By: Alex Shohet

Entrepreneurship is the blog of Alex Shohet, who is the CEO and co-founder of the ONE80CENTER in Beverly Hills. Shohet studied system science engineering at UCLA but left college in 1984 because of his addiction to heroin and cocaine. In 1988, he entered a long-term treatment center in Pasadena where he found the path of recovery.

Managing the Addict in Early Recovery

Apr 13, 2011

As I have written in earlier posts, recovering entrepreneurs tend to shy away from hiring addicts in early recovery. I believe there are many legitimate reasons for an entrepreneur to be careful hiring the newly sober. Relapse is common to the recovery process; the National institute of Drug Abuse states that 40% to 60% of addicts relapse. What can happen to a company if a recovering employee relapses?

  • The employee may be late or miss work.
  • The employee may be disruptive to the workforce
  • The employee may use drugs or alcohol during the workday.
  • The employee may be less productive
  • The employee may steal from the company or its customers.

Even if an addict in early recovery does not relapse, they may be less productive, more emotional or more challenging to work with. What can an employer do to improve productivity with an addict in early recovery?

  • The employer should have a written plan for “an intervention” if the employee relapses.  This may include a referral to an outpatient program that provides drug testing or a short or long-term residential treatment.
  • The employer may support the recovering addict by providing a flexible work schedule that allows for attending Twelve Step meetings, an outpatient program and/or other recovery support services.
  • The employer may want to provide an on-the-job mentor who will work closely with the recovering addict.
  • The employer should have a written policy for all employees, which allows the company to test employees who are suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • The employer may want to choose a less demanding role in the company for an addict in early recovery.
  • The employer can establish with the agreement of the recovering employee a small group of coworkers to be trained and available for support.

Why would any business owner or manager go through all this trouble and risk to hire an addict in early recovery?  Here are my top three reasons:

  1. Many addicts in early recovery cannot find employment due to inconsistent work histories, felony convictions and poor professional references. This lowers the recovering addicts value in the market. Many recovering addicts need to reestablish their value and their reputations by working for less than their previously made. An employer that takes the risk to employ an addict in early recovery may be able to get a highly valuable and loyal employee well below their market value.
  2. Management consultant and author Peter Drucker believed that it was important to promote the well-being, health and development of the human being while at work. That means aligning one's strengths with one’s values. Most recovering entrepreneurs will explain that, after getting sober, they valued the way recovery impacted their business lives. If we follow Drucker’s recommendations, it is natural to align an entrepreneur’s recovery to the well-being, health and the development of their employees. What better way than employing an addict in early recovery?
  3. All of us in recovery were once newly sober; it is hard to imagine a more valuable asset to a person’s recovery process than a recovery-friendly work environment.

It will take time, understanding and risk to hire an addict in early recovery but the benefits of your effort may be sobriety or life.


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