When the alcoholic is asked why he/she has just ‘picked up again’ you are likely to meet with a cornucopia of responses. They will range from the generally plausible to the downright bizarre. Within the reasoning for relapse will be two notable absentees, two generally acceptable responses as to why people place liquid to lips.
One is the taste, the other a desire to slake ones thirst.
I was never the type of drinker to offer that ‘The Black Horse does a lovely Fosters’ or that ‘The Bay does the best Guinness outside of Ireland’. That is to imply taste was a critical part of my mindset around alcohol. It was not, it never was. It was effect and effect alone. The aforesaid is relevant in the context of employment if only for the spurious resolution proposed by one green HR representative in a recent episode of employee excess around alcohol. Upon being brought into the equation of an employee who had serious problems around alcohol the uninformed Human Resources agent offered ‘Why doesn’t she drink Coke instead’.
Eureka. We have it. A cure for alcoholism, all in the best possible taste. Alas no, it is not that simple. The more serious aspect in this is the mindboggling ignorance within such a view and that such personnel could be positioned to advise and guide on such a matter.
It is worth pointing out however that it would be unjust to expect all operating within the field of HR to possess expertise around alcoholism. Why ? Well how can we expect them to detect the demon when the sufferers themselves are ignorant of what resides within them. It is however wise and responsible for an employer to seek external assistance which will allow a more accurate analysis of the sufferer and situation.
Employers for the most part are unqualified to make such diagnosis, they are only placed to ask the person in question about their intake, their feelings generally and if they suspect they have a problem of any kind. Unfortunately, the nature of the illness is such that an answer to the latter question in the affirmative is unlikely, not through deliberate deceit, simply through the illness actually dictating that we do not suffer from it, see accompanying image above.
Employers with a staff that numbers double figures invariably have those with alcohol issues to some extent. Those firms with three figure staff rolls have alcoholics, or alcoholics in waiting, to contend with. This is the case even if they can look around their factory, office, shop floor and not see the obvious candidates.
When the situation arises that alcohol is impacting upon someone’s capability for output, or that their drink influenced demeanour is proving disruptive then consulting the alcohol policy is advisable. This naturally can provide legal safeguards in light of any consequent action. What should not materialise is an over-zealous superior attaching a label to the person in question based upon social conditioning or urban myth and misconception.
An employer, with compassion and care, should at least consider that the employee has issues with alcohol that will not subside through a warning, verbal or written, or even the blatant threat of dismissal. More, they should always be mindful that they may be dealing with someone who is ill. Not devious through intention, not deceitful for selfish ends. Simply ill.
If the employer is not sufficiently knowledgeable then locating assistance for the person is not only right but instrumental in the recovery of the troubled individual. There are few better, in fact there are none better, to provide expertise and assurance than the sober alcoholic, those who have went through the journey from hopelessness and helplessness to being a beacon of strength and alcoholic altruism.
They, the employee, will see comfort and hope in a strong and recovered alcoholic who, in being candid about their own experiences, is non-judgemental, sympathetic, supportive and integral in letting them know that they are not alone. They are much much more likely to open up about their emotions to a like mind than they will to a well meaning colleague who, despite sincere intentions, is a world away from comprehending the mind of the afflicted.
The representative can offer all manner of assistance, they can be a shoulder to cry on, a donor of days off, even a financial aid to alleviate concerns to that end.
Such measures may assist. Temporarily.
They will not, they will never remove the tendency for alcohol. That will only come through the employee feeling they can share with someone their deepest emotions and the ability for that lies with those that speak the same language, a language which is spoken only, and fluently, by those who find an unprecedented elation at 9.55pm as they walk in the dark and upon rounding a corner see that the neon of the off licence is still lighting up the night sky. The sense of euphoria and relief that your ‘medicine’ is accessible is something that only few, thankfully, understand.
If you have a staff member, colleague, worker, employee, member or other with what has become apparent is a drink problem then please do not allow self-confidence to dictate that you can fix it.
Contact someone who is suitably placed to deal with it.