Monday, February 25, 2008

The Four Stages of Alcoholism

The Four Stages of Alcoholism
The effects of alcohol use intensify as the use and abuse progesses. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine recently presented a revised definition of alcoholism: "Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial...

Experts illustrate the progression of the disease by outlining four basic stages of alcohol use as follows:

I. STAGE ONE - Although there may be no outward behavioral changes caused by the casual use of alcohol, such use can not be considered "safe" for young people. Young people are particularly susceptible to the effects of alcohol. Alcohol is considered to be a gateway drug since use and abuse of alcohol often leads young people to use other mind-altering drugs.

II. STAGE TWO - This stage involves more frequent use of alcohol as the person actively seeks the euphoric effects of a mind-altering drug. At this point, the user usually establishes a reliable source, and may add mid-week use of alcohol to previous habits of weekend use at parties.

III. STAGE THREE -In this stage, there is intense preoccupation with the desire to experience euphoric effects. Daily drinking, depression, and thoughts of suicide are common. Family troubles increase. Problems with the law may also become evident.

IV. STAGE FOUR -Those who have reached this stage need increasing levels just to feel OK. Physical signs such as damage to the heart, liver, and brain, malnutrition,and lower resistance to pneumonia, and blackouts are common. Family life is a disaster.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Alcoholics Anonymous holding meetings on campus

After a three-year hiatus, Alcoholics Anonymous is once again holding open support group meetings on campus, a convenient location for students and community members to help each other achieve sobriety.

The new chapter joined an ever-growing roster of over 100,000 groups in 180 countries, according to the AA Web site. An estimated 1.5 million people worldwide have achieved sobriety through AA.

In 2007, 21 percent of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 met the American Psychiatric Association criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, according to a study by the organization. Yet, only 4 percent of these students sought treatment.

"Across the nation, this is an issue for students," said Alisa Guglielmo, director of student life for Santa Clara's law school. "Because it is an issue in society, having it available to those in this community is a great idea."

During a campus wellness fair earlier this year, Guglielmo was approached by a graduate student who was interested in starting regular AA meetings on campus. Guglielmo arranged for a room in Benson, but that is where the university's connection to the program ended. AA is unaffiliated with any and all outside organizations.

The student, a member of AA himself, requested anonymity for press purposes in keeping with AA's firm commitment to maintaining the privacy of its members.

Essential to AA's mission is the principle that the only thing required for membership is a desire to stop drinking. In fact, the only thing standing between an alcoholic and attending their first meeting is their ability to admit that they need help.

"It's tough to define an alcoholic," the student said. "The simplest definition is someone who is physically and mentally incapable of just having one drink, or physically and mentally incapable of stopping."

AA's Web site describes alcoholism as an illness, "a physical compulsion combined with a mental obsession to drink," and not a matter of moral weakness or lack of willpower.

Warning signs can include brushes with the law for alcohol-related issues, engaging in physical or sexual behavior that is later regretted, driving while under the influence and frequent "blackouts" or vomiting after drinking to excess, said the student.

Since classes began in early January, there have been 13 incidents of illness due to excessive alcohol consumption in which students were involved, according to Campus Safety reports. In nine of these cases, the night ended with a trip to a local hospital.

Several campus organizations provide professional support services for students who are concerned about their alcohol or drug use, including Cowell Health Center, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Wellness Center. The staff within these departments can also refer students to outside agencies, including AA.

People who speak at AA meetings are members who engage in discussion about their personal struggles with alcohol addiction and the tools that helped them recover. A good meeting, said the student, is not in the quantity of participants, but in the quality of the experiences they share.

"It happens when two or more alcoholics are sharing their stories and helping each other to stay sober," he said.

The only structured content the organization provides is the 12-step program, which is based on the experiences of six decades' worth of members, rather than theory and scientific findings.

The steps are used as a suggestion, not a mandate. Individual approaches to healing vary, but the end goal is abstinence.

