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Old 03-10-2011, 12:56 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Dealing with Employers


Hi...I was sober for 4.5 years. About a year and a half ago, on vacation, I convinced myself that I could drink an occasional glass of wine without it escalating. Yeah...I know...no one here has ever had that conversation with themselves, right? So I had my glass of wine and it was good. And it took me a solid year to get back to the point where I'm at now which is roughly a bottle to two bottles of wine every evening.

So now...I'm at the point where I recognize that I'm an alcoholic. I'm struggling with a couple of things. First of all, it pisses me off...I hate it. And I've having a hard time accepting it...not intellectually because the evidence is pretty much irrefutable, but more on a spiritual level...I guess I'm mad at God for making me that way? So I guess I'll get through that as I get through it...and I know this this doesn't make me unique in any way because I can't be the first angry alcoholic in history, but I'm the first alcoholic I've ever been and I'm the one that has to deal with me.

The other issue that I'm struggling with as far as getting sober goes is how much information should you give an employer? I ask this because my performance has been suffering...imagine that...and I might need their support in order to get and stay sober. And I look back at the last time I sobered up and wonder if maybe I wasn't already laying the ground work for my exodus from the wagon by not making sure that more people knew why I didn't drink? Let me qualify this by saying I'm in an industry where entertaining clients is the norm and attendance at a lot of events where alcohol flows freely is fairly common. So...do I engage my employer in this process? Engage HR? Just my boss? How have others handled this? I figure I don't have to wait until I get fired to address this, do I?

I tend to be very deliberate about stuff and sometimes I'm paralyzed by analysis, but I really don't want to screw getting sober up or screw up getting sober whichever is most accurate...if it's possible.

Appreciate any constructive feedback...FOB
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:07 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi FOB and welcome to SR!

Regarding your employer...it depends so much on your employer. I used to work at a very progressive liberal law firm that was huge. I knew a girl who was an alcoholic, she was found passed out in a stairwell one day. At the time I learned that the firm had a pretty extensive policy to help people with addiction that would not harm their careers. I of course, did not have a problem so did not pursue it...lol.

Anyway, the point is, it depends. Might be a good idea to make some discreet inquiries as to what your companies policy is.

If being around drinking is part of your job and you will have problems with it, it might be a good idea to consider a career change.

Good luck
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:40 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I too had some concerns that my drinking was affecting my work performance (it was who are we kidding) and I feared that they would 'talk to me' some day.....but that day never came (I dodged another bullet). When I was really truely ready to get some help I considered using my employers employee addiction help avenue but at the advice of my wife (she is always right) I decided not to go that route as I/we felt that it was too risky and confidentiality would not be airtight.....AND.....I studied up on work provided conseling and my limited research noted that it was pretty minimal and basically referred you to an addiction couselor or shrink. I looked up a local alcohol and drug counselor and made an appointment on my own. I got the help I needed. I got help. I tried to do it on my own....and it did not work. Seldom it does. I see the counselor once a week to talk about my issues and it really does help me stay sober. I have NO intentions of stopping the weekly visits for at least the next 6 months or until they recommend biweekly or something. My insurance pays for most of it so it is a no brainer. So....long story short.....I did not involve my employer and did it my way, with some help....I got sober....my work performance improved, I dodged a bullet.

As far as the work social situation goes, I try not to partake in many 'events' where drinking is the focus like happy hours....but if I must I usually get a non alcoholic drink right away...or make an excuse (there are hundreds)....but as time goes by and I am sober longer.....it certainly feels more comfortable saying 'no thanks...I don't drink' or "I haven't had any drinks in two months and I am losing weight" and it typically goes away.

Get the help you need....get sober....and in my opinion do not make a big deal about it to your employer. If they demand of you that drinking is required to be sucessfull in your business.......get a new job.
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:06 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I am in sales, and in an industry where drinking events are the norm and expected. I didn't tell my employer that I had a problem just because of the economy and where losing my job could put me if my employer didn't understand.

