Saturday, October 10, 2009

The #1 Thing to Know About Addiction

Perhaps you have an alcoholic or drug user in your family or your company. Perhaps you've tried to help that person. If so, this article is for you.

I regularly marvel at the things I learn in meetings of Chief Executive Boards International. In a recent Board meeting, a member was looking for some help with a family situation. He had just learned from his daughter that his son-in-law had a serious drug problem, which she had discovered through some cash withdrawls from the household checking account.

He had already thought through many of the possible ramifications -- not only relative to his daughter and the survival of their relationship but also the son-in-law's employment, was he perhaps stealing on the job, and a host of other concerns. And he had formulated several ideas of how he might help with the situation. That's what he wanted to know -- what could or should he do to help this person?

One member brought up a somewhat relevant experience with a relative's addiction. Then the inevitable happened -- a second member said, "As an alcoholic who's been sober for 14 years, I can tell you there's absolutely nothing you can do to help him. In fact, almost anything you do is likely to hurt. Your only option is to get yourself, your wife and your daughter to an Al-Anon chapter."

He went on to teach the Board that the "wiring" of an addict's brain is different than that of the rest of us. We can't understand that person, his problem, or contribute at all to his recovery. It's a matter of something bad enough happening to him that he decides he has to find help for himself. Then he'll get cleaned up, and then he'll probably stumble again. And, hopefully, he'll come to realize that his only hope is total abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

The value of Al-Anon is the combined experience of millions of people spanning 5 decades learning to cope with the addiction of a loved one. People come to understand that they can become as addicted to the alcoholic or drug user as that person is to alcohol or drugs. And to understand how to find happiness for themselves whether the user quits or not.

If you have a friend, family member or loved one who is an alcoholic or drug user, consider the advice of a recovering alcoholic -- "get yourself to an Al-Anon meeting." This is similar to the advice they give you on the airplane, "Secure your own mask first before helping others."

If you have an alcoholic or drug user in your company there are a variety of resources available, including the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Handbook for Supervisors: A key sentence from that publication is, "The most effective way to get an alcoholic to deal with the problem is to make the alcoholic aware that his or her job is on the line and that he or she must get help and improve performance and conduct, or face serious consequences, including the possibility of losing his or her job." That's part of the "realization that something bad enough can happen that he'll decide to find help for himself."

If you've had an experience with alcoholism or drug abuse in your family or your company, please click "Comments" below and share it with others.

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International

Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

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