Saturday, January 6, 2018

Challenge the Myths About Alcoholism that DOT Supervisors Hold

Stigma of addiction is a roadblock in reasonable suspicion training
You've heard me harp a lot about the myths and misconceptions of DOT supervisors and non-DOT supervisors, and how these must be addressed in DOT training so they do not interfere with the goals of your reasonable suspicion training course. But,  I have not said much about the types of myths you will see among supervisory personnel in these courses and classes that you offer these people who need a DOT certificate.

Some of these myths are quite embedded psychologically. They are not acquired by reading a book or hearing someone's opinion. Instead, they are acquired by life experience from living with or being involved in a relationship with an addict.

You might as well know right now that you will definitely get hostile responses from some supervisors in your DOT training classes when you begin to educate them and provide insight and information that seeks to dispel false models addiction and alcoholism. Anticipating these reactions can help you remain on an even keel in your training efforts.

The impact of myths and false models of addiction is the maintenance of stigma. Stigma is a negative association of character flaws and shame pinned to the person afflicted with an illness that offers a less than attractive explanation for its etiology.

AIDS, for example, was originally linked to homosexual sex acts, later to IV drug users. Because these behaviors had significant societal condemnation, stigma rapidly attached itself to anyone who acquired the disease. The medical director of the hospital I worked for died of AIDS because of a blood transfusion, and until his death, he  openly educated people about it in effort to play a role in reducing stigma about the disease.

One of the most harmful results of myths associated with addiction is decreased effort on the part of supervisors to refer employees with drug and alcohol symptoms to the employee assistance program. 

The EAP referral path is interrupted because of a belief on the part of supervisors that the employee is to blame for their illness, is not treatable, or has character flaws deserving of punishment rather than treatment and the non-stigmatized recovery from addictive disease. It is important therefore to also discuss myths about troubled employees in EAP Supervisor Training Courses.

Many DOT and non-DOT Supervisors in training for substance abuse have a family member, parent, sibling or other loved one who currently possesses an alcoholism problem. These supervisors are victims of the illness and often have an extensive history of enabling, which includes doing many things and thinking and believing many things that amount to dysfunctional ways of coping with their current or past victimization.

Coping with victimization often includes includes leftover anger and and hate, and these human feeling states are not reconcilable against a belief system that says addiction is a disease and its symptoms of over-drinking, grossly disturbing behaviors, and consequent relationship dynamics just mere symptoms of the active illness. Trusting others may be a significant challenge for these people.

The disease model implies an unconditional forgiveness on the part of the enabler and victims, or at least its consideration. This is a tall order. And control issues may also be significant with these groups of supervisors.

Few victims of any abusive relationship are going to readily accept this sort of letting go. So, as you can see, the rejection of the disease or bio-genic model of alcoholism is predetermined for the many DOT Supervisors in your training class. This is made even more difficult for actively drinking alcoholics sitting in your reasonable suspicion training course, or those who are at the moment abstinent for one reason or another. 

These folks usually possess a "willpower model" to explain alcoholism, and they are also fairly guilty as a result of using this model to explain, control, and count on a future of drinking with better control...if and when they figure it out (which they will not because it does not exist.)

Blaming addicts comes with a host of enabling behaviors--from badgering the drinker to shaming him or her. Blaming is a stigma producing blast furnace. Supervisors who are hooked on this model find it difficult to not see termination as the most fitting approach for drug and alcohol problems in the workplace. 

Did you know that the when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, that it dealt away with giving actively drinking alcoholics the mandatory opportunity in the federal government personnel system to receive an offer of help before they were fired? Sure, the ADA protects recovering addicts, but an actively drinking alcoholic or actively using drug addicts can be fired with impunity now. So, guess how many addicts now try to cover up their drinking and drug problems, where before 1991 they could volunteer for treatment. Answer: A lot more. Join my twitter feed for dot and reasonable suspicion training

Get Non-DOT or DOT Supervisor Training at the following links:

1. Non-DOT Drug and Alcohol Training for Supervisors in Reasonable Suspicion
2. DOT Drug and Alcohol Training for Supervisors in Reasonable Suspicion

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