"Nobody in AA will tell you that you are an alcoholic. At the end of the day, you have to make that decision yourself," said the student.

source: Santa Clara

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What is Happiness

I once told a fellow whom I loved that his love for me was the icing on the cake, but the love for myself was the cake itself! I was supremely happy with me as I was, and any other attention, though most welcomed, I regarded mainly as a bonus, not the main course. He was rather surprised by my statement, interpreting it that I didn't really love him, but it was actually the opposite. I was able to love him lots through loving me first.

I didn't always feel like this. My self-love has been a gradual and painful process. Loving myself as I do, I could appreciate him as a whole being with all his faults and facets and allow space for us both to develop as individuals and as a couple. If I were expecting his love to make me happy, we wouldn't really last too long because one or both of us would gradually become dependent upon the other, clinging like limpets for our happiness until the relationship becomes claustrophobic or the victim of resentment and jealousy.

Someone To Complete Us
I have noticed that too many people seeking partners tend to say that they are seeking someone to 'make' them 'laugh' or to 'make' them 'happy'. Yet every relationship should have two 100% whole people, not two halves seeking someone else to complete them! We are all seeking happiness of one kind or another. That is essential to our well being. But that vague, yet important, state of existence - happiness - which we often associate with people and material things, appears to be the bane of our lives. We never seem to have enough happiness at all. It seems to be always elusive, even when we actually possess everything we desire. But no one, or any external thing, can ever make us truly happy because happiness is not a destination which we work towards. We cannot postpone happiness until we get that new job, that new house or that new man or woman.

Happiness is a state of mind based on our sense of worth; a feeling which we generate whenever we wish according to the level of self-love we possess and the positivity in our lives. If we feel great, we are unstoppable. It takes little to make us happy because happiness becomes integral to our lives. We feel good about ourselves so we feel good about others and our world. If we feel little love for ourselves, especially when we have not been treated appreciatively, or with any value in our lives, happiness will continue to elude us. We will always feel cheated in some way - unwanted, insignificant and excluded.

Happiness is the greatest indicator that we are happy with our bodies, identities and progress. We tend to see the world as a 'challenge' as opposed to it being a 'problem'. Others can share that happiness, perhaps enhance it in some way, or even reduce it temporarily, but they cannot create or maintain it for us. Only we can do that. We have to feel happy in the first place; we have to be able to possess that happiness before someone else can share it.

Misery Forever
That is why people who tend to be the misery type remain like that forever, even if they feel momentarily 'happy' through an external source. Such a state is not permanent because it is not based on self love. It is generated by someone else. So when that person withdraws, the pain of rejection becomes doubly hard to bear and even confirms our 'unwanted' state. As soon as there is a problem, or the honeymoon stage is over, we slip back into the old ways of sadness or complaining because unhappy people are usually unhappy with themselves and their world. They will remain in that state forever if they do not make a serious effort to change from within and recognise the magnificent unique individuals they are.

How do you feel inside you today? Is your happiness dependent upon someone else's attention or behaviour? Does it depend on the next event or the next exciting possession? Or is that actually masking what would really make you happy?


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Living Your Purpose

You have a purpose. You have specific gifts, talents, and abilities that are uniquely yours. At the intersection of "what you love to do" and "what you are good at" you will find your purpose. Do you know your purpose? Do you know why you are here on this planet? If not, then it's time to ask the questions:
� What do I love to do?
� What am I good at?
� When do I feel most alive?
Once you have answered these questions you need to gather the courage and confidence to act upon the answers.

In my speaking and coaching work I have met thousands of people who are on purpose. They are people who are good at what they do and they love what they do. They are people in health care, banking, manufacturing, education, associations, and government. There are leaders, writers, musicians, speakers, consultants, and artists. Each person brings their unique set of gifts in service to others.

