I’m a heroin addict and need time off to get clean, my boss told me I’m overpaid, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I’m a heroin addict and I need time off to get clean

I have been working at my current job for about eight months. I’m a pretty good employee, just got a raise, am asked to assist in other departments, etc. I have a good relationship with my manager and no performance issues. The only real issue that hasn’t even been addressed by my manager is that I only have two PTO days left (it’s only April; I was given 14 in the beginning of the year) because I’m pretty much a huge heroin addict and the reason for my absences is that I either am too dope sick to work or mismanaged my money that I don’t have enough for the bus (mind you, I’m 22, no kids, and live in one of the poorest cities making more money than any of my peers…I should always have money).

I’ve been on heroin for about three years now and am very functional and pretty unassuming since I’m attractive, young, smart, and since I snort it, have no physical signs of abuse. Sadly, I am starting to lose control and cannot break this habit and feel the only way to do so is either go to treatment (have to figure out a way since I opted out of health insurance so I can have more money in my paycheck) or detox at home. But I don’t have the PTO to do so. Would it be a good idea to talk to HR to give me some time to take care of myself? Will a company be sympathetic to this? (Mind you, I am very valued and have helped my manager tremendously in making our department more productive and organized, so I think I am a valued member.) Even if they don’t afford me more days, would I get fired for admitting my issue in an attempt to get unpaid leave? Also, I was not drug tested for this job. It’s a family-owned business. I need help and don’t know where to start.

Okay, first the law: If your employer has 50 or more employers, you’re qualified for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA allows you to take off up to 12 weeks per year unpaid for medical reasons; you can’t be fired for it.* If your employer has 15 or more employees, you may also be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discriminating against people with disabilities, which in many cases includes drug addiction.

As for what to tell your boss — I was going to suggest that you be vague and just say it’s a medical issue that will require hospitalization (although you’d probably need to disclose more if you want the protection of the ADA). But everything I read from addiction centers seems to suggest telling your employer that you’ll be going to rehab. Personally, I’m not sure about that element, and I think you’re the best judge of how your employer will react.

* As I was finalizing this post for publication, I realized you’ve only been there for eight months. Since FMLA protection doesn’t kick in until you’ve been there a year, I’m now coming down on the side of being honest that you want to check yourself into rehab and seeing what you can negotiate with your employer. And even if they won’t agree to hold your job, I’d prioritize the rehab and your health over the job. You can get another job, I promise.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I share a co-working space with a jerk

I’m having an issue with a person who sits near me in a shared co-working space. She and I work for different organizations but are in the same industry, so maintaining a pleasant acquaintance-ship feels important.

This young woman sits across from me and is incredibly abusive to one of her older coworkers – who she appears to outrank but who does not seem to report directly to her. She is unnecessarily biting and rude throughout the day to this woman in person, and when the older coworker is not in the office, complains about her loudly to their other coworkers. It’s not my organization, so I don’t feel comfortable saying something directly, but it’s so hard to listen to all day. I have taken to constantly listening to music through headphones while working at my desk, and will likely be able to relocate to a different desk in a few months, but do you have any ideas for me as to how to address this problem in the meantime, if at all?

Ooooh, this is tough since she’s not actually a coworker. If she were, I’d suggest talking to her privately and saying something like, “I’m sure you don’t realize this, but the way you talk to and about Jane comes across really harshly. It’s difficult to hear, and I’m sure it must be even harder on the receiving end.”

But in this case, because you don’t actually work together, you have less standing. Depending on your relationship, though, you might be able to say something similar. Or you might be able to speak up in the moment — even a just well-timed “wow” or “jeez, Cordelia” might make her realize how she’s coming across (and if nothing else, might make the targeted coworker feel better).

3. My boss told me I’m overpaid

I make a good salary at my job and have other privileges, like getting to work from home one day a week. I just had a baby, which has impacted my work/life balance but probably not dramatically, and no one has said anything to indicate that it has. I make more than most of my peers, but I also have more responsibility and do more things..

I was in a meeting with my boss, and we were talking about a new initiative I thought of to get our patients a discount on Vitamix blenders (they have conditions which would make this advantageous). I mentioned that they were very expensive and that I had one, and joked that I only had one because my car had been totalled and I was able to use the insurance payout. (We have a very collegial relationship, and this would not be out of the ordinary/inappropriate to share.) He laughed and said, “That’s okay, I know we overpay you.”

I’m sure I looked briefly surprised and hurt (I don’t have much of a poker face), but I took it in stride and just sort of clumsily went on with my pitch for the project.

I have been thinking about asking about taking on new responsibilities and a promotion/job change within this department, to a more middle management position. I’m not sure when, but now I’m not sure what to think. I wouldn’t want to take on more responsibility without more money. My annual review is coming up, and I had been planning on asking about a long-term plan for moving on up, but now, I’m not sure what my strategy should be. My boss is usually very candid, but very careful with words. What do you think? Was that just offhanded ribbing, or was he trying to tell me something? Is this intel, or am I overthinking/being neurotic?

You are reading way too much into it. It sounds very much like an attempt at a good-natured joke to me, not a serious message that he thinks you’re overpaid. Put it out of your head and pretend it never happened.

4. Can I tell a library patron that his resume is terrible?

I work as the director at a very small public library, so I basically wear all the hats! One part of my job is assisting people who need help with the computers. Lately, I’ve been helping an older gentleman who is applying for jobs. He told me he retired, but now needs to find a second career, unrelated to his 40 years of previous experience.

He was applying for a job online, but only had physical copies of his resume with him, so I offered to scan it for him and email him the scans. Well, it was seven pages! There was a page for each job he had, including giving out promotional samples. There was also a page listing equipment he was familiar with — technical equipment, but also things like office copy machine and his particular brand of cell phone. Also the email address on his resume didn’t work. The email he actually uses is in someone else’s name.

I want to tell him that he should tailor it to the field he wants to get into, not the field he was in. And I want to tell him to trim it down to a page or two! But this is my first post-college job, and I’ve often been told I look younger than my age. I’m afraid that he won’t take me seriously, or that I’ll be meddling. He hasn’t asked for help with the resume, just with the computer. Also, I wonder if I help him too much, if he’ll be misrepresenting his computer skills to a hiring manager. What do you think?

I don’t know what the professional boundaries are for librarians with stuff like this (but we have lots of librarian readers, who will hopefully chime in), but my thought would be that rather than giving him resume guidance yourself, you should refer him to some up-to-date sources. For example, you could say, “Most guidance on resumes says that your resume shouldn’t be more than two pages. Here are a couple of really good sources of information — I recommend that you take a look at them before you start sending out your resume.”

5. Is this an exception to the rule about not mentioning high school in a job application?

I’m one year out of college and am approaching the end of my AmeriCorps program, which will conclude in mid-June. I’ve begun my job search, and I’ve found a position at a public library I would love.

The application asks if I have experience working or volunteering in a library. I do — I volunteered for my first two years of high school and worked as a student worker for the second two years at this very branch. Many of my former coworkers and supervisors are still there, and I know I’m remembered fondly. I know convention says not to include anything from high school once you’re out of college, but would this be an exception?

I would just include it in my cover letter and not my resume, but this is a multi step government online application that asks flat out if I have this work or volunteer experience. What should I do?

Yes, I think you’ve found an exception to the no-high-school rule. When you’re being asked a direct question, you should answer it — even if it means referencing stuff from high school.

{ 307 comments… read them below }

  1. Meg*

    OP1 may want to check to see if her employer has an Employee Assistance Plan. It’s possible that EAP may help her get the assistance she needs without insurance if her employer offers EAP.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Oh, good call! EAPs have been really helpful to me and some of my co-workers in the past. My current employer offers six sessions with a counselor and it’s paid for by the company. That’d be a great place to start. Good luck, OP! You can do eeet!

      1. De Minimis*

        EAPs are so great and they are often really underutilized.

        I agree, an open approach with the employer is best.

    2. HR Recruiter*

      Yes, if you are full time you most likely have an EAP which could help tremendously.

      I’m going to guess you do not work for a drug free workplace because you would have had to take a pre-employment drug test. But if you do, find out if they have a second chance agreement. In my state, if there is a second chance agreement they MUST allow you to go to rehab and can only fire you if you fail the drug test after getting out of rehab.

      If these aren’t options then just say you need medical leave. No you don’t qualify for FMLA but a lot of employers will be flexible when they hear medical leave. But be prepared for them to ask why you need leave. And if they do deny it then last option is to get help and worry about finding a new job later.

    3. OP #1*

      *Putting this up top so others can see my follow up!
      Thanks again
      “Super happy that this question was answered! Definitely feeling the good vibes everyone has sent my way and thanks Allison for taking the time out to answer. You guys are so sweet!
      A couple notes:
      1. I do not deal with family. I do have a very tight knit immediate family, but have greatly distanced myself to the point that people have to call and make sure I am alive (no one has confirmation I am on drugs..they’ve ‘heard’ things but can never confirm it, and since I look good, my house is clean, etc., they don’t believe it once they run into me). I think because of the way I was raised, and the reputation my family has in my city, it would be too much shame to convince themselves I’m really on drugs, but trust me, the conversation has come up enough times, I think it’s hard for them to ignore the signs. Nonetheless, this is all me. I take care of myself and my home. I have no help.
      2. I live with my boyfriend who actually introduced me to dope and he doesn’t work at this point so I cannot leave my job as I will have NO money and I need to pay bills. We are both in the throes of addiction. Also, I am very scared to leave the job because this is a decent gig. It may not be much to others, but I make over $30,000 a year, have no college degree, no major responsibilities besides my home–so the money I’m bringing home is significant when you take that into account plus the fact I leave in a very cheap city where you can rent a 5 bedroom house for $700-maybe less–and where half the people are unemployed or underemployed and work through temp agencies, on welfare, or whatever. I have it good here. Major flexibility (wondering if my manager wonders why I come in late every pay day), great paying, room for growth, etc. Like I said, I’ve been told by the CFO that my department has shown a 100% positive change with me being on board.
      3. This is a little hard for me to say, but I am very nervous about my job being understanding. Someone had mentioned it being a big company which it is not. It is a family owned business and 50+ employees..very tight knit. I am the youngest, the only black person, the only one who lives in the ‘scary’ city that people wouldn’t dream of taking the 15min drive to, only person who smokes cigarettes, only person without a car, etc. Please don’t be upset you guys that I mentioned those things but I definitely don’t feel that anyone is racist, but I know I am different and I am an anomaly. I don’t want my situation to define me and confirm anyone’s doubts they may or may not have. I also am nervous about going to our one-woman HR team because of the size of the company and I feel it will easily get around the whole workplace. How can someone look at me the same again?
      4. Also, just to say, I would definitely define myself as a functional junkie. I use every single day and don’t think my coworkers at any job in these past years have seen me sober. I have been struggling with this for a long time and it is very very scary. You know how afraid I am when I look at people who were never able to get clean, and think, ‘Damn, that could be me!”. I really want this. It’s just its so hard and I swear to god, this is my one regret in life.”

      1. Jill*

        But #1, your ace in the hole here is that you’ve heard more than once that your company is better off for having you in it, that you’ve done excellent work, made improvements etc. When/if word gets out, yes, you’ll have a few “oh we should’ve expected that from that black city dweller” type of comments, but you have such a solid reputation that I think more people will react with surprise at your admission but then they’ll want to do what they can, not only to help you, but to retain you as an employee.

        And taking care of your health now is so so so much better than letting your addiction spiral to the point where it DOES affect your work and you get fired. Having to tell future employers, “I left/was asked to leave my job to deal with a medical issue” is so much better than having to say “I was fired.”

        Either way, my brother is on heroin and I pray every day he has the wake up call that you did! Best wishes on your road to recovery!

      2. irritable vowel*

        It sounds like you’re supporting your boyfriend and both of your addictions with this well-paying job, so the job has become part of the problem. (I’m inferring from “coming in late on payday” that despite the good salary, everything that isn’t paying the bills is going towards your habits.) You’ve got to get yourself into rehab and away from the source of income until you’re able to handle having cash on hand. And get your boyfriend into rehab, too, if you can.

      3. BTownGirl*

        I’m rooting for you! I’d also add that in my state (Massachusetts) the opiate epidemic is so out of control, the majority of people are aware that addiction can happen to anyone. Keep in mind that many, many people wind up addicted after being prescribed opiate pain medication, so don’t assume that your boss will look at you like you’re some kind of degenerate. I’d also add that exploring your relationship with your boyfriend with a qualified therapist would probably be really helpful. You sound like a lovely person with a lot to offer and you’re miles ahead of a lot of addicts in that you really WANT to stop. You’re a brave woman. You’ve got this. Sending you lots of love and good wishes!

      4. AnnieMouse*

        OP, I’ve been in your shoes – from the good job right to getting hooked on dope with my boyfriend in my early 20s. I quit using a few years ago now, and my life is literally better in every way without that heavy weight on my shoulders.

        I recommend NA meetings, it’s a good way to meet all kinds of people who have been through the tough of it and will support you every step of your way through it, especially if you’re scared of the word getting out, because you’ll definitely need people you can speak freely with. But I also wanted to mention I’ve worked with other successful, recovered addicts in my office jobs and found through my own struggle that family, friends and coworkers can all be amazingly understanding and supportive.

        Best wishes for your successful recovery!

      5. Soupspoon McGee*

        Depending on your state, you may be eligible for “State” Family Medical Leave that kicks in after less than one year of employment. My state starts it after 6 months, but I think it only applies if there are 50+ employees.

        I truly hope you find a solution that lets you keep your job and get clean and healthy!

      6. gsa*

        To quote Allison: “I’d prioritize the rehab and your health over the job. You can get another job, I promise.”

        And to quote me: “If you are dead or in jail, you can not get another job”.

        The hard work is coming. Do your shit now! Today!!!

        Prayers to you.

      7. I've Been There*

        OP, I am just reading your posts now. I so wish I could talk to you because I have been in your shoes- not every detail of your life is similar BUT I was a high-functioning Opiate addict for 10+ years when I was at a pretty intense, high-stress job (Director of HR & Operations in Public Relations). There wasn’t a period of more than 1 day that I was not high at work, but I wasn’t so much “high” as “preventing being dope sick.”

        I was poached from that job to an even more intense job in the middle of my addiction, no one but my dealer and 1 friend had any idea that I was on drugs. I made $90k per year and anything I had left over after paying my bills/ mortgage went to drugs. I never missed work, never called in sick, but being able to buy the drugs was half the problem- no reason or need to get off of them financially, and in my case that wasn’t such a good thing because it allowed me to keep buying them and living that way despite the fact that I hated it . I hated being dependent on a substance to feel normal and simply having to arrange to have a Knouff when traveling and all of the crap that goes along with being addicted to heroin .