I realized that if I let the people know who I entertain that I quit or I have a medical reason I can no longer drink..(I do, I'm an alcoholic), they have excepted it and we still get together and I entertain and end up driving or whatever. For me I don't have a problem not picking up a drink when I am with people and I give them a reason, in fact by doing this I am really adding people to my sobriety squad because they will help me stay sober by asking about it when we meet. My problem was when I was alone..I mean it would be easier to drink by myself if I were to make that decision. So I tell new acquaintences I have a medical issue and I don't drink because of doctors orders, and my old drinking companions that I trust I let them know I was having issues with alcohol so I quit, and I told the boss I gave it up to get healthier and be a better more organized sales person.

It hasn't been an issue.
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Old 03-10-2011, 07:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
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There is a saying in AA "Easy does it". "We will intuitively be able to handle situations that used to baffle us"... another AA saying. The point I'm trying to make is nothing needs to be said right now. When we decide to get sober we want to tell EVERYONE what we're up to. We're so full of resolve and determination (WILL POWER) and we can't imagine ever wanting to drink that nasty crap again. Then, day by day, we let go little by little. Now, that glass of wine doesn't seem like that big of deal. Now, our families seem to be pushing us to the point where we NEED a drink. The people around us become a little more gray, our lives become a little more gray, we're tired of being a "good boy" all the time. At home, at the office, with our extended family, the pressure mounts, and finally GOD DA_MMIT I NEED A DRINK!!!!

Sound familiar? It does to me, because that's my story. I have done the above mentioned scenario many times. What have I learned? Talk means absolutely nothing. Show your employer your serious about getting sober through actions, not words.

I recently got a new job and I went to my employer and said, I need to figure out a way to handle some personal things. I can either do them before work (and come in 30 min. late) or I can do the during lunch (30 min. later lunch). That's all I said. He said he'd prefer if I did it before work, so I do. I don't discuss my alcoholism with my boss. I do tell people that I don't drink (only if it comes up). I want to show by example. Do I help others, am I on time, am I reliable, do I do work that isn't my responsibility but helps the company? It's called a living amends and in most cases its the best kind we can do.

I wish you the best...
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Old 03-10-2011, 07:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Fob, when I put myself in that equation, I don't think I would entrust the information with them.

This kind of thinking runs counter to a mode of thought we're supposed to have when we are quitting, I suppose. We're supposed to be honest and transparent and sticking with facts, and that would be good exercise against all the negotiating our brains can do ("it'll be better, it wasn't that bad..." - all those potential debates).

But I look at the non-disclosure as a necessary form of survival. If you can continue with your current job and still make the personal progress in your recovery, then that's one way of looking at it. If you think you would not be successful, then maybe that changes the name of the game a lot more.

I quit a job while I was doing rather well because I had aspirations about moving on to do other things. I quit drinking a week or two later, and then everything shut down (my ambition, my gumption, my courage, my energy - it was all zapped). I made progress personally and eventually started to get into the new career stream months later, after an uphill search battle. And all that only to arrive at not caring about the new career stream after all. So I let go of that. Now I'm in trouble and am looking again on the work path that I already had. It's a bit of a slap in the face for me (aren't alcoholics supposed to lose everything before they quit?); but so far so good as far as my resentments impacting my behaviour go. There's a sting there, but not the kind that feeds an interest in drinking.

I noticed you might resemble me intellectually or emotionally in some ways. If you're like me, it might be worth it to avoid situations when you are tempted to analyze too much - to your detriment, maybe. Sometimes it works out so much better when you race to the conclusion rather than building the proofs, which feed a hunger for more problems to solve, more challenges, and more saga. Earlier instincts about what to do might just be right most of the time. So if you're accurate about the "paralysis by analysis" tendency in you, try to find a happy medium. I don't know if I am at a "medium" right now, but what I do have is no drinking and that much to consider successful.
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Old 03-10-2011, 07:40 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I would definitely not tell my employer.

People who are not alcoholics don't understand how difficult this is.

If you need the help of HR for a treatment program, that might be a different story, but I would avoid talking about it, if at all possible.