At the same time I have met thousands of people who dislike their work. These people are not on purpose. They may complain about the organization, their compensation, their fellow employees, and a host of other things. Their real problem is that they are not on purpose. When you are not on purpose you create stress, pain, and conflict for yourself. Your gifts lay within you, unopened, abandoned. Much has been said about what to do to motivate people. Meaning and purpose motivate people. Truly successful organizations are made up of people doing work they love toward a meaningful purpose

Many will say that they know what their gift is, but they can't make any money at it. There is a way to make money at anything. The problem isn't money. It's confidence. They really don't believe their gifts have value, and so they believe no one else will value them either.

Once you develop confidence, you begin to see opportunities. The world, and possibly the organization you work in, have abundant opportunities for you to live your purpose. This brings up the other reason for not living on purpose. We tell ourselves that we are not getting the support we need from others. Our family, friends, and colleagues are not cheering us on.

From the day you are born you will receive comments, opinions and criticisms from others. You must choose whether you are living their dream or your own. You must decide that your purpose is too important to abdicate responsibility for it to others.

If the biggest problem is confidence, then how do we get the confidence? Here are some ideas for you:
1. Listen to the still small voice within. Practice listening to your intuition and following it. This voice should trump all external voices when deciding how to live your life. Access this voice through prayer, meditation, or quiet contemplation.

2. Study and practice to develop your gifts. Confidence increases with knowledge and skill.

3. Let go of the negative opinions of others. You owe it to yourself to listen within and trust that inner voice rather than putting your trust in the opinions of others. Find people who will encourage and respect your gifts, because they will reflect back to you your growing inner confidence. On the other hand, listen carefully and non judgmentally to criticism. Valid criticism will show you where you need more learning and practice. Invalid criticism will test your resolve.

4. Don't waste your time comparing yourself to others. Certainly others may serve as models for you, but envy and negative comparison will not help you. Do your best with what you have now.

5. Make sure the purpose you are expressing is really yours, and not one assigned to you by someone else. Also, know that a purpose can be very simple. It isn't always romantic or grand, but it does feel good. I have had clerks in stores and servers in restaurants who have made my day. These amazing people were each living their purpose. I have met assembly line workers, custodians, and receptionists who were living their purpose. They brought total focus and joy to their work. Sometimes your purpose is not "out there somewhere", but it's right here in front of you. Live the purpose that feels right to you.

6. There are no good excuses for why you can't follow your purpose. Make time. At one point in my life I decided to hone in on my purpose. Every night before falling asleep, I asked the question: What is my purpose? I placed a notepad and pen next to my bed. When I awoke, I wrote down the first thing that came to mind. I did this for seven consecutive mornings. Once I defined my purpose, I listed all of the things I was good at and that I enjoyed doing down the left side of a piece of paper. Next, I listed all of the industries I could think of across the top of the page. I divided my paper into columns and rows, creating a matrix. I placed X's on my matrix wherever I saw a fit between skills/interests and industries. I highlighted the industries where I felt most excited about expressing my skills and interests. I decided to focus my attention on positions in the industries where my skills and interests fit and where I felt the greatest enthusiasm. Within a week I found an ad that matched my area of focus. I was hired within a two months.

Maybe you already know your purpose. Are you challenged enough? Can you be living your purpose at a higher level? Once you find your purpose it is important to continue learning and growing. Listen to the voice within and follow it. There is a reason you are here. Whether you see yourself as young or old, working or retired, you have a purpose. It is calling to you from deep within. Answer the call. Allow it to take hold of you. It is in living your purpose that you will find fulfillment.

"Happiness comes from fidelity to a worthy purpose" Helen Keller

Source: Author:William Frank

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Four Tips

At 15, Christina had her first alcoholic drink.

She bought a bottle of Don Juan, a highly concentrated spirit, and downed it with her friends in a high-school dormitory.

But Christina felt nothing after the swig and cursed herself for having used her pocket money to buy the bottle.

Little did she know that the seed to her problem with alcohol had been grounded, so to speak.

Later in her life, Christina only felt confident under the influence of drink. Every weekend, she went on drinking sprees with her friends. The drinking binges always knocked her out, leaving her sad and hopeless, and wishing for a better life.

