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  • Jonathan Edgeley

Concerns businesses might have employing someone who has been addicted to drugs and/or alcohol

Ex-addict working in clothes store

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of negative connotation and stigma associated with the word ‘addict’. However, when you prefix it with the word ‘recovering’, it takes on a whole new meaning; one of positivity, integrity, and hope.

There are obvious concerns about employing recovering addicts in the workplace but hopefully this article will dispel many common negative beliefs about employing a once-using addict and open up a world of new talent to UK industry that was once seen as a 'no-go' area.

Below is a list of irrational beliefs:

1. Unreliable / poor timekeeping

2. Possible relapse

3. Theft

4. Bad attitude

5. Absenteeism

6. Anger / Violence

7. Drug / Alcohol use at work

8. Do we have the resource to deal with a recovering addict?

Ex-addict working in warehouse

I would imagine these are some of the concerns that business owners might have when considering employing someone who has been addicted to drugs and alcohol, all of which are valid concerns, right?

Yes, however - people that are recovering from active addiction have made a decision to change their lives for the better and are generally very grateful for the opportunity to work and demonstrate their worth. Most addicts are talented, creative individuals who have a great deal to offer employees, given the chance. You will find those who are serious about their recovery will be an extremely loyal employee who is willing to go the extra mile to get the job done.

It's important to understand that people who have become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that the most effective career move for them would be to become addicts, who lie, steal, cheat and deceive their loved ones and employers. Quite the contrary.

Ex-addict working in carpentry factory

Those who have been fortunate enough to break the destructive cycle of addiction are only too happy to enter into a normal life and become a productive member of society and prove, not only to themselves but to most people they meet, that they are no longer a drain on social and healthcare resources.

Rational beliefs dispelled

1. Unreliable / poor timekeeping – Not necessarily the case for those in recovery. You can probably expect them to be the most punctual employee you have.

2. Possible relapse – This is always a concern however, addicts in recovery that are working a 12-step programme are less likely to relapse. Employers would benefit from gaining an understanding of the 12-step programmes / fellowships such as AA and NA, to help them better understand how it works.

3. Theft – If you are employing an addict that isn’t in recovery then theft is highly likely as it would be an integral part of getting their hands on quick cash to buy drugs / alcohol.

4. Bad attitude – We can all have one of these from time to time. However, if you are exposed to a bad attitude, you are likely to be met with a full apology and or amends.

5. Absenteeism - You will be more likely to see this type of behaviour from those employees that are out partying at the weekends, not those actively abstaining by choice.

6. Anger / Violence – Those in recovery are likely to be living a spiritual life which condones violence. Most addicts, even when they were using, would avoid physical altercation wherever possible.

7. Drug / Alcohol use at work - You will not need to worry about recovering addicts disappearing off the radar for a cheeky pint at lunchtime or getting exciting at the prospect of leaving early on a Friday to start the weekend’s proceedings.

8. Do I have the resource to deal with a recovering addict? – Believe it or not, there is very little resource, if any, required to support a recovering addict in the workplace. They will most likely have a very supportive recovery network that they already access. This could be, for example, 12-step meetings, a sober coach, counsellor, therapist, or sponsor. The infrastructure will already be in place; you just need to give them the confidence that you have faith in them.

All in all, without wanting to sound like I’m banging the, “Let’s only employ recovering addicts” drum, I will say, as a recovering addict myself, that I am most grateful that I was shown a route out of the malady of using drink and drugs to change how I felt and be given the tools to live a life that I deserve; to demonstrate my worth as a reliable, trustworthy employee and member of society.

If you are considering, or would like to consider, employing a recovering addict and would like to discuss further with one of our Eleven Recovery team, we would be happy to talk with you. Likewise, if you are aware of members of staff that may benefit from our guidance and support, please contact us now on +44 7832 964126 or email

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