And, I wouldn't have been able to work in a environment that you describe when I was in early sobriety. It took me months before I was comfortable being around people who were drinking.
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The only time I would tell my employer is, if I worked for myself.

I keep my private life seperate from my work life as much as possible.
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks to each and every one of you for responding. Your insights are valuable as is the time you took to respond.
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Old 03-11-2011, 01:43 PM   #10 (permalink)
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It depends upon your employer, and who there you wish to inform.
I am not an alcoholic, but I was dating one. That, too, affected my work performance.

My manager only knew I was going through a hard time. I don't know if he has experience with addiction in his family, and so I didn't tell him, because I did not think he would understand.

We do have a psychologist at work. This psychologist knows everything, and even coordinated to guarantee that my (now ex-)boyfriend was admitted into a good rehab program and that the insurance would cover it. (My ex and I work at the same place.) Our company has very extensive addiction assistance.

The psychologist is still assisting, on both sides (rehab, unfortunately, was not enough, and now my ex has started stalking me as well).
The managers (his and mine) still don't know. (I did tell my manager I may be going to HR regarding someone outside the department - I did not give details or names or even mention the stalking as the reason, and he did not ask, merely offered to help me in any way he could if I needed him).

Again, I'm from the other side of things, but I did want to comment. Do what feels most comfortable for you, depending upon your circumstances. Check what assistance your work provides, as well, as larger companies especially tend to have very good addiction programs.
Pick your answer based on what you feel is best, once you have enough information.

Good luck!
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Old 03-11-2011, 02:33 PM   #11 (permalink)
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The question was really about whether to engage my direct report in the conversation, but those that have suggested that I research my company's policies first have given me good direction. And I do appreciate the caution exhorted by several of you. I'll share any insights I glean.
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Old 03-11-2011, 02:34 PM   #12 (permalink)
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When I finally decided to enter an evening outpatient rehab program, I needed to give my employer some information because a) my job involves frequent travel which I couldn't do during the program and b) because I'd need to leave work a bit early

So, I simply told my boss that I had some health issues that would require daily attention for the next 6 weeks. I told him it was rather personal and he didn't ask questions. He did run it past HR to make sure I didn't need to do anything with FMLA because he wanted to make sure I was protected. I was so relieved! He's been very accommodating so far. I've got just a week and a half left of treatment!
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Old 03-11-2011, 02:52 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I'm a human resources manager and w/o the support and understanding of my boss, the director of HR, I'm not sure I would have succeeded so well in my recovery. My boss had no experience with alcohol/drug addiction and we didn't spend a lot of time talking about it either but I knew he was here for me if I needed him. I was pretty much a mess for at least 6 months into recovery and scared of everything for well over a year, and if I had felt a need to hide my situation from my boss that would have made things even worse for me. Also if you are going to be taking off work for a recovery program or something it could protect you for your employer to know what is going on because your job would be protected by FMLA laws (as long as your employer has over 50 employees).
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Old 03-11-2011, 02:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
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The question was really about whether to engage my direct report in the conversation, but those that have suggested that I research my company's policies first have given me good direction. And I do appreciate the caution exhorted by several of you. I'll share any insights I glean.
Yeah, be careful with the policies. Read between the lines.
I was fired for drinking...yeah, I know, dumb but its behind me now and I'm in a better place in my life.
I was told by one boss upon my termination that if I got a 'doctors note' I could return as long as I showed I was being treated.
I called to see about an appt to chat about coming back and I was told they weren't hiring AND I had to be a year sober before reapplying.
Now HOW THE HELL would they know if I was a week, a month or a year sober, for pete's sake.
Then I was told thru a friend that worked there, that the shady areas of the policy say "or as deemed necessary by the director". And phrases such as those to cover themselves.
The policy actually reads that after treatment employee will meet with manager prior to returning...subject to random blood tests and participate in after care.
Some companies prefer not to deal with high maintenance employees that they have to 'watch'. I was offered none of that.
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Old 03-11-2011, 03:19 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Im proud to be an alcoholic, and I tell everyone who will listen. Personally I think it breaks the ice and demonstrates honesty.
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