At the same time, she started smoking cigarettes and cannabis. She also started listening to hippie music which in turn psyched her up to take up illegal drugs.

For Christina, drinking meant one thing: having blackouts.

"I just drank until all the lights knocked out. Only then did I call it call it quits -- I mean I passed out," said Christina, "I just felt an urge to do it. And, I followed it till it was dark."

When Christina was aged 28, she began sensing that she had a problem.

Her life was in shambles.

She had been in an out of relationships. She dropped in and out of Christian churches in search of a spiritual solution to her alcohol problem. But her desire to commit to a Higher Power did not quench her thirst for alcohol.

She tried to read self help books, joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and ventured into esoteric spiritual practices in a bid to retain a semblance of control in her life.

Although this somewhat softened the painful feelings that she had accumulated it did not resolve the underlying problem.

Christina's spirit desired change and growth but her physical self remain stuck in the quest for an alcoholic boost.

She made promises to quit drinking and broke them as quickly as she made them.

As a result, her sense of self-esteem and confidence declined sharply, she said.

Though she was a slave to liquor, she knew she had to do something drastic to resolve her inclination to addictive substances.

With that new thought, Christina's journey to recovery began, one day at a time.

"I began seeing a new light within me, and with that new light came hope," said Christina.

"All my life, I had been hiding my light under a bushel. Drinking kept me in a dark place but when I began recovering I exploited the positive power within me which I had neglected for a very long time," she added.

It was like having a new birth of self, it felt great, she said, nodding her head.

Alcoholism is one of the most common forms of addiction. It develops when the drinker's body becomes so used to absorbing large amounts of alcohol.

Mostly, alcoholism develops slowly over years of steadily increasing consumption. If not addressed, it can grow to become a fatal problem.

For many people, especially young professionals, the problem of alcoholism can be hidden under the cloak of a good education and employment. Or, it can simply be tolerated within a peer group that the affected person may not see the value of seeking professional help.

In many societies, drinking is largely seen as a pastime with little to no concern paid to the risk of addiction.

But, as in Christina's case, though the path to recovery may be filled with bumps, it is one worth taking when in the throes of alcohol addiction.

The following steps are essential in helping yourself to quit alcohol.

Prevention is key

The first thing to do is to understand what you're up against. You have to make a resolution to begin to pull away from your addiction. In other words, you have to make sobriety the biggest priority in your life. Prevention is the best method of dealing with alcoholism and drug addiction.

Addiction is a trap you fall into when you begin to compromise what is important to you in life and settle for strategies that provide short-term relief from the pain of giving up your most precious dreams.

Accept where you are and who you are now

Alcoholism comes with a cost of damaged health, relationships, and poor finances among other problems. But to move forward, you first have to accept where you are at this point in life. Be honest with yourself about your situation without being self-judgmental. The fact of the matter is that there is a habit that you have maintained for long, it is not serving you. Rather, it's costing you more than you want to pay. And, plainly, it's time for change, right? So stick to that.

Face the challenge

To develop a new repertoire of behaviors after being stuck in the alcoholic loop is not as easy as it sounds. Certainly, it is an uphill task. Most people who try to "quit" make the decision without a clear understanding of the challenge that lies ahead of them.

But the fact is recovering from alcohol offers you a wonderful opportunity to radically transform your relationship with yourself, and your attitude towards who you are. It is about giving up repetitive and momentary pleasures that leave intoxicated and in a deep depression.

Feel the power

You must start to develop a deep sense and respect for yourself. Find some new goals that will energize your life. In fact, your path to freedom requires fully facing your challenges like a warrior. As you score success, one day at a time, of course, the power within you begins to grow allowing you to become alive again to the possibilities of life.
©2008 OhmyNews

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Recent Deaths Renew Debate On College Drinking

In September, five college students in four states died from binge drinking, leading some college officials to reexamine their drinking rules, USA Today reported Oct. 7.

Following the deaths, several college presidents announced a crackdown on underage drinking, while others have closed fraternity houses where the binge drinking deaths had occurred.