        Finally I decided to get on Subutex which I’ve been on for 2+ years, it changed my life.

        You can do it – you NEED to do it. Take it from someone who knows the physical pain, the mental anguish, the fear of ALWAYS worrying about having enough, the dreaded dope sickness, I promise you that you will be SO relieved to get to the other side to live life again.

        I’m sure this is not what you want to hear, but you cannot stay with a boyfriend that is going to continue to use if you want to be clean; I don’t think any human being has that kind of willpower or strength. If you want to remain healthy and live your life without drugs, you can’t be with someone who is still using. That’s asking for trouble and more hell .

        I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers and I’ll keep my fingers and toes crossed for you, no matter what, even if it doesn’t happen the first time, never stop trying — even though I know it’s seems close to impossible.

        I worked in a very liberal field industry and personally I wasn’t comfortable talking about this with my company, despite loving my boss and being in an industry where a lot of people are probably in the same boat, I’m incredibly private and I didn’t want Anyone knowing anything about my business. That being said, you know your company and employees better than anyone. Do what you feel will help you get healthy.

        Good luck and never give up – you sound like such a sweet, intelligent, motivated person and you have your whole life ahead of you.

        Sorry if this post has 1 million typos, I can’t seem to get back to go through everything to make sure it’s legible !!

  2. Rubyrose*

    #1 – oh, please, take care of yourself. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you. There will be another job. Please keep us updated.

    1. orchidsandtea*

      Seconded. OP1, my friend died two years ago of an overdose. He was convinced to the bitter end that he was in control. He was not. And a bad batch (laced with fentanyl) meant it wouldn’t have mattered if he was. I miss him. He was proud and witty and brilliant and odd, a peacock among chickens, and now he’s gone. Please don’t make us say that about you in a year. Your career can recover, as long as you do.

    2. The Expendable Redshirt*

      Go to treatment OP1! We’re cheering for you!

      Being honest with your employer that you want to go to additions treatment seems like the best bet. From what I’ve seen, opiates are mega hard to quit without medical support. Decent employers will give you time off to address a health matter as serious as this. Crappy employers aren’t worth the effort or risk in trying to do this alone.

      A person I know recently experienced an addiction while working. His first strategy was to go on short term disability for a while. When he returned to work, he was eventually terminated without cause for non addiction related issues. He did go treatment, but unfortunately withdrew from it early and pursued his addiction. Then he received EI benefits, spent that money, and the addiction got worse. Last I heard from him, he was working part time and couch surfing with his new boss because he’d been evicted. Not a pretty story.

      I hope that you can take enough time from work to successfully treat your addiction.

  3. So Very Anonymous*

    OP #1, I just want to say good luck and that I hope you can find a way to arrange for treatment.

    1. AnonInSC*

      Yes – another AAM fan in your corner. This is a tough first step. I wish you the best on your journey.

    2. Florida*

      I commend you for getting treatment. That’s not easy, so I admire you for doing it. Best wishes to you.

    3. Lady Bug*

      Best of luck! It is wonderful that you are putting yourself first. It’s a long road, but getting on it is the hardest part and you should be really proud of yourself. I hope your employer is able to work with you, but Allison is right you will get another job. Your health is most important.

      1. JayemGriffin*

        Seconded – I think it’s really admirable that you’re going to seek treatment. I wish you all the best in the world.

    4. Kyrielle*

      Yes, all of this. That you are doing this, that you are choosing this, is an awesome first step. I’m cheering for you too.

    5. Chalupa Batman*

      Yes. No advice to offer, but we’re all rooting for you. If you need to leave this job behind to seek treatment, there will be another one, especially since you’d be leaving as a top employee. There will never be another you. You deserve to be healthy and happy.

    6. OwnedByTheCat*

      100% yes. My sister has been clean three years as of this week. Get into treatment. Your career will wait – and it will be infinitely better when you are sober. Good luck! We’re cheering for you.

    7. Jen*

      Agreed! It is an enormously brave thing to decide to get help for an addiction. Know that we’re all rooting for you.

    8. Granite*

      Just joining the chorus of support. Opiates are easy to get hooked on, and very difficult to quit without professional help. The most important advice I can give you is this: don’t give up. Don’t lose sight of the truth that deciding to quit is hard, and it is something to be proud of. Don’t let your shame over starting the drugs keep you from asking for help from your support system. Strangers on the internet want to help – so do your friends and family.

      It can be difficult to find a treatment slot. Don’t give up. You probably will have to make lots of calls. If you’re struggling to find something, check out your local law enforcement agencies online. There is a growing movement among law enforcement to provide amnesty to anyone voluntarily “turning themselves in.” You turn over any drugs or paraphernalia you have, and they help you find treatment rather than charging you with any crime. They usually advertise this, so check their websites.

      Congratulations on starting this journey.

      1. Guinness*

        Sending you lots of love and support. I had a friend die from a herion overdose last fall and I know it isn’t easy.
        At 22, it would have been incredibly hard for me to talk to my boss about going to rehab, but looking back, I know they would have been incredibly supportive. And, oddly enough, it’s possible that having a small workplace can work in your favor. It might be easier to work something out where you can get more PTO. Good luck, OP.

    9. irritable vowel*

      Agreed! And in response to what Alison said about most addiction info she found saying you should tell your employer specifically that you’re going to rehab (instead of keeping it vague) — I think that is a good idea, even though it might be difficult and you might lose your job. Owning your addiction is a huge part of getting clean and staying in recovery. And if your employer is supportive, that’s only going to help you in the future. Good luck!

      1. Artemesia*

        You can report that you are going to rehab without being more specific than that however. I would not be specific beyond a substance abuse problem. Lots of people end up with alcohol issues and with problems that begin with subscription drug use and abuse. There is no need to detail the precise nature of the addiction.

        1. irritable vowel*

          Yes, good point! Just like you wouldn’t necessarily want to give details of any other type of illness that required hospitalization/time off work.

        2. The Strand*

          This is good advice. You don’t have to specify what it is. Just say you need to go to rehab for substance abuse.

          And OP, you are worth it. Please put yourself first. There will be other jobs and opportunities, if you take the steps you need to now.

    10. starsaphire*

      Same here! Wishing you all the best of luck with this. You’re wrestling alligators, but you’ve taken a super big step: you’ve admitted there’s a problem. That’s a hard thing to do, and you did it!

      You can do this!

    11. Emily*

      Completely agree with health over job any day of the week. I would recommend researching programs so you know exactly how much time off you need for your leave of absence. If you have a good rapport with your boss, I recommend starting off with being vague, “personal health issue.” Usually people won’t be too noisy and out of respect of hearing health, they are too scared to probe further. If they absolutely require the information, I suppose the best choice is to be honest and reiterate you have not let it affect your work quality and you are going to come back an even better employee.

  4. Ex Resume Reviewer*

    OP #4: I’m not a librarian, but generally when assisting people in similar situations in a job center, I’d offer to have a neutral colleague review the resume for them, especially if they mention they’re not getting a good response with their materials since that’s a natural opening. (I offered to grab someone else because sometimes people take resume reviews very personally and it helps avoid straining your rapport with the customer if it goes sideways.) If you have a decent local job center or agency that provides that type of assistance, you might refer them. Most resume books are out of date.* You’ll probably either hear a relieved thank you, or they’ll tell you it’s perfect the way it is. If they don’t want to make edits, I wouldn’t make an issue out of it. All you can do is offer.

    I’d definitely bring up the email issue and anything that could feed age discrimination (HS/college graduation dates, dates of really old jobs). Though if he’s had the same job since 1976 there’s not much you can do about that!

    *We seriously struggled at this job to find books for our bookshelf that didn’t reference objective statements and had examples of accomplishments instead of job duties. Mostly we used those resume books for formatting examples but had customers ignore the actual text of the sample resumes.

    1. OP #4*

      Thanks for the tips! I agree about the books, I wish Allison’s book was available in print!

      Sadly, I’m usually the only person working in the building, and our local job center shut down years ago. I was able to suggest he change the email to a working one, so that’s one step in the right direction! The hardest part is balancing my time — this job pulls me in so many directions!

      1. Artemesia*

        If your library has computer access for patrons, you might pull up Alison’s piece on resumes as a resource. The frame is ‘Resume writing has changed a lot in the last 10 years especially with most applications being on line and you might find this helpful.’ I sure wouldn’t let him continue to founder if he is at all receptive; obviously if you get pushback,ah well.

        1. OP #4*

          Good idea! He pretty much hates computers in general, but if I printed some articles for him, that might help! Thanks!

          1. Florida*

            I’m not sure what’s normal for libraries. Could the library buy a copy of the e-book, print it, spiral-bind it, and have it as a book?

            I don’t know if libraries do that, nor do I know the copyright laws about that. But it was a thought.

            1. aebhel*

              No, that would be a violation of copyright law. I mean, you’d probably get away with it, at least as a small library, but library access to ebooks is already a pretty fraught topic, so I wouldn’t risk it.

              1. Kathlynn*

                Unless the library got permission from Allison and/or whoever else they need permission from. Then they could print it out. AFAIK anyway. Probably more complicated then the copyright disclaimer makes it out to be.

      2. dragonzflame*

        I work in a library and see this aaaalllll the time. Pretty much, our policy is that you don’t want to be giving too much advice lest they come back and complain at you because they didn’t get a job with the advice you gave them. If they specifically ask something, I’ll give them general advice, but I won’t go “hey, let me tell you how you can make this better”. Sometimes if I’m helping them print it, I will go ahead and fix spelling errors for them and they’re always grateful.

        It’s really hard, because there are people you know don’t have a chance at getting a job with the one-sentence cover letters/badly-formatted CVs they’re putting together. There are a couple of things we do, which might not help you much, but anyway. We have trained volunteer computer mentors who come in three times a week in two-hour slots, and customers can book a one-hour session with them. They give help on anything you want on the computer (as long as it’s legal), including CV and cover letter writing. This may be something you could consider setting up?

        The other thing we do is direct them to our government careers page, which has CV advice, templates, information on industries and jobs, and heaps of other advice for job seekers. It might be worth seeing if there’s a really good website with that kind of thing you can direct people to? I don’t think it’s always AAM-style perfect, but I tell you, it’s a damn sight better than what they’re putting together on their own.

        1. Hornswoggler*

          I can understand the reluctance to give direct advice, but as a librarian, the job surely includes finding reference material and recommending published resources, so I think that suggesting books, articles, etc. would be completely in order.

          1. BettyD*

            The trouble is, frequently they aren’t actually asking you to find and offer reference material, just to help them format, print and save. And a lot of times, they’re in a hurry. There’s only so much suggesting you can do before it does bleed over into “why are you being so pushy?” and potentially “I did all those things you suggested and I didn’t get the job; must be your bad advice.”

          2. Sharon, Almost Librarian*

            BettyD has it right – a lot of the people we get in my computer lab just want you to tell them “This is right.” And if it’s not, they want you to fix it. Sometimes t’s a disinterest in the process, a matter of time, or they lack computer skills. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s generally what we run in to here.

            If a person has a little more time then I definitely show them some resources, including printing out examples or templates. OP4, look into getting your library a subscription to something like ResumeMaker. It’s pretty easy to use, offers printing (without trying to trick you into paying!) and multiple download formats.

        2. ScarletInTheLibrary*

          Be careful with the selection of volunteers. The library where I lived for years offered this a few times a year. She said I needed an objective statement for library (and archives, museums). Their advice can be as dated as the resume books on the shelf.

        3. Chalupa Batman*

          I used to work at a government career center, and my role had to help fill out online resumes, but was not allowed to give advice. We could only to refer to one of our workshops. It was so hard. I may have already told this story, but it puts the whole dilemma in a nutshell: I literally saw someone who listed as an objective “I dont want to work at mcdonalds.” Just like that. Perfectly nice guy, but of course the crappy default template had an objective statement field and he had no idea what he was supposed to say (you could remove it, but customers usually just assumed that if it was on the template they needed it). So he told the truth. What I hated most was that customers had no idea that only certain people were allowed to comment on their resumes, so I’m sure many people thought that if it was that bad, we would have told them. I felt really crummy beating around the bush with people I was trying to help find a job at the height of the recession. I would have loved to have at least been able to say “I see some major issues with your resume, let me connect you with Lucinda, one of our career advisors, to talk with you more about it,” but we weren’t allowed to express any opinions, so a lot of bad resumes got saved.

          1. Camellia*

            I feel for you, how hard this was! I would probably develop an ulcer trying to keep my mouth shut in these circumstances.

          2. Artemesia*

            People at a government career center, the purpose of which is to help people find jobs, were not allowed to ‘comment on the resume.’ Yowza. That is right up there with, ‘to be fare, we have to ask this precise list of questions and not follow up’ for idiocy.

          3. Elder Dog*

            You can say, and should say, “I am not allowed to comment on your resume. I am only allowed to help you with using the computer. If you have questions, I am required to refer you to (program).” and you should say it right up front as soon as you start helping them.
            If anyone higher up objects to that, there is a problem in your organization.

            1. Chalupa Batman*

              We could (and did) say that if they asked for input. Trouble was that most people don’t realize that their resume is bad. I think a lot of people took our suggestion that they get more help as us upselling our workshops and career services. Another problem was that I live in a small city where people from a lot of outlying areas come for services, so a not-insignificant number of unemployed customers just didn’t have the money to make multiple trips in a short span. If there wasn’t a workshop that day, they wouldn’t come back. There were times we were able to get the message across and get them to the level of services where they could get real feedback, but we could have helped a lot more people if we’d either been able to make basic suggestions or had options that didn’t require them to schedule an appointment or attend a pre-arranged workshop. I haven’t been there for a few years, I hope that’s changed. The people there are genuinely dedicated to helping as much as they can, but there was a lot of “how can we get around THIS new unhelpful thing?” happening there.

              1. Chalupa Batman*

                Also-I missed your line about saying that before ever getting started. That’s a really good idea. Even though it still implies the “upsell” angle, it also tells them up front that they won’t get any feedback, so they may have to dig deeper if they aren’t getting results. I’m big on helping people ask the right questions at the right time, and that would be a good way to support that. I think the management there (at least at the time I was there, don’t know who’s in charge now) would have been amenable to that phrasing.

        4. Guinness*

          As much as I want to help, I would miss the entertainment of bad cover letters. I got one this week that literally said, “many people have told me that I’m overqualified to work at the library.” That’s it.

