So You Drink and Then Go to Work

What is alcoholism and how prevalent is it?

ALCOHOLISM IS A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM IN OUR NATION. Let’s take a closer look. The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence defines alcoholism this way:

“Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychological, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortion in thinking, most notably denial.” 

Alcohol is the single most used AND abused drug in America. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 14 million Americans (1 in every 13 adults) abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. That means in a typical office of 100 people, there are approximately eight people abusing alcohol!

Alcoholism in the Workplace

The impact of alcoholism in the workplace is significant. Numerous studies and reports have been issued on the workplace costs of alcoholism and alcohol abuse, and they report costs that range from $33 billion to $68 billion per year.

If you have a drinking problem what do you do? Do you keep it quiet or come forward?

Your first instinct is to keep it quiet. As the definition suggests, part of the disease is denial. But that denial can and will lead to serious consequences. Once drinking starts negatively impacting your job, it is imperative to come forward.

What are the typical signs that your work in being impacted?

In the workplace, the costs of alcoholism and alcohol abuse manifest themselves in many different ways.

  • First is leave and attendance.  Absenteeism is estimated to be 4 to 8 times greater among alcoholics and alcohol abusers.
  • Next is performance problems such as missed deadlines.
  • Relationships at work can also be affected. Abnormal behavior such as avoiding supervisory contact, especially after lunch is also common.

The Importance of Coming Forward and Getting Treatment

By coming forward you can be protected. Alcoholism is considered a disability under the American Disabilities Act, and therefore is protected against discrimination in the workplace. However, don’t think that means that showing up late, missing a deadline, or crashing the company car in a DUI is okay. Many legal cases have come up when someone commits an act of misconduct and turns around and tries to defend themselves by saying it’s because they’re disabled because of alcoholism. The law is written such that it does not allow people to be able to do that.

In general, the rule is fairly clear: An employer cannot fire an employee for being an alcoholic. However, employees certainly can be let go for drinking on the job, or for otherwise failing to do their jobs or follow workplace rules because of alcohol consumption. Don’t wait until your behavior results in performance problems or misconduct at the workplace. While coming forward is an important first step, it won’t mean anything unless you get help. It’s about getting treatment to rid yourself of the disease.

If you tell your employer that you are an alcoholic and you’d like to go to treatment so you don’t have the problem again, your employer can’t then discriminate against you because you’re an alcoholic.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to openly admit your problem to those in your life. You want to seek support and get treatment. Here at La Fuente, we offer a full service treatment center. Contact us today at 888.903.9898 to learn more.