But some experts are unimpressed. "It's locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen," said Henry Wechsler, a Harvard University researcher who has studied campus drinking. "The schools that have the greatest problems take the easiest solutions. They have educational programs and re-motivation programs. But they don't try to change the system. These deaths are just the tip of the iceberg."

Wechsler said colleges need to become more actively involved with their surrounding communities. According to Wechsler, a number of towns located near college campuses promote drink specials at bars. Others have loose enforcement of liquor laws that make it easier and cheaper for students to get drunk.

Patty Spady of Beatrice, Neb., the mother of 19-year-old Samantha Spady, who was found dead in a Colorado State University fraternity after drinking up to 40 beers and shots of vodka, has formed the Sam Spady Foundation to find ways to prevent drinking deaths on campus.

"Drunks cannot take care of drunks," said Mrs. Spady. She urges students to "stay sober to take care of your friends."


Friday, February 8, 2008

Diet Pill Addiction

The use of over the counter diet pills is one of the unhealthiest and most dangerous methods of losing weight that there is. Unfortunately, diet pills are easily accessible to almost everyone, including minors. You can find these highly addictive substances online and in just about every pharmacy, health food store, grocery store, and convenience store around. Because these pills are so easy to obtain, diet pill addiction has become a very serious and very common problem in our society.

Most people who begin taking diet pills plan to use them responsibly. They start out taking just one or two pills, or whatever the recommended dosage may be. The problem is that after a short amount of time, the recommended dosage doesn't feel like enough. It is very common for individuals to begin to use more and more, until a full blown dependency develops.

The addiction results from the substance found in diet pills. Caffeine, ephedrine, and phenylpropranolamine are just a few of the common addictive ingredients found in most diet aids. Even the herbal diet pills, which are often referred to as 'natural and safe', can be dangerous because they act like stimulants to the central nervous system.

Much like speed and other amphetamines, diet pills can have serious and potentially fatal side effects when abused. There have been countless diet pills taken off the market because they do so much damage. Unfortunately, new pills are constantly being created to take their place. Until our society is ready to address the health issues associated with diet pills, these harmful substances will always be available.

As mentioned above, diet pills are one of the most dangerous and unhealthy ways to lose weight. There are many different complications that can arise from diet pill addiction. These complications include, but are not limited to:

* Depression
* Headaches
* High blood pressure
* Dizziness
* Diarrhea
* Flatulence
* Stomach pain
* Vomiting
* Menstrual irregularities
* Insomnia
* Irritability
* Glaucoma
* Memory loss
* Heart palpitations
* Congestive heart failure
* Cardiac arrest
* Strokes
* Tremors
* Seizures
* Nerve damage

As you can see from this list, diet pills have severe, and in some cases, life threatening side effects. Serious diet pill addiction can result in permanent health problems, and even death.

Weight loss is only beneficial when it can be maintained. There is no evidence that diet pills can maintain weight reduction indefinitely. And, regardless of all of the claims that are being made, there is no diet pill out there that is completely safe. If you take diet pills, you need to stop. No amount of weight loss is worth risking your health.

If you can't stop on your own, don't be ashamed. Diet pills are highly addictive and can be as difficult to kick as cocaine or heroin. Fortunately, there are many addiction treatment and counseling centers out there that can help you through the process.

Need help with diet pill addiction? Visit us at Diet Pill Help

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Codependency Test

Definition Of Codependency: Codependency is a condition that results in a dysfunctional relationship between the codependent and other people. A codependent is addicted to helping someone. They need to be needed. This addiction is sometimes so strong, the codependent will cause the other person to continue to be needy. This behavior is called enabling. The enabler will purposefully overlook someone abusing a child, will call in sick for someone suffering from addiction, will put roadblocks to prevent their child from becoming independent, or even keep a sick family member from getting the treatment that would make them well. These are behaviors common to codependents. A codependent often suffers from a 'Messiah Complex' where he sees problems with everyone and sees himself as the only person who can help. Here is where I need to work...trying to be 'Mr. Fixit' for everyone...even those who don't feel they need anything fixed. A codependent counselor (common) will never think your sessions are done. In fact, they often create issues that weren't there just so they can continue to feel they're an important, no, essential part of your life. This is one of the reasons I always spend the first counseling session evaluating the problem and setting up a schedule of sessions to complete the work. If we're not making progress, I don't want to become the person you feel you have to take every problem's too addictive to me. That's what codependence addiction to being needed. To learn more, try one of these recent top-selling books on the definition and treatment of codependency.

