Harmful consequences of substance abuse can be an opportunity for growth

I got into an argument with someone yesterday about a woman who showed up at her workplace apparently drunk.  Several people witnessed her fall down and also, she slurred as she spoke.  These things, along with reports of a strong smell of alcohol, indicated to many of the woman’s co-workers that the woman was drunk.  The problem, for me, wasn’t that she was drunk on the job; the problem was in the way it was handled.  While people did report the apparently drunk woman to her superiors, her superiors felt that she was fine.  This caused an uproar, as people felt that she should not have been allowed to stay at work while drunk.

“People,” the person with whom I argued said.  “Should keep their mouths shut.  They had no proof and her bosses felt she was fine.”

“Well,” I said.  “Feeling someone is fine and proving that they are fine are two different things.  For the woman’s sake, her superiors should have asked for a UA to determine if she was, in fact, drunk.”

“She’s hurting,” the person said.

“I agree: She’s hurting and needs help.  By looking the other way, all her superiors did was help her do it again.”

“She shouldn’t have been punished simply because she hurts.”

That statement was the kicker for me.  When someone experiences the consequences of an addiction, it can allow the substance abuser to see the harm the substance is causing.  Also, a substance abuser will experience adverse consequences as a result of their substance abuse; it’s inevitable that harm is a natural result of abusing substances.  Allowing a substance abuser to experience the natural adverse consequences of his or her substance abuse is not the same thing as punishing them.  Punishment comes from outside the substance abuse; adverse consequences are a inevitable outcome of sunstance abuse.

I wasn’t going to get my point across to the person with whom I argued, so I came to quick conclusion.  “Well, I said.  “I just hope that someone in the woman’s workplace hears her cries for help and cares enough about her to allow her to face her addiction to alcohol.  Allowing it to progress is cruel.”