Concerns business owners might have with employing someone who had an addiction

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of negative connotation and stigma associated with the word ‘addict’. However, when you prefix it with the word ‘recovering’ addiction takes on a whole new meaning. One of positivity, integrity and hope.

Hopefully this article will dispel many common negative beliefs of employing someone suffering with addiction and open up a world of new talent to UK industry that was once seen as a no go area.

Some of the most common fears of employing a recovering addict.

  1. Unreliable / poor timekeeping
  2. Possible relapse
  3. Theft
  4. Bad attitude
  5. Absenteeism
  6. Anger / violence
  7. Drug / alcohol use at work
  8. Do we have the resource to deal with a recovering addict?

I would imagine these are some of the concerns that business owners might have when considering employing someone who has been addicted to drugs and alcohol, all of which are valid concerns, right?

Yes, however – people that are recovering from active addiction have made a decision to change their lives for the better and are generally very grateful for the opportunity to work and demonstrate their worth. Most addicts are talented, creative individuals who have a great deal to offer employees given the chance. You will find those who are serious about their recovery will be an extremely loyal employee who is willing to go the extra mile to get the job done.

It’s important to understand people who have become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol didn’t wake up one morning and decide that the most effective career move for them would be to become addicts, who lie, steal, cheat and deceive their loved ones and employers, quite the contrary.

Those that who’ve been fortunate enough to break the destructive cycle of addiction are only too happy to enter into a normal life and become a productive member of society and prove not only to themselves but to most people they meet that they are no longer a drain on resource.

Rational beliefs:

  1. Unreliable / poor timekeeping – Not necessarily the case for those in recovery, you can expect them to probably be the most punctual employee you have.
  1. Possible relapse – This is always a concern, however addicts in recovery that are working a 12 step program are less likely to relapse. Employers would benefit from gaining an understanding of the 12 step programs / fellowships such as AA and NA to help them understand how it works.
  1. Theft– If you are employing an addict that isn’t in recovery then theft is highly likely as it would be an integral part of getting their hands on quick cash to buy drugs / alcohol.
  1. Bad attitude – We can all have one of these from time to time, however, if you are exposed to a bad attitude you are likely to be met with a full apology and or amends.
  1. Absenteeism– You will be more likely to see this type of behaviour from those employees that are out partying at the weekends.
  1. Anger / violence – Those in recovery are likely to be living a spiritual life which doesn’t condone violence. Most addicts even when they were using would avoid physical altercation wherever possible.
  1. Drug / alcohol use at work – You will not need to worry about recovering addicts disappearing off the radar for a cheeky pint at lunchtime or getting exciting at the prospect of leaving early on a Friday to start the proceedings.
  1. Do we have the resource to deal with a recovering addict? – Now, there is very little resource if any required to support a recovering addict in the workplace. They will most likely have a very supportive recovery network that they access. This could be for example, 12 step meetings, a sober coach, counsellor, therapist or sponsor.

All in all, without wanting to sound like I’m banging the ‘let’s only employee recovering addicts’ drum, I will say as a recovering addict myself, that I am most grateful that I was shown a route out of the malady of using drink and drugs to change how I felt and have been given the tools to live a life that I deserve and can demonstrate my worth as a reliable, trustworthy person and employee.”

Case study: Ian Young, founder of Sober Services

“With 15 continuous years of sobriety, I am employed once a year to work Glastonbury Festival. I have developed in their trust and my values and lifestyle over the years has matured into my recovery.

Often some of the greatest members of a working team fall under the wheels of their addiction. Once they’ve been introduced to recovery and they’ve embraced the possibilities that lay ahead for their own quality of life, should they choose to adopt sobriety, their working potential increases as their brain becomes to think more clearly. Their productivity is massively increased and their chances of successfully completing tasks on time is the best amongst the rest of the staff.

Even though there can be thoughts surrounding recovering addicts of a possible relapse, the level of loyalty, honesty and integrity that you begin to see mature in individuals in positive addiction recovery (such as a 12 step programme) is phenomenal. They will rise to the top based upon their new found ethic and abilities.

Whilst you should remain cautious regarding employees who may retrace back to their addiction stage, it is important for an employer to invest in their staff to give them the time, space and encouragement to actively pursue their recovery throughout their professional career as it will only strengthen their bond to the company and improve their something which cannot be neglected.

However, according to paid surveys people that are recovering from active addiction have made a decision to change their lives for the better and are generally very grateful for the opportunity to work and demonstrate their worth.

To conclude, in employing someone who has previously been addicted to drug and/or alcohol is a great idea. You will get an immensely loyal, grateful member of staff that will astonish you with their intellect and dedication and tenacity to their job and your company.

There is a raft a services available through Sober Services to support businesses when considering employing people in recovery or supporting them once in situ through such programs as sober coaching”

By Jonathan Edgeley, addiction consultant at Sober Services