      3. mlsanon*

        My instinct would have been to bring it up while scanning. (“I’ll be happy to scan…Oh, you have 7 pages…You know, usually I think resumes can be a maximum of 2 pages…let me help you find some resources.”) I think it is totally within the scope of library work to mention it and direct them to resources.

      4. Cheryl Becker*

        See Alison’s comment below; she is happy to give copyright permission for you to print her book and have as a library resource. (Yay, Alison!)

        I AM one of the (retired) library readers, and I think Alison’s advice is the way to go. “I noticed your resume seems a bit long, and did you know most experts recommend resumes that are no more than 2 pages? here’s some books/resources, and I’d be happy to help you find other advice online if you wish.” He did not ask you to review his resume (and would you want to go down that road anyway?), so don’t get into it much more than that.

        Does your library offer workshops, etc. on resume writing, career help, etc.? It would be great if you could point him to that.

        And yes, library directors of small libraries get pulled in a *million* directions. Take care of yourself.

    2. danr*

      Redirecting the concept might make it easier to help. That huge resume sounds like a “master resume”. The master resume contains everything. Each job application gets a resume tailored to the job with the bullet points pulled from the master. This way the patron doesn’t feel that his work was wasted.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I’m a librarian (in a different setting so, grain of salt) but I tend to steer away from direct advice to avoid the blame game. BUT, one thing my patrons find valuable is when I have that personal relationship with them and help them with something if I say, Oh, I remembered that you were working on your resume and applying for jobs and I came across this great X(article,book, some source) that I thought you’d really find helpful.
      Or in the moment “oh you’re working on your resume, you know I saw something just the other day that you might find helpful if you’re interested?”

      but ultimately, you can’t save people from themselves

    4. SunnyLibrarian*

      I see this one all the time! It’s pretty simple; ASK! You can say something similar to this, “Would you like any help going over your resume? I know that some of the standards for resumes may have changed in the past few years and it really is so difficult to keep up!” You may even add that as a hiring manager, you see a lot of resumes. Most people are very happy to receive the help, and since you said that he doesn’t like computers, it may be more open to someone talking him through it.

      If he says no, leave it alone, you’re off the hook. If he says yes, you might go over some broad strokes gently and kindly.

      Note, I only do this when it is kind of slow. Unfortunately, sometimes I see some pretty bad resumes and cover letters and I am too busy to help at that moment. I always check back in to see if they need help.

      The great part is when you can help them get a job. The bad part is, once they have a job, you usually don’t see them again.

      1. Aisling*

        +1 on Ask!

        As a public librarian, that’s what I do. “While I’m helping you with this (computer issue), would you like some pointers on your resume?” I’ve very rarely heard “No”, and people are usually very grateful. I think it’s another thing that people don’t realize librarians can do. Also, so many people really don’t know how to do a resume, and think the kitchen sink approach is the best one.

        In this case, if he accepts your offer of help, I’d start out with praise on the 7 page resume – as a catchall starting point of everything he’ll need to start tailoring a resume for a specific job.

        If he doesn’t accept your offer of help, well, at least you tried. Hopefully he remembers that and comes back when he realizes his current resume isn’t getting the results he wants.

        Good luck!

    5. Anon1973*

      Fortunately, libraries are more than just books! Direct the patron to reputable online resources.

      1. hehehello*

        With library patrons who are constantly applying to jobs and not appearing to get any call backs for interviews, I tend to let them know about any classes that we are offering or connected them with some online resources where you can upload your resume and have it reviewed by professionals. I will occasionally get requests for this kind of resource but, more often than not, the patron doesn’t know that they can ask about something like this. Even if your library in particular doesn’t subscribe to an online service, there is likely to be another library in your state that does and most will work with library card holders from other locations. I have worked in libraries where we had volunteer Job Coaches who would look over resumes and provide interview coaching as well as systems with partnerships with local career services agencies to provide classes.

      2. Overbooked*

        +1 re: online resources. Could OP #4’s library consortium subscribe to Tutor.com, which allows patrons to upload draft resumes for review, or Learning Express?

        O*NET’s Job Seeker Help link locates American Job Centers in the patron’s area – anything nearby? AARP’s site has a bunch of articles on resumes for older workers.

        +1 also for asking if help would be welcome. My library gets many job seekers with limited English proficiency, and many with little formal education, who are often happy to accept suggestions. I don’t hesitate to help them write simple “cover letter” notes to accompany their Craigslist responses, or to copy-edit their resumes if time permits.

        The OP’s and my issue, though, and it’s a daunting one, is when a patron is miles from grasping that any help is even necessary, and this happens a LOT. Yes, my resume’s all in caps, no, I don’t want to re-do it. What’s wrong with this font? It’s pretty! Why do I need to set up an email account? I think I might have one but I can’t remember my ID or password. Gmail? No cell phone for verification. It’s heartbreaking, when we want so much to help them succeed.

  5. Dan*


    There’s the law and then there’s the “law.” I’ve worked for large companies in a blue collar capacity, and they all drug tested. Interestingly enough, they all had self-disclosure policies — if you self reported drug use and went and got help, they’d hold your job for you while you got clean. If you popped a test, you were out the door. So first thing is to check the company handbook, although in my white collar career, nothing’s usually written in there about drug treatment.

    Also, please take this as encouragement, not criticism: I’d be up front with your boss about what you need to do. The thing is, if you do nothing and continue to take time off at the rate you have been, you’re going to be up shit creek without a paddle and your boss will be on your ass for excessive absences. If you want sympathy from your boss (and you certainly do) you need to be up front with him NOW and formulate a plan of action. If you wait until they threaten to fire you, you’re out of good will, and left with what the law requires.

    Along those lines, if you deem it necessary to part ways with your employer, please do so above board (two weeks notice, etc). That way you can tell the next employer that you had some, er, stuff to deal with and needed the time off. You don’t want to get fired for excessive absences and then have to explain that.

    Good luck. Despite what you read here (AAM only gets the problem bosses) most bosses I’ve had in my career have been reasonable, and would be understanding in a situation like this. Give them the benefit of the doubt unless they’ve proven/shown/demonstrated that they don’t deserve it. You’re doing the right thing by getting help.

    1. Juli G.*

      Good point about PTO. You’re unlikely to last 8 more months with 2 days. Disclosing the problem might do more to save your job.

      1. Ted Mosby*


        You’re going to loose your job if this pattern continues. If I was at all able to hold the job, I’d be happy to wait for an otherwise great employee to go through rehab. Addiction doesn’t say much about who you are as a person. But an employee who calls out sick a lot and comes in and isn’t 100% (it will start happening when you have no sick days left and you need the money for more heroine) I would assume was lazy and not invested, something I don’t see as changeable, or care to change.

        Not getting help for the sake of your job will blow up in your face later. Speak up now, when you sill have a solid reputation to stand on. If you don’t, you’ll lose your job anyway.

        If you’re unsure about disclosing, I would suggest phrasing this as a serious health issue or even just that you’re struggling with addiction or opioid addiction if you think the H word might scare people.

    2. Bekx*

      I just checked our policies and we have something similar. It’s not in our employee handbook but it is a more “secret” policy.

      It states that an employee can voluntarily tell HR that they would like to request assistance. It doesn’t quite say what assistance means, but it sounds like you can still work (just not in certain roles that could be a safety problem) if the treatment center allows, or you can go to rehab. I’m not sure if the company will help or not financially, the wording seems vague. They also state that upon completion you will be subject to random drug tests.

      That being said, it’s not something they publically advertise to new employees, but it does exist if you know where to look. Maybe your company will have something similar? We’re blue collar, as well.

    3. Get help*

      +1 We have that in our employee manual and we are a small company. And yes, most managers are reasonable and caring people.

    4. Carrington Barr*

      >There’s the law and then there’s the “law.”

      Totally read that in a Troy McClure voice.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        Part of me wants to correct you and suggest you mean Lionel Hutz, and part of me *can’t* correct you because Phil Hartman voiced Hutz and McClure. :-/

  6. Dan*


    I had a boss who thought I was overpaid and he told me so… on multiple occasions. I more or less had to tell him to take it up with VP so-and-so. VP was previously “just” the manager, who authorized my hire and pay. Company re-orgd, VP spot was created, manager promoted, and then they brought in sour puss as my manager. Sour puss was never a fan of my paycheck, and I never understood why, considering it didn’t come out of his personal pocket and managers didn’t have personnel budgets in the traditional sense. (We did government contracting, my pay was directly reimbursed by the government.)

    Turns out most people at that job were underpaid — I work with 7 of my former coworkers from that place, and we all came over with significant pay raises.

    1. Snowglobe*

      I’m guessing that Sourpuss boss made less money than you. Logically, that’s no reason to blame you; it’s not your fault if Boss is underpaid, but I can see why that would lead to resentment.

      1. Bwmn*

        I was going to add that in addition to the manager possibly making less, it may have also been a morale issue among other coworkers he manages. Where I currently work the combination of people’s job titles/job duties/salaries is not consistent. There is also no real transparency to explain why this happens – and is often the case in offices without transparency, there’s a lot of gossip around what people do or don’t make.

        Those who make more aren’t necessarily in a position where they should be apologizing or anything, but it totally kills morale when you feel that you’re doing the same kind of work as someone making more than twice your salary. So whether or not sourpuss boss was or wasn’t making more, if he felt he was dealing with a poor morale situation around other employees and didn’t have the power to fix it – that’d make me cranky too.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I completely get this. I took over a team with salaries that were quite varied, and some were below our internal bands for the position class! I spent eight months working to get our 32 hour/week part-time team members up to full-time salaried positions (at a significantly higher hourly rate). I also then worked to get the people who were below the salary band into the correct range.

          But as a manager, I *never* said anything to the newest, highest paid member of team. She had negotiated that salary with the person in charge of hiring and even if I hadn’t thought she was worth every penny, it wasn’t her fault her teammates were overpaid.

        2. Dan*

          Oh geeze, nothing that extreme. No, I was getting at most $10k more than my peers — those with similar academic qualifications were about $5k less than me. It wasn’t a situation where I was getting paid double anybody (except for the cleaning staff.) I also had some unique background that sets me apart from my peers, so it wasn’t really possible to objectively say that we had the exact same skillsets.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            Dan, “extreme” is relative.

            If you’re making $120,000 and your peers are making “only” $110,000, it’s not that much of a difference, although you’re better on the upside.

            But if you’re making $35,000 while your peers are making $25,000 – yes, that is extreme.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        In one of my jobs – when I was hired I was making more than my boss. When I found that out – I said “man, you now have a bargaining chip for a raise…. which, you deserve”….

        He did get his raise. He was justified, he had a lot more responsibility than I had – he was getting shafted.

  7. Weekday Warrior*

    OP 4. Alison can be an honorary librarian because that advice is spot on. Refer the patron to some helpful sources, whether books, articles, websites or resume assistance programs, whatever seems appropriate for this person. Alison’s suggested tone is good. Bottom line, librarians don’t offer personal opinions, they refer to and explain sources. And good on you to want to step in here! That’s appropriate.

      1. Dan*

        Uh oh. What kind of jobs are there for a guy of his age that don’t involve using a computer? That’s the area where he should focus on updating his skills/comfort. I’m guessing that after “40 years” of experience, he’s not looking for blue collar work.

        1. Stopping By*

          Around here in wine country, he could sell wine or otherwise interact with tourists in another business–spa, retail, visitor center, etc. If he is a good driver, he could be a personal driver.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          I was wondering that too. What’s he trying to do now and what did he do for 40 years that didn’t involve much computer work. (Just about everything involves computers in some capacity these days, machinery, delivery people…)

        3. Honeybee*

          You’d be surprised. First of all, the original work may have been blue collar in and of itself. My father has nearly 40 years of experience in the same industry; almost all of it is blue-collar work that didn’t involve computers at all. (He drove city buses for almost 20 years and then worked as public transit rail car technician for another 10.) He only recently started doing work with computers, and as you can imagine, his computer skills were below-average but not terrible. I grew up putting together and editing resumes for him.

          My brother also does blue-collar work that doesn’t involve a lot of computer work – he’s an electrical line worker for an electric company. He climbs telephone poles and installs and repairs electrical equipment. He does not work in an office and he does not use a computer.

          There are lots of skilled jobs I can think of that don’t require a lot of computer work – HVAC installers, construction workers, electricians, plumbers, lots of other kinds of technicians and installers/repair workers, some skilled medical/allied health care positions, child care. I grew up teaching the adults in my life how to use computers because most of them didn’t use it much or at all, and I’m only 29.

          1. Dan*

            I think you totally missed my point/question. If you want to do blue collar work, yes, there’s skilled non-computer jobs out there. But this guy has *40* years in the workforce — I’m guessing he’s looking for white collar work. I could very well be wrong,

      2. Lizabeth*

        I would highly recommend a computer class for him – I’ve noticed quite a few classes in the adult education offered by the various towns around me. And they gear towards newbie’s and seniors!

        1. KR*

          I second this! Computers are in use in most jobs these days that I could imagine an older gentlemen doing.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yes, and check with local community colleges and even high schools. When I lived in Santa Cruz, they had an adult education program through the high school. I learned how to type through it using Mavis Beacon. Also 10-key, filing, and some computer stuff that isn’t relevant now but was then (LOTUS 123 omg lol).

      3. aebhel*

        The ‘Idiots Guide’ and ‘For Dummies’ resume guides are pretty good, and fairly regularly updated–I would expect even a small public library to have a recent edition of at least one of those, and they are, as the titles suggest, pretty basic and easy to understand. Beyond that, I think it really depends on what kind of job he’s looking for.

        I would suggest referring him to a local employment center if something like that exists in your area. And definitely, definitely encourage him to get his own email address if he’s at all receptive to it.

        Beyond that, though, what Weekday Warrior said…don’t give specific advice, just refer to sources.

        1. Artemesia*

          And it is less important that he not have an objective or that he list achievements rather than job functions than that the resume is more or less in the ball park. A not perfect two page resume with an objective at the top and a list of job functions is not going to surprise or horrify the employer. It may not be optimal, but it is going to look a lot like a lot of others and if he has the right experience may get him through. A 7 page listing like the OP describes is likely to provoke laughter and immediate rejection. Even if the Dummies book is not perfectly up to date, it will be better than that. Of course the title is off putting to people not familiar with the series.

