The thought of recovery can seem incredibly daunting to addicts; after all, it is likely that they have relied on a substance or behaviour as a crutch with which to deal with life for a number of years. One popular concern is with career preservation. It is well known that addicts can come from all walks of life, including successful professional backgrounds. People who have worked hard to achieve this may worry that going to rehab could potentially impact on this success. This article will explain how many of these worries are unfounded.
There is no one solid cause for addiction. Some researchers have pointed to genetic markers predisposing people to the condition1, whilst some think it is the result of traumatic and stressful experiences. It is likely that it can be caused by a variety of causes, which can combine and overlap. It is, however, widely accepted that addiction causes physical changes to the brain which affect judgement and can cause impulsive behaviour2.
Addiction is defined as “a compulsive, chronic, physiological need” for a substance or behaviour. It is listed an officially recognised medical condition, with some of the substances listed being alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, gambling, sex, and food3. There are a wide range of treatments for addiction, of which residential treatment is one of the most popular and effective4.
However, many people feel that due to the stigma5 (both self-inflicted and from others) addiction carries that seeking residential treatment may damage their careers. People worry that it may impact on how others view their decision making and leadership skills; after all, if someone cannot control how much they use of a substance or behaviour how could they effectively manage people? The fact is that companies are legally obligated to treat any medical problems with complete confidentiality6, so disclosing this to people should be completely up to your discretion.
Due to recovery being more frequently discussed and understood in the public means that people’s attitudes to mental health and addiction are often more understanding than we give them credit for. Many people are directly affected by addiction without being addicts themselves; they may have friends and relatives who suffer from it.
There is also the legal side of things. Due to addiction being a medically recognised disease, employment law dictates that a company must treat it as such. This means that it is illegal for them to fire someone just because they are an addict. Morally, most people would think it highly immoral to fire someone who was suffering from any other medical condition. By law, anyone suffering from a health condition is entitled to time off work for counselling and treatment7.
It is also not unheard of for companies to contribute towards paying for treatment, either out of their own pockets or through insurance companies. After all, the most valuable asset a company has is its employees. From a purely business point of view, often it is more expensive to go through dismissal proceedings and find and train a new employee than it is to invest in their own employees recovery.
However, it is important to note that some of the behaviours associated with addiction such as erratic performance, lateness, and unaccountability can cause companies to pursue disciplinary action. Turning up to work under the influence can also cause this, and if it is a dangerous work environment then it could also contravene the law8. This is why it is advisable to contact a line manager or human resources and explain one’s problem as soon as possible. The company is legally obligated to give confidentiality in these situations9. It may also be that your manager or employees have already noticed a change in you before you approach them.
Some “high-functioning” addicts are also concerned that recovery can impact on their career. Some people may feel that drinking helps them unwind from a hard day and enables them to be more productive. Others may feel that a line of cocaine helps them to socialise with clients more effectively. The fact is that for addicts, these coping mechanisms can be very unhealthy and can impact severely on physical and mental health.
In attending addiction treatment, and learning to deal with these situations in a healthy manner it may be possible that the recovering addict finds they deal with these situations better than ever. After all, drugs are simply chemicals which affect the way the body works. If someone can do something under the influence, then they can learn to do it with a sober mind as well. Many people have found incredible professional success in recovery, and often people only realise in hindsight how it was affecting them negatively. Even if the addiction is not appearing to affect someone’s career, it is possible that addiction could be affecting other areas of their personal life and it is still worth taking some time out to address.
1 Sussman, Steve, and Alan N. Sussman. “Considering The Definition Of Addiction”. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, vol 8, no. 10, 2011, pp. 4025-4038. MDPI AG, doi:10.3390/ijerph8104025. Accessed 19 Aug 2020.
2 Di Chiara, Gaetano et al. “Dopamine And Drug Addiction: The Nucleus Accumbens Shell Connection”. Neuropharmacology, vol 47, 2004, pp. 227-241. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2004.06.032. Accessed 19 Aug 2020.
3 Sussman, Steve, and Alan N. Sussman. “Considering The Definition Of Addiction”. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, vol 8, no. 10, 2011, pp. 4025-4038. MDPI AG, doi:10.3390/ijerph8104025. Accessed 19 Aug 2020.
4 Rivard, Jeanne C. et al. Psychiatric Quarterly, vol 74, no. 2, 2003, pp. 137-154. Springer Science And Business Media LLC, doi:10.1023/a:1021355727114. Accessed 10 Aug 2020.
5 Matthews, S., Dwyer, R. & Snoek, A. Stigma and Self-Stigma in Addiction. Bioethical Inquiry 14, 275–286 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-017-9784-y
6 “Data Protection Act 1998”. Legislation.Gov.Uk, 2020, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/29/contents.
7 “Taking Sick Leave”. GOV.UK, 2020, https://www.gov.uk/taking-sick-leave.
8 “Health And Safety At Work Etc Act 1974 – Legislation Explained”. Hse.Gov.Uk, 2020, https://www.hse.gov.uk/legislation/hswa.htm.
9 “Data Protection Act 1998”. Legislation.Gov.Uk, 2020, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/29/contents.