Hung-over Colleague

21 Oct

Letterbalm Spilled Liquor BottleDear LetterBalm: My co-worker is chronically hung-over at work. I’m not a shrink, but even I know he’s a high-functioning alcoholic. He’s absolutely brilliant, and he works like a horse. So, he’s been able to cover up his condition so far. But I’ve seen his hands shake and his eyes bloodshot. He’s careful never to get drunk at office functions or with colleagues, and he’s well groomed. He’s always eating vitamins and sucking on mints to cover any alcohol on his breath, and because he’s a good talker and a high producer, he’s got the top bosses fooled. Is there anything I can say to him to get him on a path to health? I haven’t said anything to anyone else, but I think some of us have noticed. He’s a nice guy, but he’s killing himself.

–Feeling Sorry

This is a waste of a life on so many levels, especially if your colleague has a family. There isn’t too much you can do, because he’s choreographed an elaborate life at work that produces results for his bosses (and probably in other areas of his life). It’s unlikely that you will be able to reach him; his addiction is so ingrained that he may not be aware of how fully it defines him now. Ms. L.B. advises that you talk with him in an unguarded, private moment, reaffirming your friendship and – not to put too fine a point on it – your shared humanity. Let him know you’re there for him should he need you:

Hiram, I know you’re struggling with alcohol. You hide it well, and you are so brilliant that your work compensates for it. I just want you to know I’m not judging you or talking about you to other people in the office. It pains me to see you suffering because I regard you as a friend as much as a colleague. If you ever want to face your addiction and do something about it, I will support you any way I can. 

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