      4. Tess*

        I’d use the resume sources as a way to teach him how to use computers. At a bigger library I’d recommend suggesting computer or job interview classes but at a smaller library maybe you have a volunteer who would spend some time with him? Or at least have him read Alison’s ebook if it’s in your collection

      5. Susan Geary*

        Any book written in the past 3 years by a CPRW, Master Resume Writer, or another credential issued by the National Resume Writers’ Association, Professional Association of Resume Writers, or Career Directors International. These are serious resume writers who write for a living and know their stuff. Unfortunately, most people try to do it themselves, copy worn out phrases, and have no idea what they are doing, which costs them a lot of money in lost salary. Would you do your own taxes without knowledge or help? Or copy a neighbor’s tax return?

        1. Nethwen*

          An updated book is better than an outdated book, but they aren’t perfect. We recently purchased a book on applying for jobs, aimed at high schoolers and published in 2014/2015, and it suggested having an objective and some other outdated or poor advice that made me want to throw it at the publisher.

      6. Sharon, Almost Librarian*

        You might try putting together a job seeker packet, something that has a couple resume examples, maybe a “cheat sheet” with general job-searching tips. That way you can comb all the best resources, digital or not, and combine them into a quick reference tool.

        Seconding the For Dummies books, they’re great. From a quick search it unfortunately looks like a lot of recent resume books are just updated (“updated”) versions of older publications. An author named Scott Bennett keeps coming up, maybe look into his books?

      7. Public Health Nerd*

        You might have non – profits in the area doing work around helping people enter the workforce that offer in person teaching/support – examples include GoodWill, secular or religious nonprofits working on poverty, community college adult education departments, etc. In my area, these groups also teach you how to use computers enough to apply for jobs and use emails, in addition to helping you fix your resume.

  8. Three Thousand*

    #1 I just want to say I’m not qualified to offer you any advice, but I really admire that you’re asking for help and trying to get better.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, I also have nothing to offer beyond best wishes, but want to be sure to to that! Good luck.

  9. Glasskey*

    OP2, I actually think you should help the older coworker out here, if not by mentioning something to the bully, then at least with some extra kindness on your part on a regular basis. What a horrible situation for that person to be in. Please don’t tune this out.

    1. Fried Eggs*

      This is a good idea. When my friend started working as a student assistant in an office, she noticed the admin was often mistreated and bullied by the other permanent staff. She didn’t feel like she had the standing to say something to the offenders (she really needed the job, and literally everyone outranked her). So she brought the admin a potted flower for her desk early in the day before everyone else got there and said “It’s not for anything, it’s just Janet appreciation day.” When the admin later quit and they got coffee, she said it made such a huge difference in her mental health just to know that someone else noticed she was being berated and unappreciated.

      1. babblemouth*

        It can be as simple as “can I get you a cup of coffee as I’m going to the machine” but it makes all the difference in the world on a hard day. Other things can include: offering to share lunch, always making sure to say hello, good-bye and thank you, using that person’s name when you do so…
        I speak from experience: at a time when i felt particularly low, I noticed people doing stuff like this consistently really helped.

        1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

          It really does make the difference.
          I have a coworker who offers to get me things from the convenience store if he steps out during the day, because I can’t easily leave my desk even to run to the kitchen. He asks other people in the office too, but it feels nice to be included, even if I am the ankles on the totem pole.

      2. Snazzy Hat*

        “It’s not for anything, it’s just Janet appreciation day.”

        That is adorable! Oh, there must be an onion in the room, yes, that’s why my eyes are watering. ;-)

    2. Nico m*


      Talk to the victim , how is the bully getting away with it?

      Also Keep a log of the abuse for a representative sample of time.

      1. Roscoe*

        Why keep a log of this? It makes no sense to me. Its not her company. I doubt that anyone at the company will just take this random person’s word. What would be the point?

      2. fposte*

        I’m inclined to agree with Roscoe. This isn’t illegal, this isn’t somebody the OP works with, and the person who it’s happening to hasn’t asked it to be documented. It would be on a par with documenting couples who you hear being assholes to each other in coffee shops.

    3. A Dispatcher*

      Agree re: kindness to the bullied coworker. I work with someone who is treated terribly by a lot of our peers (don’t get me started on why this is tolerated) and I’ve come to realize they’re behavior isn’t going to change, but I can interject when they are talking about her directly to me and can also just do my best to be as pleasant to her as possible when we work together. You can almost see the look of relief she has when I’m scheduled to work near her.

        1. Chalupa Batman*

          I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. The show is otherwise pretty hilarious, and I know that part of the joke is that they pick on Jerry even when he’s right because THEY’RE the inept ones, but the way he’s treated makes me uncomfortable. I liked the episode where we find out he has a beautiful, devoted wife, great daughters, and a happy home life full of hobbies he’s good at-I felt vicariously vindicated.

          1. SJ*

            Agreed! I like that they tried to balance out his crappy work life by showing he had an amazing home life, buuut they could have still had a funny “oh my god, look at how gorgeous and amazing Jerry’s family is!” bit without totally abusing him in the process. Jerry just looking plain and being clumsy and occasionally embarrassing would have done the trick. I never really understood why the show felt the need to be so horrible to him.

          2. yes*

            Oh my god, yes! I don’t know why this is supposed to be funny and it actually soured me on April from the beginning since she can be such a cruel person to him (she’s also incredibly mean to Ann for no reason at all).

        2. Liana*

          I’m with you on this, but I take comfort in the fact that Jerry/Gary/Larry is married to Christie Brinkley and has a gorgeous house and family. He’s taken “Living well is the best revenge” to a whole new level.

    4. Lizabeth*

      Kindness is a good thing…

      This is where I differ from not saying anything directly to the bully – a “your behavior does not recommend you or your company” said at the right moment and in the right tone of voice may go a long way.

      1. Glasskey*

        I agree with that as well. 100%. Maybe I’m reading too much into the comment about wanting to maintain a pleasant relationship with this bully, but it seems like her behavior has already damaged that for you anyway. Understand that anytime you challenge someone like this–whether it’s in the workplace, in a department store, or on the bus–you risk getting blowback and that can be pretty uncomfortable. On the other hand, you may be surprised to hear others around you chime in and stand up as well. And there is power in that.

    5. AMG*

      I disagree. Speaking as someone who has been on the receiving end of that, please say something to your office mate’s manager. And your office mate.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, if it’s as bad as it sounds, that woman is be ally abusive. I’m wondering what the other coworkers she complains to when this woman is not around are thinking and if the Op could start by feeling them out on the matter?

        1. Chalupa Batman*

          Autocorrect wisdom: when someone is verbally abusive to someone else, you can “be ally.”

    7. irritable vowel*

      I wonder if the co-working space has a code of conduct that could be invoked here. It’s hard to tell whether the person’s behavior could be considered harrassment, but perhaps it’s worth looking into.

      1. Liane*

        I was going to suggest talking to the management of the co-working space. A word from those managers to Bully’s manager about “Any more complaints from other client companies that Bully’s loud and inappropriate comments are making it difficult for their people to work, and we will have to ask you to find a new venue” might do wonders.

    8. themmases*

      I agree. This bully and her victim are *both* in the OP’s industry if they are coworkers. The OP can make, at best, a neutral impression on a jerk or a be real source of comfort to a normal person. That’s even setting aside what is the right thing to do.

      I’ve worked for real jerks before. I might be nice to them at a reception or something, sure. But they’re the people I wouldn’t help again for first authorship and a contractor rate. They’re the people I’m not passing leads to, not giving candid advice to if I have to talk to them, not likely to take another job in a department or even company where we would be in contact. We’re done. What is really the benefit of an acquaintanceship with someone who has this effect on their coworkers?

  10. Alanna*

    OP #1 – So great you’re going to make the change you need. I second what Alison says – if you’re an excellent employee you can find another job if you need to. Your health has to come first.

  11. Loose Seal*

    #1 — I’m assuming you’re in the U.S. because of your mention of health insurance. If so, call SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a government program). They have a helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) where you can ask them to recommend a free to low cost, state run detox, rehab and counseling program for you to go to right away. They’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to enter rehab as quickly as possible. And you may also qualify for free, state funded help as well. If you’re not in the U.S., would you be comfortable sharing your country so we can help you find a similar helpline?

    I think that, once you’ve figured out where to go to get clean, that you do need to tell your manager the truth. It’s entirely possible that they already suspect drug use even though you think you’ve been on top of things.

    1. Jill of All Trades*

      If it helps, you may want to contact Narcotics Anonymous or AA in your area (they are a resource in many countries). They should be able to help you with local recovery facilities, community resources, etc. Please get help and don’t try to detox yourself.

      My father is an alcoholic and it is so hard to ask for help and support, but so worth it to you and everyone around you. It’s good that you’re admitting there is a problem and want to get off the drugs; that really is the first step to recovery.

      1. Loose Seal*

        Oh yes, don’t try detoxing yourself. Heroin is one of the more dangerous drugs to try to manage detoxing on your own. You could easily die without medical support while you are getting over the worst of the withdrawals.

    2. VolunteerCoordinatorinNOVA*

      When I worked at a homeless shelter, a lot of our clients came from a detox run by the city. It was a sliding scale program so if you didn’t have insurance they’d still work with you. If your city doesn’t have one, I’d check in with your state.

      Sending lots of good thoughts your way and remember in the beginning, it can be one minute at a time.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Wow that sounds like a great resource and I’m sorry I didn’t know about it when some of my family members were going through addiction. However, I would definitely tell the boss, but maybe she doesn’t need to mention what the addiction she’s struggling with is specifically.

  12. Anon Frost Mage*

    OP#1, you’re in my thoughts. I second the suggestion of calling SAMHSA that someone gave above. Also you can Google “drug and alcohol ” and likely connect with local government agencies who can help as well. If you’re able to connect with local services and you’re offered a spot in rehab, GO. Please don’t let wanting to leave your job on good terms stand in your way – Your health is far more important. Good luck to you.

  13. Sort sort of management consultant*

    OP #1. I’m rooting for you. Good luck and lots of strength to you in your recovery.

    I also want to recommend one of Allison’s favorites, http://captainawkward.com.
    She gives fabulous advice about pretty much everything related to life, and I would be very very suprised if she didn’t have anything to offer about this.

    If I have time later, I’ll see if I can dig up any specific posts

  14. BRR*

    #1 can you explore getting on your company’s health insurance? In general it’s a good idea but there might be coverage for rehab.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Yeah, he can’t sign up again until October and it won’t take effect until January. The EAP, though, that someone else mentioned is usually a benefit independent of any insurance coverage. Also, since the OP is 22, he may be able to get on his parents’ insurance if he loses his job, which is crappy on the one hand but could help with treatment.

        1. Natalie*

          They’re open enrollment isn’t necessarily in October – my company’s is right now through mid-May.

  15. Lou*

    I don’t think it’s appropriate for managers to be “joking” about their employees being overpaid. Especially since companies try to squeeze the most work out of you for as little pay as possible. That being said, I think #3 should definitely proceed with their future growth at the company. It’ll definitely be an eye-opening discussion. At the very least it’ll arm you with some insight about whether or not to start looking elsewhere if your vision for your role doesn’t align with your manager’s vision.

    1. babblemouth*

      Yeah, I agree. A bit of caution is recommended when you joke about some topics as a manager. I remember simmering in outrage for a good hour when a manager joked that I wasn’t super busy at a time when I had fifteen different jobs on my plate. An hour later, it dawned on me that it was just a joke, but it still upset me quite a bit.

      1. Tamsin*

        Back in the 1990s, my boss was excited for a friend of hers who had just landed a $25K consulting contract for one short project. “That’s more than you make in an entire year!” she said. I guess I’m bad at letting things go because I STILL think about it — not only was it true, my boss is the one who didn’t fight for raises for me and knew I was underpaid. Plus, it was just a really personal thing for her to know in the first place, and a gross thing to do/say to her direct report.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Being openly gleeful in contrasting her direct report’s low salary with her friend’s good fortune was particularly tone deaf. How thoughtless!

      2. Ama*

        Oh man. When I was working a job where I was just swamped (they spread my position duties into 2.5 positions when I left), I had a very elaborate workflow system that involved taking anything in my destktop inbox out as soon as I saw it and placing it in the proper “to do” file for whatever project it pertained to. The number of times a colleague walked by, looked at the empty inbox and said “must be nice to not be busy” — most of them knew I was actually quite busy and really were joking, but none of them ever knew how not funny I thought they were.

      3. Folklorist*

        Former Toxic Boss was one of those people who spent their whole working day coordinating contractors on the house she was building. I was wretchedly underpaid at that job, barely scraping rent, and she knew it–she often gloated about how she couldn’t believe I had taken my salary without negotiating (I was unemployed and desperate and it was a raise from my previous job). It’s been eight years, but I’ll never forget when she was agonizing over marble vs. granite countertops, and she laughed in my face and said, “you’re so luck you’re poor–I have the hardest time figuring out how to spend my money!!” Then in the same breath said that they couldn’t afford raises that year.

        That wasn’t Clueless Boss joking, though; that was Shitty Person joking.

    2. Harper*

      I think some managers don’t understand that a joke they could make to a peer can be problematic when made to someone they supervise. It’s a power dynamic thing. In this instance, I really think it was intended to just be a harmless comment with no agenda behind it, but I can completely understand why OP3 was bothered by it. I would have been, too!

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m desperately trying to think of a witty comeback for next time he says it to Op but all I can think of is “haha, yes if you think market wage is excessive”

    3. LBK*

      I think this depends 100% on your relationship with your manager, and I don’t think we can conclusively say there’s no situation where this joke would be appropriate. I certainly have the kind of relationship with my boss where I wouldn’t have even thought twice about this, and it sounds like the OP is the one who opened up the avenue to joking about her financial situation with the Vitamix comment – how is it fine for the OP to set that kind of tone but then get so affronted when the boss joins in?

      A pattern of these kinds of jokes or comments would be one thing (like the letter recently where the manager’s employee kept commenting about their age difference). I think this is a huge overreaction to a one-off comment, especially if the OP feels otherwise that her work is appreciated and she’s paid fairly.

    4. Ad Astra*

      Yeah, while I agree with Alison that OP is overthinking it, the manager’s comment does rub me the wrong way.

  16. Lanya*

    OP #1, your situation hits very close to home. My husband was also a functional and unassuming heroin addict for several years, before the addiction really started to become unmanageable and interfere with his work life. Good for you for planning the steps that will get you to rehab. My husband has been off of heroin for 10 years and off of buprenorphine for 3, and with management of his bipolar disorder, he is doing great and has a wonderful job now. His drug history has not become an issue with his current employment, but there is always a fear about how others will handle that information. I would agree with Alison’s advice about assessing your managers. If you think it’s too much information for them to handle with compassion, it’s better to be vague if you can. Some people are very compassionate about it, and others are not. Best wishes for the journey ahead of you – it’s not easy, but you can surely do it.

