It is a fine (yet difficult) line to walk next to a co-worker who clearly has a problem everyone else sees except him or her. There is also a risk to creating a team-based intervention when someone is in crisis. In an ideal world, the supportive discussions happen before they get to the point of crisis.
“We both hired on at the same time. He was an amazing co-worker for the longest time. [He] Topped the charts at everything, hard to compete with. Now every time we have sales function, we worry someone will have to babysit him again. Or worse, he won’t make it through another event without getting canned.” -- Fellow peer
Everyone processes stress differently. The idea that maybe the drinking or drugs are adding more stress to your co-worker’s life than they are offsetting is a good starting point. Many companies have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that can help with a substantial number of things—addictions being one of them. HR departments are best equipped to handle a crisis, but hearing that there is no shaming in getting help before that point is the best thing you can do as a co-worker of a person in need.
Equally as awkward as addressing a co-worker who needs help and does not know it, is re-addressing the person returning from treatment after a hiatus. “Hey Dude, how was rehab?” just does not feel like the best greeting. Realistically, it is the one that comes the most naturally for some. A simple, “I am glad your back,” will be a huge relief. Treatment requires a person to face many behaviors they were less than proud of before their sobriety. Any encouragement you can offer that you simply like this new sober version makes their transition much easier.
Also, understand the effort it takes to maintain their sobriety can be daunting (especially at first). Inviting someone returning from recovery out after work for drinks may require an alternative. New traditions can help old habits stay at rest. Whatever you can do for your coworker to show pride in their achievement will help them. A quiet high-five on their 30-60-90 days can be more meaningful than a birthday dinner ever was. After all, this is a rebirth in which they had to invest a lot to make happen.
EACH TREATMENT PROGRAM IS DIFFERENT
One more suggestion - each treatment program is different, so learn about them. At the Parkdale Center for Professionals, co-worker conversations are encouraged. We take professional reentry very seriously and seek to work with employers to ensure everyone has the best chance of success. Need advice? We are there for you at (888) 883-8433.