Alcohol creates a land mine of workplace risk, yet when someone comes to the hiring table as recovered, we get very nervous. Our first thought is to turn them away. Why is this? We fear relapse, of course, and turnover. We have a hard time trusting them. Plus, how strange for someone to not join in the drinking culture at Happy Hours, networking events, and beer cart Fridays. We don’t know how to handle sober people and it makes us very uncomfortable.
I get it. I was in HR and I understand your fear. Not drinking is a rebellion against the cultural norm. Many companies feed their employees drinks as a reward for good behavior, or a week long all-you-can-drink vacation for really good behavior.
We don’t want to hire alcoholics or people with alcohol problems. We do want to hire people that drink, but drink the right way, and the right amount. People that will drink the two drink tickets they were given at an event, and not get out of hand. We all know the person with a problem. They got wasted and embarrassed themselves at the Christmas party, and we’ve been whispering about them ever since.
We turn our noses up when people drink too much. We turn our noses up even higher when people don’t drink at all. Not drinking can be workplace and social suicide. People that don’t participate in the drinking culture can be outcast.
Here’s why I suggest hiring sober folks, especially perhaps those in recovering. Of course there is a fear of relapse and turnover, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Recovered employees are smart and resilient. After a year of not drinking the brain’s gray matter grows beyond that of where it was before drinking. As you change habits and routines you are literally rewiring your brain. Neurons are regenerating and new pathways are created. Scientifically speaking, people who quit drinking are better at self control than someone who never struggled at all.
People in recovery demonstrate commitment and loyalty. With a new lease on life and perhaps limited options for work, people in recovery tend to practice gratitude, which makes them positive and loyal workers.
Sober people are more productive and dependable than their drinking counterparts. Recovered employees typically take very good care of themselves. They usually are getting enough sleep and not coming into work late or hungover. They have fought hard to get to a place of wellness. Having healthy employees is ideal for any organization.
As a high functioning person with an alcohol problem I can tell you that I am 100% more qualified for any position by simply choosing sobriety. My self awareness has increased. My communication and relationship skills have improved. My creativity and energy is through the roof. I have grown in confidence. I was showing up to work doing the minimum and dragging myself through the day, when I was drinking to cope with life’s stressors. In sobriety, I meditate, journal, and exercise to cope instead. I bring an abundance of enthusiasm, relentless positivity, and new ideas to the job every day.
I ask you to reconsider your assumptions when it comes to employing someone in recovery or choosing sobriety. It is likely to be one of the best hiring decisions you'll ever make.