WED 26TH JUN 2019


Bringing the family business community together

Addiction & Family Business Employees

18th January 2019 Jonathan Edgeley

Family firms are not exempt and here we take a look at dispelling concerns business owners might have with employing someone who has been addicted to drugs and alcohol.

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’ it takes on a whole new meaning. One of positivity, integrity, and hope.

Hopefully, this article will dispel many common negative beliefs of employing a once using addict and open up a world of new talent to UK industry that was once seen as a no go area.  Family firms employ millions of people across the UK and some employees will be affected by addictive behaviour and have implications for the family firm too.

Let's start off by looking at a list of irrational beliefs when it comes to considering the affects of addiction on employees:

  1. Unreliable/poor timekeeping
  2. The threat of possible relapse
  3. Theft
  4. Poor attitude
  5. Absenteeism
  6. Anger amd/or violence
  7. Drug and/or alcohol use at work
  8. Do we have the resource and experience 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 - through the people I’ve had the good fortune to meet that are recovering from active addiction I have seen that they 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 is 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 to fuel their unwanted dependence on mind and mood altering substances, quite the contrary.

Those that who’ve been fortunate enough to break the destructive cycle of addiction are only too happy to enter into the realms of normal living 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 society. 

To counter the aforementioned  irrational beliefs here are a list of 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.
  2. Possible relapse – This is always a concern, however addicts in recovery that are working a 12 step programme are less likely to relapse. Employers would benefit from gaining an understanding of the 12 step programmes/fellowships such as AA and NA to help them understand how it works and how they can support an employee in recovery. There are open meetings of both fellowships that allow friends, families, and employers to attend.
  3. 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. However, those in recovery with a suitable recovery programme are now living a principled life, the thought of theft would likely appall them as it would be deemed as old behaviour.
  4. 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 an amends.
  5. Absenteeism - You will be more likely to see this type of behavior from those employees that are out partying at the weekends.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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, counselor, therapist or sponsor. That said, it is always helpful for an employer to take time to learn about recovery as this will only enhance mutual respect. 

In conclusion "without wanting to sound like I’m banging the ‘lets 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. I have been given the tools to live a life that I deserve and can demonstrate my worth as a reliable, trustworthy person and employee and employer."

Addiction inevitably will affect families in business, in the same way that it affects all sectors of society, and a greater understanding of individuals and their needs as they come out the other side of their addiction can only help put them on the correct path.  Families can be an incredible support network and as such family firms can also be an opportune environment to help too.



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