    1. addlady*

      I think this is an interesting story because it shows that addiction can actually be self-medication. While you’re getting treatment it might be worth it to make sure you don’t have something like ADHD or bipolar. I am not saying that you do, but if it is the case, getting it treated in other ways can save you a lot of misery and temptation to go back. Although I am not sure how to get tested without health insurance

      1. Jen*

        Yep, my brother was a major abuser of alcohol and it turned out at 27 he had a major episode and was hospitalized, detoxes, and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Symptoms went unnoticed for years due to him being in environments where drinking at the volume he did was “acceptable” (college, grad school, investment banking). It was obviously too much but nobody knew *how* much too much until we found empty vodka bottles under his bed. But being 22 and day drinking on weekends and going to happy hours every day isn’t grossly abnormal in some areas.

        1. Lanya*

          It’s fascinating how many people tend to self-medicate with substances when there is a major underlying mental health issue. That is exactly what was going on with my husband. I hope your brother is doing well now!

    2. Lanya*

      After reading more comments below, I would like to offer an alternative solution which, depending on your situation, may be a better option than trying to work things out with your employer.

      If you have a soft spot to land right now with a parent, relative, or friend who would be willing to support you during your recovery, it may actually be worth simply resigning at this time, and putting the rest of your affairs aside completely, in order to totally focus on your rehabilitation.

      In my husband’s case, he left work and had overwhelming family support to get clean, and it still took him about 3 years, several times in rehab, and several relapses before he got clean. Even driving to work would have created double or triple the temptation to make that call to the dealer. While everyone is different, a 12-week leave is not realistically enough time to recover. I share this only to illustrate that the more distractions you can remove from your life while you are recovering, the higher your probability for success.

    3. Paige Turner*

      Really good to hear success stories here for OP #1. Also very happy that your husband is doing well!

  17. GigglyPuff*

    Fellow librarian here.
    I know you’ve mentioned it’s a small place and the local job center has been closed. Could you use this as maybe a new project?
    Work up a handout, compiled from different sources, with basic current advice, and then list more resources? You might even be able to find someone to come and do a short talk, like a local hiring manager or college career center (or course vetting both, since there are quite a few horror stories).
    This way you’re not specifically singling out this one patron, and get to help others if they need it.

    1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

      That sounds amazing (like so amazing I don’t even want to contest it, because it would be so valuable), but I would just worry that OP already feels stretched too thin and would struggle to keep up with the potentially large amount of demand from those seeking job advice in their area.

      OP, if you feel it’s something you could take on, do it! And if you do put on group events, try to make sure you have a mix of more- and less-interactive activities. Some people are incredibly self-conscious about job-seeking, and might open up more after coming to one or two events where they can sit back and listen. (This could also be a good way to let on to the guy you’re trying to help without overstepping boundaries enforced by your position, like other people have said about bringing in a third party.) I know personally I would enjoy hearing some speakers talk for a while, where more experienced event-goers could banter back and forth with them when appropriate, before I would feel comfortable jumping in and sharing with a group of strangers. (I tend to not have a very good social barometer until I’m in the thick of it, which gives for some disillusions about how people work and makes it difficult to mentally project myself as a confident worker – personal issue, but food for thought.)
      Example of a less-interactive activity could be listening to a speaker and/or filling out a questionnaire or having material to take home to look over; more-interactive could be mock interviews, having (vetted) professionals come in to work with people on their resumes, or both encouraging people as well as educating them on how to perform an informational interview, or encouraging your library patrons to start their own support group/networking group for job-seekers.

  18. KR*

    My best wishes for OP1. I’ll echo the others and urge you to please take care of your health first and your job second. This addiction will destroy your life if left untreated, but you can always find another job.

  19. Mimmy*

    Alison – I thought the ADA doesn’t cover drug addiction if you’re currently using. Although since the OP is now looking to seek treatment, then it may be applicable?

    Best of luck OP.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, as mentioned below, illegal drug use is specifically exempted, so it’s unlikely the OP would be protected under the ADA given the circumstances described.

      However, the FMLA doesn’t draw that line, as far as I can tell, so the OP should still be eligible for FMLA for rehab time.

  20. ChloeP*

    Op#1: I just want to say good luck. Kudos to you for seeking help. I truly hope you are able to kick the habit. You’re taking the first steps and can do this. Sending good vibes to you.

  21. Dennis*

    #4…I am another librarian. There are a lot of library patrons that come in to work on resumes and hunt for jobs. The resume is a reflection of this patron’s ability to present themselves on paper and write some coherent sentences. You can’t do it for them. Some guidance is fine. Show some examples etc. but in the end if they aren’t capable of stringing some sentences together they may not be good candidates for any potential job openings. It’s not your resume so leave the content to the patron.

    1. Aisling*

      I don’t think she was offering to do it for him, just to give him tips on what to do. It would be up to him to take it from there.

  22. Collie*

    OP #4, you might also want to consider a passive approach through a book display. Not only will you showcase materials that address this need to the whole community, but you can also advertise any job-related services/programs you provide in a sign with the books. You could include electronic resources on a sign with the materials, as well. Book displays are my one true loves as an almost-librarian. And, hey, if you need another staff member… *nudge, wink*

    Anyway, I’m inclined to slightly disagree with Alison (and others) here. I’d only go with offering resources directly if there was a natural opening or a specific request. Making the list of materials to have on hand would be helpful both for this instance and in the future, but I personally would avoid bringing it up myself. I tend to be a bit sensitive, but if I was the patron, I’d feel a tad embarrassed. A lot of it depends on the delivery, though! All the best!

  23. Lucky Charm*

    #1 – As a child whose parent died of a heroin overdose, please, please, please make your health your first priority. Don’t worry about the job. There will always be another job, but you may not get another chance at life.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Ugh, I cannot imagine what your family went through; I’m so sorry that happened to you all.

  24. jhhj*

    OP1. there are two ways this can go:

    1 – you try to stick it out until December while you are out of leave and have no insurance. This goes as well as one expects (disastrously) and you absolutely tank your relationships with everyone who works there so you can’t even use them for a reference.

    2 – you speak to [appropriate person] at your job and get leave for this, or — worst case — lose your job but still preserve your reputation as someone who did good work, and then when you got too sick to do work, figured out how not to leave your company in the lurch.

    There is pretty much no way (2) can go worse than (1), and lots and lots of ways it can go better. Ask for time off.

    I’m really rooting for you, OP1. I hope you can find the help that works for you. I don’t know if AA/NA might make sense, but you might want to try going to meetings right now too.

  25. Liana*

    Chiming in with the others to OP #1 – good luck with everything. I really admire you for making the decision to start treatment and I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines! Other commenters have offered some really great advice – SAMHSA and Narcotics Anonymous are two great resources to start with.

  26. blink*

    OP #1

    (1) I had a relative who was, like you, a highly functional user (in his case for many years) and when it eventually became clear what was happening, you would be surprised how many people emerged from the woodwork eager to help: his workplace to offer all kinds of accommodations while he got clean, his friends and family to do anything they could, etc. If you don’t let your addiction rip through everything in your life and destroy all your relationships; if you take hold of it now, people will want to help you. While there is shame and stigma around being an active user, lots of people want to be part of someone’s success story.

    (2) Your company if probably a big one if you are making more than most people your age in the area, which means they are very likely to have some kind of rehab/detox program. Ask about it. (a) Yay, detox + keeping your job, (b) they may want to give the impression that you’re dealing with the less stigmatizing alcholism (which, I dunno how you feel about that, but it might invite fewer questions in the meanwhile).

    (3) I should probably mention that the relative in (1) didn’t accept any of those nice people’s help and is now dead. So, there’s that.

    1. Chriama*

      “Lots of people want to be part of someone’s success story.”

      I like this sentiment a lot. And I think the worst thing you (OP) could do is let shame prevent you from having a better life for yourself. Good luck!

    2. Paige Turner*

      “Dealing with the less stigmatizing alcoholism”- Yeah, I thought of this, too. I’m not one to give advice on what OP1 should specifically say or do. But if I had an employee/coworker who said they needed to go to rehab, I would assume that it was for alcohol abuse- which of course is bad, but societally, can be seen as less “scandalous” than illegal drugs. Blink, I’m very sorry to hear about your relative. It’s kind of you to share your experience to help OP1 end up on a different path.
      OP, do whatever you need to do- you sound like you have a really clear head about this and understand that you need to make changes, which seems like a big first step.

    3. Ad Astra*

      Your first point is really powerful. Going to rehab now rather than later may end up saving a lot of OP’s relationships, even if she can’t salvage this job (though I hope she can!). And, if OP lives in some of the areas where heroin addiction has been getting a lot more attention lately, the people in her life might be particularly motivated to help. More people are starting to see heroin specifically as an issue affecting their communities rather than just some other person’s unwise life decisions. (For some reason — I would guess race and class — Americans never made that mental shift with meth.)

    4. A grad student*

      About 2(b)- do people really find alcoholism less stigmatizing? I’m genuinely curious- personally, since nearly everyone I know drinks in moderation, I would find someone with an illegal drug problem more sympathetic, as narcotics are known to be far more addictive. Narcotics addiction can also start with a legitimate prescription, so might it be better, as someone said above, to tell your employer that you have an opiod addiction without saying which one? I suppose which is more stigmatizing might be dependent on the age/location/etc of everyone involved.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah. As a society, we’re much weirder about illegal drugs than legal ones. Illegal ones are thought to be inherently worse and more of a moral issue. (That’s the case even with drugs like marijuana that are demonstrably safer than alcohol.)

    5. CheeryO*

      “Lots of people want to be part of someone’s success story.” This is so true. My dad had an employee ~20 years ago who was a drug addict, and he gave him a lot of second chances. I don’t know how vocal he was in supporting him (knowing my dad, probably not very), but he knew that my dad had his back. He eventually got clean, and a couple years ago, he tracked my dad down to thank him in person and introduce him to his adorable little daughter. I happened to be there, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. I’m crying now just thinking about it.

  27. blink*

    Oh, and OP#2, I think as someone outside that woman’s company you are in a better spot to say something than if you actually worked with her–it’s not like she has any professional power over her. I’d say something in the moment, as Alison suggested, but there is also great power in–again, just after the moment’s passed–waiting until she leaves, then giving the abused coworker an incredulous look and saying “Well, that was over the top,” or the perennial favorite, “Wow.”

    When you are not in a position to stop it, sometimes just letting someone who is being ill-treated know that you have witnessed what is going on and think it is unacceptable is a huge deal. People in that situation often need a reality check.

  28. Michelle*

    OP #2- please say something to the jerk, even if it’s just “jeez” or “wow” as Alison suggested. Something to let her know that people are noticing her jerky behavior. Being abusive to a coworker simply because that coworker is older is disgusting. Please be a little extra kind to her if possible because it really can make a difference.

    Would you feel comfortable talking to your boss and see if s/he could speak to the abuser’s boss?

    I think some older workers put up with abusive behavior because they need to work to be able to make it and they are afraid that saying something could lead to worse behavior or the employer might find a reason to dismiss them. Even though age is not supposed to be a factor when hiring someone, I think the reality is that it does factor in. It’s near impossible to prove and most people looking for work have neither the time or money to try to fight it.

  29. Erin*

    #1 – I know of someone who had to go to rehab and he told his employer, “I need to take a 30 day medical leave, starting tomorrow.” I’m not sure if it was paid or not. But they accepted it, worked it out, and when he came back he did tell them what it was for and they were very understanding.

    I can think of a few other stories where people were very compassionate about something like this – particularly when you’re making solid efforts to get straight. Maybe you could go this route. When you say “30 day medical leave” they might figure it out without your having to say it.

    I have to agree with Alison that regardless of how you decide to handle this you should prioritize your health over your job. I know more than one person who has died of a heroin overdose; I’m sure I don’t even have to tell you that it is literally a matter of life and death. Please do whatever you have to do. Your health has to come first here. It just does.

    Also, check out rehabreviews.com.

  30. ModernHypatia*

    OP #4 – My previous library job, I hit this kind of thing moderately often. My usual line was that I’d show them how to do specific technology things (like ‘how do I print this’ or ‘they’ve moved everything around on the webmail screen again’.) but I wouldn’t type things in for them, or go through entering an online application step by step or anything like that.

    In terms of resources, I think saying “Hey, would you like some more resources?” is a very reasonable question for the patron. I’d encourage you to go look at nearby (larger) libraries and see if any of them have already pulled together some decent resources. That might save you some work tracking down decent resources, and it would also give the patron a sense that they’re reliable, if you say it but that they also come from a larger library.

    I’d also encourage you to check in with your state library email lists if you’re on any (or however people in your physical area swap stuff) because people there might have some additional resources you’d find really helpful

  31. newlyhr*

    OP #1 The OP may not qualify for FMLA. The law states that someone who has worked 1250 hours in the previous 12 month period is eligible for FMLA. She would not be eligible in our organization. She says she has only been there 8 months. It depends on the company’s policy.

    That said, congrats to the OP for choosing to get clean. It’s worth it no matter what. If you don’t have FMLA, do it anyway!!!!! Your company may still accommodate you. And even if they don’t, go to treatment anyway, and put getting clean and sober first. Take it from someone who knows, addiction will eventually affect your work, your family, and your life. It’s just a matter of time. NOTHING is more important than acting on this decision.

    Also call EAP if they have one. They can help you too.

    1. virago*

      “OP#1 The OP may not qualify for FMLA.”

      Yes, Allison mentioned this in her note:

      “* As I was finalizing this post for publication, I realized you’ve only been there for eight months. Since FMLA protection doesn’t kick in until you’ve been there a year, I’m now coming down on the side of being honest that you want to check yourself into rehab and seeing what you can negotiate with your employer. “

      1. newlyhr*

        yeah i saw that after i wrote my response. Was trying to quickly respond before the day started.

    2. Ineloquent*

      OP1, you may not be eligible for FMLA, but many large companies do allow medical leave that is unrelated (mine gives up to 2 years, amazingly!). Do not lose hope, and don’t be afraid to ask about possibilities. We’re all rooting for you, so keep us updated!

    1. fposte*

      That’s a good point–the ADA doesn’t consider the use of illegal drugs to be a disability, so an employer isn’t breaching ADA to fire an employee for “current drug use”–but what “current” actually means is getting kicked around in the legal community.

      1. Anna*

        That is both amazing and incredibly short-sighted. Maybe they figure that’s why we have prisons. Ugh.

