Best employee with substance issues. What would you do

Gater123456

LawnSite Member
Location
Washington State
I have a long term employee of 9 years. He is incredibly valuable to my business. In 20++ years business I have never had someone with the knowledge, skill set and devotion to my company that this guy has. It is appreciated and I pay him well for it, give him a new company truck, full dental and benefits for his family.
It is difficult to find long term help in this area and have ‘sort of‘ hit the jackpot with him and do what I can to keep him around.

The problem is the second he gets off work he drives to the liquor store. He drinks hard, and gets wasted every single night after work. And I mean wasted. This is 100% an out of work issue. He‘s sober and ready for work early the next day. He has never had a DUI.
He smokes around 3 packs a day. Has asthma. Being in his mid 40’s- I expect to lose him prematurely for health reasons. My bet is he will be attached to a oxygen cart before long which wouldn’t work with what we do.

For years I have been trying to find someone to be waiting in the wings as he vaulters but it just isn’t happening... We live in an expensive area with plenty of people that come and go. He is reliable and consistent. I do continue to try to find his replacement but in the meantime this is what I work with. And as mentioned he is great on the job and it would be incredibly hard to go on without him.

Complicating things, his girlfriend is also an alcoholic and heavy smoker, and extremely verbally abusive to him (the neighbours are friends of mine), enough that they will likely be kicked out of their rental this winter due to repeat complaints and cops showing up. Once she is on a tear you just can’t shut her up- I have witnessed this at company dinners to the point staff dinners no longer include spouses - because of her. Zero edit, her brain is fried.
Did I mention there is a 7 year old kid with these parents, the authorities step in at times but somehow never take the kid away.

So I’ve offered to pay for counselling, plus the benefits plan has help for them as well, but They don’t get help.

In reality I am aware that this is quite out of my control but perhaps part of my due diligence is looking for ideas To help him out.

Hoped a few ideas or even reality checks may chime in.

Seems that people need to get help themselves, but I just don’t think he (they) will without some form of outside intervention.

Any bright ideas appreciated. Thanks.
 

rclawn

LawnSite Silver Member
Location
Kansas City
This is a tough one. However, as long as his work performance isn’t impacted by it and he hasn’t had an DUI’s, I would keep him on. It’s hard to convince someone like that that he needs help. It sounds like you’re already doing a lot but he won’t take it. Also sounds like he might be better off without the GF. So I don’t have much advice here other than do your best to work with him on it.
 

TPendagast

LawnSite Fanatic
I have a long term employee of 9 years. He is incredibly valuable to my business. In 20++ years business I have never had someone with the knowledge, skill set and devotion to my company that this guy has. It is appreciated and I pay him well for it, give him a new company truck, full dental and benefits for his family.
It is difficult to find long term help in this area and have ‘sort of‘ hit the jackpot with him and do what I can to keep him around.

The problem is the second he gets off work he drives to the liquor store. He drinks hard, and gets wasted every single night after work. And I mean wasted. This is 100% an out of work issue. He‘s sober and ready for work early the next day. He has never had a DUI.
He smokes around 3 packs a day. Has asthma. Being in his mid 40’s- I expect to lose him prematurely for health reasons. My bet is he will be attached to a oxygen cart before long which wouldn’t work with what we do.

For years I have been trying to find someone to be waiting in the wings as he vaulters but it just isn’t happening... We live in an expensive area with plenty of people that come and go. He is reliable and consistent. I do continue to try to find his replacement but in the meantime this is what I work with. And as mentioned he is great on the job and it would be incredibly hard to go on without him.

Complicating things, his girlfriend is also an alcoholic and heavy smoker, and extremely verbally abusive to him (the neighbours are friends of mine), enough that they will likely be kicked out of their rental this winter due to repeat complaints and cops showing up. Once she is on a tear you just can’t shut her up- I have witnessed this at company dinners to the point staff dinners no longer include spouses - because of her. Zero edit, her brain is fried.
Did I mention there is a 7 year old kid with these parents, the authorities step in at times but somehow never take the kid away.

So I’ve offered to pay for counselling, plus the benefits plan has help for them as well, but They don’t get help.

In reality I am aware that this is quite out of my control but perhaps part of my due diligence is looking for ideas To help him out.

Hoped a few ideas or even reality checks may chime in.

Seems that people need to get help themselves, but I just don’t think he (they) will without some form of outside intervention.

Any bright ideas appreciated. Thanks.
So you mentioned benefits plan
How many employees do you have?
Sounds expensive for a small outfit

the drinking thing is likely (in my experience) 75% personal life

IF he stopped drinking he’d have left her long ago
(Or maybe vice a versa it’s hard to tell who the original problem is)

there’s really nothing you go do about personal life
Especially if the significant other is uncooperative (which it sounds like)
 
OP
G

Gater123456

LawnSite Member
Location
Washington State
Are you sure he is legally sober when he comes to work, or just high functioning alcoholic?
I do spend quite a bit of time working with the guy and would say he is sober at work. I do feel he’s fine at work.
He does seem to get pretty thirsty at the end of the day and unable to help unload tools or even a quick chat after work he ‘has’ to go home immediately. Then you see him parked at the liquor store...
 

TPendagast

LawnSite Fanatic
I do spend quite a bit of time working with the guy and would say he is sober at work. I do feel he’s fine at work.
He does seem to get pretty thirsty at the end of the day and unable to help unload tools or even a quick chat after work he ‘has’ to go home immediately. Then you see him parked at the liquor store...
Yea that end of the day thing is super common with alcoholism

it’s like a biological clock.
GOTTA GO.

basically they’ve been holding on all day long and can’t do it any longer
Like lifting a weight over their head... then dropping it from exhaustion
 

velocicaur

LawnSite Member
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
I think you are already going above and beyond in offering him help to pay for counseling. You sound like a great person to work for.

People that drink tend to drink for a reason. He would benefit from a psychiatrist consult. There is a good chance that he has underlying mental health issues at play. They would be able to get a plan in hand with proper medication to make the withdrawal process tolerable and still allow him to function. It is incredibly hard to accept going to a psychiatrist (it took me 5+ years before I swallowed my pride) but it is a necessary step IMO.

I think tackling the smoking issue may be an easier task. Nicotine patches/gum is very expensive. It might be easier to get him on that path first. It would be a huge bonus if he could use them during the day to not smoke during work - production, company image, just feeling better overall. If he makes some progress on that, it would give some momentum to tackle the alcohol.

Like you said, they need to want help themselves before they will seek and accept help. Unfortunately, people have to hit some really low spots before this happens. For example, it may take him getting a DUI and then threatened to lose his position to have him really look at himself in the mirror and do something about it. He may have to lose his kid to child services, etc.
 

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