Codependency Test: Take this test to find out if you're helping people who need or needing people to help:
1. Do you feel demeaned, hurt or offended when someone you love tells you they don't need your help?
2. In the last year, has anyone resorted to arguing, begging or raising their voice to get you to stop trying to help them?
3. If you had plenty of money and your child, sibling or parent had an addiction to drinking, spending, gambling or drugs, and they asked you for money to help with their necessary expenses (food, rent, clothes, bills), would you give them the money?
4. When someone shares a life or relationship problem with you, but doesn't ask for help, do you offer help or advice, anyway?
5. When you survey your relationships, do you find yourself surrounded by mostly people who need you?
6. Do you ever find yourself making excuses for the needy people in your life?
7. If someone you love has a substance abuse, emotional, spending or gambling problem, do you avoid confronting them?
8. Do you measure your self-esteem by how much someone depends on you?
9. Do you ever remind people where they would be without you?

A. If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, read the rest of this article and monitor yourself for the next 3 months to verify your answers.
B. If you answered 'yes' to 3 or more of the above, you may have a codependency problem. Read the rest of this article, get a trusted friend who is independent of you to keep you accountable, and read a couple books on the subject of codependence.
C. If you answered 'yes' to 5 or more of the above, do 'A' & 'B' above and ask your friend to attend an alanon, narconon or codependents anonymous meeting with you.

Causes Of Codependency: Many codependents, like other addicts, blame the people around them for their problem, or, more accurately, use them to deny their problem. 'I'm not codependent, I just love them so much.' 'It's just that they need so much help.' 'They couldn't get along without me.' Let's face the facts...the needy people in your life need to learn to take care of themselves, take responsibility for their own problems and begin to solve them. If you'd stop bailing them out, they'd learn to handle life's challenges, themselves. So, actually, you're hurting them! (we're not talking about a rare emergancy situation...we're talking about a lifestyle of needyness.) I remember how upset I was when, in my early 20's, my mother told me to get a job and move out of her house. It was the best thing she could have done for me. I resented her for at least 5 years. If you can be as strong as my Mom with the habitually needy around you, you're not codepentent. Codependency, like any other addiction, is caused by a feeling of emptiness...a low self-esteem. Instead of a drug, a codependent uses the needs of others to make themselves feel whole. That's why no one around them is allowed to recover...the codependent wouldn't be needed.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Handle alcoholics firmly, but constructively

Charlie, a top salesman for an Alberta software company had been drinking a little too much at company functions and with clients. His boss was starting to notice that Charlie was ringing up larger-than- average bar tabs when entertaining clients. At first, the boss turned a blind eye due to Charlie's exceptional sales performance. At the same time that the boss was noticing Charlie's increased use of alcohol, key clients were taking note too. Charlie was a bit too loud, wanted to stay at the bar longer than most and seemed to be in a hurry to get a drink. They started to wonder if the drink was more important than the business they were trying to conduct. They also started to quietly question Charlie's ability to maintain their account if he continued his heavy drinking.

Alcoholism or heavy drinking is a serious problem for businesses. An estimated 15 per cent of the workforce can be considered problem drinkers. These drinkers are functional in that they remain at work and perform at a satisfactory or even above-average level. Yet their drinking can damage their health, their home life and if left unchecked, their career. Worse still, many people who have trouble with alcoholism also suffer from depression or anxiety. A pattern emerges over time in which alcohol is used to self-medicate, to reduce worry and nervousness or provide a temporary escape from the blues.

