Page 18

RecoveryPlus Workplace

Recovery Plus: Workplace wellbeing 18 September 2016 Families affected by addiction – at work You do not have to be an addict to suffer from addiction. Given the often-overt evidence of addiction’s impact on substance users, it is easy to understand why the traditional focus of concerned others has tended to fix on them. The “identified patients” clearly have a problem and to some extent are seen as the problem. Historically, this attitude has been true for health and social care professionals, as well their colleagues in occupational health and employee assistance programmes. Families have largely been relegated to the periphery, if given any consideration at all. In a parallel process that is too rarely recognised as such, this mimics the focus, if not obsession, of family members relating to an addicted family member. The mind set tends to be underpinned by the belief that getting the person to stop using/drinking/ gambling etc is all that matters and the answer to all ills, at whatever the cost to themselves of such exclusive concern. This approach, however, is frequently counterproductive. A person in the workplace who suffers from addiction can show symptoms: volatile mood, erratic and inappropriate behaviour, errors and misjudgments, accidents and excuses and unexplained absences, not to mention problems with personal appearance including, most obviously of all, evidence of consumption. Active addiction will impact performance. Enlightened companies have policies to deal with these situations that include provision for ensuring the person is offered help and benefits from a managed return to work if time out is taken for treatment. But what of those to whom they closely relate who are, in effect, carers of addicted people? An employee whose life involves relating closely to someone with an addiction might not display such obvious symptoms but could be suffering quite severely, as evidence now indicates. Relating to someone in active addiction can be chronically stressful, especially where interests of children have to be taken into account. They are likely to be experiencing degrees of anxiety and depression, and can even become suicidal, fuelled as they are by feelings of powerlessness and despair. They are losing out to addiction. In these circumstances, self-esteem and confidence tend to be badly eroded. Addiction might well have become the organising dynamic in the home, to which everyone in the family adapts more or less. This adaptation requires a measure of personal contortion to avoid confronting difficult reality, out of fear of making things worse, or just as a way of coping. Family members could have developed physical problems related to stress and tension, including a variety of chronic aches and pains, stomach upsets and other nervous complaints. Very often they fall into self-medicating to alleviate these symptoms, thereby inviting further problems. We tend to assume that stigma attaches only to the person with the identified condition but family members feel the effects of stigma just as acutely by association. They feel such shame and guilt that they tend not to talk openly about


RecoveryPlus Workplace
To see the actual publication please follow the link above