As of May of 2013, our unemployment rate is at 7.6% equating to 11.8 million people on unemployment.
Everything being equal would an employer hire a recovering addict? If you were an addict just leaving rehab would you disclose this on a job interview? How do you explain on an interview that you have spent the last 30, 60, 90 days or longer in rehab? Can you imagine? “Awkward!” My assumption is that most people keep their stay in rehab their little secret.
In 1988, when I was coming out of my 6 month stay in rehab…as they say some are sicker than others 🙂 I chose to create an elaborate story about my whereabouts for the last 6 months. I said to Gary, the very nice, very sophisticated, very well dressed property manager who was part of a conservative real estate company in Glendale, CA, that I had been traveling in Europe for 6 months. If I was going to use the traveling through Europe alibi on my job interview I should have prepared better. Gary loved Europe, of course! When the conversation turned to Paris I really got myself into trouble. Gary knew about the different neighborhoods, little restaurants and some of the best places to stay. Me, I had never been to Paris or Europe. I was scrambling. I knew one street in Paris, the Champs-Elysées. So that became the center of my story. Then I as quickly as possible changed the subject.
The next uncomfortable moment came when Gary called the rehab I was so embarrassed. In 1988, before cell phones were common, our rehab had a pay phone. My rehab was not one of those fancy places in Malibu, my rehab had a 150 residents who made the choice of going to rehab instead of prison. Usually it was impossible to get through on the pay phone, Gary got lucky. I heard my name being called down the hall “hey Alex come to the pay phone”. When I picked up the phone I was caught by surprise, it was Gary. I never expected he’d call. Of course his first question was, where do you live? I had to think fast, keeping with my fabricated persona of the traveling student, I said I was staying in a youth hostel. Luckily years of drug use gave me the ability to think fast and convincingly lie. At times I could not tell when I was telling the truth or when I was lying. I got the job. If I told you of my adventures with my first job out of rehab you’d laugh. But I’ll save those stories for another blog. The short story is I made it out of rehab. It was tough. Many of my friends and acquaintances at the rehab were not so lucky. They really struggled. I watched a parade of my friends and acquaintances relapse and die. My theory is that the disappointment and stress of trying to find work seemed to escalate the frequency of relapse. It looked to me when faced with returning to “life” or “using”, using looked like the better option. For the lucky ones they ended back in rehab, for the unluckier ones they ended up in jail or dead.
Whether the root of the problem for addicts is learned dependency or the very slow healing of the addict’s brain, I’m not sure it matters. Our economy is being damaged by unemployed addicts. I don’t mean to ignore the personal tragedy of people dying or going to jail but this is a business blog. We business people try not to consider the human condition when we are talking about the economy. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, we have 22.5 million Americans aged 12 or older—or 8.7 percent of the population — had used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication (such as a pain reliever, stimulant, or tranquilizer) in the past month. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends
So we have 11.8 million people on unemployment and we have 22.5 million using people in the United States. What can we say is happening to the US economy by not addressing the problems of addiction and work? How about this number…$366 BILLION caused by alcohol and Illicit drug use in health care, productivity loss, crime, incarceration and drug enforcement. Ok so that is enough about the problem let’s talk about solutions…
One of the keys to our economic recovery is getting people clean and sober. Is that enough? We need to take it one step further and provide a bridge back to productivity. This is the focus of the 12 Angels. Here are some solutions to increasing productivity:
1. More agency owned businesses – these businesses can operate inside of long term government funded treatment centers. Some organizations like Delancey Street and the Salvation Army have been doing this for decades. One of our goals with the 12 Angels is to help other treatment centers that do not operate businesses start profitable and with sustainable companies. If you are reading this and are a cashed out entrepreneur, foundation or philanthropist – we need your help!
2. More micro-lending and micro-credit available to recovering addict entrepreneurs. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank for their success in creating economic opportunity to the poor. Why can’t we apply micro-lending and micro-credit to recovering addict entrepreneurs?
3. Why can’t we use models such as the ones developed by Pacific Community Ventures? Pacific Community Ventures uses tools of private equity to stimulate job creation, productivity and wealth in economically disadvantaged communities.
Practicing addicts and alcoholics cost our nation over $340 billion annually. Addiction is the largest health care problem in the nation. Using the 3 models described above coupled with the specific knowledge and experience of the 12 Angels’ organization is a winning combination.
We have an incredible opportunity to help everyone in our nation by reducing the damage addiction costs our society. Addiction is treatable. Economic recovery is possible. The return on investment is gigantic. Act now, help the 12 Angels implement our social entrepreneurship programs in the recovery community.
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