Taken together the symptoms are a warning for employers to take substance abuse seriously. The law dictates it too. Substance abuse is considered a disability, making dismissal, demotion, suspension or discipline due to problem drinking or substance abuse discriminatory.

So, getting help for employees showing signs of substance abuse is the best way to handle the issue. But many have difficulty identifying when there is an issue and raising it constructively.

Indicators that alcohol is a problem in high functioning staff are subtle since top performers, like Charlie, usually do not allow their drinking behaviour to affect their work too much in the early stages. It's more likely to show up at home. In the later stages, however, the problem is easier to spot. The problem drinker will be frequently absent or late, especially around weekends and after holidays. They may get a lot of colds, flus or headaches and they may leave early or disappear from the job and be difficult to locate. Their quality of work suffers with periods of high and low productivity, poor judgment, carelessness and difficulty concentrating.

People may start to notice a problem when the rate and amount of alcohol the problem drinker consumes in their presence starts to increase. As with Charlie, the first signs of damage are found in the client/work or social relationships. People notice increased interest and consumption of alcohol on the part of the problem drinker, who may seem irritable, anxious or depressed. He may seem more sarcastic, argumentative or display an inflated sense of self-importance. When queried about big alcohol-related expense tabs or about a tendency to pursue alcohol-related meetings and activities to entertain clients, high-functioning problem drinkers may get defensive about receiving feedback. They may have domestic problems such as separation, divorce or trouble with their children.

Denial, defensiveness and self-aggrandizement contribute to the tendency for supervisors to steer clear of conversations about alcohol consumption with high performers. And the old saw, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," can deter the most well-intentioned supervisor. Rather than upset the status quo and cause a decline in productivity, many would rather turn a blind eye until forced to concede there may be a problem.

But these difficult topics must be broached for the health of the high performer and the sake of the company. The key to beginning a conversation with an employee about drug or alcohol abuse is to frame it as a health, safety and productivity issue. Present your concerns matter-of-factly while backing them up with supporting evidence. For instance, Charlie's supervisor held a private meeting with him and described factually what he saw occurring about the alcohol consumption. The supervisor backed himself up by showing Charlie the comparatively higher expenses overtime related to Charlie's "client entertainment" budget.

Being a top performer, Charlie argued that the tab was bigger because he entertained more and brought in more business as a result. The supervisor countered that Charlie's health and his reputation as a competent account manager were important to the company. He talked about the company image and what he hoped clients experienced when they were with the organization's top staff. The supervisor also reduced Charlie's defensiveness by acknowledging his contribution and thanking him for it. However, the conversation was focused on the supervisor's discomfort with the situation and, rightly, did not become a "Charlie appreciation" session.

Employers should be aware that often, troubled staff are adept at manipulating such conversations into discussions of not being appreciated at work or being picked on. By keeping the focus on issues with company image, company spending and the supervisor's own personal concern for his or her subordinate, the employer highlights the need for the employee to take action.

The supervisor told Charlie that he was sufficiently concerned that he recommended Charlie use the company's Employee Assistance Program. He told Charlie he'd be looking for a change in people's opinion of him and a shift in consumption rates.

Charlie entered therapy and recognized that his chosen profession (sales) helped him obtain alcohol with ease and legitimize its overuse. Staff working in construction, utilities, wholesale, retail, finance, insurance and real estate are most prone to alcohol abuse according to the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission. He knew he had to change how he did business if he was to be a personal and work success. He decided to abstain from drinking alcohol and, with his supervisor's support, Charlie changed his sales, client appreciation and relationship building strategy to emphasize healthier pursuits that de-emphasized alcohol consumption. He stayed in the business, salvaged his reputation and continued to take pride in his sales achievements.

Dr. Jennifer Newman and Dr. Darryl Grigg are registered psychologists and directors of Newman & Grigg Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development partnership. Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.
They can be contacted at:
© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Saturday, February 2, 2008