      1. fposte*

        It qualifies for FMLA, but being a drug addict in treatment doesn’t automatically make you covered by ADA–courts are apparently finding for employers who fire people when they come back from rehab. (I’ll link a couple of discussions in a followup.) It looks like the law is trying to walk the line of allowing employers to fire people for using illegal drugs while protecting people who are former drug users, and the discussions about what “current” means seem to be strongly favoring that employer right rather than the employee protection.

          1. fposte*

            And I have really mixed feelings about this. I can totally see the addicts I’ve known claim rehab to keep their jobs, but it also really sucks that people would get fired *after* getting clean, and I suspect that there were a lot of politics behind the initial ADA exclusion.

  32. Chloe*

    Just adding my support for OP1. All the advice has been spot on. I’m sure many of us readers will thinking of you and wishing you strength as you seek recovery.

  33. FMLA was not enough*

    As someone who attempted to take FMLA and then attempted to go back to work after rehab because “I could handle it” – 3o days are not enough for treatment if you really are in the throes of it and need help. 30 days are just a bullshit number set by the insurance industry. I went back to work and wound up back in treatment a few months later anyway.

    Since FMLA isn’t going to kick in anyway, and you say you’re not getting insurance anyway, quit the job and get help. You’re going to die if you don’t.

    1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

      I actually second this, and it seems that that risk is worth being upfront with your employer to the absolute extent that you feel comfortable. You don’t want to mislead them (as hopeful as you may be feeling) about returning to work sooner than you will be able. The truth is, if you haven’t started your treatment, you might not know where you stand well enough to gauge that, and as others have said, you definitely want to do what you can to make yourself eligible for rehire; of course, that comes after getting healthy.

      And a giant internet nod of admiration that you are trying to get healthy – seriously, well done for the struggle you’ve fought through so far to come to that conclusion.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Agreed. My sister is a recovering heroin addict whose been clean for about 10 years, but it took a long time to get to that point. Many relapses. 30 days isn’t nearly enough to break an addiction like that.

      Glad to hear you were able to get clean.

    3. Almond Milk Latte*

      Very good point. When my friend was getting clean, she did 28 days inpatient rehab, then did 4x a week outpatient for a while. This was all provided through county services – and they had other programs that were more intensive and less intensive, so expect your timeline to vary.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      True but usually you do 30 days inpatient and then continue with outpatient afterwards and that is crucial, from what I understand. But I know even that’s not enough sometimes.

  34. Sam P*

    OP#1 the title truncation on my browser tab for this post reads “I’m a hero. . .” and I hope you start to feel like one for taking control of your life. Heroin is an a-hole, and you are a champ for taking these steps now. Your job is small potatoes compared to the positive life changes ahead of you. I truly hope you have supportive employers, and this post is making me think a lot about how I’d handle this as a manager.

  35. weasel007*

    #1 – Wow. Awesome that you have realized the impact this is having and could have on your life (or non life) in the future and taking the reins. Though not nearly the same, I’m having a somewhat similar issue, though I have been at my company for a few years and do qualify for FMLA (though it would be unpaid, and that HURTS). I’ve been on ambien for 8 years, and I’m trying to get off of it. Last time I tried it was like a full blown withdrawal from hard stuff. I was hallucinating, doing crazy stuff and out of control. So this time I am taking a year to do it (weening off). My other choice was to do a rehab or take 2 weeks off and go through no sleep. I’m not so sure that the way I am doing it now (slowly-dropping a little bit every 3 weeks) is un noticeable at work. I wish you the best of luck in tackling this.

    1. Paige Turner*

      Good luck, weasel007! (I am picturing a James Bond weasel right now, roundhouse kicking a bottle of ambien into a volcano, but I am a bit odd.) Don’t know if you have an EAP, but hope you are able to make the most of whatever resources are available to help you out.

  36. Elizabeth West*

    #2–OP does not mention how the bullied employee reacts to Cordelia’s (nice Buffy reference, btw) nastiness. Is she ignoring her? Does she cower or become apologetic? If the latter, maybe OP can say something to her privately, and remind her that she can tell Cordelia “Hey enough chatter; I’m trying to work here,” or whatever she feels might be appropriate.

    I have a hard time with this one. Coworker or not, I’m inclined to tell Cordelia to STFU, maybe not in those exact terms but quite clearly nonetheless. I had to listen to a manager bully someone for six years at Exjob and it’s very stressful. This person would not defend himself because he needed the job.

    I couldn’t say anything because management would not do anything to Bullyboss even when he completely blew off his work. It wasn’t until we got a new VP that he got the sack. But it is a hostile environment even if the constant negging is not directed at you.

    1. Undine*

      Actually, since it is a shared space, maybe the OP can say something like that — “you know we all have to work in the same space, and your comments are making me uncomfortable.” She’s not technically a coworker, but she is a co-occupant and this is right in her face. So it does affect her working environment, which is something she (or her company) pays for.

  37. Interviewer*

    OP #1 – Admitting that you have a problem is the biggest step, but it’s just the first one. Writing for advice is another step. Please keep taking those steps, every day. We are pulling for you.

  38. JP*

    OP5: I hire librarians and other library staff. I would say definitely put it on your resume! I’d look at your application over someone who had literally no library experience whatsoever.

    1. OP #5*

      Awesome! Would you suggest that I put it on my resume for another library job even if the application doesn’t ask specifically if I have the experience?

      1. Aisling*

        Any familiarity with libraries will be a help for library jobs. We can get tons of applications for just about any posting, and one way we can weed out a bit is for those who have experience in a library vs. those who don’t.

    2. Artemesia*

      I think anyone looking for a first j ob after college can reference work they did during high school that is particularly appropriate. e.g. If a person were applying to work with an animal related agency and had done volunteer work at a shelter during high school or if wanting to work in retail management and had done retail work summers in high school. At this stage of the career with little experience VERY related work done during adolescence is still relevant. Of course once in post college workforce, it drops off quickly.

  39. KS*

    OP 1: My husband was a heroin addict for nearly half his life. He went through rehab and relapsed, and I’ve personally seen him go through withdrawals 3 times trying to kick the habit. Please tell your management that you are struggling with this and need some time off. Most companies have self reporting rules in which they won’t hold your addiction against you and will often help with finding resources for you if you self report. If they find out without you telling them, then you’re on your own.

    As an aside, please please do not detox home alone if you decide not to go to rehab. Have a trusted friend or family member with you, someone who can be trusted to just sit with you and won’t go get you drugs to make you feel better. Good luck on your journey.

    P.S. It is possible to get clean, my husband has been cleaned for 2 years now, after 15 years of use. Don’t give up!

  40. SanguineAspect*

    OP1 – Everyone here has already given you great advice on the work question, but I want to add a voice of support for you. My sister is currently in a Suboxone + therapy outpatient program for helping her kick a heroin addiction. Being an addict does NOT make you a bad person, and I applaud you for working on a plan for how to get clean (and stay clean). It’s a pretty long road, but YOU CAN DO IT. You’re 110% worth the effort and time it will take. We’re rooting for you.

  41. boop*

    #3. Telling a woman she is overpaid is a good-natured joke?? I would be pretty hurt too. How is that not telling someone that they aren’t worth it? He COULD have said “It’s okay, we know you make a good salary,” but no he went with that? Completely opposite meanings.

    1. Jimbo*

      Like AAM, my first assumption was also a good-natured joke. I think it depends on the players involved. Just today one of my co-workers was telling us about a new car he just purchased. Our manager was walking by at the time, shook his head, said “wow, we’re paying you too much” and kept walking. We all immediately burst into laughter because we knew without a doubt that it was a joke (even though he had a totally straight face when he said it). The guy involved literally does two jobs – without telling him, we secretly eliminated an open position and combined it with his a week after he was hired. But to see me writing about the conversation with no context, you would think my manager was the biggest jerk in the world.

  42. Nethwen*

    As a public library director who also “wears all the hats”:

    Q 4: I would caution against giving him specific advice. You run the risk of him thinking you’ll re-write the resume for him or you’ll end up doing it through the course of events. You also run the risk of him thinking you’ll provide this kind of service in the future or telling his friends that the library will write their resumes for them. There is also the concern that if he doesn’t get a job with the resume you wrote, he’ll blame you or the library. Keep in mind that if you do it once in one situation, the person and everyone they tell or who sees you will expect you to do it again in all situations. I can’t tell you how often people come in expecting us to type up documents for them and get angry when we say we can’t but that we can teach them how to do it themselves.

    Think of it like helping students with homework. Librarians don’t do the work, but they offer resources to help patrons figure it out or they offer classes to teach the skills needed. I second Alison’s advice to offer him resources. I usually print out one of Alison’s do/don’t resume columns and offer it or tell them about the class the library has on modern job searching norms, including what a modern resume looks like. Normally, people decline and go on with what they’ve been doing.

    If this is your first post-college job, remember that the library is an educational institution and really think through how you want to accomplish that. Where on the spectrum of teaching people skills to doing it for them do you want your library to fall? Once you decide that, set in place procedures and policies to support that mission.

    Also, if you haven’t already, get connected with your state library. They might have an e-mail list where you can ask other directors questions like this and get input from people who are more familiar with the specifics of your location.

    Q 5: Yes, say that you have the volunteer experience. Even if this weren’t an application that asked you straight out, if the job ad requests some library experience, then tell them about it. For applications where you have more leeway to customize the information, be sure to explain that the experience is volunteer work and list the dates (you don’t have to specify it was high school, but the dates are important, just like when listing a paying job). Also valuable is to know how often you worked. Ten hours a week volunteering is very different from two hours a month. I also like to know what the volunteer did. Shelving items gives a different perspective and skill set than running the senior movie morning each week or helping with children’s craft programs.

    1. Guinness*

      This is spot on. I understand that feeling of wanting to help when you see something that could be fixed, but it’s not our job to do it for them, and it opens up a whole can of worms in the process.

    2. OP #5*

      Thanks! I have paid work experience at the same branch (10-20 hrs/week for 2 years in high school) so I’ll definitely include that. I appreciate the encouragement!

  43. Colorado*

    OP#1: I wish you all the best in the world on your journey to getting clean. Please, please do this now. You’re so young and have so much life left! A job is a job, your life is much more important than that right now. Take the advice offered here, reach out to the resources listed. Tell your employer if you feel comfortable doing so. They’re going to find out anyway if you’ve used this much PTO already and are spiraling. Hell, they may already know something is up. Getting fired will only make you feel worse. Best of luck, you can do this!!

  44. JB*

    #4: I’m a small town Library Director too, and we run into this pretty often as well – our job center is open one day per week and won’t help someone who doesn’t already have an email address and resume. And even then, the help is pretty abysmal. So my suggestion to you would be to help him get set up with a new email account (Gmail is free and really easy to use), give him some resume examples, and talk a little about why a seven page resume is a hindrance rather than a help. I actually just dealt with a patron who had an 11 page resume(!) that listed everything down to his love of antique tractors. We got it down to one page of relevant work experience that would help him find what he was looking for. It wasn’t very comfortable for him at the time, but the final product landed him an interview the same week.

    I would agree with previous posters about the actual content coming from the patron himself (and yes, it’s okay to say “skills with copy machines and cell phones aren’t really unique enough to merit space on your resume. If they ask about them in the interview, you can bring it up then) . But there’s no reason you can’t help pare that seven pages down to the best of what you have to work with. Offering more resources is a great idea, but I’ve found that in all practicality, the person you’re describing isn’t often interested in reading the book about resumes. Helping him get to an end product (and teaching him how to save it in his email!!) would be my priority.

    1. Another Librarian*

      Also, I’d like to add–Gmail often requires a cell phone number, and depending on how Google is feeling at any given time, it is often impossible to bypass this requirement to set up an account. The other big, “name brand” e-mail services are also requiring cellphone verification for sign up. If this is a problem for your patron, try mail.com or another “off brand” service that still uses captcha verification.

  45. Observer*

    #1 I’m going to agree with all the other people who say to do this NOW.

    I’m going to point out that you are not “losing” control – you have LOST control. You made a bad financial and health decision – ie to forgo health insurance which you could have afforded – to feed your addiction. And it is STILL NOT ENOUGH. You are still spending more than you earn, and are running close to torching your job. Your addiction is running the show.

    You should prioritize your health over your job. Because is you don’t, you ARE going to lose your job, and it’s going to be much harder to get another job. And your life will still be on the brink. On the other hand, if you go for dealing with your addiction, you still have a chance to keep your job, and you’ll save your life.

    You’ve taken the first HUGE step. Now, please, for your future, take the next step.

    1. Paige Turner*

      Yes, sounds like OP1 realizes that health needs to take priority over work right now. OP, if you’re worried about finding another job later on, take a look at some of the articles and comments on AAM about going back to work after quitting a job due to medical/mental health issues. You CAN get another job later; in a interview, you can say that you had to leave your last job due to a medical issue that has been resolved. Don’t let worrying about saving your job get in the way of saving your life.

      1. Observer*

        Don’t let worrying about saving your job get in the way of saving your life.


  46. Left Field*


    This is a suggestion completely out of left field, because a lot of people are not aware that there are other options when it comes to opiate withdrawal.

    Have a look at Kratom, a leaf from Southeast Asia with weak and self-limiting opiate behavior. I’m not going to suggest it’s a magical herb with no consequences of use (plenty of others will say that), but I will say that it is much, much safer (no known overdoses due to the self-limiting mechanisms) and easier to obtain than heroin, and also easier to quit than methadone. It’s also legal in most of the U.S., though some states have rushed into banning it without really understanding it.

    It’s not for everyone (if you can quit heroin cold turkey and you have the time, that’s a better option) but in your situation you could switch to it and then taper slowly over months, if needed, while not having nearly as great a high/low cycle that puts your employment in jeopardy.

    It has a very long half-life which is a blessing and curse. It will take a lot longer to detox from, but it also won’t get you as high or come with as much crash as heroin.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Oh, no, no, no. Please for the love of all that is holy, don’t go down this road. I’ve worked in A&D for over a decade. This is not the way to go at all. I’ve seen some very bad experiences with kratom. Substituting other drugs for heroin rarely works. The most successful route I’ve seen is medical detox followed by ongoing outpatient therapy/rehab. You must first deal with the physiological aspect, the physical addiction, then the psychological aspect, the reasons for using in the first place.

      The OP is 22 and it sounds like this is her first attempt at getting clean. That is not the time to try getting clean on her own. OP, you wouldn’t build a house with your bare hands, would you? No, you’d use all the tools to build a safe, sturdy house. There are tools out there to help you get clean. Use them. The National A&D Helpline is 1-800-662-HELP. Ask HR about an Employee Assistant Program. Or just take the first step by going to an NA meeting. Good luck, OP.

