When left untreated, substance abuse will sabotage your career and demolish your professional reputation. No matter how much success you’ve had in the past, the abuse of alcohol or other drugs will eventually leave you out in the cold with no real hope of finding another job. If you are an entrepreneur, it could lead to catastrophic business failure, leaving a stain on your record that can be difficult to erase even if you manage to overcome your addiction. If it were easy to see a substance use problem coming, all of this could be avoided. But people who fall victim to chemical dependency seldom recognize their descent into madness until they’ve suffered terrible consequences as a result. Addiction unfolds slowly but awareness of its ravages comes even more slowly, and often too late to prevent irreparable damage to a blossoming career or business enterprise. When your drug or alcohol use begins to spiral out of control, you may not notice anything right away. But co-workers, managers and employers undoubtedly will and needless to say that can put you in an extremely precarious position.
Charting Your Path of Destruction
Drugs, alcohol and efficient functioning on the job simply cannot coexist. You may be able to bluff your way through for a while, but eventually the truth will catch up with you. In the workplace environment, substance use problems will:
- Make you absentminded and forgetful: As your mental and physical state degrade, you’ll start forgetting things or overlooking details you never would have let slide in the past.
- Leave you prone to irritability and depression: Heavy consumption of alcohol or other drugs alters brain chemistry and affects mood, which will interfere with your ability to perform and inevitably lead to conflicts with co-workers and bosses.
- Make it difficult to stay focused or remain detail-oriented: Juggling complex job responsibilities with regular drug or alcohol consumption is simply impossible. As your substance abuse deepens, you’ll begin making critical mistakes or leaving work assignments only half-finished.
- Cause a decline in your physical appearance: When you’re using drugs or alcohol frequently, you’ll develop body odor, bad breath and bloodshot eyes. In general, you just won’t look well. Employers and co-workers will notice these changes and they may begin to ask uncomfortable questions.
- Leave you chronically fatigued and lacking in energy: Substance abuse can suppress your appetite or conversely leave you craving unhealthy foods, either of which can leave you short of energy. Substance abuse can also lead to insomnia, and when you’re perpetually sleep-deprived, you’ll be unable to put your best foot forward.
- Make you chronically tardy: Alcoholics and drug addicts are notorious for missing deadlines, arriving late or not showing up for work at all. Eventually you’ll fall into these habits, too.
- Cause deterioration of your physicalhealth: When chemical dependency begins to take over your life, your physical health will deteriorate. You’ll soon be calling in sick on a regular basis or asking for permission to leave work early, to the point where your employer will start to wonder if you’re worth the trouble.
- Force you to lie repeatedly: When substance abuse takes over, you’ll find yourself lying or making excuses to explain your poor work performance or odd behavior. Eventually, the lies will catch up with you, and once you’re exposed, you’ll lose the trust of your bosses and co-workers.
- Hamper your creativity: Some claim certain types of drugs can enhance creativity. In fact, any boost of creative energy you receive from drug consumption will be temporary at best, and if you continue to use those substances, your wellspring of new ideas will dry up like the Sahara Desert.
- Create family, money or other types of personal problems that follow you into the workplace: It’s hard enough to get your work done when you’re hungover, suffering from drug cravings or struggling with mood swings. But when your personal life becomes so chaotic that it begins to interfere with your work life, unemployment or business failure is all but inevitable.
This is a lot to overcome, and you are unlikely to survive in your job for long if you remain in denial about your drug or alcohol dependency.
Putting Your Substance Use Disorder Out of Business
Knowing what to look for in the earliest stages of a substance use problem, when the signs are subtle but still present, can give you an edge over chemical dependency. Addiction can destroy your career, but treatment for addiction can save it. If you can find the strength and the courage to admit you have a problem, your chances for recovery are excellent — and in the workplace the law is on your side. The Americans With Disabilities Act makes it illegal to fire an employee who voluntarily seeks treatment for a substance use disorder, while the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees time off for rehab for men and women who require it. Each act has some limitations based on the size of the company and the length of time an employee has held their current position. But even when these laws don’t apply, most employers are likely to be supportive if you are honest about your struggles and willing to step forward and ask for help.