George & Associates Consulting
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When Your Addiction Affects Your Career

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If you’re a working professional and you’re struggling with substance abuse problems, you’re not alone. The US Commission on Civil Rights reports that 10 to 25 percent of the American workforce has worked under the influence. Additionally, 76 percent of people who are addicted are employed, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Perhaps one of the greatest barriers to recovery for employees is the seemingly insurmountable “what ifs.”

●              What if I have to temporarily leave my job for treatment?
●              What if my boss loses respect for me?
●              What if he attempts to terminate me?

The unknowns can feel overwhelming, and for many, it can seem easier to ignore the issue altogether.

Ignoring proper treatment, though, won’t get you on the road to recovery, and it surely won’t help to keep you gainfully employed. To get back in good stead at work, you’ll need to ask yourself some tough questions. 

First: “Am I experiencing warning signs of addiction?”

There are several signs that you may be dealing with an addiction problem. Ask yourself these questions.

●              Have I tried to stop and been unable to?
●              Do I feel moody, anxious, or frustrated when I am unable to use?
●              Is my health suffering as a consequence of my use?
●              Am I turning down invitations to social events that I’d normally attend?
●              Do I always have to have the substance in supply?
●              Am I taking unnecessary risks, like stealing or driving recklessly?
●              Do I use when I don’t want to face real-life problems?
●              Am I secretive about the use?
●              Do I deny using the substance to family and friends?

Next: “Is my addiction affecting my career?”

Once you’ve looked at the general signs of addiction, you might still be convinced you’re meeting your job requirements. Sometimes, it can be hard to confront what we don’t want to see, but chances are, your boss isn’t missing the cues. Consider these questions.

●              Am I arriving late for work?
●              Am I always sleepy on the job?
●              Am I stealing from my employer?
●              Am I fighting more with my boss and finding it easier to disagree?
●              Do I have a hard time getting my job done?
●              Am I making poor choices?
●              Has my boss already written me up?

Next: “Do I know my rights?”

If you’ve taken time to carefully review these questions and find you’re in need of a solution, it’s time to set aside your fear of what may happen in favor of some actionable change. Here are some rights provided to you that you should clearly understand.

  1. Under The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, the law prohibits discrimination against and protects the rights of people with disabilities. And while this law does allow employers to ensure their workplaces are drug- and alcohol-free, it also protects recovering drug addicts and alcoholics from discrimination. If you are currently in a rehabilitation program or have been successfully rehabilitated, you are covered under the ADA.
  2. The United States Department of Labor ensures under the Family and Medical Leave Act that qualifying employees may take up to 12 work weeks unpaid due to medical reasons within a 12-month period.

Finally: “How do I get help?”

Once you fully understand that your employer can’t discriminate against you and must allow you time off to enter a quality treatment center, it’s time to sit down and have a heart to heart with your boss. Be sure to ask him if your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). According to the American Psychiatric Association, this great resource is often overlooked.

If they don’t have an EAP, do your due diligence and make sure to find a treatment facility that will be a good fit for you. Be prepared with a list of questions that is specific to your own addiction treatment needs. Choosing the right facility will be critical to your addiction recovery success.

Once you start to seek meaningful ways to be a good employee, you’ll find that other aspects of your life will naturally improve as well. You’ll be motivated to shore up damaged relationships, and you may be driven to focus on fixing your finances. Now’s the time to achieve life’s dreams; just take that first step.


Lindsey Morano