      1. Frances*

        I will end it here, but I do want to push back on the statement that “substituting other drugs for heroin rarely works.” There are medications that (in combination with counseling) are incredibly effective. The OP may want to investigate these as treatment options.

    2. Kat M2*

      I’ll let Alison comment but I’d steer away from giving medical advice on this blog. For ANY condition, this could be extremely dangerous, especially if the methods are unproven or do not involve the involvement of a professional.

      1. Left Field*

        OP was already thinking of trying to get clean by herself. If medical detox is already off the table, given a choice between a fast taper that could cost her her job and a slow taper on a safer substance, the choice is pretty clear.

        If medical detox is available, obviously take that option. If not, there are still other choices.

        1. Kat M2*

          That said, you shouldn’t recommend them here. This isn’t a medical blog and even if all of us happened to hold MDs, we couldn’t come to a conclusion without seeing her as a patient (nor could we recommend unregulated therapies). Doing so is irresponsible and dangerous.

          Just because someone’s already considering to do something medically inadvisable does not make us any less irresponsible for promoting it.

  47. Stephanie (HR)*

    OP #1 – You do NOT CURRENTLY QUALIFY FOR ADA PROTECTION. As I understand your situation, you qualify as a “current” user under the law, and are therefore not protected until you are a recovering user.

    The ADA defines a person qualified as disabled who:
    “(1) has successfully completed a supervised drug rehabilitation program and is no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs, or has otherwise been rehabilitated successfully and is no longer engaging in such use;

    (2) is participating in a supervised rehabilitation program and is no longer engaging in such use; or

    (3) is erroneously regarded as engaging in such use, but is not engaging in such use;”

    Case law further defines the difference between a “current” and a “recovering” addict in a way that does not protect you based on the circumstances you described. Case law is referenced in these articles I’ve linked below. At the first link, the most relevant quote is:

    “The court said “current” use was not limited to the use of drugs “on the day of, or within a matter of days or weeks before” the employment action in question.[35] Rather, said the court, the provision is intended to apply “to the illegal use of drugs that has occurred recently enough to indicate that the individual is actively engaged in such conduct.”[36] The plaintiffs were held to be “current” users and, despite the fact that they had entered or had completed a drug rehabilitation program, were not protected by the ADA.[37]”


    Now, I am not a lawyer, and there may be additional information out there that could be of more use to you. My recommendation is to not voluntarily disclose anything to your place of work which could expose you to liability in a court of law. If there is a way for you to get medical leave without stating the reason why, you could try. I advise caution, and consulting a lawyer if your goal is to keep this job.

    (I am not trying to say this to discourage you in any way, I just want you to have all of the information you can to act in a way that is best for you.)

    1. Mimmy*

      Thanks you, Stephanie, for this additional info. I’m studying the ADA in my disability law & Policy class right now, and all of the nuances are absolutely mind-boggling.

      I do wish the courts would at least consider cases where the person is voluntarily seeking help, as is the case with the OP. In a way, I see that as not much different from admitting that you need help for a mental health issue, which can also be covered under the ADA.

  48. BadPlanning*

    OP#1, Your boss and/or coworkers may not have put a finger on it, but there’s a chance they know something is off. If you disclose some details with your boss (even if its “medical issue”), they may well be relieved to know that yes, something is wrong and that you know it is and are working towards fixing it.

    I saw this intending to be a helpful thing, not to make you feel paranoid.

    1. OP #1*

      This is so interesting to me. I’ve heard this before…people know when something is ‘off”. Can you give me more details why you feel this way? Do you really think that people may be wondering what is going on with me?
      Please give me more details..so interesting.

      1. orchidsandtea*

        I could tell something was off, I just didn’t have words to identify what. Their cadence was different. How they moved was different. How they responded to my moods and to conversation was different.

        Go to your strongest ally at the company (ideally your boss), and tell them you have a major medical issue. Say you need to get help, but treatment takes time, and would they recommend you resign and reapply later, or go on extended leave? You can be vague if you need to, just say you love working here, and you want to continue to be an asset, but you need to take time off for immediate medical help. Or you’ll die.

        Worst case scenario, if you get treatment immediately:
        1. You have to quit your job, but they respect you, and they tell you to reapply as soon as possible. If they can’t rehire you, they’ll help however they can: good references, networking introductions, etc.
        2. You get into treatment and start learning how to navigate stress and pain without heroin. It’s hard, but you work hard at it. You fall sometimes, and you pick yourself up.
        3. You scandalize your family and you miss your boyfriend, but you meet new people, and some old friends prove to be true friends after all.
        4. You can’t pay the bills without a job. But for health reasons they’re not allowed to turn off water, or heat in winter. Evictions take a long time. If your bills go to collections the phone will be ringing, and it would be stressful, but you’ll have longer than you think. Your addiction counselor may have resources to help you.
        5. When you come out, you might have damaged credit or bills to pay, but that’s just money, and it’s fixable. You’ll have new friends. You’ll have a new network of people who want to see you healthy and strong. You’ll have a lot of work to do, but also you’ll have new skills to help you do it. You’ll be alive. You’ll still get to smell lilacs, and feel the joy of accomplishment, and relish the softness of a hug, and listen to a song that speaks your soul out loud. You’ll be alive.

        Worst case scenario, if you don’t:
        1. Your ability to function decreases over time, so slowly you can’t notice. You become less reliable. You make a mistake or two, maybe an expensive one. It’s scary, and you realize you’re not as in control as you thought.
        2. Your ability to cope gets worse. You need drugs more often. You need more each time. It gets expensive, and physically more dangerous.
        3. You get fired. You burn that bridge forever. Makes it harder to get a job later. You get really sad about this loss. In your grief, you use even more, to try and mask the pain.
        4. You come across a bad batch. They’re out there, increasingly common, and it’s only a matter of time.
        5. When you come out, it might be in a casket. You won’t be there to know how loved you were.

        Potential good scenario:
        1. They hold your job for you. Out of goodwill, they even offer a little money to help you through this.
        2. You find true friends in unexpected places. They like Sober You, they like Wounded You, they even like Broken You. They stand by you, knowing your damages and weakness, but also reminding you that they see your strength.
        3. When you’re in treatment, they have resources you didn’t know about, to help you as you fight this. It’s not magic and it’s still hard, but there are more people on your side than you thought, and the medical & financial & social resources come through for you.
        4. Treatment itself helps you to heal, and you find that your heart is beautiful, that there’s something magnificent inside you. You see the beauty in yourself.
        5. When you come out, you have a long life ahead of you, filled with joy.

        You are doing so well even with addiction. Imagine how well you could do once you’re free. Can’t you almost taste it? Please, friend, call SAMHSA. Please get help. My friend Justin died. You don’t have to.

        1. Breebit*

          This is phenomenal. Thank you for posting it. Can I bookmark this comment and link to it in the future? I have a family history of addiction and can sadly see someone I know needing to hear this someday.

        2. ChloeP*

          How beautifully this is stated. I got a little choked up reading it. I wish there was like a “Hall of Fame” for really good comments. Hopefully this is helpful to OP1 and anyone else in the future.

  49. OP #1*

    Super happy that this question was answered! Definitely feeling the good vibes everyone has sent my way and thanks Allison for taking the time out to answer. You guys are so sweet!
    A couple notes:
    1. I do not deal with family. I do have a very tight knit immediate family, but have greatly distanced myself to the point that people have to call and make sure I am alive (no one has confirmation I am on drugs..they’ve ‘heard’ things but can never confirm it, and since I look good, my house is clean, etc., they don’t believe it once they run into me). I think because of the way I was raised, and the reputation my family has in my city, it would be too much shame to convince themselves I’m really on drugs, but trust me, the conversation has come up enough times, I think it’s hard for them to ignore the signs. Nonetheless, this is all me. I take care of myself and my home. I have no help.
    2. I live with my boyfriend who actually introduced me to dope and he doesn’t work at this point so I cannot leave my job as I will have NO money and I need to pay bills. We are both in the throes of addiction. Also, I am very scared to leave the job because this is a decent gig. It may not be much to others, but I make over $30,000 a year, have no college degree, no major responsibilities besides my home–so the money I’m bringing home is significant when you take that into account plus the fact I leave in a very cheap city where you can rent a 5 bedroom house for $700-maybe less–and where half the people are unemployed or underemployed and work through temp agencies, on welfare, or whatever. I have it good here. Major flexibility (wondering if my manager wonders why I come in late every pay day), great paying, room for growth, etc. Like I said, I’ve been told by the CFO that my department has shown a 100% positive change with me being on board.
    3. This is a little hard for me to say, but I am very nervous about my job being understanding. Someone had mentioned it being a big company which it is not. It is a family owned business and 50+ employees..very tight knit. I am the youngest, the only black person, the only one who lives in the ‘scary’ city that people wouldn’t dream of taking the 15min drive to, only person who smokes cigarettes, only person without a car, etc. Please don’t be upset you guys that I mentioned those things but I definitely don’t feel that anyone is racist, but I know I am different and I am an anomaly. I don’t want my situation to define me and confirm anyone’s doubts they may or may not have. I also am nervous about going to our one-woman HR team because of the size of the company and I feel it will easily get around the whole workplace. How can someone look at me the same again?
    4. Also, just to say, I would definitely define myself as a functional junkie. I use every single day and don’t think my coworkers at any job in these past years have seen me sober. I have been struggling with this for a long time and it is very very scary. You know how afraid I am when I look at people who were never able to get clean, and think, ‘Damn, that could be me!”. I really want this. It’s just its so hard and I swear to god, this is my one regret in life.

    1. Colorado*

      There are two scenarios when I offer my opinion. One, when it is asked and two, if it’s a life or death situation. You apply to both. I know this is easy for me to say sitting behind a computer screen at my desk job but here it goes.
      1. Reconnect with your family. Being a parent myself, they are absolutely devastated. They are. They do not want to lose you. Don’t shut them out. Go to them.
      2. Kick the boyfriend to the curb. You need to do this alone. If he wants to get clean, great! But that’s not your problem right now, he is not your problem. You have/need to take care of YOU.
      3. If you feel so strongly about what your coworkers think, then resign. Tell them you have to take care of a medical issue and resign with dignity. You will eventually get fired. This will catch up with you.
      4. You’re scared, scared as hell to lose your life. You are justified in this fear. Please get help, TODAY!
      My heart aches for you. Go to your family. Get help now.

      1. Someone who knows*

        I wholeheartedly second everything Colorado says here. Especially #2. You have to leave the guy if you want to kick this. Not just while you detox. Permanently. I’m sorry.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Yes, absolutely – I used to work in a field adjacent to drug treatment, and it’s hard, SO hard, but people coming home from rehab/trying to do community rehab in the same scenario they left can be super-hard to help people change their lives.

          BUT! Good drugs treatment services should have tons of resources to help here, too. They’re used to this, they’ll be able to help you.

      2. SanguineAspect*

        What Colorado is saying above is spot on. The only reason my sister is in treatment at all is because my mom found out she was using (my sister had been acting weird and my mom tossed her room while she was out of the house). My sister’s boyfriend introduced her to dope and was also using (he was a long-time and relapsing addict). My sister is 29 and has a 3 year old–so were my folks upset? Hell yes they were. But they were also willing to help. They’re letting her live with them rent-free while she’s in the outpatient program, they had her quit her job for 3 months while she went through DTs and got into therapy and on medication and established a routine. And (with her reluctant consent), they took her credit cards and bank account over (which she’d drained/maxed out to buy dope)–basically, they helped it make it IMPOSSIBLE for her to use. Part of that was my sister not living with her boyfriend anymore–they’re not entirely broken up just yet, but they’ve been seeing a LOT less of each other, which is for the best. His journey is his and my sister’s is hers.

        My sister didn’t want to ask for help because she felt ashamed and she hated herself for getting to the place where she was — but if she HAD asked, before it was “discovered,” any one of us would have gladly helped because we love her. Please, PLEASE reach out to them. I promise that no matter how distant you’ve been, they’ll want to help.

    2. Anna*

      You’ve already made a giant step forward in determining you need to get clean and figuring out how to do that. I know you know it will not be easy, but it will be worth it. I hope you’re able to reach out to someone for some support. You’re taking responsibility for your actions, but that doesn’t mean you have to do this without someone in your corner.

    3. Kat M2*

      Commenting to say that I am rooting for you, OP! And I can appreciate your apprehension about your job-it is hard to be the “only one” of any group, especially when race and stereotypes about class/urban living all come into play (because you can’t help but wonder what subconscious biases people have, even if they are kind and well-intending). I’m sure this is doubly true when it coincides with perceptions of drug use.

      Is there one person-friend, family, etc.- that you CAN reach out to? Someone who isn’t using, someone who isn’t at work, someone who is nonjudgmental yet will hold you accountable? Do you know someone who has gotten clean and is all of the above? A person like that can’t solve your problems or get you clean-but they might be able to walk with you and help you as you take the steps you need. Maybe they can sit with you while you call rehab centers, while you think of how you approach your company, while you go to a meeting if you decide to. And sometimes, it’s just helpful to know that someone is pushing for you, especially if they walked in your shoes.

      OP, the fact that you’re reaching out for help is HUGE. Don’t discount that. You CAN do this-you’re already starting to.

      Many Jedi hugs (if wanted!). Keep going, OP. We’re pushing for you!

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        A person like that can’t solve your problems or get you clean-but they might be able to walk with you and help you as you take the steps you need. Maybe they can sit with you while you call rehab centers, while you think of how you approach your company, while you go to a meeting if you decide to. And sometimes, it’s just helpful to know that someone is pushing for you, especially if they walked in your shoes.

        I am forever grateful for the times people have intervened when I’ve been at my lowest. My mother was calling NAMI and getting recommendations for counselors and clinics, and found someone who I saw for 2.5 years until her resignation last month. On two separate occasions, after stints in psych facilities, I lived with one of my parents for an extended period of time because I was ready to leave the facility but not ready to go back home. There have been numerous times where I have had an anxiety attack and my s.o. has driven me to a park so I can be in a calm and pleasant environment. Hell, even when I worked retail and got an insulting and yelling customer, I could call the manager over or, if I needed to remove myself, have someone take over for me while I calmed down in a private room.

        Having that person or those persons sitting with you and asking the difficult questions when you can’t ask them yourself, or holding your hand or waving pom poms when you can, has the potential to be such a gigantic relief during such a scary time. We are so proud of you for wanting to get help and overcome your addiction!

        Oh, and search Google Images for “baby bufflehead ducklings” to add some cuteness into your life.

