A person I worked with had a problem with alcohol and the whole office knew about it except me. I can't smell so I didn't notice what the others did, but in a way that was a good thing. It seems as soon as we tag someone as having an alcohol problem, we don't seem to see anything else about the person, just the problem.
I sat next to her and worked with her for a few months so got to know her. I thought she had the potential to be a great assistant except for her low self esteem and she would put herself down when she made a mistake. I tried to encourage her, but she couldn't seem to see her own potential. One day she just up and quit. I was mentioning to some colleagues that it was too bad she left as she could have been good with some encouragement. They seemed surprised that I didn't know she had an alcohol problem because they told me you could smell the booze off her every day, but of course I hadn't noticed.
I know another assistant who is a recovering alcholic (I'm told you are never fully recovered) and she said I could share some of her thoughts below:
"There absolutely is a stigma still attached to being labeled an alcoholic or a recovering one.. it requires a firm culture that discusses recovery openly and strongly support it -both in action and written policy. This is usually a lot of "talk" in companies..but little real support for it... in my experience.
Most alcoholics are under the perception that no one notices and that they are very clever in hiding their drinking.. does the company have random drug testing.. ? This is one way to snag folks.. One of the biggest issues surrounding substance abuse in the workplace are the lies required to keep up the front that everything is ok. It impacts memory, ability to focus and TRUST. Co workers and employers will eventually stop trusting your word and believe your ability to complete the job and work with others... I am not sure about tell tale signs.. One for sure.. is tremors in the morning.. if their hands shake and they usually do not rally much before 11am.. but some alcoholics are VERY functional.. One item I've noticed is mood swings...
I guess from a personal perspective.. my advice when you suspect a co-worker has a problem with drug or alcohol is to alert HR...but have some specific examples available. Their supervisor should be noting if they are late often or have too many sick days. If I felt really compelled to talk to them.. my approach would be.. something along the lines of.. "You seem like you have a lot on your mind lately and seem kind of distracted.. is there anything I can help with.. ?" Or, if they put you DIRECTLY in a dangerous position because of their drinking/drugging- as in they come to pick you up for a meeting drunk- you absolutely can confront them then.....
As a recovering alcoholic myself.. I feel comfortable asking people if they are ok..because I've been in recovery a long time..and my anonymity is not as vital to me as helping others.. but that is an individual choice. Usually recovering addicts or alcoholics can sense a peer within their firm.. but really it does become the responsibility of HR and the firm to handle the issue with the employee.. and hopefully, they have supportive procedures and policies in place to help them..."
My father was an alcoholic and I now work for a not-for-profit that does research into substance abuse issues so I hear and read a lot about it, but I am certainly not an expert. My purpose in posting this article is to bring this topic up for anyone who is strugging with this problem or knows of someone who is. http://www.peacehealth.org/kbase/topic/symptom/alcpb/overview.htm