Family crises can affect work performance

September is a month devoted to many causes and themes, but the theme for this month that affects me greatly is "Recovery Month."

Although recovery is observed all year long, in September we focus on educating everyone that addiction treatment and mental health services can enable those with substance use or mental disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life. This is the month to applaud and support the women in your workplace who are in recovery.

I am celebrating Recovery Month for the second year in a row, thankfully. If you are wondering what this has to do with work, let me share. In June 2007, my husband and I were made aware that our 16-year-old daughter, Lindsey, may be dabbling in substance use.

At that time, I was employed full-time, and took the news rather lightly with the promise to myself to not let it affect my work performance. By August, we knew there was a real problem as I filed my first missing persons report. For a full week, my work performance suffered, and I could be found many times just staring at my computer screen or resting my forehead on my desk.

Within months, it was a normal sight to see a police person sitting next to me at my desk taking one report or another. Although I had not shared what was happening at home with my co-workers, they started to wonder, and I shared it with a couple of women.


As a woman, I know we have a tendency to pry and ask questions, but I am most thankful for my co-workers who quickly figured out when to ask questions, when to lay a hand on my shoulder, and when to just let me buckle down and work.

In February 2008, Lindsey entered treatment for the first time, and I was finally able to feel she was in a safe place. I missed a day at work and celebrated my birthday during family day at the treatment facility. After being shared the success statistics of first-time treatment stints, I remained hopeful but realistic. It wasn’t long before the substance abuse and disappearances returned. My mornings and evenings were difficult, but when I walked through my office door, I was all business.

Throughout this three-year ordeal, my work provided stability. Many times I was asked, "How can you work? How can you focus?" To be real honest, my work was my rock. It provided me a place to go, to escape briefly, and it gave me a feeling of purpose when everything else was falling apart.

Fast forward through 2009, and Lindsey was on another trip to treatment. A trip that lasted nearly nine months. During those months, she took what she learned to heart and worked very hard at planning a life of sobriety. My performance at work suffered now and then, but my attendance did not, and I continued to work to my fullest potential.

Lindsey had a few more months of sobriety alternating with substance abuse. In late 2010, she had enough and decided that a life of sobriety and being a functional, working adult was her goal.

She has since enrolled and begun college and has completed the Medical Secretary Program through Mayo Clinic. She held out for a permanent position as she had dreams of getting in to the department that once helped her, and she now proudly works in the Addiction Services Department supporting five doctors. Together, we are celebrating Recovery Month.

If you work with a woman who is in the shoes I was once in, be supportive, don’t judge and understand this is a hard issue to share. Believe it or not, there are a lot of working women trying to handle these exact same issues. In closing, I would like to thank another woman who provided me hope and support, so Barb, thank you. And to Amy and Melissa who knew what I needed and when.  

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