    4. Beezus*

      You sound like you’re trying to come up with a way to tackle this *and* maintain your life as it is now. Can you accept that you have to make some negative short-term changes to your life now (might have to tell your family, might lose your job, might take a setback in success as you define it), to get the resources you need to actually tackle your addiction? You know that, as you slip further into addiction, you’re going to lose those things anyway, right? You aren’t going to be able to hide it from your family anymore. You will lose your job. There is no maintaining the status quo.

      I think the high self-expectations and strong sense of control that make you a functioning addict might actually work against you in recovery. You can’t keep this to yourself *and* get help at the same time.

      Make sure you don’t prioritize maintaining your relationship over not dying. Your boyfriend sounds like he needs help, too, but you are not the best people to help each other.

      Best of luck to you, truly. Take care of yourself, and let people help you.

    5. Mimmy*

      Everyone else said what I was thinking way better than I could state it. So I just wanted to add that I am truly rooting for you. You are still young and have a whole life ahead of you. It certainly won’t be easy, but I believe it is absolutely possible to make the necessary changes to live a clean, positive life.

      Please keep us posted when you can.


    6. Janice in Accounting*

      My heart is breaking for you, OP1, and I wish I had magical easy advice for you. No matter what happens, this will be hard. You may have to break off your relationship with your boyfriend, you may have to have some humiliating discussions with bosses or family, you might even lose your job and your home. But all of those things are better than dying.

      You have family, and if you lose your home you can stay with them. You have a job now, and if you lose it you will find another one. Don’t focus on what you’re afraid to lose, focus on what you stand to gain: a clean, healthy life you can be proud of.

      My prayer for you is that whomever you talk to at your job, they will have compassion for you and will help you however they can. All the best of luck to you, and please keep us posted on your progress, no matter how rocky it may be. You can do this.

    7. Granite*

      Fact: If you want to get clean, you will have to end the relationship with the boyfriend and anyone else who is using. If you both, independently, get clean, maybe you can get back together someday, but it is near impossible to stay clean if you are in close contact with a user. That is day one of rehab information. It sucks, but like the air masks on an airplane, you have to help yourself first or you’ll both die.

      You want my advice, given this additional info? Hold your own intervention. Resign as described by others. Get a couple boxes, pack up whatever you are most emotionally attached to in your apartment. Leave the rest behind. Go to your family. Just show up. Tell them you are addicted, you want to quit, and you need their help to find an in patient rehab bed. They clearly do care about your well-being if they call to make sure you are alive.

      Any shame they might feel is nothing compared to what they’ll feel if you accidentally get fentanyl and OD. It’s happened so often in my area – the newspaper stories from the families trying to prevent further tragedies break my heart. And around here, the majority are white middle class 20 somethings. College grads. Good jobs, or at least they had them before the drugs took over. Not a one were ashamed of their kids. They tell stories of their kid’s kindness, love of life, what sport they were good at in junior high.

      And how they beat themselves up because they weren’t able to save them. Odds are, this is what your family is thinking. They are waiting for that 2am visit from the police telling them you are dead. If you waver in your determination to do this for yourself, do it to save your family that awful knock on the door.

    8. Lady Bug*

      I agree you need to leave this guy. I had a family member addicted to heroin for after her bf introduced it to her. She tried rehab once, outpatient, na,and cold turkey a few times. Every time he would get her back on it within a few days. One day she finally woke up and said enough! She dumped him and has been clean for almost 2 years. It will be hard, but it also might be the kick in the ass he needs to get clean.

      as far as noting the signs, it can be the days off, your skin, your eyes (pinpoint and saucer sized), slow reactions, lack of interest, change in personality. Basically a million little things that add up.

    9. Alli525*

      Echoing what a few people above have said – you will need to leave your boyfriend, I think, in order to get clean. “Getting clean together” is basically a fallacy – there may be an occasional exception, but it’s rare. Maybe you can do it slowly – you don’t have to quit ANYTHING cold turkey – and take a break for a few months while you’re in recovery, but unless he decides to get treatment too, building a life with him is going to mean a life of using.

      Do you have a family member (or friend) who you’d consider the “most” accepting? Doesn’t have to be related to drugs – they could be the one who openly advocates for LGBT rights, or works for the ASPCA and has a passion for animal rescue, whatever – that you could stay with instead of your boyfriend for a few months while you figure out alternate living situations? Trust me, I know from needing to be independent and free of judgmental relatives, but it’s extraordinarily hard to change your life if you’re your only source of support.

      Most important, though, I’m so glad that you’ve realized you need to get out of addiction. That can be one of the hardest realizations someone can ever have, and deciding to get treatment is a huge step in a new, better direction. Best of luck, and so many internet hugs.

    10. Observer*

      I’m going to agree with all of the others.

      You need this job. You NEED to get help. You won’t die from losing your job, but you WILL die from the addiction, one way or another.

      You love your BF, but you are toxic to each other. Even if he also wants to get clean, you won’t help each other, you’ll pull each other down.

      You have family who cares about you. Don’t worry so much about the shame. If you can’t help it, remember that the shame that will come to them when you get into trouble or die will be FAR greater and more devastating. When you think “Oh no! I can’t do this to my family!” in relation to getting help, remember that NOT getting help will do worse to them.

    11. CAS*

      OP 1: Thank you for asking for help today. You are a strong person. Remember that. Recognizing that you need help is a strength. Taking steps to get help is a strength. Accepting help is a strength. None of us can go through this life alone. We all need support to make it through. Blessings to you as begin the road to recovery. I will watch for your update.

      “The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

    12. Ineloquent*

      I don’t know if this is something you or the other readers might be interested in making happen, but we’re all over the place. If you’re in Tucson, and you need support, I’ll help.

      1. Sigrid*

        And if the “scary city” you live in is Detroit, I can help. I’m a medical student who has worked in a Detroit emergency department for the past two years; I can get you recommendations for local rehab places and other forms of assistance.

      2. orchidsandtea*

        If it’s Indianapolis, I’ll meet you in a coffeeshop and hold your hand while you dial the phone.

    13. CM*

      Hey OP #1, I hope you’ll come back and give us an update. If you haven’t talked about this yet with your boss, one small suggestion: there’s so much public awareness these days about “opioid addictions” and talk about de-stigmatizing them, that if you end up talking about your addiction I’d suggest using the word “opioid” rather than “heroin.” I’m mentioning this because of the concern you mentioned about being different, the only black person, etc. Heroin IS an opioid, but I think there’s a lot more of a stigma attached to heroin addiction.

  50. Colorado*

    There are two scenarios when I offer my opinion. One, when it is asked and two, if it’s a life or death situation. You apply to both. I know this is easy for me to say sitting behind a computer screen at my desk job but here it goes.
    1. Reconnect with your family. Being a parent myself, they are absolutely devastated. They are. They do not want to lose you. Don’t shut them out. Go to them.
    2. Kick the boyfriend to the curb. You need to do this alone. If he wants to get clean, great! But that’s not your problem right now, he is not your problem. You have/need to take care of YOU.
    3. If you feel so strongly about what your coworkers think, then resign. Tell them you have to take care of a medical issue and resign with dignity. You will eventually get fired. This will catch up with you.
    4. You’re scared, scared as hell to lose your life. You are justified in this fear. Please get help, TODAY!
    My heart aches for you. Go to your family. Get help now.

  51. Being a nonnie mouse*

    OP#1 – It can’t hurt to ask if you’ll be covered under FMLA anyway. My husband has diabetes and had to have monthly (sometimes twice a month) doctor appointments that were causing issues by being occurrences/tardies/whatever they classified it as. He had only been employed there for 4 months, but the HR person had him apply for intermittent FMLA so all those appointments were covered that way and not as occurrences, and he was approved. And he wound up leaving that job after only a year, so there was no reason for them to allow it, and they did. (Also he did good work and was a good employee, just had an hour commute, so having a doctor appointment meant coming in about 2 hours late, which was noticeable as a new employee.) Anyway, you might be allowed to take it, is my long-winded point.

    1. Beezus*

      It sounds like they just granted your husband medical leave above what the law required, and used their FMLA framework/rules to handle it. FMLA explicitly only applies after a year of employment; the law is very clear. But I agree, OP’s employer might do something similar, especially since she’s a high performer.

    2. Meg*

      Diabetes is covered by the ADA so they had to give your husband a reasonable accommodation. Sounds like they just did that through their FMLA framework. Unlike FMLA, the ADA doesn’t have a year waiting period.

  52. So Very Anonymous*

    I just want to say that I am crying at my desk over OP #1’s sheer bravery in posting their question to a public blog like this, and at the care and compassion being shown by readers here to OP #1 in response. Many other blogs’ comment sections could have gone in much harsher directions. This is a real testament to the work you do with this blog, Alison.

    1. KR*

      I was a little scared when I saw the title that there would be some nasty comments. In New England right now there’s a pretty serious opioid epidemic and whenever the news reports a death there’s always those terrible people who make terrible comments. So glad we’re a supportive community. ♥

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        I had the same fear when I saw the title — either we’d see terrible comments, or Alison would be swamped with moderating them.

  53. Jen Erik*

    OP#1 – Going into rehab is only an easy decision when you’ve nothing left to lose. But with addiction, sooner or later there’s nothing left to lose.
    If you can do it now, it would be a great thing.

    My husband did tell his boss the second time he went in to rehab – he was tremendously supportive, even making the journey to visit him during treatment. I don’t know why that was, but a lot of people have experience directly or indirectly with addiction, and will properly understand.

    I think you’re admirable to face up to this, and I wish you all the best.

    1. De Minimis*

      Also, check your state’s employment laws regarding medical leave, the rules vary and in some cases employees that don’t qualify for FMLA may qualify for a similar benefit under state law.

  54. Jill*

    #2 I would think you have even GREATER standing to be blunt about your discomfort with the person doing the trash talking. A really terse, “My gosh, am I glad I don’t have a colleague that talks like you do!” would go a long way. And what’s she going to do? Complain? To who? You don’t work for the same company. And I would venture that once you speak up, you’ll hear echos from both sides of the work place of, “Yea Cordelia. Really!”

  55. Another Librarian*

    Re: Can I tell a library patron that his resume is terrible?

    That depends entirely on how much time you have, how much time you’re willing to devote to helping him fix the problem, your relationship with the patron, and what your boss thinks.

    Now since you are the boss, that pretty much speaks for itself. But for others–I’ve had library bosses who absolutely would not tolerate me taking on a project of this magnitude, because they valued collection development and question volume more than devoting time to individual questions. I’ve also had bosses who would be furious at me for not devoting the time it took to solve this problem, regardless of who was waiting at the desk to ask a question, because they firmly believed we were there to help and should devote as much time as needed to help a patron solve a problem. But, like I said, you’re the boss here so the point is moot.

    Now as for the patron. If you say to the patron, “Look, George, this resume needs some work,” and George calls you a youngster who doesn’t know what he’s talking about and gets angry, upset, defensive, or aggressive…I’d just leave it be. If you say to him, “Look, George, this resume needs some work,” and he is open to your input or happy to have some guidance, then sure–help him tackle this problem.

    Now for time. Do you actually have the time to sit down and help him? And if so, are you willing to give him your time? My branch manager will sit with someone for hours working on a problem like this, weeding/collection development/other priorities be damned. But I know people who draw hard lines. They need to get the schedule out that day, a budget report is due, or there is a meeting with the Friends…they’ll say, “Okay, George, I’ve got five/ten minutes to give you and then you’ll need to take it from there!” and move on. Personally, if George is not tech savvy and doesn’t seem like he can get a seven page resume down to one without someone who can navigate Word and type a lot better than he can, and you don’t have the time to devote to the problem, I wouldn’t get too involved with the situation.

    However, if all of these factors go to George’s favor…I would absolutely help him rewrite his resume until I thought he had something that looked presentable, and then I’d help him save it as a word document that could be edited later, and as a PDF to submit to potential employers.

    Finally, if you start to notice a lot of people have this problem (as I have before), it’s time to start thinking about offering formal classes or programs on the stuff so that when you don’t have time to help all the Georges out there, you can tell them to come back Tuesday night at 7pm for Resume Writing 101.

  56. Librarian of the North*

    Another librarian chiming in…

    I agree with the advice here. My boss would not allow me time to sit down one on one with a patron to assist with their resume. What we can do as information sharers is provide links to resources. Our website has a resume builder (it is truly terrible but much better than many resumes I have seen) and there is a local career centre we work with. Times are tough in my area and we have started collaborating with the career centre to bring resume building classes to the library.

    I think rather than tell him you think his resume needs work I would phrase it like “I noticed you’re applying to jobs, have you seen our resume builder/know we have classes available/spoken to the “insert career centre”?”

  57. Chaordic One*

    OP#1 I don’t know if this would work for you or not, but if, in the worst case scnario, you get fired or have to quit, if you can afford it either sign up for COBRA insurance coverage, or see if you can get covered under a policy under the Affordable Care act. Maybe do this before discussing this with your boss.

    After I was fired from my last job I heard all sorts of things, baseless gossip mostly I would guess, about why. One of the things I heard was that I had allegedly been ill too often and had driven up the cost of our company insurance. This was probably not true.

    However, I figured that, since I had already met my deductible for the year, it would be cheaper for me to continue coverage with the COBRA option, rather than start all over with a new insurance plan and have to pay a new deductible, even with an Affordable Care Act subsidy. Then I went and had two more much needed surgeries. Maybe they weren’t emergencies, but having them greatly increased the quality of my life and since I didn’t have a job at that point in time, it seemed like a good time to get things done.

  58. kcat*

    OP #2:

    If this is a managed co-working space, you can take this to the manager. Many co-working spaces are pretty informal, but some have policies against being disruptive to others, and this woman’s comments may fall under that. Even if not, co-working spaces have an interest in keeping workspaces pleasant, so it may be worth talking to the manager/owner/whoever. Talking to the person directly is probably the most straightforward way to go, but if it doesn’t work there might be someone else around to help.

  59. Jaleid*

    When it comes to helping people with resumes in the library, I like to start out on a positive note and praise what I can praise. Then I let patrons know I’ve worked on a couple hundred resumes over the years and I talk them through the changes I make unless it’s crazy busy and I’m juggling multiple people who all need help. I’ve been able to send most of my patrons away with a better resume than when they came in, and there have been some success stories which makes me happy.
    So, for the guy with the awful resume, talk to him about the things you change around, let him know that he can change things back later on, and try to strip out the less important things to give the important things some room to speak for themselves. Instead of the brands of phones and other tech, that can be condensed into a bullet point about tech/devices in his skills list. Some of his other stuff can probably be a word or phrase in that skill list too, instead of paragraph after paragraph.

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