, she begged her mother to come and get her. She missed being at home, she would never use drugs again, and it would be different this time. During each phone call she used tears and pleading. Even though Marie’s counselor explained to her mother the pattern of manipulation, and how Marie needed to push harder to get beyond her cravings, she did not want her daughter to be sad. Two weeks after Marie’s mother picked her up she died from a drug overdose.
Recovery should not be a negotiation. For many people it is a life or death decision to fight a disease that destroys families, careers, relationships and lives. Everyone who cares about someone trying to break free from addiction must be ready to stand strong. There must be consequences for abandoning the fight – because they motivate the addict to win.
Try these: “If you leave treatment early you cannot come home.” “Our relationship will end if you are not prepared to stop using drugs and get help.” “Don’t expect me to pick you up or offer support if you don’t make a sincere effort to stop.”
These are the resolutions that help people overcome times of weakness and stay strong in recovery. Without consequences, the addict will often choose the easy way out.
Before your loved one goes into treatment, decided what the consequences of quitting will be. Don’t be afraid to be tough – because you are fighting the addiction as well – and draw a very hard line. By standing firm, you are showing your true love, and you may end up saving someone’s life.
The people who love and care for those with addictions are constantly placed in the difficult position of deciding how to act. Do you challenge the alcoholic or addict to get help? Do you refuse to help them until they decide to seek treatment? Do you withdraw assistance (money, housing, car, etc.) until they take the steps to get clean & sober.
“Enabling” occurs when a friend or family member takes a dysfunctional approach that is intended to help the addict but in fact perpetuates the problem. People often feel great pressure to enable because they fear the addict will hurt himself, lose his job, or become homeless.
As hard as it may be, family and friends must practice “tough love” and encourage the addict to get the help they desperately need. Enabling their behavior only allows the drug or alcohol addiction to continue, increasing the risk of serious or tragic consequences. People in this situation can greatly benefit from the support offered by Al-Anon. These meetings are open to the public and designed to help families of alcoholics or addicts who are struggling to find solutions.
By Michael Campbell