An Allies mom recently received an unkind message from her boss on the eve of her holiday break. There is no way she can tell him about the challenges she has been facing in her personal life while trying to stay on track at work. Determined not to let herself be derailed, she reaches out to the Allies community.

*This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. Sign up for our special offer and benefit from the Allies in Recovery eLearning program, click here.

Allies in Recovery, Dominique Simon-Levine, dsl, addiction, addiction recovery, AiR, heroin, drugs, SUD, Alcohol, alcoholism,  boss, job performance, job review, holidays, self-care, families, overdose, OD,

Woman Reading by Henri Matisse

“It’s been 4 months since my son relapsed after 20 months in treatment/recovery. Despite some challenges, he now has 90 new sober days. I’ll take it. CRAFT – and your support – have been invaluable. Thank you.

Today brought a new problem though: right before we broke for the holiday my employer sent me a long email complaining about my performance, and advising me to spend the holidays thinking about ‘why’ the work has slipped and to come back with a plan to improve.

I don’t have to wonder why I’ve not been 100% on task and you probably don’t either. Since August, my son has ODd 3 times, gone missing here and there, left treatment after his housemate died, and had two drug-fueled psychotic episodes.

My boss knows none of this and I know I can’t tell him. Work had always been my respite but now addiction is impacting that area of my life too. I now fear losing my job and house and my ability to support myself.

Dominique Simon-Levine empathizes with this struggling mom

How unkind to not talk to you in person and to send the email right before the holiday. There is no doubt that when a loved one is struggling, work performance suffers, absenteeism occurs, and work-related accidents take place because family members are distracted. A Hazelden poll noted these findings in a poll taken over 20 years ago.

Other than this poll, and anecdotal situations like yours, we know little about the macro effects of poor job performance by family members due to a loved one’s addiction. They are undoubtedly huge.

Family members continue to be under-studied, under-supported, and under-thanked.

I am sorry this has happened. It is a wonder you are still employed given what you’ve been going through with your son.

It’s a huge blow to receive this kind of communication. The fear of losing a job does causes an immediate projection of a cascade of further losses: the house, the ability to take care of yourself… I can understand how it can become all-consuming. I have been there.

Try not to take it personally

Your boss doesn’t sound like a compassionate person. So it’s up to you alone to not over-personalize this, to pick yourself up, to respond with a plan. Remember, you are not your performance at work. You are so much more than this measurement, than this message. You are doing the best you can with every aspect of your life. Your presence on this site means you are learning and addressing the relentless chaos of addiction in the family. Your boss knows nothing of this larger picture. Who knows what is going on in his world that led him to write to you so thoughtlessly.

The mindfulness that you have cultivated, that you demonstrate even in sharing this recent event on the site, will continue to be your guide as you process this sting. It allows you to name the response that this mean-spirited message elicited in you – good for you in identifying this so clearly. Ultimately that presence of mind will allow you to focus on what can be done – just stick with a simple, clear plan as you’ve been asked – and let go of the rest. With the amount of work you have been doing – on so many levels – you simply can’t give any extra energy to this job. You deserve every ounce of the rest and replenishment that you can get over this holiday.

You are not alone 

There are other people on this site who have had this experience with work. One mom I worked with would turn down promotions because the stress and chaos at home was already too overwhelming. Do others on this site have similar experiences?

It takes courage and commitment to keep your head above water. You are doing this with remarkable dedication. I have appreciated your thoughtful comments and your willingness to apply new ways of interacting with your son. This despite considerable fear about what is going on. When you get punched in the stomach, feel it, and then watch yourself pull out.

This is self-care, too. You will move through this.

Yes, the family DOES have a role to play. Your stance, behavior, and choices DO make a difference. At Allies in Recovery we are absolutely convinced of this. “Tough love” is not a successful technique. Our learning platform is set up to help family members learn the techniques that will reduce conflict, build that bridge of communication, and be effective in guiding your loved one into treatment. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.

 About the Author:
Dominique launched Allies in Recovery in 2003. Her work has been featured on HBO and NPR. She is a facilitator and a trained speaker on issues of addiction and the family. She has worked extensively developing and evaluating federally-funded substance abuse programs for organizations and clinics throughout Massachusetts and New York. With an interest in recovery and substance abuse that spans 20 years, she sees a huge need to help families develop the skills that will help a loved one recover fully in a supportive, whole, and lasting way in their families and in their communities. Her mission is to have Allies in Recovery fill that gap.

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