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Unhappy Boss Doesn’t Know What Family Member is Facing

Woman Reading by Matisse

StrongerTogether writes in about receiving 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…

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 – has been invaluable. Thank you.

Today brought a new problem: 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. Read the full comment here.

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 information like what you have shared, 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.

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. 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 jab. You deserve every ounce of the rest and replenishment that you can get over this holiday.

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.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. My dear husband muddled through 5 years of our son’s cycles of using, rehab, relapse until he developed PTSD such that he couldn’t function at work without breaking down and sobbing. A year ago he got a medical leave for a month from work to address this with intense counseling and he now continues to go to his therapist and support groups. His doctor provided the diagnosis and his work had to honor the medical leave. My experience in support groups is that we all have PTSD to some degree. I wish rehab and recovery communities included the family in treatment as we all need support to deal with the trauma and stigma and so that we can provide support for our loved ones recovery. This site has been one of my best sources of support. I recommend it to all the family members I encounter on this journey with our loved ones. I agree with Dominique that you are taking care of yourself by sharing here. I originally began practicing CRAFT to help my son, but have found that it has helped me as much, by learning to control my emotions so the highs and lows are less extreme and therefore less exhausting. I am sending well wishes to you and your son that you both continue on a path toward recovery.

    1. Thank you Momdog. I am thrilled to see community rising up out of this site. I love that your highs and lows are a little less extreme and exhausting. I agree, it is not overstating it to say that families end up with PTSD symptoms. We’ve talked about starting a rehab for families. I just have sworn off any BIG new projects for a while. Those interested in a BIG new project should get in touch. I will connect you. Others have talked about building advocacy on this site. Would someone like to take the lead on this? Best wishes, Dominique

  2. StrongerTogether, I am so very sorry for the newest threat to your peace of mind. How can you communicate a plan to your boss that might reveal a bit but not too much of the personal struggles you face? And equally important, what plan can you put in place that proves you are focused and dedicated to your job. Address the specific areas where you have not been successful on the job and figure out if you need less responsibility, more support from others, or different hours, etc. In the end, your employer needs to profit from your work. He is not likely to carry you through simply out of the goodness of his heart.
    I offer those ideas but totally get that they may not be useful to you.
    I often suggest that people reset themselves in order to make change. That is often best done by taking a couple days of self pampering or total distraction. Blessings to you and yours as you continue to struggle with the complex web that is family addiction.

  3. StrongerTogether, you’ve dealt with a lot of trauma in a short period of time. Our children are a part of us, so how can their struggles not impact every aspect of our life? I’m so sorry to hear about your employer’s email to you. I care and send you and your son my sincerest wishes that things will get better.

    Your not alone. It’s been difficult for me at work as well. There are many days that it takes absolutely everything I have to get myself to work, let alone focus on my work. I’ve lost count of the number of opportunities I’ve passed up the last four years because I simply don’t have the energy, let alone the focus, to expand myself professionally. It was frustrating at first, feeling like I was stagnant while others were growing professionally, but I eventually came to terms with it.

    With the support of AIR and CRAFT drilling into me the importance of self care, I’m noticing a difference in how I’m managing my anxiety and depression that results from my son’s use and all that comes with it. The patterns of thinking and behavior I’ve developed since my son started using is difficult to reform, but I’m working on it.

    Stay strong. We can just take things one day at a time. Breathe.