What happens when addiction rears its ugly head at work?

For individuals who are able to function at a very high level despite an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is often co-workers who are the last to suspect or know of a problem. Earlier this spring, I heard the story of a sales person who was an alcoholic. She recorded the highest sales figures in her region and was given an award for this honor at a national company conference. In front of peers and superiors, she took the stage to accept her award, which was a weeklong tropical vacation. She left no doubt in anyone’s mind, as she stumbled to the stage, slurred her words and stumbled back to her seat, that she had far too much to drink.

While a situation like this is quite embarrassing, it can be chalked up to several things – for someone who does not drink often and has a low tolerance, this could be the effect of a glass of wine or Champagne. This event, after all, was a celebration.

As the story was told, the woman received her award and booked her vacation. Midway through the trip, the company officials received a call from the resort informing them of an issue. The woman was being asked to vacate the hotel due to drunk and disorderly conduct on property. Upon returning to work the following week, she was dismissed from her position.

When we see our co-workers day in and day out, we may detect there is a problem. However, in this woman’s case, she worked in outside sales. She did most of her work in other people’s offices, often having lunches or dinners with clients, many involved having a drink. Her clients loved her and never reported seeing her overindulge. However, the company did not feel they could take the risk of exposing business clients to an incident similar to the company conference or vacation.

While each work environment and culture is different, many corporations offer support through a substance abuse policy. If you think about major sports organizations such as the National Football League or Major League Baseball, players who are identified as having illegal substances in their system are often suspended and mandated to treatment before they can play again. Future violations may have stronger penalties, but the initial report often results in an attempt to help. Meanwhile, other corporations may have a zero-tolerance policy. Companies who mandate substance abuse treatment for employees can also make recommendations of residential (inpatient) treatment, or outpatient if the employee is expected to continue working during the treatment period. They may even designate a specific treatment center.

Related blog:  Addiction in the Workplace

Pathways can work with employers and provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.