Addiction impacts every aspect of life and the workplace in particular represents a unique source of “uber-stress” for most addicts and alcoholics. For a lot of us, the workplace can be a competitive, demanding and unforgiving environment. On the positive side, the workplace represents an outlet for creativity, a significant source of personal identity and justification of being, the source of revenue to maintain our status and standard of living.
The workplace is often tolerant of – and in many cases even promotes – the mantra of work hard, play hard as almost a twisted life balance; a perverted yin and a yang. This attitude sets up an onslaught of binge drinking/using. When this progresses and spirals out of control, for those with the disease of addiction, it can be like trying to turn down the volume on the stereo when the volume control is broken. For these individuals’ judgement is plenty and they are often perceived as being weak and somehow morally deficient. Behind this dangerous attitude is a distinct misunderstanding of the medically supported disease of addiction.
Although addiction was recognized as a disease in the 1950’s many people continue to cling onto the misconception or stigma that this disease is relegated to certain socioeconomic levels and does not effect “good families”; that somehow people in higher income brackets are “immune” from this disease. The plain truth is that no one is immune to this disease.
For this article, five different professionals who are recovering addicts/alcoholics who had successfully completed Fresh Start’s 12-16 week program were interviewed to get their take on what it’s like to be an alcoholic/addict in a “professional environment”. These professionals include a CA/Comptroller, a Lawyer, an MBA/Systems Analyst, a Wealth Management Specialist and a Petroleum Engineer.
All five of these professionals share things in common; they are all well educated, come from a two parent homes where at least one parent has a university education, a stable job, a home, a car and a family. According to many of the societal yardsticks, they grew up as members of “good families”.
For most of the men polled, as time progressed their usage that was once confined to social settings, soon became more frequent and was practiced with or without company to reduce stress and cope with mounting pressures at work.
As their usage increased, there was also a corresponding and escalating fear of being “found out” which lead to a perceived need for them to hide their habit and isolate more. This cycle continued in a manner akin to a human tornado where the employee experienced an accelerating downward spiral of isolation, loneliness, despair, and increasing use leading towards an inevitable crash.
Jack the CA/Comptroller said that he decided to give his company’s Employee Family Assistance Program a call and “test them” on an issue that was important but not threatening to deal with. At first he was apprehensive and sceptical about the process but once he had set the wheels in motion he was amazed at their professionalism, timeliness in addressing his issue, level of knowledge and access to expert resources and - most of all - the degree of respect and confidentiality they offered.
For the vast majority of those professionals interviewed, their crash came hard from being fired on the spot, to being escorted out of the office with all their belongings through the gauntlet of coworkers to getting “The Call” at home; none of them were easy and all could have had happier endings … or happier middles.
Because of his experience with that initial call to his company’s EFAP program and a level of comfort from a couple of subsequent calls, Jack built up the courage to make the one call that he had been leading up to and dreading … the “Big One”. After fourteen years of struggle it was time and he called his EFAP program to finally get help.
It was the BEST thing he ever did. The level and quality of service, compassion and confidentiality that he received from the EFAP program was a welcomed surprise. They helped him find a recovery program at Fresh Start which began his process for long term recovery. Fresh Start Recovery Centre is a National Award Winning organization located in Calgary, Alberta that provides housing, treatment and support for people affected by addiction. Fresh Start helps people from a wide variety of backgrounds and vocations. Today Jack is a highly responsible professional working as a CA/Comptroller in a very demanding environment … he will be celebrating five years of sobriety before Canada Day.
While all five have had different paths to their recovery, all are experiencing a much better quality of life through their recovery collectively living with twenty years of continuous recovery experience.
From a practical standpoint some of the best advice we’ve heard is that “If you’re struggling with alcohol or drugs and your company has an EFAP program, CALL THEM; they are there to help you stop the madness. They will help you find the right program so you can heal and make life better for you and all around you”.
No one is immune to the disease of addiction and if you are struggling, please use the resources available to you to find the help that is available to you through your EFAP program … it just might save your life.